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Twitter FAIL – @replies and support

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
13 May 2009

The Twitter fail wormTwitter is a-buzz this morning with reactions to the news that Twitter have updated their system to change the way you see replies. Specifically, it affects the way you see replies from people that you *don’t* follow yourself. According to @Biz on the official blog:

“Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow—it’s a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.”

What this actually means in practise is a little confusing. If I’m interpreting the change correctly (and according to a few of the commentators who are up-in-arms over on the site, I may not be), this is going to affect people with massive followings the most. People like @StephenFry and @Wossy have followers in the hundred-thousands, and couldn’t possibly hope to follow all of them back – it would be a full time job. But previously this hadn’t been a problem (as I pointed out in my post last week, “Ten top tips for twittering… Celebs“) as they could just hit their “replies” button and see who was replying. But this update (theoretically) means that they now won’t be able to see them at all…

The even MORE confusing part – and this is where I think Twitter are FAILing, in their ambiguity – is that despite the update, nothing really seems to have changed. I for instance can still see replies from people I’m not following in my replies tab, and I can tell from replies I’m sending that other people can too. So what are Twitter playing at. Have I completely misunderstood the change (and if I have, several others have too!), and if so, shouldn’t they be monitoring all this feedback (the term “#fixreplies” is already in the Trending Topics list) and putting us out of our misery?

fail-owned-service-fail2Elsewhere on Twitter, I was disappointed to see today that a support request I submitted almost TWO WEEKS AGO has still not been actioned. An e-mail from Twitter support arrived in my inbox today which started with the following ominous sentence:

“It’s been a little while and we haven’t been able to get to your request. Twitter is a free service, and while we try to provide as much help as we can, we can’t get to every email. Sorry about that!”

The message goes on to suggest that maybe I should search through their help section to find the answer to my problem. Well great – thanks Twitter. It took you TWO WEEKS to come up with a response which is the Twitter equivalent to “Er, have you tried turning it off and on again?”. Couldn’t you have sent me that right away?

By the way, if my “FAIL” references are getting lost on anyone, make sure you visit http://failblog.org/ to find out more…!

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