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Ask HN: How would you turn Twitter around?
452 points by bsvalley on Feb 28, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 601 comments
If you were the CEO of Twitter, what would you do in 2017 to make Twitter great again?

1. cut costs by a lot. they shouldn't be spending $2B per year

2. allow the apps to be used without a login - with the default view showing 'what is on now'. almost every member of my family has attempted to use twitter at some point and just been confused.

3. reformat all the explore pages into ordinary twitter streams

4. acquire nuzzel. their view of 'whats on now' is better than twitter's view

5. drop the video passion-project nonsense. you don't need to own content to use twitter alongside it. strike deals with the content providers instead where tweets are shown alongside (this is already being done) and become a partner to content owners and distributors rather than a competitor

6. improve the core product for users. group messaging, longer tweets, only show replies from people who are authenticated or two degrees away from you by default, etc. etc. (and pro accounts, if you wish)

7. let people pay to get a checkmark, and then let users pay to flair tweets they like

8. better tools for businesses who provide support on twitter. let them pay to use it as a platform and properly authenticate their customers on twitter

9. ditto above but for marketing


> 1. cut costs by a lot. they shouldn't be spending $2B per year

Really, is Twitter doing poorly? $2.52 billion in 2016 is more than enough revenue, I'd wager, to maintain a solid company. Twitter seem to me to have an explosive-growth mentality - spend like crazy and grow our way to success - in a post-explosive-growth reality.

Fix the cost structures, and make ~$1 billion in profit, and you have a solid company. With continued YoY growth of say 5%, and a valuation of $20 billion in the near future, about double their current $11.33B, is not out of the realm of possibility. Sure, it isn't Google or FaceBook sized, but is a $20B company in anyway failing?

I share your sentiment. They can grow slowly like most normal companies and have an amazing business.

Let people pay $1/month to raise their limit to 280 characters per message. http://blog.zorinaq.com/revenue-idea-for-twitter-1-per-month... Imagine a heated discussion on Twitter... how many would pay $1/month to be able to communicate their points more clearly?

Preemptive reply: no, nobody reads Twitter over SMS anymore.

Trial 1c per character over 140.

So many prole would want to finish a sentence for a few cents that would hesitate for $1/mth. Then have a $3 (or something smaller) minimum so people instantly have credit for future use to train behavior for some time. This would also give credit cards for future organisation and easy purchases. For power users 100 character a month would be nothing so it would up earnings there.

Then initially launch with a 'charity' test month. This helps get people using and people accepting longer tweets with good will. Doing a charity month will help reduce the invariable haters of anything new, and offset bad-will if trial goes down like a lead balloon. And then monitise assuming trial goes well

>Let people pay $1/month to raise their limit to 280 characters per message.

The format is the entire point of twitter. It forces the condensation of thought. Increasing the limit would fundamentally change the service.

People already hack around this by posting images of text, or using several tweets (usually annotated with "1/" "2/" etc, or merely by replying to their own tweets).

The images hurt accessibility, and the streams make it harder to share the discussion (which is partly the purpose of being a social app to begin with).

But doing it has friction, both for the writer and for the readers. If you remove the friction, you get more of it.

This feels like maybe a [citation required] thing. Facebook doesn't have any particular length limit on posts, and anecdotally vast screeds are quite rare on my feed, and most posts are pretty terse regardless.

Is there data to suggest that people will just rant all the time if they're permitted to?

[edit] Anecdotally, my current top 20 posts in my FB feed: 17 under 140 chars, 3 greater than 140 chars.

Nobody's arguing people will rant all the time. A lower frequency of longer texts is expected, even if Facebook didn't show it.

Does this include adding 23 chars for a link, and possibly also for images (which I think used to count as extra but no longer do)?

We don't need twitter to be another facebook.

Not sure why you've been down-voted. Twitter is so different from Facebook in terms of what it's primary use is, that it doesn't make sense to compare them, and while I wouldn't quite word my response this way, I agree with the sentiment that Facebook usage data doesn't tell us enough to predict Twitter usage under higher character limits.

Yeah, plus what happens now is you get these almost garbled, code-like sentences with emojis, inB4 type abbreviations, truncated URLS, hashtags, @ references and its unreadable/unscannable. I would totally prefer a 140 character block where the hashtags, @references and links fell outside and I coukd parse the tweet more naturally.

Yet, the people who like it, like it, and changing it would mostly make them leave, and the people who don't like it already left for something else and aren't coming back.

Its like daydreaming if the next version of Microsoft Word were reskinned EMACS with a new splash screen. Superficially that sounds pretty cool. But six months later everyone who wanted EMACS continued to use real EMACS and everyone who didn't want EMACS switched away from the MS Word clone of EMACS, leaving MS Word with zero users.

That's twitter's problem, the people who are really into "twitter 2016" are just going to leave if things are changed, yet the number of people into "twitter 2016" is seen as too small.

Perhaps their best bet is to abandon acting like a startup. Absolutely no one wants my local electric company to pivot into water and sewer services or open an office on Mars. There's nothing immoral or lower class about operating a respected public utility.

What twitter should be terrified about isn't finding the next billion users, but avoiding the 1970s CB Radio bust or the decline of BBSes in the 90s. The odds are much higher that twitter is going to be out of business and forgotten in 20 years than they're going to be ten times bigger in size/revenue/profit. Essentially twitter is a fad or a utility or in between and has to be monetized as a fad or a utility.

Maybe holding this arbitrary line in the sand as if it were a commandment is why Twitter apparently needs to be "turned around". 280 characters isn't now extensive prose - it isn't fundamentally changing anything. It has been 10+ years and they are still losing a tremendous amount of money, I think it is time to lose the idealism if there is a win-win for users and revenue.

At some point "condensed" thought just means reduced quality of communication. If some users want to say more, let them pay a dollar. I doubt users would be rattled to their core because some people can put two tweets in one.

Bottom line, users don't care about what Twitter's agenda is regarding character limit. Nobody decided to use Twitter because they were excited about a 140 character limit, they use it in spite of the limit. Twitter should be focusing on what the "in spite of" reasons are, because those are the reasons that define the intrinsic value of their service, not the character limit.

I believe most people use Twitter because it gives them the attention of an audience. If you can acquire the same size (or redundant, since most are on multiple platforms) audience elsewhere, then what reason is left for a user to tolerate any annoyance or quirk of the service?

Twitter is also a public discussion platform. It's a cog for democracy.

But after the 140 limit, Twitter's other annoyance is how public your comments are. You can't remove them and you're extremely liable for them. Making them private (actually, that option exists) would make it look like Facebook, so it isn't the solution, and making them anonymous won't solve trolls.

Liability on twitter currently doesn't prevent stupid people from harassing others, while a lot of clever people avoid using it because they understand the consequences of a mistake. That's pretty much the opposite of what we want. Twitter should think about reducing liability while moderating trolls better. A bit like on HN, where we have much less liability, but many more CEOs.

you very much CAN remove them. Tweets are deletable. You're no more or less liable for them than anything else you say in any other public environment. We have no less liability for our public statements here on HN. They're just harder to spread to the masses.

Well if it makes people just stop using Twitter then it hurts the one thing they have going for them, a big userbase.

As long as the previous mode remains free, I don't see people moving away.

If what you liked was that everything was short but now it isn't maybe you'd just get on Facebook or whatever.

The very first Twitter clone I remember came up with the killer feature - infinitely long Tweets. How many times did I hear this dumb idea? It is not a sandwich, longer does not mean better! The scarce resource is not the number of electrons you send, the scarce resource is the attention of the reader.

Why is exactly 140 still the right length? Why not 145, or 73, or 280? Answer cannot contain words "always", "traditional", or "nostalgia".

There's a large distance between 140 and infinitely long.

There is no technical reason. The reasons are all non-technical and irrational. Starting with the word-imagery: Have you ever heard a songbird go "tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet?" No, it ceases to be a tweet at that point. It's a squawk or scream or warble or something else. And probably it's annoying AF too. You probably think that's unimportant or has nothing to do with it.

Twitter is about the tweet. It's how they got big in the first place. It's the word they added to the dictionary. If you're thinking of pivoting away from what you are, you'd better consider it carefully and be sure it's not the main irreplaceable source of your claim to fame.

PS 10 years is hardly long enough for "always," "traditional" or "nostalgia" to apply.

The core problem is that the length of a tweet should be "one concisely-stated thought", but that's hard to write into an API's documentation :)

> PS 10 years is hardly long enough for "always," "traditional" or "nostalgia" to apply.

