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.