Five More Ways to Improve Twitter

By  |  Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 12:08 am

Today’s top story in tech? Microblogging site Twitter has bought Summize, which was until today a separate company which offered something that shoulda been part of Twitter itself from the get-go: real-time search of the gazillions of brief messages from zillions of people that make up the surging sea of information that is Twitter. At the moment, Summize has morphed into search,, which isn’t really integrated with the rest of the service. But it seems a safe bet that it won’t take long until a deeper melding happens, and that Twitter will be vastly better for it. (Here’s Twitter’s own blog post on the acquisition and the thinking behind it.)

Without Summize’s search, Twitter was sort of like a gargantuan party that was such a mob scene that you most likely ended up hanging out only with folks you already knew or who you encountered through pure serendipity. With Summize search, it’s going to be a cinch to find conversations you want to join and people who share your interests. Already, searches such as iPhone battery life and Iraq news make for good reading, and after I blogged about my new Humanscale Freedom chair, I idly searched for it–and was startled to discover that the chair has been the subject of lots of Tweets.

As a Twitter fan–I am, by the way, harrymccracken over there–I’m looking forward to seeing search become a big part of how I use Twitter. But I’m also thinking about other ways I’d improve the service–aside from the obvious hope that its days of frequent outages are behind it. So herewith, a short, highly personal wishlist.

I wish Twitter had…

1. Threaded conversations–real ones, I mean. The most interesting Tweets are part of discussions among two or more people, but the current form of threading on Twitter is a kludge that doesn’t work very well. It’s often hard to tell what a reply’s replying to, and impossible to read a conversation all on one page. A service called Quotably attempts to address these issues, but it only works some of the time…and who wants to go to a different site to experience what should be one of Twitter’s core features?

2. Threaded permalinks. Speaking of threading, I often want to point people to Twitter dialogs–sometimes ones from the distant past. I’d love a way to create a link to any snippet of conversation I chose.

3. Photos in Tweets. TwitPic lets you share photos via Twitter, and for what it does, it works quite nicely. But I wish that there was a way to make images show up in Tweets themselves. Maybe Twitter could even use MMS to push those photos out to folks who follow Twitter on their phones. (My take on Twitter is skewed by the fact that I mostly use it on the Web.)

4. More ways to find really worthwhile people and discussions. Right now, I discover new people on Twitter largely by accident or word of mouth, and I know that there are countless conversations going on that I might want to join…if only I knew they were happening. I’m sure Summize’s technology will help here. And maybe there should be a mechanism for rating Tweeters and/or the Tweets they produce.

5. Features that were just slightly more like e-mail. I say “just slightly” because it would be easy to ruin Twitter by complicating it. But I’d like to see something akin to an address book in Twitter; currently, your lists of people you’re following and those who are following you are separate and (I think) permanently arranged in the order they were added. And Twitter users have both user names and screen names, a distinction that’s fuzzy enough that I keep forgetting what’s what and when to use which one.

One thing I hope Twitter never does is allow you to create Tweets that are longer than 140 characters long. The fact that you’re forced into haiku mode when Tweeting is a huge part of the joy of Twitter…

So how would you change Twitter if you could?



14 Comments For This Post

  1. Boris Says:

    They should offer full email support. Or simply buy, which is MY service. 😉

  2. Marjolein Katsma Says:

    The best thing Twitter could change now is to make things actually work, listen to their users, and value their feedback. See for instance : the “Older” button isn’t working for a lot of people, for some not on their own tweet’s archive, but for more, and worse, not on their timeline with their own tweets and those of the people they listen to. Which sort of defeats the whole point of Twitter. It’s been reported two weeks ago, and there was one reply “We’re working on fixing this” 12 days ago – and then nothing. People test things, try to find workarounds, essentially generating useful information for Twitter to fix this bug – but we might as well be talking to a black hole.

    Make things work, Twitter, and improve your customer relations. It wasn’t stellar before, it’s dismal now. People are already leaving because of that.

    And absolutely don’t even think about new features before you’ve made the ones you have actually work for everyone.

  3. David Says:

    All good ideas. Now that they’ve proven people will use their service, they should focus on implementing improved functionality.

  4. James Burke Says:

    One reason I use Twitter is to write notes to myself (and whoever else wants to read them) while I’m out on the road or generally not at my desk. It would be nice if Twitter messages could be sent directly as an RSS easily.

  5. Clayton Blackham Says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m a Twitter neophyte or maybe it just doesn’t exist, but when I click on people’s profiles, I would like it to show who we might have in common or suggestions based on my conversations.

  6. Lloyd Budd Says:

    From a particular tweet, I’d like to be able to easily navigate to the tweets that the person made before or after, or look at all of their tweets from a specific day or week.

  7. Video Games Says:

    Free beer with a sign up. Would be a definite improvement.

  8. sofia lachut Says:

    I dont no what you think you is saying here, but I dont think you dont think to good on this here subject. I dont think this through.

  9. Marty Hermes Says:

    I am a baby bird tweeter. And right off the bat the site was down today and my account deleted. How can I figure out how to tweet when basic access is denied?

  10. bookmarkdigg Says:

    I dont no what you think you is saying here, but I dont think you dont think to good on this here subject. I dont think this through.

  11. Leah Says:

    Re: Threads comment. Agreed! Or at least a time stamp of original tweet that response is related to. that would allow users to easily figure out which Tweet the other was referencing.

  12. Jonathan Lyles Says:

    Facebook has a lot of these features now with it’s latest update. The main page feels like a Twitter page and I noticed a character limit on those updates. I didn’t count the character but could it be 140 chars?

  13. Avada Says:

    Great post very helpful
    Thanks for share

  14. Recipe Says:

    I just use Twitter is to write notes to myself. Like my diary