Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is Twitter losing it?

Anyone who is "connected" these days, is doing some form of social media (SM) involvement. Most of us have witnessed the growth of FaceBook, and have been royally turned off by the pettiness of the changes made over the years. And of course, now we know more about the data spying from Big Brother and the companies involved. I'm positive there is a lot more to come from that side. .. Anyway..

Along came Twitter.. some think it's the best thing since sliced tea, and the small project has grown at an outstanding rate. Millions all over the world are using it, and it has probably been the biggest god send of life saving and information 'passing on' in history. But now we have a problem. It's kind of a weird one, I suspect a lot of it is to do with the huge scale and complexity Twitter has grown into. As a computer professional and a database and programmer expert, I honestly do get the issues that the company is facing. Providing a world saving medium for people to use, for free... is a massive undertaking. And I respect that, a lot.

But now I have some major concerns. Twitter has grown so large, the amount of data being processed at lightning speeds is so massive, something has to be done to control it. I get that. I just don't like the way it's being done. In order to really understand the process, you have to "get" a bit of an explanation of the process. Basically speaking, Twitter is whats referred to as a "client/server" program. The client is the side that you use (web or desktop or phone app) and the server part is where all the real magic happens.

The Twitter developers have created an API (application programming interface) that removes all of the needs for the client to control most of things. The client side will login to twitter by sending a name and password, and then the server side knows it can send stuff. The client at login, will send a "hey, gimme all my stuff" command to the server. The client could care less how. The server will use the API code it has, and figure everything out, and do what's needed. This process allows the client program to remain simple, without the need to be updated all of the time, because most of the "behind the scene changes" are done by the server, under the control of the developers. Exactly as things should be done.

This growth though, has the developers in complete control of what you see. As with most things in life, ignorance is bliss. What you don't know won't hurt you (or so they say). Many moons back, I latched on to the TweetDeck program, and over the course of time, very few updates were done on how it works. And then Twitter bought them, started working on new versions, and development and support for the old version vanished. More time passed, and the old version was removed as a download, forcing people into the new version. Which sucked. No offense... it just sucked. Thankfully, I've been able to hang on to the old version.

Much of what I am about to show you in graphics, many of you will say "but my phone app has always been that way". You are probably right. Phone apps are constantly being updated as Twitter makes API changes, because they want their apps to work. All of those changes were ignored for the old tweetdeck because it was going to be phased out.. who cared...

Using the old tweetdeck over the years, I've seen many conversations between people I know and people I don't know. Some of those have interested me, so I have often "jumped in" to make comments or learn more. Many of them have interested me to the point where I have ended up following those other people, and my little 'community' has grown at a pace that I am most happy with. In several of those conversations with people I didn't know, I've been able to help with computer issues, household issues, plumbing and electrical suggestions/fixes and a lot more. I've given free advice and people have had instant help. I mean, isn't that what life should be about? Helping thy neighbor? ... And as the world has grown into this massive global state of upheaval and unrest, much of it from a vastly corrupt political system, I've been able to see things, get educated on events, and tossed my help and support into things that are in desperate need of being fixed.

The problem now however, is that Twitter will be shutting down all of the old API code it has been using, which means very soon, my old tweetdeck will just not work at all, and I will be forced into the "new and improved" versions.. (this ultimately means its new because we changed it, and its improved what we do or make... it seldom means you are getting anything better).  Today I did up 3 screen shots, showing the old and new side by side. You can see the new side missing a lot of what the old side gave. I no longer will see many of those calls for help from others. I will miss out on important and critical information about local and provincial and federal and world events. .. because one (or more) of the people sending or responding to tweets, will be folks I don't follow. And Twitter has taken it upon themselves to decide that just because I don't follow one of them, then I have no rights or interests in knowing anything about the conversation. But if I go to that persons webpage that I DO follow.. all of it is there for me in plain sight. Twitter has now taken the stance that it is up to them to determine what is important to me...

And that my friends, is a HUGE fail.. for all of us. We won't see things we can help with, or want to be informed of, and possibly NEED to be informed of. Please check the following 3 screen shots. You can see what the new system is not saying. In my opinion, it's really difficult to be a part of SOCIAL media, when the 'social' aspect is being taken away from you.

In this example, Glen in the lower right (old tweetdeck)  'starts' this pic, two tweets are missed from going to the left side (new tweetdeck) to Michals's tweet. Whats not show here, is the next 3 tweets after mparkatt, were never shown in the new version. One of them being a RT dealing with important political information.

Example 2 shows THREE tweets missed by the new API code, which appears to be some really super great local causes I could have been interested in supporting or knowing more about. The new and improved "Ignorance is Bliss" is suggesting that helping out good causes is none of my business. *sigh.

The final example details a reference from our local Pride center on the bottom right (old version again) followed by FOUR missed tweets. Some great people, great organizations, really decent information and ideas... all gone "poof".

I get that many of you will say "that's the way its always been", and I'm saying that's the way you have been used to because you didn't know otherwise. When I was discussing this in twitter the other day, I had one (now former) follower state that I was being 'nosy' by butting into other peoples conversations. They were a locked account, and I wonder how they decided to follow me, if they had not seen me in a part of a local conversation. Hell, in my mind, this is the way most people probably find new people to follow.

I also "get" that for many, this is the way you like it... only the people that you follow and the people your people mention that you follow, show up in your time line. And to that I say "to each their own". More power to you if that is the way YOU choose to use your SOCIAL media.

For me, I like being 'nosy'.. I like seeing what others are saying, I like being SOCIAL. And I wonder why that is being taken away from me. As a programmer, one of the things that I LOVE doing is coding in options so that people can customize what I make, so that it works for THEM and not for me. As a professional, that is my job... to give people what they want, even when they don't know they want it. Would it be so hard for twitter and the developers to add in an option that says "Show me all the tweets from all that I follow" or "Show me just the tweets from the people I follow, where their tweets have only the people I also follow".

If you can follow that logic..


  1. By the way, as a side note.. if you want your tweet (in response to someone else) to be seen by all of your followers, just put a dot or something else in front of the first name. This can lead to a "thread loss", aka 'in reply to' but at least it will be seen. I have been asking @Twitter @TwitterCanada and @kirstinestewart (the head of twitter Canada) for a response, thoughts, comments.... and have heard nothing to date.

  2. Awesome post! I totally agree with you and I'm also super pissed off because of these new 'improvements' we've been forced to accept. I've been using v0.38.2 since january and it was workin fine until last tuesday or wednesday. Now here's all I can see: and I can't tweet anymore. What are you doing to tweet now? Using the updated version or back to the web? Congratulations for the post again! I bet it's what most people think but don't know what's been changed.

  3. "As a professional, that is my job... to give people what they want ..."
    And you're in Edmonton?! We must have coffee sometime! I've been beavering away at #ParticipatoryDeliberation (aka #DeliberativePolitics) since doing social justice workshops here in the mid-80s.

    let's be in touch!
    --ben (@bentrem and @ITGeek)