Not in the real world no, although people are nostalgic for the pre-crash US, but on the Internet I think it definitely is. Put another way, if you changed Twitter into Medium people would be talking about "the old Twitter" with nostalgia.

Well, that's why I said "hardly" and not "not." :)

>Why is exactly 140 still the right length? Why not 145, or 73, or 280?

Why are youtube videos mostly 5 to 7 minutes? Why are pop songs 3 minutes long? Why are sitcoms 30 minutes long?

Forms of expression are defined by their constraints. I think of twitter's relationship to prose as analogous to a haiku.

YouTube videos can be as long as you want.

Songs can be as long as you want.

TV shows can be as long as you want.

You think you're arguing the value of constraints, but you're actually arguing that different media formats have different points of cultural optimization.

If that's true, then is there any need to enforce an artificial length limit on tweets? If shorter, pithier tweets are better, then most tweets will be short and pithy--naturally.

> twitter's relationship to prose

I think we read very different Twitters :)

Oh, do you read a lot of poetry tweets?

Maybe the code base contains a bunch of edge cases where they assume 140 and trying to do anything else causes crashes or other poorly defined misbehavior. (Not what you were talking about but also a legitimate but unfortunate answer)

being a devloper myself this is the dumbest comment I ever read.

Because it was originally SMS messages which were limited to 160 characters. 140 for the text and 20 for user name.

"Why is exactly 140 still the right length?"

That's common knowledge. They were asking, why is it STILL the right length?

If Twitter want to encourage short form content, there are other ways to do it. Either hide 141 onwards behind a [+more] link or style the long ones differently so they have less impact.

Better yet, create multi-panel tweets so content is still presented bite-sized, but in a way that people can delve as deeply as they like.

I could see a version of Twitter that is similar in a way to the latest Instagram release (allowing for up to 10 images per post). So on Twitter you could have up to 10 tweets in a single post. Each still 140 char. Only the first one shows up in everyone's feed (just like it does today) and you swipe/scroll/page to the side to see additional pages. If the first 140 is intriguing enough people will scroll sideways to read more.

I've posted about that concept before. I think it's a no-brainer and it baffles me that they're yet to do it, and that it took Instagram so long to have their equivalent.

Tweet storms are only getting more common in my experience. Further, entire newspaper articles could be presented as a series of bite-sized pieces. Just limit the first one to 140 IMO.

It's also common knowledge that arbitrarily changing a standard costs money. They have to educate hundreds of millions of users, re-jigger their databases and services, and forego a well known trademark feature of their product. Why bother? Everyone's memorized that it's 140 characters, and people have adapted pretty well to 140-character microblogging. Would 1,000 have been better? Possibly, possibly not. I think Twitter's fundamental problems run deeper than the SMS limitation; apart from some celebrity accounts with tens of millions of followers such as @RealDonaldTrump etc., they are starting to lose relevance compared to Facebook and other, more dynamic services.

> The scarce resource is not the number of electrons you send, the scarce resource is the attention of the reader.

Then they should make it a word limit and give you stop words for free (a, the, and, etc).

I think it requires more attention to decode the messages of people trying to work around the character limits (with bad spelling and dropped punctuation, etc).

> Then they should make it a word limit and give you stop words for free (a, the, and, etc).

People would work around that by dropping punctuation so the algorithm would not see word boundaries. Or by writing in German...

yes, speakers of agglutinating languages would be able to shove in a few more words, but a) they'd be looked at strangely by their compatriots for using some strange new combo word and no-one wants to have to decipher megawords like that b) (this should be obvious) switching to a different language means that the people who follow you can't read anything you say. So no, people will not switch to German, or any other agglutinating language to beat a word limit.

You already have something similar with the current system. Languages like Chinese have more semantic load per character, so I'd imagine Chinese tweeters can tweet more complete thoughts.

A better (but more opaque) system might try to estimate the "quantity" of semantic content in a language-specific way.

Then charge per character and ramp it up as it gets longer.

This makes sense, although I would keep it simple and just offer for example normal and extended messages (max 280 char) with extended costing for example $0.10-$0.50/each.

Condensing your thoughts to 140 characters takes effort. This would allow trading the effort to money. The per message fee would limit the usage of this feature, encouraging people to still keep things short and only use the extended feature when they really need it.

first 140 chars are free. 141st and subsequent costs $1 ea

Well, the original reason for the 140 character limit was because you could get tweets via SMS, which at the time had a character limit.

Via a single SMS message.

The size of SMS messages is still fixed at 160 characters, but now they can be transparently chained to send longer texts. This is quite unlike IP protocols which have much larger maximum packet sizes.

Whether Twitter should ever have taken a cue from SMS is moot: apparently the Twitter creators were inspired by the way police and emergency services use radio, so terseness was an aesthetic choice.


140 bytes to be more precise. An SMS client will cycle through 7-bit, 8-bit and UCS-2 encodings depending on the content, limiting the number of actual characters depending on the language.

The last time I tested it aaages ago, Twitter didn't enforce the encoding-based limitations, and if you sent a 140 character tweet full of unicode, it would actually send you several concatenated SMS.

> apparently the Twitter creators were inspired by the way police and emergency services use radio, so terseness was an aesthetic choice.

It'd be interesting to see a Twitter clone where people could only communicate in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_code (i.e. a code + its predefined strongly-typed parameters.)

> because you could get tweets via SMS

could? You still can:


I would hate to have twitter SMS me.

I haven't seen any evidence of thought on Twitter for a long time, condensed or otherwise.

The stratechery folks have said something akin to that Twitter is unsalvageable that this point from a growth perspective because they've already lost most of their potential customers. People who tried their product and walked away.

If these were fresh potential customers it would be one thing, but convincing someone to come back who already tried your product is much harder

It doesn't help that those of us that walked away still continuously hear stories about how Twitter can be a cesspool.

In what ways do people see twitter as a cesspool? Im just genuinely curious because I get a lot of value out of twitter. It's a great way for me to be exposed to new work from artists, finding circles of people with overlapping niche interests, reading political dialogue and analysis, funny stuff...etc

Some people find harassment in the form of deeply personal insults, doxxing, and death threats to be unpleasant enough that it's just not worth spending any time on Twitter.

This article is from August, but nothing has especially changed since then.


To be fair, people using twitter don't generally call it a cesspool, and reading between the lines you know they must get value out of it if they continue to use it, but there's the constant "you have to have thick skin" statements from people about how it can occasionally be toxic.

As someone not in the social network, what it looks like is that there may be some value to me if I get involved, but I'll likely have to deal with bullshit to do so, and the perception is that the bullshit is much more assured than the value. Whether this is valid, or more specifically whether the relative assessments of each feature are accurate, is unknown, but that's how it feels.

Twitter, as Linkedin, suffers from a poor content to marketing ratio.

I do use it to follow some devs, but every time I step out the established circle into an hashtag or suggestion is nothing but marketing bots oneupping each other.

On the other social is easier to have real social interaction, while talking on twitter is more like people screaming in a crowd plus there are these big tv set all over the place loudness to the max splourting ads.

It was a nice way to grow an asymmetric network built on shared interest as opposed to shared connections when there where genuine people on it but I hardly even login anymore.

it's a mostly unmoderated public forum. the price of addressing the world is having to listen back.

The idea is interesting, but you a forgetting something. In cases of extremely low cost (like $1), sometimes the payment process itself is seen as more costly than the payment itself. In other words, people may be willing to spend $1 for an additional sentence, but would they be willing to get their wallet, pull out the card, type in the number, name, billing address and security code? I bet not.

Beyond that, using a card would force users to attach a real identity to their account, even if it's not public. A lot of people wouldn't like the idea of that.

> Beyond that, using a card would force users to attach a real identity to their account, even if it's not public. A lot of people wouldn't like the idea of that.

I think the majority of consumers have zero issues with it. And the people who do and ALSO care about identity/anonymity definitely could just get some pre-paid card.

> how many would pay $1/month to be able to communicate their points more clearly?

My guess is less than 10,000.

I think you're underestimating the number of businesses who could be convinced that $12 a year is like the marketing equivalent of Pascal's Wager.

50 countries with 200 persons each?

I'd say more than 10.000 in just USA alone. Even if you up it to $5 a month. Twitter is used a lot by those who use twitter.

I'd say 10,000 from businesses in the USA alone. A lot of companies use twitter as their makeshift tech support and public image. $1/month for a company is completely irrelevant to their spending.

Me. If I still used Twitter. Heck, I tweet maybe 5 times a month and I'd pay that. $1 a month is so cheap I would notice.

You'd likely notice the first time it asks you for payment.

