Twitter’s @Replies Change, Reconsidered

Until fairly recently, if you followed a Twitter account, you were fed every tweet that account made, whether it was a general/broadcast comment, or a response to another tweet (even if you didn’t follow the other person).

Many of us, especially in the earlier days of our Twitter membership, used this as a way to jump into conversations, and especially as a way to find new people to follow (“If my friend follows/chats with that person, I’ll check her stream and maybe follow her myself.”).

For technical and scalability reasons, Twitter changed that functionality earlier this summer. Now, you only see an account’s @replies if you also follow the person to whom the reply is directed.

Many people – myself included – were unhappy with this change. I felt that it would result in a bit of a Twitter echo-chamber, that I’d miss out on conversations, and that it would be more difficult to find interesting accounts to follow.

But lately I’ve reconsidered my unhappiness, and decided I rather like the new policy.

For one thing, I get many fewer tweets in my stream. I follow a few hundred accounts, which results in thousands of tweets per day, even under the new policy. I don’t get to read them all as it is. I’d get to read far fewer of them  if every tweet every one of my follows made every day was pushed to me.

The other thing, which I’ve grown to appreciate more, is that I can be a bit (only a bit, mind you) more relaxed about replies I make. Before, if I replied to someone, my tweet would go into the stream of the nearly-900 people who follow me, whether it was relevant to them in any way, or not. We’ve all experienced the joy of following someone who turns out to generate loads of trite or irrelevant tweets. They’re usually rewarded with an unf0llow.

Now, though, my replies only get seen by the person to whom they’re directed (if they check their @mentions!), and by anyone else who follows the both of us. The likelihood of my tweets being regarded as irrelevant is therefore greatly minimized.

And guess what: I haven’t had any trouble finding new people to follow. I check out the streams of the people who follow me. I check the streams of the people I follow, and see who they’re interacting with the most. I read “Follow Friday” and other recommendations. And if people want to include me in conversations, they direct a question to me or include my name in their tweet, so I see it in my @mentions.

So, my apologies to Twitter for my original castigation of their @reply policy change. I’ve grown to rather like it.

Your thoughts?