Eavesdropping at the Party

Something sad happened today at Twitter.

For those of you not familiar, or less familiar with Twitter, there are 3 kinds of tweets you can make.

  1. A general tweet, sent out for all of of the people who follow you to see and directed at no one in particular
  2. A Direct tweet, sent directly to and visible only to one person on Twitter
  3. An @ tweet, sent out for all of the people who follow you to see but directed at one person, using an @ symbol before their Twitter username.

Since the beginning, Twitter users could configure their settings so that you could see @ tweets sent by people you follow but not directed at you. I liken this to being at a party, where there are a lot of conversations going on, and while you may be engaged in a conversation with your neighbor, you are also listening to the conversation being held near you by your two best buddies. I love this dynamic, and it is one of the reasons I like both parties and Twitter. It energizes me to be apart of the action going on all around me. I can hear other conversations that compliment the one I am in, and I can combine the two conversations into one bigger, better conversation. Or, let’s be honest, I can move on from a boring conversation to a more exciting one. Or I can redirect someone to a better conversation for them.

This dynamic is the power of social media and why it is so effective. The possibility to join, combine or redirect conversations in ways that bring more value, drive more support or activity, uncover new ideas, empower someone by connecting them with the right person even if I don’t know that person, is incredible.

Sadly, Twitter is thinking about taking that away. They say they are going to make a change to the @ tweet functionality so that I can no longer see @ tweets made by people I follow but not directed at me.

Essentially, they have taken my party and cordoned off every conversation into a sound proof booth. Now I’ve lost the dynamic that I love. I will stop learning from the things Beth Kanter says to David Neff and vice versa. I will lose out on the opportunity to inject the wisdom I have, or to ask clarifying questions of people I value unless I also follow everyone they follow.

I hope Twitter rethinks this policy. @Nedra stated it very well yesterday. “Never pick the option to make your social media platform LESS social.” The party just got a lot quieter, a lot less fun, and a lot less valuable.