On iOS it takes a single TouchID auth and a few message prompts to sign up for a recurring subscription - you won't ever be asked for payment again. I'm certain Android is similarly streamlined.

You must be joking.

> Preemptive reply: no, nobody reads Twitter over SMS anymore.

I do, yet I still think this should be experimented with. If an account I follow tends to post longer messages, I can deal with seeing only the first line of them.

I suspect the intersection of a) people who care about Twitter, b) who use twitter via sms, c) people who do not have phones that hide/abstract away multipart sms so they've got 300+ character messaging - is so small it'd be less expensive for Twitter to buy all three of them a new iPhone every 2 years instead of hold one meeting trying to solve the problem ;-)

(Note: I'm not convinced long-tweets are "the killer idea" others seem to think - like someone else put it, the reader's attention is the limited resource, not the service's ability to publish characters. I don't scroll thru Wordpress/LiveJournal/LongReads on the train or while waiting for coffee...

> Preemptive reply: no, nobody reads Twitter over SMS anymore.

And RCS is being deployed. Eventually the character limit will be irrelevant anyway.

Why not just 255?

>7. let people pay to get a checkmark

Isn't (or maybe "wasn't") the intention of the check mark to differentiate legitimate public figures from those who would attempt to create fake profiles and impersonate them? Lately it seems like anyone who has had any sort of notoriety has been getting one, but if you could just pay for it instead that would completely defeat the purpose.

I think both. Don't take away the need to be a public figure and to verify your identity. Just make them pay in addition to these things.

If you're a big enough public figure to want/need the blue tick, you're arguably making commercial use of twitter already, so you probably have a marketing budget that can sink a thousand bucks a year into maintaining your verified status with Twitter (in addition to proving your identity in usual ways).

If some famous person doesn't want to pay, that's fine: either quit using twitter's platform to market yourself, or continue but live without the tick.

I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of the type of people verified on twitter. I mainly use twitter to follow comedians, and most of them don't make a ton of money (surely not enough to afford "a thousand bucks a year" -- one of my favorite comedians working today has said publicly that he made all of $16k in 2015).

And a few have become the victims of imposters who attempt to disrupt their careers by taking on their identity and messaging comedy clubs or TV networks or whatever. I don't think they are an untapped revenue stream.

>one of my favorite comedians working today has said publicly that he made all of $16k in 2015).

Who's that?

You can just request a checkmark from https://support.twitter.com/articles/20174631.

"The blue verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic.

We approve account types maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas. If you believe your account is of public interest and should be verified, this article outlines information about submitting a request."

For people maybe, but now that twitter is at scale it might not be for someone who cares about their brand

> 2. allow the apps to be used without a login - with the default view showing 'what is on now'. almost every member of my family has attempted to use twitter at some point and just been confused.

I never understood why their home page is so basic. Is it just to reduce load on their servers from lurkers?

A guess: to push people to register. For several reasons: (1) they are judged on that every quarter; (2) a hypothesis that this makes the experience better for users, and hence more likely to contribute to MAUs; (3) a hypothesis this improves ad targeting.

> to push people to register

Which is an admission of weakness in the first place. If the product is good enough, they wouldn't need to resort to anything special to enroll users beyond a sign up button up top.

Agreed on 1 and 2, but how does that work for improving targeting.

They can start to profile you across devices more easily if you're signed up.

I love #7. A lot of people would pay a monthly fee to maintain a checkmark on their profile as a part of a "Twitter Pro" account. That fee could cover the manual verification of the user via scanned photo-ID and become a profit center for the company. Think of it like Twitter's version of an EV SSL cert.

They've had verified accounts for ages.

Yes, but you basically have to pass a notability test to get it (https://support.twitter.com/articles/20174631). hellcow and nikcub are suggesting to just open it up to anyone who is willing to pay for it.

I don't know if it's still like this, but when I last tried to create a Twitter account it required a phone number and some kind of verification by phone. That's something I refuse to do.

I can sort of understand requiring that to try to combat the creation of spam accounts, for instance. But it made the service pretty much unusable for me.

Unless it's as easy to create an account there as it is to create one here or at reddit, I'll never bother with Twitter.

You don't have to give them a phone number. They will let you sign up without it.

Then flag immediately as a bot and refuse to let you do anything without a phone number.

Lame Twitter. Lame.

Yup I made an account several years ago to tweet to a support staff because I couldn't login. The next day my account was "suspended" or banned for something like "being a bot." Never looked back.

That feels like a vestige of Twitter's origins as a heavily SMS focused service. Even if that is true, though, odd to have such a high friction element to the registration flow for what is now a niche use case.

It's intentional, in an attempt to reduce spammers and trolls. Gmail also includes receiving an SMS in the signup flow.

>8. better tools for businesses who provide support on twitter

That's a great one. The current process is very clunky from the user end. I can't imagine how clunky it is from the business side. Probably like a ticket system with no priorities, dates, state [open/closed/etc].

I think a lot of companies use software that wraps twitter. My company makes contact center software, and "twitter" is just another media type like calls or email.

> 2. allow the apps to be used without a login - with the default view showing 'what is on now'

Twitter generally needs to get a lot better at predicting what you'll be interested in (think Pandora.) Just based on the IP they should be able to tell a lot. Tweets that have been recently favorited, retweeted etc. in just your area would make a very decent default view (band coming to town! metro closure! the mayor is a jerk! etc.). Once you create an account they should also be able to predict a lot based on your activity. Oh, and please give us a Hide Tweet button. There are talkative people I'd still like to follow - but maybe a little less.

Do they really spend $2B per year? That's just mind boggling.

>5. [...] become a partner to content owners and distributors rather than a competitor

On a related note, we built a bot that recommends an event based on your tweet+profile. The amount of times we got banned what could be a useful service is off the charts. Twitter needs to engage more with devs rather than block them whenever they can.

I disagree with 7(longer tweets).

The 140 character limit is what Twitter is most known for, and sets it apart from a typical social network. It's something like a body-mark of Twitter. It should stay.

There are other things that set it apart from a "typical social network"; for instance, the fact that it's floundering as a commercial enterprise.

Something has to change, and that something will necessarily not be held in common with Facebook.

>1. cut costs by a lot. they shouldn't be spending $2B per year

Which costs would you cut?

You forgot spending less time on favorite icon animations.

this is exactly what a VC would say :D

Refocus the company to be the Netflix of live TV, focusing on the delivery of live sports and news broadcasts while enabling fans/viewers to discuss in real time.

It's a greenfield space no one else is really jumping upon yet. Focus may have turned to on-demand TV, but people still want to watch sports live, and Twitter already has acquired some of those deals as the sport franchises get more comfortable with online distribution. Trump's tweets, the presidential debates broadcast on Twitter and the fact people turn to Twitter during breaking news make it a logical extension to move into news and possibly finance too.

Twitter's modern-day utility seems very low outside of news/sports/politics and the average joe has moved their engagement to more visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat where it is much easier to create and consume more personal content and updates.

Twitter would also be able to focus their monetization and advertising efforts around a much tighter content and audience niche. Plus consumers are used to paying for some of this premium content, making monetization of a freemium model even easier.

"Twitter's modern-day utility seems very low outside of news/sports/politics"

Twitter has tremendous utility for the medical community. I am final year medical student and through twitter can follow worldwide leaders in emergency medicine (my field of interest). These doctors post clinical factoids, cases reports, unique ekgs, and other learning points live from the wards (all de-identified to protect patients of course). They also post opinions on the latest research publications. Twitter has become my best way to stay current in medicine.

Other apps targeted for doctors have attempted this. Doximity and Figure1 are examples. But twitter has done the best job.

That's great but it's fair to say that's niche - both in terms of the number of people I'm guessing who are producing that type of content and the amount of monetization that can occur from that community.

As a public company, Twitter has to focus on the mainstream, big numbers.

I would also suggest that Twitter refocusing to sports and news would give the specialist apps you mention (and others) a better chance at super-serving your community. Is Twitter's ephemeral nature, mixed in with non-medical updates, really the best way for you to spot trends and identify useful links? If you don't fire up the app every few hours do you risk missing a crucial link or update?

> That's great but it's fair to say that's niche - both in terms of the number of people I'm guessing who are producing that type of content and the amount of monetization that can occur from that community.

Although it's niche, you could substitute almost anything else for 'medical' and have it work. There's an equally good and thriving literary Twitter, arts Twitter, gay Twitter, black Twitter, politics Twitter, dev Twitter.

Turns out that people like their news and sports mixed in with other ephemera anyway - it's a secret that TV networks have known for decades with late night TV and 'and finally' segments on network news.

