In the days since Elon Musk took over Twitter, it's been very odd to watch. Tesla might be a car company first, but with the promise of self driving and it's cockpit design it is not far off from actually being a software company. I bet SpaceX relies on tons of software for it's reusable rockets too.
Firstly, I wouldn't have been so cavalier with layoffs. From my own experiences, counting lines of code is a terrible metric for gauging a developers effectiveness. What about maintainers who might reduce the complexity of code or improve readability? They're likely to break even, or better yet have a negative lines of code count.
In my last role as a developer, I certainly didn't contribute the most lines of code directly, but I had input into almost every feature we built. I'd have been caught in the crossfire if we were kept based on how many lines of code we directly contributed to a product.
Overall, I have heard Twitter was well over-staffed. Given what it does functionally, I would probably agree on the raw numbers but knee-jerk reactions are never going to end well for anyone. I've seen companies downsized before only for the remaining employees to become stretched and fatigued.
The moderation team especially should have been left alone, at least for now. Take the time to observe and review. From the outside it probably does look like the answers are very easy, but they rarely are. I did moderation for a site I ran many years ago and it was a thankless and time consuming task. Luckily I could manage it myself, but ultimately I couldn't do it alone anymore and eventually the site had to be shut down. I wouldn't like to see the same fate for Twitter.
What would I do to fix Twitter?
Besides taking a different approach to downsizing the Twitter workforce, what else would I do to fix Twitter?
1. Twitter Blue
My plan for Twitter Blue would have been to remove ads completely. Not reduce them and/or make them more relevant, as has been suggested. Whatever else might be considered a worthy perk, I think this would make any site better. Advertising probably makes little sense at all if you can't give advertisers the reach of your entire audience but imagine not having to rely on PPC or PPV metrics for your success. It can only force you to make the product better to not only keep, but entice new users. No brainer for me.
Twitter Blue with reduced ads means Elon is looking to double dip. Taking your money while you're still the product. How exactly will ads be made more relevant? Forget appeasing advertisers, find ways to get rid of them. Netflix and Apple are now double-dipping and it stinks.
2. Verify, verify, verify
Tying verification to Twitter Blue doesn't make sense to me. Everyone should be verified before they're taken seriously. Tell everyone up front that you will assume the account belongs to a bot unless you're verified. Verified accounts can have a checkmark, but one that matches the colour of your name in the UI (black or grey depending on context). If you're a public or notable figure, then you can apply for or be granted a blue checkmark to reflect your status.
I had no idea there was a verified tab in notifications on Twitter (I'm not verified, so why would I), so this format would keep that.
I think verification is important for two reasons.
- Verifying your account would probably make people more accountable for what they post
- Would help to sort the humans from the bots
There is of course nothing wrong with bots, I use them to auto-post for example, but they should also be verified as an authority on the source they're posting on behalf of.
Brands should be verified, but they're not notable public figures so a paid tier for them should exist.
3. Limit replies and mentions
My real goal here would be to limit replies directly to tweets that are not your own. Let's start with a small quota of 5 a day. From the beginning, you can reply (however you wish) up to 5 times directly to tweets. That's 5 separate tweets, 5 times to the same tweet or a bit of both. They might be original posts or replies. If your reply becomes a thread of comments, no impact on your quota but you're ability to reply is reduced until your reputation improves.
Verifying your account would double your quota and maybe good behaviour metric could increase your reputation to increase the quota further.
Without verifying, bots could not abuse the system without verifying who they belong to.
The same could go for original tweets with mentions. You can create tweets with mentions a set number of times each day until your reputation improves. Again that could be 5 tweets to the same account, 5 tweets to different accounts or a mixture of the two.
It's not that you don't want engagement from your users, but you want that engagement to be for the positive (even if the engagement itself is negative).
In both cases, deleting tweets would not reset the counter until the next day. Good behaviour improves your reputation and earns you trust. Win-win.
4. Max follower count
Introduce a limit on how many accounts you can follow. I would argue even 1,000 is too high of a number but let's start there. You can follow up to 1,000 accounts of your choosing. Brands or public figures could be allowed to follow more, but there should be a limit there too.
To follow another account, you'd have to unfollow one if you'd already reached your limit.
5. Normalise muting over blocking
I get why people use the block function. I have a small number of followers so tend to avoid a lot of noise, but muting is as affective as far as I'm concerned. Muting should be the preferred method of defence. This is especially true when it comes to politicians, who could block their constituents. Of course, their constituents should be respectful in their interactions and if they are they then should not be locked out of a politicians sphere. Political figures should have provide a reason for blocking which gets reviewed and turned into a mute instead if the reason just isn't good enough.
Bonus: Hide the counters
Loren Brichter had a good suggestion, to hide all the counters behind analytics which could also be behind a paywall (Twitter Blue?).
I quite like this idea and maybe this is the one thing Instagram got right in recent years.
So Twitter are planning to turn the verification badge into a Twitter Blue badge and introduce a less obvious verified badge. That makes absolutely no sense to me and I feel like it's something that's pretty easy to solve:
No-one needs to know you're a Twitter Blue subscriber, your notability/verified status is much more important to the world than whether or not you could fork out $8 a month.
MKBHD had a pretty good to discussion about the topic on the Waveform podcast this past week.
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