Earlier this week, Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey issued a public call for feedback on what his company could be doing better. And it went pretty much how you’d expect it to go. On Friday, he shared four “clear themes” that people have told him what they want from the service: handling abuse, editing tweets, following topics and interests, and better managing conversations.
Not surprisingly, abuse was immediately one of the hot things requested by users. People have grown tired of the fact that Twitter is seemingly failing in taking action to stop trolls and those electing to harass others. Sure, you can block someone and report them, but does that solve the problem? Twitter has rolled out features over the course of the year, including allowing others to filter their mentions and also mute specific keywords.
In a tweet today, Dorsey remarked that there’s “obviously a ton of work ahead, but biggest ask was for greater transparency around our actions (or inaction) and faster shipping.” We’ve heard Twitter’s stance on harassment before — it’s not part of “civil discourse,” but users are starting to see the service as inhospitable and that needs to change. Dorsey’s mention of “inaction” is rather poignant, highlighting that the company recognizes that it’s been sluggish to protect users, which has affected potential acquisition candidates.
Another of the most popular requests was the ability to edit a tweet after it had been posted. Whether it’s a typo or a flagrant mistake, we’ve all wanted to make changes to what was said without having to delete the whole thing, because why sacrifice the engagement, right? That’s probably easier said than done — Dorsey remarked that either editing mistakes immediately or at any point in time is a “big [difference] in implementation,” especially since many people on Twitter use what is posted as public record (like with the President of the United States).
But this has resulted in some pushback from users, such as CivilBeat’s social media and video manager Anthony Quintano, who questioned that if Facebook can do it, why can’t Twitter?
— Anthony Quintano (@AnthonyQuintano) December 30, 2016
Dorsey rebuffed this argument, saying that Twitter isn’t in the habit of copying others. Instead, his company is going to “learn from others. And do it in our own way.”
@AnthonyQuintano copying others is not what I aspire us to be. We will learn from others. And do it in our own way
— jack (@jack) December 30, 2016
Granted, it’s likely not a switch you can turn on to just allow tweets to be edited because there are many factors at play in determining the process. For Twitter users, do they prefer a finite set of time in which to make a change? Should there be a change log so that any mistakes still live on in some form? How does this affect the community of users, some of whom likely take what is tweeted as gospel?
When Dorsey assumed power as the permanent CEO, he promised that one of the company’s strategies was to simplify the experience and show why people should use it. The last two items he said he’ll consider next year involves being able to follow topics and to better manage conversations. These seem pretty worthwhile because right now people basically have to follow hashtags or search for specific keywords, such as “Warriors” if you’re interested in the Golden State Warriors or #SXSW for chatter around South by Southwest. Or you can follow specific accounts, but what if you’re interested in seasonal or ephemeral topics? Or maybe you want to read what people are saying about woodworking, politics, global warming, and other interest-based conversations?
Topics: lots here but simply being able to follow topics was strongest request. Being more topic/interest-focused (v account) opens up a lot
— jack (@jack) December 30, 2016
As for conversations, Twitter right now is a hodgepodge of chatter where it’s a town hall and everyone is talking over one another, but is there a way the service can improve the conversation and bring better meaning and dialogue? Dorsey promised that this is something Twitter will work on to “make this easier.”
These are just four things Dorsey said he’ll consider going into the new year, but whether he keeps his word or takes verifiable action remains to be seen. After all, Twitter has been saying it’s against abuse and harassment for months but has failed to find a solution to improve things. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens in 2017.