For me the point where Twitter really lost its way is when it decided to focus on being a 'media company' and drawing attention to tweets from 'public figuresrather than finding better ways to enable people to tap into and contribute to communities that matter to them.

I think this is kind of my point, actually...

The monetization Twitter has been able to achieve from this niche content hasn't met expectations and that niche content has also seen stalled growth.

Ephemera is what makes a sport/news/politics-aligned Twitter a much more interest proposition that routes around the negatives of the product and the value proposition on that front.

> If you don't fire up the app every few hours do you risk missing a crucial link or update?

One thing that's always bugged me about twitter - its so transient. when you log on you only get a snapshot of what's happening at that moment - scrolling back through the days or weeks traffic is next to impossible because of the sheer volume of content.

But in this way, the OP of this thread is correct - Live is most definitely where twitter is king.

That's called the "Long Tail"... individual users/customers have a niche interest, but together they form a center of gravity approximately as large as the largest use cases.


You have to think a little differently to design for the long tail. You can't just design one consistent experience, you have to design tools that can be used in many scenarios.

Yes, I'm familiar with the long tail ;) The problem is that Twitter has proven that it's incredibly hard to monetize this kind of content at a level that the public markets demand.

The reality is Twitter has failed as a business more than anything and this is about repositioning Twitter as a business that can be monetized.

It is niche but works surprisingly well for any field with practitioners who are on twitter. So lots and lots of niches. And you're right that it's awful as a receiving interface. Nor do I have any idea how you turn this into money, or growth or what have you. But it is a thing.

"But it is a thing"

If you can't turn it into money or growth (which Twitter is failing at right now) it won't be a thing for much longer. Twitter exists primarily as a public company to make money not to provide a service to niche communities.

Twitter exists primarily as a public company to make money

Thanks for explaining that to me.

Maybe research tools for long tail targeting content creators?

I could see paying for a tool that helped collect, filter and organize what the top people are saying and pain points in general.

Yes, it's a niche but how many niches in a similar vein exist on Twitter?

What I heard davycro describe above sounds a lot like the K-12 mathematics community on Twitter dubbed the MathTwitterBlogosphere #MTBoS. It connects everyone from kindergarten teachers in France to university professors and has been a source of tremendous professional development for me over the past four years.

Are there enough other communities like us out there to be material to Twitter's business? I don't know, but the #MTBoS derives great value from having Twitter as a gathering place.

The long tail arises from niches in aggregate.

Twitter also has incredible utility in terms of the InfoSec and Quant communities. All the latest papers and exploits are posted regularly, something that exists nowhere else. It also extends across borders, I follow numerous Chinese, Italian, and Middle Eastern hackers who post code and associating write-ups regularly.

The same goes for stock traders, the network offers incredible insights.

It sounds like Twitter is the new RSS reader.

...sounds about right. At least this is how I use it.

Definitely agree with this. Figure1 is great for focused learning, but Twitter has allowed me to hear about random clinical pearls, interesting cases, the latest research, and the ensuing discussions between active clinicians.

I have seen WhatsApp being use that way in India. Closed doctor groups where lot of info (photos/info etc) gets shared/commented on.

Twitter's open communication channel might not be suited for such infoshare. Telegram/Whatsapp has potential in that area.

That's one of the reasons I built GroupTweet. To facilitate private group communication on Twitter with any number of participants that can persist through permanent Twitter accounts (instead of temporary Group DMs that are limited to 20 people).

Would love any feedback or suggestions on how it could be improved.

Happy to offer free use to anyone on this thread looking to test out the service.

You might want to check out Figure1 which is a social network for medical professionals and very twitter like but has a user base that's full of very people.


I have. Figure1 feels too noisey and not specific to my interests. Twitter is more personal with better quality.

That was the original use case: "micro blogging". There is a case to be made for improving that interface and expanding the way people interact with Twitter for that. Curated follower lists for example.

Could you recommend 5-10 leaders in emergency medicine to follow? (I'm trying to build up a good follow list outside of my usual domains, and I find recommendation graphs to be really useful)

Depends on what content you're looking for, but off the top of my head, here's a variety of type of EM-related people/accounts. The first two are teaching resources. The rest are active (both clinically and on Twitter) clinicians or EM-focused students.







anything tagged #FOAMed (Free Open Access Medical education – often has an EM focus)

I know Seth, he's awesome.

Would you mind taking a look at the question I asked your sibling poster?

My undergrad degree's in biomedical engineering, and I've been a self-taught coder since middle school. I'm currently pursing my PhD in engineering in addition to my medical degree, and working on using computational simulations and analytics to improve our understanding of how electrical abnormalities occur in the heart. I've always been interested in startups but haven't actively been involved in one. My goal is to work in a academic setting where I do both clinical medicine and research, and hopefully help translate research work to the clinic by working with startups that are my or other people's research findings.

@EMcardiac (Badass south african doc) @EMNerd_ (Great research commentaries) @M_Lin (Program director at UCSF, posts lots of clinical pearls)

My favorites though are docs I know from away rotations and the wards. They aren't famous, but their opinions especially matter to me.

Also follow @medicalaxioms

I am intrigued by people on HN who study bio, med, etc.

Are you involved with software development in an amateur or professional capacity? Are you interested in startups? How did you find HN?

Do you have CS/Math (or related) education in addition to being a student of medicine?

Hope I'm not too intrusive ;)

Not intrusive, thank you for the question. I'm a self-taught hacker/coder. Before medical school I made a Facebook application, when those were a thing, called Quiz Monster, which had about 3 million DAU for a few years. Thankfully earned enough through ad revenue to pay for my medical education. I see myself as a clinician first, but will always be a hacker and plan to return to software after residency.

You have just described "news".

I imagine one day I open Twitter to read my friends tweets and get greeted with message:

"Hello! Today, to make world more disrupted with innovation, we pivoted Twitter to become a sports TV channel! All your tweets are gone, instead open a bottle of beer and watch this great game! 20 well-fit males kick the leather sphere! Isn't it impressive?"

That will be day when I throw out my router to the window, flush smartphone into toilet, install MS-DOS and Fidonet software.

Foursquare managed to do this by migrating the original functionality to Swarm and pivoting the flagship product to something more monetizable.

Arguably it saved the company from going under while still enabling the original functionality for those who wanted to use it.

FWIW I'm not a sportsball fan either, but you can't argue that those of us with MS-DOS and Fidonet are in the minority. Sport is a super-majority content area that is very brand and advertiser friendly.

Did they actually manage that transition, though? I haven't heard anyone talk about Foursquare in years. My entire social circle effectively ran itself via Dodgeball when that was active; many of us remembered it fondly enough to give Foursquare a try, after Dodgeball's founders came back out of Google purgatory. It quickly became obvious that they really just wanted to become a cheap Yelp knockoff, though, and we all left. I don't remember hearing anyone propose a group migration to Swarm at the time, and I certainly haven't heard anyone talk about it since.

Checkin-based spontaneous social organization just... doesn't happen anymore, so far as I can see. Shame, because I really enjoyed it. If a new service came along which looked like it wasn't going to be evil, I might sign up and try to get my friends on board - but I wouldn't trust the foursquare people at this point.

I just looked at my cell phone and there's a notification of 9 friends checking in on Swarm - most of them early fellow-dodgeball users.

YMMV but most of my friends who were hardcore users switched over to Swarm upon the pivot. The migration was automatic btw - Foursquare told you in the app that checkins were no longer supported and offered easy install of Swarm with the same login credentials.

I think Ben Thompson's take on live-TV-on-Twitter is spot on:

"Twitter is still selling the exact same value the service offered back in 2006 — 'live commentary, live connections, live conversations' — and the only product ideas are to do what old media like television does, but worse: becoming the first screen for what is happening now means a screen that is smaller, more laggy, and, critically, in the way of seeing the actual tweets one might care about. It’s also an example of the worst sort of product thinking: simply doing what was done before, but digitally." [1]

Trying to replicate live TV - a market whose margins are currently contracting - is likely to mean preparing for a bloodbath.

[1] https://stratechery.com/2017/twitter-live-and-luck/

I totally agree with this.

I've seen other posts mentioning timeline changes, protocol changes, and opening up the API ecosystem, but I don't see any of these changes actually affecting Twitters bottom line.

Twitter is a great place to discuss what's going on right now. Whether it be sports, a natural disaster, political debate, news, etc. Twitter needs to be the place to go when you want social commentary / news on what's happening RIGHT NOW.

Twitter is very useful for professional announcements in a very informal setting. I use Twitter to follow colleagues and artists, not friends nor celebrities.

