On Twitter’s 5th birthday, a wish list

Posted on March 21, 2011


Today is Twitter’s 5th birthday. Seems appropriate, since the service’s overall intelligence is now just about level with a 5-year-old’s. No, I’m (obviously) a major fan and proponent of the site. It’s become clear that Twitter is indispensable for getting news, and getting it right away. But, as a birthday gift to its users, here are some features I’d like to see the site implement very soon. (Note: I’m aware that some of these are doable within an ‘app’ like TweetDeck etc., but my point is that the main site itself– plain old, comfortable, vanilla twitter.com– should offer these as well, because the company should want to make it as easy as possible to use the service on your computer without the aid of a desktop client/app).

Dear Twitter,

1. Give us a way to filter out tweets with specific keywords. All the time I find myself on Twitter and wishing I could somehow make any tweets with a certain phrase or subject not appear in my timeline. It’d be perfect for when you haven’t seen a TV show episode yet that everyone else saw and is discussing (Lost finale; last night’s Survivor), or when you’re dreadfully sick of a certain topic (please, please, no more Charlie Sheen tweets). We need an option to “block” any tweets that contain certain keywords.

2. Enable search within a user’s timeline. Too often I’m reminded of something and remember tweeting about it, or I want to find a link that I myself shared but have now lost track of, and I have to go to my own profile and scroll. And scroll, and scroll. It takes too long, and can become especially tedious if you’ve tweeted often and have months’ worth to flip through to find what you’re looking for. As if that isn’t bad enough, it seems that you hit a roadblock about two or three weeks earlier in your timeline where it simply stops reloading, and you literally cannot see any older tweets. This search feature would also be vital for that occasion (we’ve all had it) when you want to delete a tweet. Yes, yes, nothing can ever be ‘deleted’ on the Internet, but still, sometimes you remember saying that a certain book, movie, or article sucked, then you realize a friend worked on it, aaand… where was that tweet? Give us a search box for searching within our own timeline, and within any user’s timeline. That way, when all you remember is that Jason Kottke, say, tweeted something interesting about David Foster Wallace that you wanted to read, you can find it easily rather than scrolling through his entire history or fruitlessly googling “kottke twitter wallace,” which will likely not yield what you wanted.

3. Create an alert symbol for messages. One problem that causes me frequent aggravation is the lack of alert when you have a “message.” Few people seem to use this tool (that is, Twitter messaging) anyway, but some do. There’s no way to know that you have one, apart from checking the Messages tab often, which is a hassle. Conveniently, most Twitter apps put a small red dot, or a (1) on the @ Mentions tab when you have a new at-reply, but none that I’ve seen does the same for Messages. They need to streamline it so that you can visit Twitter.com and easily, in an instant, be able to tell if there’s anything new for you, apart from the normal Twitter feed. I want a symbol, or light, or dot, or something to tell me I have a new at-reply or new message. Doesn’t seem like it would be difficult.

4. Make it possible to hide a user from your Twitter feed without them knowing. Not much more to explain there, but basically, we all have someone (or most likely many someones) that follows us on Twitter, and we follow them, and they are also an acquaintance IRL (in many cases a friend), and you don’t want to hurt their feelings by un-following, but their tweets are cluttering up your feed and are not fitting your particular use of the site. They either tweet too often, or they are perpetrators of the ‘trivial tweet,’ announcing mundane details from their lives (this isn’t to say I don’t share things like a movie I saw or a book I read, but there are people who take it too far, who use Twitter mostly to discuss what they ate for dinner or how they enjoyed a recent visit to Oklahoma to visit cousins). On Facebook you can ‘hide’ someone from your news feed and they remain blissfully unaware. Twitter needs to enable the same; I can’t imagine it’s hard. Already, you can choose not to see a user’s retweets. Give us an option to hide all their tweets without hurting feelings.

5. Allow us to RT “with comment.” One major issue with Twitter on the computer, as far as I see it, is the pain in the ass of having to highlight someone else’s entire tweet, copy, and paste it if you’d like to RT with your own added commentary beforehand. Sure, you can click the easy “retweet” button, but that doesn’t allow you to add text. And at least in my case, I’d estimate that I add my own text more than 50% of the time, even if it’s just a “HA!” or, “Wow, crazy…” On Echofon, which is the Twitter app I happen to use for mobile (I know, there are many options), there are two buttons: “Retweet” or, “Retweet with comment.” This latter function is great: choose it, and the app dumps the other person’s tweet into your box for you, then you can add your own additional text. When can we get this option on Twitter.com?



[UPDATE, 3/21/12]

One year later, only #3 above has been rectified (on Twitter.com, a warm blue dot now appears below your home tab on the top right if you have a message). The others– especially #5, I’d say– are really essential and need to happen soon.

Posted in: DBR Blog