This week Twitter decided to not allow you to see tweets people you are following are having with people you are not folllowing.
Previous to this it was an option in the settings, but it turns out this option slows down the servers, and since it is only known or used by 3% of users they decided to remove it. This horrified power Twitter users, see #fixreplies.
Because eaves dropping on conversations people you follow are having with people you don’t follow is a great way to discover new people. Actually this is the most common, if not only way, that I personally discover new people…it’s recommendations without trying to be recommendations…I trust who people I follow converse with, so there’s a good chance I will want to follow them. I’m not about to go through every person I follow’s contact list and look through these lists for new people…I don’t have the time…so I get more suitable value eavesdropping on conversations…I’ve only used Mr Tweet once, it was handy, but I’d rather find new people in my flow as part of using the system.
Anyway, now Twitter promise new things, so we will see, but at the moment they have kind of come half way.:
“…any updates beginning with @username (that are not explicitly created by clicking on the reply icon) will be seen by everyone following that account.”
Meaning…if someone I follow replies to someone I don’t follow using a reply button (which threads the reply to the tweet ID), then I won’t see it. But I will see it if they type the word @user in the text box (rather than using the reply button).
What they are basically saying here, is that when you click the reply button, you are explicitly having a conversation, as the tweet you are replying to becomes a link at the end of your tweet. (You will see this at the end of some tweets, where it will say “inreply to johnt”). Whereas when you type in the reply in the text box this does not link the tweets so can be taken as a shoutout or a mention, which apparently is more appropriate for you to see, rather than a conversation from which you are not in the loop.
Personally I think the option in the settings was the way to go, but since this option could no longer scale, they had to take it away, I’m sure if it did scale there would be no problem with keeping it.
NOTE: what I’m not sure of is if I click the reply button using an alternate interface like peoplebrowsr, filttr, dabr, tweetdeck will the same function apply, or does it only apply when I use the reply button on Twitter itself. My hunch is it will make no difference, as it’s a linked reply and will be treated as such.
It has taken a step backwards in regards to “serendipity”, but it’s no way going to be restricted like Facebook.
I like that Facebook is restricted and private as I use it as a more personal thing, I don’t want the world to know when I’m not home, or personal family happenings. I think this is Facebook’s strength, and they should see this unique feature as something that differentiates them from Twitter and Friendfeed, some don’t think so.
Let’s face it Facebook competes more with Twitter than Friendfeed.
NOTE: Of course they (Facebook and Twitter) are in competition to be the social network you most visit, but in regards to functionality they are different.
Friendfeed is a lifestream and a social network, just like Facebook, only Facebook has all features inhouse, whereas Friendfeed consolidates all your scattered profiles that you have at different services…basically Friendfeed mostly aggregates your stuff, where Facebook does it all. And of course you are free to browse profiles on Friendfeed, where this is restricted on Facebook as they allow people to set privacy settings.
But I will say that Twitter competes more with Friendfeed than Facebook. The reason is that a lot of people use Twitterfeed to auto-tweet their blog posts, bookmarks, photo’s videos, etc…Meaning not every tweet is manually typed, some of them are auto-posts from your happenings elsewhere, which kind of turns Twitter into a lifestream service, if you want to use it that way. It’s not designed for this, as is Friendfeed, but it is done.
As I mentioned before, they are all indirectly in competition because they run on the “social network” model. There is only so many places you can spend time, and you usually will hang out in the service where your buddies are hanging out…whether this service has crap features or not doesn’t matter in the end, what matters is that you can connect with them all in one place.
For me it’s Twitter, if all my Twitter buddies hung out at Friendfeed, then I may give it a try (NOTE: I do use Friendfeed for my lifestream, but I don’t network). And I do use Facebook for family and close friends, but this is more minimal use. I use LinkedIn as well, but it’s not really a place to hang out in. Basically, if juicy stuff happens in Friendfeed, Facebook or LinkedIn, it gets posted to Twitter, ie. Twitter has become the pulse.
Facebook is more about friendship. I can only follow you, if you follow me back (accept my request for friendship)…it’s more about strong tie relationships.
Friendfeed and Twitter are less about friendship, as I can follow someone, who doesn’t follow me back…giving it a strength of weak ties scenario. This is great for serendipity, discovery, exploration, research…
As I said each service has it’s strength in the relationship dynamic it offers, at least for me anyway.
Status Updates comparison
To finish let’s compare the experience of Facebook status updates to Twitter. I thought I would cover this as lots of people say, “this feature is on Facebook, so I have no reason to use Twitter”, but they are mistaken…
The only thing Twitter and Facebook have in common is “status updates”, which is just one feature of Facebook, whereas this is the whole concept of Twitter. Due to the differing relationship dynamic they work quite different.
FB - I can only see status updates of people I follow (in order to follow them, they have to follow me back, which means we are friends)
TW - I can visit any profile and see their updates, I can also follow them and see their updates in my homepage (they don’t have to follow me back)
FB - I can see replies from people that are also my friends to status updates on my friends profile
TW - ditto
FB - I can see replies from strangers to status updates on my friends profile
TW - This is no longer a 100% truth, see start of this post for explanation
FB - I cannot see replies my friends make on a status update on a strangers profile
TW - This is no longer a 100% truth, see start of this post for explanation
FB - replies are threaded under an update
TW - replies are at the same level as an update (any update is considered an update regardless if it has the word “reply”)
If you click the reply icon it will publish a link to the tweet you are replying to under your reply. But the tweet you are replying to will not list the tweets that has replied to it
FB - replies alert you via notifications
TW - replies don’t have notification, they are just another tweet in the stream
But replies to you, are accessed via your reply stream
As we can see here Facebook takes a more blog and comment approach, and Twitter has a full stream approach.
Eg. in Facebook a status update is like a micro-blog post, and comments are threaded (of which you are notified). Whereas in Twitter everything is a same level item in the stream…posts start at the top of the page, and roll off the bottom.
The other thing is that in Twitter you can discover more people through posts (eg. conversations your friends are having with strangers) and visiting profiles, whereas this is restricted in Facebook.
The advantage of Facebook is that after the fact conversations are more distilled, whereas in Twitter if you were not there while it was happening, you have to piece it together, although Twitter Search does have a nifty view called “Show Conversations“, and the use of hashtag channels for tweets on a topic.