I think there's something TV-ish that's possible, but Netflix level? That seems difficult both in licensing and execution. However, I will agree what you propose now appears to be their end game. #hattip

They already have licensing deals with NFL and MLB, and built out the streaming infrastructure. I'd argue the licensing and execution is already proved out - it's time to focus on those, cut out the fat and double down on what's working.

You're so right. Twitter is all about NOW, about Live events, about the moment. Another way to exploit this would be to create a "news" space, a collection of journalist and press accounts which could be harnessed to provide live news feeds on trending stories. Maybe they do this already, but if not, they should

This is literally the only time I ever use twitter: to see, in real time, what people are saying about a certain event. (The Oscars, Presidential Debates, the Superbowl, the début of Stranger Things, etc).

But the app brings in so much clutter, and the interface is poor for quickly incoming tweets...

> Twitter's modern-day utility seems very low outside of news/sports/politics

What's the evidence for this claim? In academia, Twitter is super important, much more than Facebook or any other social platform. Academics are addicted to Twitter and I think you could charge them, e.g., for tweets longer than 140 characters.

I'm academic. I'm not addicted to twitter, nor is anyone of my coworkers.

Well, you should consider the possibility that you and your coworkers are not representative of academics more generally. In my research field Twitter is quite matter of factly really big. Also note that this was just an example showing that there are more areas where Twitter is doing really well than those that OP listed.

Shouldn't you consider the same, that your group is a set of outliers? Comparing anecdotes will get us nowhere.

I'm talking about tens of thousands of people not individual cases. Pretty much every university, non-university research institution, and funding agency have active Twitter accounts. In my experience, most departments, and labs also have twitter accounts, not to speak of individual researchers. Jobs are found on Twitter, careers are made, new collaborations start there. I'm talking about tens of thousands of people who are highly active on a daily basis, whereas /u/kleiba was referring to himself and some unspecified coworkers which I interpret to be his lab mates.

"Refocus the company to be the Netflix of live TV, focusing on the delivery of live sports and news broadcasts while enabling fans/viewers to discuss in real time." I didn't feel like their experiments in live broadcasting NFL games drew a large audience last year. I think twitter offers sports fans a solid mobile experience(checking real-time reactions from other athletes and sports fans) while watching the game on a big screen HDTV. The biggest sports and political events are also social in nature, most of the time you're watching in a group of people. How do you get a group of people to watch a sports/political event on twitter and discuss in real-time? I agree that Twitter's modern day utility lies here but the switching costs for the user have to be reduced.

"How do you get a group of people to watch a sports/political event on twitter and discuss in real-time?" Via friend lists. If all your friends are watching the game and tweeting at the same time then you are discussing the game with them

"the switching costs for the user have to be reduced" The rise of smart TVs with apps will lead to ever easier delivery of streamed programming to traditional mediums such as TV, while also opening new viewing experiences on mobile, tablet and computer.

Live sports rights are expensive. ESPN has been feeling the pain of having to pay the high prices while losing subscribers. Twitter wouldn't do any better with their ad-based monetization.

Live sports are likely soon to become cheaper when it is no longer viable to have millions of people who don't watch them paying for them anyway.

Could be an interesting case. reddit is already doing this for 'real time' conversations (via F5 refresh) in respective subreddits during games, speeches, conferences, etc.

I'm jumping on it I just don't have the kind of money, time or user base. Anybody want to get involved?

I'd like to get involved, but a lack of capital is going to make it very difficult.

Third Party Live TV content is significantly more expensive, competitive & complicated than the third party content Netflix pays for. To say it is a "greenfield space no one else is really jumping upon yet" is really naive, try to do little research on the market, live content is fragmented for a reason. Therefore we will need billions in cash to create a Netflix of Live TV, there are only a handful of companies(Apple, Microsoft) that can actually outbid the current players. Moreover the winning bidder is likely overpaying for the content making it less likely to see a direct financial return. To make it work it will require near perfect execution and cash Twitter does not have.

They've managed to already for it for NFL and MLB rights, and there's plenty of cheaper rights out there and up for grabs. Netflix didn't start producing original content to begin with, but Twitter could ramp their way up to obtaining a lot of the crown jewels of sport.

Their live streaming was all about content negotiation and marketing which I think they did a poor job of. The actual streaming was handled by MLB Advanced Media which is far and away the leader in this space. Twitter should just acquire them if they want to get into this space.

I would try to eat journalism.

I would create a system where subscription to News on Twitter helps to automate payment for individual articles.

  1. The lede or quote gets pulled into the tweet.
  2. http://t.co becomes a payment-debiting gateway (402 Payment Required).
Basically, you would monetise the audience on behalf of the publishers who would be able to make their paywalls more porous.

Almost everybody would benefit from this arrangement:

  - Users would no longer need to buy multiple newspaper subscriptions.
  - Journalists would be better positioned to ask for revenue share.
  - Publishers could gain a larger paying market without needing to
    coax user's through the account creation and subscription signup hoops.
Edit: If anyone in Twitter wants to do this, please hire me - I'd be super interested to work on it. Wouldn't even need to be the CEO. ;)

This pretty much combines the three things big media companies hate:

- Someone else owning and displaying their content.

- Someone else owning data on their viewers.

- Not being able to set their own prices.

For those reasons, I don't see any chance of serious publishers being interested in this sort of deal. There's just very little in it for them.

You wouldn't own or display their content, nor would you set their prices (you merely give them the option to collect micropayments from a central wallet). Also, all social media companies already have data on their audience - that's just the way things are.

All publishers with paywalls have massive bounce-rates due to people not wanting to subscribe. This would help them make more money.

Micropayments on that level are a race to the bottom. Why read The Times content when you can be presented with a similar article written by some blogger. And why would media companies give Twitter any percentage of the cut? Twitter already supplies them with free traffic, it's in their mutual interest.

Facebook tried a similar approach with Instant Articles and the only publications that have jumped on it are the ones that are desperate for revenues. Big media companies are playing the long game. Content is king.

Regarding bounce rates, this is not as big of a deal as you think. There are many examples where paywalls have increased the overall revenue. https://medium.com/@getdrizzle/paywalls-are-on-the-rise-with...

In the end, news is a business like any other. The number of users doesn't matter, it's the size of their wallet that does.

  > Micropayments on that level are a race to the bottom.
  > Why read The Times content when you can be presented
  > with a similar article written by some blogger.
Because "Content is king" [0].

I'm not talking about the big companies that publish clickbait and make money through advertising at scale. I'm talking about smaller, niche, high-quality magazines and newspapers that need to show people that they're worth subscribing to. And that would like a more granular version of a subscription that allows more people to read them (instead of having to make their content freenium or free).

[0] You cannot talk about fungibility of publishers in one paragraph and then turn back on that to say 'content is king' in the next: you either believe one or the other.

Fair point, but I think my meaning did not come across correct.

Most articles today can be substituted with lower-cost versions of the same articles (news/reviews are good examples of this). There's your fungibility. Regardless though, publishers still hold onto their content, because it's one thing that Twitter/Facebook is lacking.

Is there much evidence to suggest that people are willing to pay for individual articles, though? Blendle has been around for a while and hasn't set the world alight. There are plenty of free news sources to compete with.

Probably not, but I think there could be a "twitter wallet" that the user pays into. Let's say I add $5 a month to this wallet and twitter pays it's content partners based on the percentage of click through received by me. It would work like Brave browser's wallet.

The problem with this though is it would probably encourage more junk content and instead of annoying ads we'll get more clickbait.

That idea is as old as the web and I don't see why Twitter doing it will suddenly make it work.

blendle is taking the wrong approach, but the idea of micropayments is the way of the future

I like this idea. If I could subscribe through Twitter for the magazines/papers I'm reading I'd be much more likely to take on multiple subscriptions or try new sources out than I am now.

Basically turn it into an online Newspaper stand where I can read gated content without having to give out my personal info. or remember a username/password (to anything but Twitter.)

Yes - an adjacent thought, too: niche publications that are unable to make significant advertising money through sheer scale [0] would benefit from being able to attract users who just want to test the quality of their content before purchasing a full subscription -- or that wish to pay but only periodically for a smaller dose of content.

This might cause some niche, non-clickbaity magazines that do not have good web presences to become more interested in publishing content online.

[0] https://stratechery.com/2015/popping-the-publishing-bubble/

Super-important: make payment frictionless.

Let the payment gateway link to whatever payment method(s) you already have, set a limit for automatic payment per day, and make it one-click ("Buy this article"), or even optionally zero-click below a trivial threshold (e.g. 10¢).

