Are Group Threads Killing Twitter?
Hello everyone. Today I want to talk about group threads on Twitter.
I’m a huge fan of Twitter. I’ve mentioned before that I used Twitter long before I started blogging. So for me its first and foremost a means of interacting with people.
Over the years I’ve seen many changes to Twitter. Some are useful such as reducing the character count for links. Others less welcome, for example replacing the ‘favourite’ star with a ‘like’ heart. The latest update is possibly the most controversial Twitter has ever introduced and is leading some people to question the future of Twitter.
Just over a month ago Twitter decided to remove the @names of people being replied to within a tweet. In theory this is a great move. It means the 140 character limit isn’t being used on names so people have more characters for their tweets. I thought the change would be really great. It took me less than 24 hours to change my mind.
In reality it’s a nightmare. Everyone tagged in a tweet subsequently gets notified of every reply, like and retweet generated from the initial tweet they were tagged in. I’m not alone in disliking the new style Twitter.
In an attempt to gauge other users feelings about group threads I ran several polls last week about different aspects of group threads. The results were very interesting.
Q1 – Who Likes Group Threads?
The results of the first poll were easy to interpret. Over 40% of people who responded hate them and only 16% said they actually liked them.
What I found more interesting was the conversations generated as a result of the first poll about why people didn’t like group threads.
This reply from Vicky represents the views of many people I chatted to. The numbers of notifications from large group threads can easily run into hundreds, and often relate to conversations people are not actively involved in.
A second reason for not liking the threads is its very easy to become sidelined. In real life if a person starts a conversation with friends and gradually more and more people joined in, eventually not everyone will be able to speak. Consequently the quiet members of the group are pushed out of the conversation.
Twitter threads are no different. Group chats can be unwittingly ‘hijacked’ by other people who join in and take over the conversation. In the first few days after the change was bought in I was reminded of what it was like to be at school. Where most people in a thread were on the outside watching the cool kids but not able to join in. Other people have said they felt/feel the same way about large threads.
Q2 – How many people is too many in a thread?
Its clear from this poll that huge group threads are not popular, although I did find some people who love them.
The majority of people however prefer to chat to smaller groups. This goes back to the point that you can’t listen to, or reply to 20+ people at once.
I’ve seen a thread recently with 40+ people tagged but only 3 or 4 people actually chatting. Many people tagged within the thread (including myself) had muted it. I only became aware if it because someone tagged me again. This indications people in large group threads often have no idea who they’re replying to beyond the people they’re actively chatting with.
Q3 – How long should a thread last?
The other week I was tagged in a thread that was over 2 weeks old (the same thread mentioned above). It was a thread I had initially started, then muted when it became too big. The conversation I was re-tagged in bore no relation to the one I started.
The results of this poll seem quite divided, but I asked a few people to clarify what they ment by ’till people stop chatting’. Most people said they ment on that day/evening/night.
They said it was wrong to reignite a thread the following morning/day with tweets such as ‘good morning, how are we all today’. They felt it would be better for people to start a new thread.
Q4 – What do you do you if you don’t like being tagged in group threads?
For a majority of people the answer was simple, just mute the thread. However I was surprised to find a number of people didn’t know how to do this.
I found out how to do this myself from a fellow Twitter user. I thought Twitter would advertise the mute features better.
To mute a thread click on the small arrow at the top right of any tweet in the thread ( this is in-line with the name of the person who has tweeted) this brings down a menu. One option on the menu is Mute This Conversation.
By using mute, people can take responsibility for removing themselves from a thread. This is more effective than asking people in the thread to untag them.
Are group threads really killing Twitter though?
The short answer to that question is no. Twitter is far too big to go the way of sites such as Myspace. However for many people it has changed how they use Twitter. People are less keen to engage in chats and some people are chosing to stay off Twitter altogether.
What can people do about group threads?
Twitter said the changes it recently made are work in progress, so there’s a chance they will at some point limit the number of people tagged in a thread. Until then there are simple ways to prevent these threads from being too annoying to others.
- If you enjoy a large group chat, only tag other people who you KNOW will appreciate it.
- If you want to chat to certain people in a thread the following day, start a new thread.
- When you come across a thread in your timeline you want to comment on, maybe only reply to the people who are actively chatting. To do this after you have clicked on reply, click on the list of people you are replying to and untick all those who you don’t want to reply to.
- Mute conversations you don’t want to participate in any more rather than ask the group to untag you.
These are just my suggestions for twitter thread etiquette. Would you add to or change any of my suggestions? Are you a lover or a hater of these type of threads?
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