Twitter, Listening to Users, and Murder

I saw this car­toon gain a few thou­sand retweets on Twit­ter. In it, a Twit­ter exec­u­tive asks three col­leagues how they should grow the ser­vice. One col­league says “Algo­rithms”; anoth­er, “Moments”; a third says “Lis­ten to users”. This third response angers the exec­u­tive, to the point that he throws the man who sug­gest­ed it out of a win­dow (it’s at least a sec­ond floor win­dow, so this is pre­sum­ably mur­der).

What I infer from this car­toon is that the author believes that Twit­ter doesn’t lis­ten to its users, but should.

So what do Twit­ter users want? The #RIPTwit­ter hash­tag1 reveals a few com­mon demands.

One is that Twit­ter needs an edit but­ton. That opens the door to so much poten­tial abuse that I can’t believe it’s seri­ous­ly being pro­posed, let alone con­sid­ered:

If you get angry at peo­ple who retweet big­otry, abuse of mar­ket­ing mate­r­i­al, just imag­ine how you’ll feel when you find out you’re the one retweet­ing it.

Anoth­er is that Twit­ter needs to con­cen­trate on stop­ping abuse. Bri­an­na Wu, who has more rea­son than most to want an end to Twit­ter abuse, says that this posi­tion is non­sense:

As some­one that works with Twit­ter fre­quent­ly on harass­ment, I feel unique­ly qual­i­fied to say… [this] is bull­shit. Twitter’s harass­ment out­come is improv­ing. I have doc­u­ment­ed, sta­tis­ti­cal proof it’s improv­ing.

So giv­en that two of the most pop­u­lar user requests are rub­bish, and many vocal Twit­ter users seem to real­ly just want to pre­serve the sta­tus quo, and that Twit­ter growth con­tin­ues to stall, my take on the car­toon is that the exec­u­tive was right to get angry at the per­son who sug­gest­ed they just lis­ten to users.

Although I don’t con­done mur­der.


Yes, I write about Twit­ter quite a lot. That’s because it’s impor­tant to me, I use it fre­quent­ly, every day. I want to see it suc­ceed, and I want to see it improve. And, as M.G. Siegler notes in Tem­pest in a Tweet­pot:

Change is always scary — espe­cial­ly on the inter­net. But time goes on, we move on, and every­one is often hap­pi­er as a result.


1 Iron­i­cal­ly, Twit­ter search uses a non-lin­ear algo­rithm, and is bet­ter for it.


Also pub­lished on Medi­um.