If you hit the daily limit, ask for confirmations, passwords, etc.

Imagine how much worse the clickbait headlines would become...

I love this. Publications could choose whether to be pay-per-view ($0.10/article) or included in some base-level subscription with profits shared based on how many clicks you get.

Publications worth reading have already a pay per view medium. It is called book.

Problem is journalism is a crap market. No one wants to pay for it.

I can't remember the last time I have read a Forbes article.

- Get rid of modals for everything. Especially: when clicking on a tweet to view replies, open a new page with better threading of replies, pagination, and no reordering (or optional "quality" reordering). Twitter is a forum on speed; take some good ideas from forums. Right now it's a forum on speed and acid.

- Have more options for blocking, including "block this person and everyone who follows them or followed them within last N days"

- Fix trending topic spam. Seriously, how is this so bad? Free advice: for every trending topic a tweet mentions over 1 in a single tweet, the probability that it's spam asymptotically approaches 1.

- Allow an unambiguous, never "played with", chronological timeline. Have a separate view that's your ML playground. The "In case you missed it" and "tweets you might like" features are good but I don't want them randomly appearing in my timeline.

- Allow alternate clients, even if you have to charge a fee.

- Similarly, create a separate free developer-focused API but clearly identify all tweets posted via that as "bot" and allow people to never see tweets posted by a bot, or tweets posted by a bot @ them. Tweets posted from the "alternative client" paid API would not be subject to this marking.

- Identify "sleeper cell" bots -- accounts inactive for a long time that suddenly become active, usually around a single topic, concurrent with many similar bots, and aggressively ban them.

- Do more and better things with Lists. Don't just show me 3 people to follow (usually clearly just based on the last person I looked at). Show me algorithmically curated suggested lists, popular lists, allow me to sort those by # of members, easily find lists that user X belongs to, etc., mark lists as low quality/harassment vehicles. Surface good content shared by my interest lists somewhere other than the timeline.

- My personal #1: give me the likestream of the people I follow. This is easily more interesting than their actual tweets, at least to me. Something like a quarter of my usage these days is visiting individual accounts "Likes" pages. At least use this data in the aforementioned algorithmic curation of Lists/suggested follows.

How would this help Twitter increase user count or revenue?

Turning Twitter around doesn't mean fixing annoyances for current users. I agree with all of your points, but I'm already a user.

The problem:

1) Many people have already tried Twitter and gotten confused, then left. How does Twitter get them to try again?

2) How do you increase revenue per user? How do you monetize on the massive accounts (e.g. @POTUS)?

3) How do you improve engagement beyond news, politics, and internet arguments?

I think my list does address #3, at least somewhat. I don't have answers for #1 and #2, except hoping that if #3 is addressed people will give it another try.

- Allow companies to purchase moderation rights to a hashtag for a limited time. This might actually make advertisement campaigns asking people to share using a hashtag a viable thing.

I think that's a bad idea as people will loose trust in the info. Payed search results didn't work either.

Well, if the "sponsored hashtags" were clearly marked as such, like google's ads next to search result, I believe the loss of trust would be limited.

I'm not an avid Twitter user and I don't think any of these would turn me into one. Maybe the issue is there isn't enough for me to do there...just saying.

> Get rid of modals for everything. Especially: when clicking on a tweet to view replies, open a new page with better threading of replies, pagination, and no reordering (or optional "quality" reordering).

A lot of users are not comfortable with browsing using many tabs. I've seen it myself a lot of times, and I suspect it's the main reason FB and Twitter started using modals in the same window lately.

- Allow an unambiguous, never "played with", chronological timeline. Have a separate view that's your ML playground.

I disagree. The alternate to a vision you may not agree with is not having two visions. Use data to support one not both.

I loathe the non-chronological timeline. I abandoned the official Twitter app for Twidere, which lacks many features - such as being able to display full threads most of the time - but preserves my timeline in chronological order.

But you're totally right. For me, the "you might like X" or "here's what you missed" is garbage someone is flinging in my lap. But for other people, whose feed may be too chaotic or moving too fast, it's probably the perfect way to consume twitter.

> - Fix trending topic spam. Seriously, how is this so bad? Free advice: for every trending topic a tweet mentions over 1 in a single tweet, the probability that it's spam asymptotically approaches 1.

At the very least, the topic attribution should be divided into separate buckets, the way search engines tried(do?) with meta-tags.

>Identify "sleeper cell" bots -- accounts inactive for a long time that suddenly become active, usually around a single topic, concurrent with many similar bots, and aggressively ban them.

Why? I use twitter maybe once in a few months, why should I get banned for that?

this is a pretty robust list with some good recommendations- but do you really think iterating on the existing feature set is sufficient? isn't that the focus that got them into this situation?

like, if they implemented every single one of your suggestions -- you think that would "turn Twitter around"? i'm not sure i believe it.

A fair point, and you might be right. But I'm an engineer & product person, so the more CEO-type change of vision moves are harder for me to evaluate.

What I really want is a global, public messaging protocol with Twitter-like pub-sub and integration points for secure third party apps including rich-media support and federated/individual controls for trust. And a flying pony.

I'd tear it apart until all that's left is a profitable, maintainable core. Like Craigslist.

Twitter's payroll (to say nothing of its stock-based compensation expense) is bloated. Slashing staff isn't a popular play. This is a textbook private equity deal.

Twitter's habit of ringing in the year with $500MM losses could be single-handedly cut with a 2/3rd staffing reduction (which costs lots in payroll and $800MM in stock-based compensation expense). How much of Twitter's $2bn in revenue would evaporate post-cuts. Over half? Still leaves $750MM of pre-tax income before R&D ($800MM in the FYE 2015). Cut that R&D budget in half, say you lose a further 25% of revenues, and you still have $160MM before taxes yielding $100MM of net income. That's worth $1bn to $2.5bn.

If you can grow that to $500MM over 4 or 5 years, you could sell it for ~20x. Discount back at 10% or 20% and you have an optimistic valuation of $4 to $7bn.

Twitter's trading at just under $12bn. I suppose I'd bid $3.50 per share and be willing to entertain someone talking just under $10 a share.

That's not a turn around scenario. It would be better to try to find a buyer at the current price.

> It would be better to try to find a buyer at the current price

It would be even better to find a buyer at ten times the current price! Unfortunately, reality isn't so pliant.

Twitter had, as of the end of 2016, $3.8bn of cash and short-term investments on their balance sheet [1]. They also have $500MM of current liabilities and $1.6bn of long-term debt. This leaves $1.7bn of "free" cash.

Excluding financing activities, Twitter's operations and investments have lost about $450MM a year for the past three years ($1.0bn in 2014, $520MM in 2015 and a net gain of $165MM in 2016). So we're talking a few years until Twitter's face meets dirt.

It's a better bet to wait than lock yourself into an unsustainable valuation.

[1] https://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSE%3ATWTR&fstype=ii&ei=UO...

Finding a new buyer does nothing to turn the business into a profitable enterprise. They need to cut costs.

That's just begging the question.

OK, so you've found a buyer; what's the buyer to do to turn Twitter around?

Not answering the question, I'm just saying his solution ends up at a valuation at 50% of current, which isn't really a turn around.

Perhaps the current valuation is too high given the lack of profit.

My greatest problem with twitter is that those whose who have something worth saying tend to talk an awful lot less than those with nothing to say.

I want twitter to be a feed of thoughts an opinions from people I respect, or important updates from companies I'm interested in.

I see a secondary value from twitter by people contributing to a conversation around an event, be that a sports game, a site outage, a traffic jam or an unfolding natural disaster.

Filtering out / systemically discouragingly a lot of the countless low-value/self promotional posts alongside a better hashtag (channel) view would be a great start.

So much this. I manage (using Echofon) by muting large numbers of people and casting them into 'talkative' and 'very-talkative' lists, which I glance at occasionally. The less frenetic tweeters then make up my main always-on feed. But it's a horrible hack for something that is so fundamental to the user experience.

Twitter could be so much better by fixing a few low-hanging UX fruit like this. Three others:

* let me zoom in on a picture without having to right-click and "Open image in new tab". I can't believe I actually have to point this out.

* text docs as attachments (like pics/videos). A stream of tweets from the same author, replying to each other is kinda cute once, not so much the next n000 times.

* it would be nice if any videos actually played in my incredibly weird rare browser (some thing called Chromium)

Yeah. By becoming a big company, Twitter missed her calling as a profitable, sustainable, 5-person operation a la Craigslist. Celebrities and others trying to make a career on the platform ruined it as a small interest-group informal discussion side channel.

