Thoughts: Twitter conversations

Twitter conversationsTwitter recently introduced an update to make it easier to identify and follow conversations "in stream" linking related tweets by a blue line and placing the tweets in chronological order (first tweet on top).

We are used to the reverse chronological nature of social streams but, to follow a thread effectively, it needs to emulate how we normally read text: all together and from the top down.

An enhanced conversation view should be welcomed but has it gone far enough? Is anything more possible in a stream-like context? By introducing the new feature Twitter has already broken convention so why not go further?

Softly, softly, catchee monkey

The new conversation view need not be the end of the line and could herald further changes in future. twitter, however, has to be careful and not rush too radical a change.

How could we move on from here? I have written before about different ways to implement more conversational structures within Twitter:

  • beyond the hashtag -> could be achieved with modified event pages
  • native chats -> could be achieved with modified event pages
  • buying Branch -> spin out conversations based on a tweet but within the context of Twitter

It is widely recognised that the Twitter feed does not suit everyone and it has never been a very strong conversation platform. In fact, the busier it gets and the more people you follow the harder it is. This is why Twitter's move to group conversations in a more obvious visual manner is essential.

The whole point of "social" media is talking to people but the Twitter feed makes that hard so that we can end up with a broadcast of contextually redundant statements and a sea of links. For the casual user this doesn't offer much value.

Twitter conversationsI went on record in the past to say that I will continue to use Twitter despite finding more utility elsewhere but the inability to have decent conversations, as opposed to somewhere like Google+, has limited my usage. It is harder to feel involved on Twitter when you are not part of a regularly conversing group.

Short and sweet

The decision to stay with the 140 character limit has been a subject of discussion for quite some time as many feel you can't have a proper conversation in such short bursts but, with a proper conversation view this need not necessarily be the case.

Social conversations tend to follow a status + comments structure and this is what Twitter has been missing. The new conversation view is certainly a step in the right direction but I still feel that the service could be bolder.

Any change to an established paradigm is obviously going to be divisive - people don't like change - but a change such as this (and subsequent user comment) shows the fickle nature of the tech press who first hailed the feature before later comparing it to Twitter's Quick Bar which was universally lambasted and later removed from the iOS app.

Thin Blue Line

The current UI change might not be perfect and will most likely be modified in future iterations but it does show that Twitter is taking conversation tracking and discovery seriously; it has to.

Personally, I hope that this is just the beginning and that more advanced views appear in future, possibly akin to my earlier suggestions.