A Twitter I Would Pay For

To be blunt, I’ll admit: I’ve poked fun at Twitter since the very beginning. Because it seemed like fluff, like noise, because it reduced smart people to oversharing narcissists, because it created strange, artificial, disproportionate popular kid/unpopular kid/cult leader/sheep hierarchies. I felt dorky just saying the word Twitter.

Maybe I was overthinking it. Kinda.

Six months after creating an account, I’m still trying to convert my Twitter usage into something more meaningful, but along the way I’ve definitely met cool/interesting people and begun to notice the benefits. So is it me, or is it Twitter?

Part of the frustration it is that Twitter has vast potential for broadcasting useful bits….but no means of upgrading to something richer and more stable, despite all the pleading.

Even when it’s being defended admirably by top designers, Twitter feels like it’s only operating at 10% of its potential. Sure, if used optimally, the design community could benefit tremendously from the grains of information being tweeted about each day. Potentially. Same goes for blogs.

Yet the reality….seems like Twitter is primarily an ocean of non-specific chatter, in-jokes and mundane observations. If you know the person in real life, that can be charming, if not, it can be noisy. On a bad day, most Twitter feeds lack the one thing that makes the web an important phenomenon: actual content (no, the “fish tacos nom nom nom” stuff doesn’t qualify, not even a little). I tend to follow other web designers, but following Zeldman or Eric Meyer does NOT guarantee anything will be learned via osmosis.

Above all, I’d love if the Twitter experience was more ‘educational’. Maybe that makes me a killjoy.

Speaking of which, Eric Karjaluoto recently wrote:

Twitter is “high-school” and man, I hated high-school.

The chatter on Twitter is eroding to a point at which it has almost nothing to do with actual dialogue. Increasingly people are using it less to talk to one another, and more to collect as many followers as possible.

To me, this is the whole part of adulthood that’s great. We actually listen to others and learn from them. Twitter isn’t built to do this, or at least, we’re not using it in this way. We’re using it to gain status and speak about nothing 140 characters at a time. “Nothings”are great to your friends who actually appreciate your trivia, but to the rest of the world it’s a big pile of noise.

Twitter obviously isn’t going anywhere. It’s just going more mainstream, if anything. Despite my complaints, if Twitter gave users the ability tune their interests and preferences more, I would definitely pay for the service. Below are some wishlist features I’d love to see in a “Twitter Pro”, though I realize some of them are already available from various third-party twitter apps.

  1. Rich, Facebook-style Web Interface

    Instead of getting pinged all day from Twhirl, I’d love a web-based Twitter site that resembled Facebook. You could see a visual stream of who added who to their ‘follow’ list, you could trace relationships easier, and best of all, you could dip into the information at your leisure rather than feeling distracted by updates all day.

  2. Focused ‘Channels’

    I’d love the ability to group the people I follow into categories like “Design”, “Typography”, “Real-Life Friends” so I could read their updates depending on the mood I was in.

  3. Private Groups

    Along those lines, it would also be nice if Twitter allowed invite-only groups…

  4. Business-Class Options

    …especially for people who want to use Twitter updates like a stopwatch while collaborating with co-employees on marathon projects. (ex: “Just finished task X, moving on to task Y”)

  5. Better Conversation Threading

    If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Twitter was all non-sequitirs. When I’m following, say, Jeff Croft and he’s replying to one of his followers, that bite-sized information doesn’t mean much unless you actively go back and trace the conversation. There could be a much better, threaded-comment (or some other visualization) interface that made the interactions more meaningful.

  6. More Meaningful Profiles and Taxonomy

    I would love for Twitter to analyze relationships between users based on their profile and who they know, and to be able to view that data in various forms. Which leads me to my next point…

  7. Recommendations Algorithm

    I’d love for Twitter to intelligently understand me better, based on my interests, conversations and choice of friends, so that it can recommend people to follow.

  8. Smart Image & Link Management

    Personally, I use Twitter mostly as a link-blog, as do other designers. I’d love if Twitter parsed these links and allowed you to sort through their archives. I would love to peek into a user’s history and sort his updates by the Twitterpic images he’s posted or the by the URLs he’s posted — with embedded thumbnails, even. Archive features would be nice, not to mention other sorted views…

  9. Calendar-based Views

    Granted, looking back at one’s tweets overlaid on a calendar makes for some tedious reading, but like with the previous request, this could come in handy once in awhile. One day, I may want to go back and view parallel conversations about a topic happening at the same time (ex: Election ’08).

  10. Advanced Ettiquette Features

    Facebook has a nice feature that lets you “tune” your preferences for receiving status updates. Applied to Twitter, you could potentially turn someone off completely for a week but not have to unfriend them. And you could do it all without them knowing. You should also be able to accept DMs from people you don’t follow. For that matter, the whole DM thing is broken in a number of ways.

Are there any Twitter features that you’d definitely pay for?

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