> My greatest problem with twitter is that those whose who have something worth saying tend to talk an awful lot less than those with nothing to say.

This just reflects real life. It's not a Twitter problem.

Honest question - why not just unfollow those people that incessantly tweet worthless information?

I'm not saying its easy to find quality Twitter users to follow - but its certainly easy to unfollow bad users.

Twitter could certainly improve their algorithms that recommend people to follow, surface good content, etc.

I used to work for a (terrific!) company that uses all kinds of natural language processing tools on Twitter data: http://crimsonhexagon.com/

Without getting into specifics, I was constantly blown away by the trends we were able to discover just with simple techniques.

Twitter sells its data, so it really only pencils out for analytics companies like Crimson Hexagon to be B2B. If I were Twitter, I might recognize this as an opportunity to build good in-house filtering tools that are available to their users.

I think that Twitter and Facebook have similar problems - the choices that users make tend to ruin the experience for those users. People choose to follow (and continue following) folks who clutter up the feed.

>> those whose who have something worth saying tend to

...write books. It was never so easy buying books like today, so I don't get why I should waste my time reading #random #unimportant #stuff written by some social media managing intern from Bangalore.

No but seriously... so much this. Pardon my casualness.

Whenever we strive for both 'quality' (of information, talk/debate, etc.) and 'brevity', we end up with the exact opposite of books: traits d'esprit as they say in french, #randomWordPlays of the empty kind that made Levi Strauss hypothesize that humans didn't really form sentences but rather patched together chunks of expressions they had memorized (he was proven wrong by linguistics later on, but damn was his assumption so impeccably fitting much of the anthropological data). See any bland instance of "cheesy jpeg + logically flawed pensum" boasting thousands of likes/reshares circa 2017 to prove this point.

It's nothing new either, for as long as documented human societies existed, mind-numbing memes apparently were part of the landscape. For about as long, some (always much fewer) people prefered reading books. Or even writing them.

I don't think Twitter can ever be anywhere but at the far opposite side of books and quality discourse. Or it would become something else. Twitter is meant for remarks, quick-shot killer moves, and plugs. It's basically an ad board for opinion, and you've made a sale when someone likes/shares your tweet. Some people might defigure the sacred columns with a Shakespeare quote here and there, but vandalizing its culture is the only way to make a smart tweet.

I think it's OK that Twitter is 'dumb', as in non-filtering. Neutral towards speech, unpurposed. We need that too, just like we need curated libraries. It's fine that people have a place to vent and unwind. So long as they don't mistake that for an actual forum of opinion, let alone representative of anything but the few 'influencers' and their circles.

>I want twitter to be a feed of thoughts an opinions from people I respect, or important updates from companies I'm interested in.

That's EXACTLY what is is for me... because I only follow people I respect and companies I'm interested in.

> My greatest problem with twitter is that those whose who have something worth saying tend to talk an awful lot less than those with nothing to say.

"He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know."

I originally thought this was an Israeli saying, because that's the only people I've heard quote it (usually journalists, referring to bloviating politicians). Turns it it's originally Laozi.

...who had an awful lot of good stuff to say. :-)

Yes! It would be nice to set a "like" threshold on high-volume accounts, so I only see the top 10% of their tweets.

Sounds like you want RSS and blogs.

Making the UX not shit is a great start.

Twitter is really an unpleasant site to use for following discussions of any sort. When I click a thread-view for a post, I want to see a clear tree-view of all of the posts and replies like any other sane website, not the current flat-layout bullshit wherein you have no clue what the chronology of anything is, or who is responding to what.

There are a lot of good ideas in this thread for how twitter can refocus and monetize itself, but I think before all that you need to make it a site that more people enjoy using beyond its original use case of "waiting at the airport -- hmu".

I've never been a twitter user myself, but every now and then I end up following a link to a Twitter discussion, only to bounce right off again because I can't figure out what's supposed to be happening. Who is saying what to whom, in what order, in response to what? I can't tell. I imagine that there must be some context-literacy I don't have, which regular Twitter users somehow pick up on; or, possibly, Twitter only makes sense if you're following the stream of posts in real time.

Exactly the same for me. Every time I wanted to use Twitter I ended up confused by all that mess and closed it. Is it so hard to add tools (filters, permissions etc.) for more advanced users to create the experience they want? Twitter makes a wonderful media to follow interesting persons and getting breaking news, but probably 99.9% of its content for me is spam or uninteresting, annoying mess that I have no convenient way to avoid.

Shameless plug: I wrote a Chrome extension to provide a tree view: https://github.com/paulgb/Treeverse/

(It's more a visualization style than a reddit-like threaded conversation interface, but it might accomplish what you are referring to)

Thanks for sharing - this is pretty good.

I'd recommend including the actual text next to or below the user's avatar instead of in a separate view.

This analysis from Ben Thompson (Stratechery[1]) just yesterday would be a great place to start:

"Imagine a Twitter app that, instead of a generic Moment that is little more than Twitter’s version of a thousand re-blogs, let you replay your Twitter stream from any particular moment in time. Miss the Oscars gaffe? Not only can you watch the video, you can read the reactions as they happen, from the people you actually care enough to follow. Or maybe see the reactions through someone else’s eyes: choose any other user on Twitter, and see what they saw as the gaffe happened.

What is so powerful about this seemingly simple feature is that it would commoditize “live” in a way that is only possibly digitally, and that would uniquely benefit the company: now the experience of “live” (except for the shock value) would be available at any time, from any perspective, and only on Twitter. That such a feature does not exist — indeed, that the company’s stated goal is to become more like old media, instead of uniquely leveraging digital — is as good an explanation for why the company has foundered as any."

[1] https://stratechery.com/2017/twitter-live-and-luck/

Wow. He cites himself 9 times and cites himself citing himself at the end.

It may sound egotistic, but it's also a solid way to build something akin to a 'book' albeit in a discrete blogged form: you tend to quote yourself not to make the same point over and over again in so many different phrasings. It makes the arguments consistent, and rewards thoroughness, paying attention to each post (coherency, wording, etc.) Eventually it builds up a coherent, cohesive corpus of ideas that hopefully, should the theme be well-defined, is a book.

Usually when going for publication, you'd replace these quotes with references to previous chapters, typically in footnotes.

Well, it's his blog. It's pretty normal to link to previous blog posts you've written about a particular topic.

Gotta get that SEO juice baby

Eh. I don't know if an old tweet stream has much entertainment value. It'd be like watching a replay of last seasons football game.

I'm guessing Twitter would happily trade balance sheets with ESPN Classic.

1. Remove senior management. They do not know what they're doing.

2. Experiment and find the right point between monetizing users and those that get the most value out of Twitter. Right now users' eyeballs are being bled dry, and getting their experience ruined with tons of ads, and timeline shuffling. It feels like those with tons of followers are getting a free ride at the expense of everyone else.

3. Introduce meaningful timeline features such as: 3a. Ability to follow #hashtags/topics instead of just people and companies. Curated "Moments" are a weak substitute. 3b. Follow geographical areas of interest (e.g. Top Tweets in Oakland, SOMA etc.) 3c. Ability to explore Twitter geographically. Again, I feel this is a huge and untapped. Heard something crazy happen over your neighborhood? Pull up an map and explore what people are saying around there.

4. Actually do something about trolls (Perhaps a reputation system?)

5. Clamp down on bots. Why is it even possible to follow 300k or a few million people?

6. Slim down the workforce, by a lot, unfortunately. I don't think a sustainable Twitter can ever be a large as it is today.

7. Bigger focus on live TV + discussion

8. Fix search: Its awful and nearly useless unless you put in a ton of effort in "advanced search". Top results are often times just the same retweets and news articles over and over again.

I could keep going...

Some thoughts on item #3:

Offering the ability to follow hashtags in their current form would simply lead to more hashtag spam.

However I agree with your basic premise that following topics and geographical Tweets would be very useful. One of the main reasons I built GroupTweet. Allow people to form and manage "group" topical or location based accounts with any number of contributors while giving some admin controls like limiting approval to all or only select participants, moderation, etc.

Would love any feedback and suggestions on how we could improve to make your suggestions more of a reality.

There are a few camps of people using twitter, which want different things and are mostly being badly served.

1) Trolls love twitter. The legion of racist eggs sowing destruction for no other reason than their own nihilistic enjoyment is an existential threat to the business and must be culled. The company and the trolls cannot live together in peace. One or the other will die. It feels like twitter hasn't figured out it's them or you. There can be no 1st amendment compromise here. These guys are ruining you for fun. They gotta go.

2) Public figures. It's a good platform for them. Cull the trolls and they'll stay, bringing an audience of

3) Regular people, who need a nice feedback loop of people interacting with their tiny little voices. Twitter is pretty shitty at this right now-- if you don't have an audience, you're shouting into the void and are eventually going to figure out you're wasting your time and quit. This is shitty for engagement and it's sinking twitter. Facebook figured this out already. Just copy them.

4) The last group is "brands" and for-profit companies who are your actual customers, but who would like to free ride on the platform, soaking up the attention of the regular people for free. If they want access, they gotta pay. No free riding for non-people. Facebook also figured this one out. If you're not a human, and not a public figure, and you want the attention of humans, pay up. Twitter is also slowly figuring this out.

There's a virtuous cycle of engagement here, and Twitter is slowly getting it straight, but they gotta cull a lot of trolls, spammers, and free riders, and that's going to hurt their monthly usage numbers. The management of that haircut is probably over my pay grade, but it seems like they're slowly getting it together with the algorithmic timeline. Had to be done. Livelock is a real thing for people who don't tweet professionally.

>1) Trolls love twitter. ... They gotta go.

I've been hearing this since trolling was invented on Usenet. No one is going to rid the Internet of trolls unless all of the big players enforce RealName™ and we all know how well that ended. "Culling the trolls" means different things to different people, and probably almost every one of us has at some time in our internet lives posted something that another group would consider trolling.

> they gotta cull a lot of trolls, spammers, and free riders, and that's going to hurt their monthly usage numbers.

From the handful of times I've clicked on a link to a tweet and then wandered around, I would bet that the trolls, spammers, and free riders make up something like 98% of their users, so I'm not sure this would really solve anything, since presumably their gross revenue is driven by the numbers of users.

You'll never get all of them, it's true. It's a never ending war.

And you're right-- there's a haircut that's got to happen at twitter. I don't know whether they'll survive it, but it's going to happen either way.

Revenue is driven by usage. Actual usage. They sell eyeballs. They can defraud their customers (the purchasers of said eyeballs), but only for a time. I think, as an article of faith admittedly, that you're better off being straight about it, but I've never piloted a ship that big, so what do I know?

This never has any numbers to support it, which is unfortunate.

Also, in a world of bubbles, how is a less free an open Twitter better? Is a Twitter with no controversy, with no argy bargy, really worth visiting?

I think Twitter's problem with trolls is minuscule compared to the problem of making it more entertaining, and easier to switch in and out of thoughts. If I like the NBA, cricket and South African politics, how do I switch between those three interests when, say, there is an NBA finals and a local election on? That is a problem much more so than trolls.

I think the trolls attack the public figures, which make the public figures less likely to attract the little fish, and the little fish are your audience, who need to be both entertained and interacted with, lest they decamp for a more robust social network like reddit or facebook. Both of which are far, far harder on trolls, bots, and spammers than twitter, not coincidentally. They recognize the fight to the death they're in, and are by and large winning.

Twitter was fine and good and groundbreaking at one point, but the naive implementation of a social network they cling to as a moral stand is obsolete for a billion dollar company. One who is more than large enough to game for profit or lulz.

They're going to adapt or they're going to die. Possibly both.

1. Remove post length limit. 2. Limit the number of tweets per day instead. 3. You can pay to remove the above limit.

This solves the problem of timeline being unreadable once you subscribe to enough people. Ain't nobody got time to read all that crap. Once everyone is rate-limited, everyone can easily digest their timeline. Without length limit, tweets become more thoughtful.

4. Fix the UI. Make it easy to view replies. Make it easy to view embedded images. Make it lean and fast. That would give Twitter advantage over similarly bloated services.

5. Anti-trolling measures. This one is really obvious! There should be no indication that you're blocked by another person, they just don't see you anymore. If the blocked person doesn't know they're blocked, they don't get the satisfaction of being blocked, and they don't know when they need to create another account to annoy you. This should be the basic rule when you implement a blocking feature.

6. Open up API. This one is obvious.

> Ain't nobody got time to read all that crap.

+10 to this. The signal to noise on Twitter is terrible.

Pretty sure I'm using it "wrong", but my likelihood of following someone on Twitter is generally inversely proportional to their number of tweets per day.

In the set of people I follow, the popularity of Twitter accounts is directly proportional to the total number of tweets they have, which is a sample of almost 400 people. I did an analysis a while back.

Of course, there are always counter examples, famous people that don't tweet at all, or people posting dumb shit and not getting followers. That tweet to follower ratio has some variation. Quality matters too and it helps if people have a following outside of Twitter.

But still, I'd say that your likelihood of following someone is not representative of other Twitter users.

Uh...so stop following "crap" accounts?

> 1. Remove post length limit

That post length limit is what made Twitter interesting for me. This is being identified as a problem, however there's always Facebook and Google+ that don't have a limit. Twitter will not succeed by copying competitors.

> 2. Limit the number of tweets per day instead. 3. You can pay to remove the above limit.

People will never pay for removing such limits. They'll simply switch service once it gets annoying enough. This is the flaw in the logic of people that are anti ads as a business model. Basically people will not pay up unless there's scarcity and artificial scarcity doesn't really work.

Such a strategy would also be really unwise, because from my own observations, a majority of Twitter users are fairly silent, being content consumers rather than producers. So alienating those users that produce content for you is not the best strategy.

Agreed that the post length limit shouldn't be removed. However, I am fine with a limited number of tweets instead. Perhaps not by day, since some days there are so many newsworthy events that there might be a lot of possible quality tweets. Maybe a weekly limit? Just something to discourage someone from spamming.

Regarding #1, #2, and #3.

So what happens if instead of having 1,000 x 140 char tweets cluttering your timeline, you instead wind up with 100 x 1400 char tweets? Do you have time to read all that?

You can see if something is worth reading within the first 100 characters. Twitter character limit doesn't work because people are posting images of text, or do "tweetstorms". If the limit made sense, the users wouldn't be doing this.

* Remove Jack from CEO position

* Let Evan return as CEO (merge with Medium)

... this will restore Twitter management to the situation around 2010, then ...

* Reform or cancel the Trust & Safety council

* Restore open API access and app ecosystem

* Remove side wide censorship tools, add self censorship tools (a la Gab)

* Reverse the timeline changes

* Stop pandering to far left ideologues

Something like that?

How is any of this gonna result in Twitter making more money?

Absolutely nothing. It's just what OP wants Twitter to be I guess.

Or rather what they think is causing Twitter to lose users/engagement. Those things directly affect whether Twitter will sink or swim within the next year or so which I think are critical.

People will stop switching to gab.ai? Twitter actually thrives on conflict - stop trying to turn it into a safe space for the easily offended! Or at least don't force it to be a neutered safe space for everyone - leave it up to the users to turn it into that for themselves, not for everyone else.

If the question "How would you turn Twitter around?" is being asked in public with tons of people giving great answers, I'm sorry but you have a major leadership problem.

It won't.

Saudi investment money means none of that is ever ever going to happen. Twitter ain't ever going back from regressive left ideologies. If anything they're going to double-down.

The fact that Feminist Frequency is on the "safety council" should tell you enough about it and how useless it is.

How are you connecting Saudi Arabia to promoting feminism

Poison the well, make your enemy weaker. It's basic long-term strategy: Marxism for your enemies, powerful fascism for yourself.

This is rock-solid analysis, but I still have a couple questions. First, Saudi Arabians have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Twitter. Is this really the best strategy for weakening it? Or are you saying they're using Twitter as a weapon to poison America with the evils of feminism, or something?

Second, on a practical level, how did this happen? Someone from Saudi Arabia called up a Twitter executive and said "hey we think your platform could use more feminist perspectives" and they were like "oh yes, this makes perfect sense coming from you, and as you own 5% of our company we take your word as gospel"?

And obviously, what does Marxism have to do with feminism?

Sorry if you were joking, sometimes it's very hard to tell.

or >regressive left ideologies.

Well, "regressive left" is pretty vague and can mean pretty much whatever you want, but the connection between Saudi Arabia and Feminist Frequency is very specific and should be easily explainable.

* Reform or cancel the Trust & Safety council


* Remove side wide censorship tools, add self censorship tools (a la Gab)

Whose tools are that?

* Stop pandering to far left ideologues

I'm not aware of any such pandering. Care to give some examples?

Didn't you know? David Duke and Richard Spencer are leftists.

Most of my friends left Twitter once they started censoring libertarians (which I am) and conservatives.

Trust & Safety council is in their business interests. Harassment is an existential threat if it chases the big names off their platform.

Was Twitter profitable in 2010?


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