5 Twitter improvements we're still waiting for

Twitter is a great service, but that doesn't mean it's not lacking in some areas. We take a look at all those places Twitter leaves much to be desired.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm addicted to Twitter. Each day, it's kept in the coveted second tab in my Firefox window, lodged between Gmail and Meebo. But that doesn't mean it offers me everything I want or that I have no desire for more features.

In fact, I have a list of features I'd like added to Twitter.

Groups

I still don't know why Twitter has failed to add groups to the service. Maybe the company believes that groups would make it too closely resemble a social network, but who cares? Twitter is great, but that doesn't mean like-minded users shouldn't be able to form their own community.

Think of it this way: if Twitter added groups, it would give you the opportunity to have private areas where only your friends and colleagues could converse and it wouldn't stop you from meeting and corresponding with new people outside those groups. There's no downside.

Services like Present.ly and Yammer offer enterprise employees an opportunity to communicate with one another based on groups that are assigned by their employer. Twittermoms.com is an entire site dedicated to bringing mothers who use Twitter together. Granted, those services aren't nearly as popular as Twitter, but they certainly prove that there's a market for groups. And so far, Twitter hasn't delivered.

Tweet filter

I know Twitter has a block feature, but I don't use it. What I'd really like to see is a Tweet Filter feature that lets me block specific kinds of tweets from making their way into my stream.

I don't necessarily want to block everything some followers say, I just want to block the annoying messages like, "DonReisinger is now listening to Womanizer by Britney Spears," followed by, "DonReisinger is now listening to Take My Breath Away by Berlin." To be honest, I don't care what songs a follower is listening to and I don't need updates from a script they're running to tell me.

That said, I do want to see what they're saying when they tweet actual messages. That's why I want Twitter to devise a tool, similar to a spam filter, that would allow me to tag certain tweets, have Twitter analyze them, and ensure that anything of the sort won't make its way into my stream again. That sort of functionality works beautifully in Gmail. I'd love to see it work that well on Twitter.

Unfollow notices

Why doesn't Twitter provide us with daily updates about who unfollows us? It informs us when someone starts following us. Would it be that hard to track those who unfollow us, as well?

I would really like to see who unfollowed me. Maybe those people were upset that I had too many updates on a certain day or perhaps they didn't like something I said. Without a notice, I'll never know they're gone. But with a notice, I can send them a message and ask what happened to possibly repair our broken relationship.

Maybe some wouldn't like receiving additional e-mails announcing when a user decides to unfollow them, but I think it provides significant value. It can give you hints about what your followers do and don't like and it makes you a better Twitter user, since the last thing you should be doing is annoying your followers.

Profile stats

I'd love to know how many people view my Twitter page each day. It's not that I have a vain desire to see how many people are looking me up. Instead, I'd like to know how many of those people become followers.

People find their way to another user's Twitter page, look at the tweets they've been making over the past few days, and decide then if they want to follow them. I've done it. Sometimes I decide that, yes, this is a person worth following. Other times, I see that all they've done is linked to their blog and failed to converse with other users, and decide that following them probably isn't in my best interest.

But having data detailing the number of people who view my Twitter page and how many become followers would be ideal. Based off that information, I could determine the value of my tweets to other Twitter users and experiment to see if I could devise a way to increase my follower conversion rate.

Twitter is all about being part of a community. Knowing what that community likes and doing what you can to appeal to that community is incumbent upon us all. Twitter stream stats would help in that endeavor.

200 characters

When Twitter first started, the service had a strong SMS focus. Because of that, the company wanted to ensure that tweets would fit in the 160-character SMS limit, allowing room for the message and usernames. But as Twitter has grown into a service with a strong online focus, it's blatantly clear that 140 characters is not enough.

I just don't see any justification for providing only 140 characters anymore. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to write a tweet, only to run out of room with just two or three characters remaining. Like everyone else, I'm forced to find places to cut down what I say just to add in those necessary characters.

I understand that those who wish to use SMS might be left out in a 200-character world, but that doesn't mean it should stop Twitter from pursuing this strategy. There are a slew of applications, like Twitterific, that are designed specifically for mobile phones that allow users to update their Twitter stream without using SMS. And although some devices don't support third-party apps and using text messages to communicate with their followers will be practically impossible after the 200-character switch, I think Twitter needs to accept that and move on.

Twitter is a growing service that has moved past its SMS past. It's time its executives embrace its new role as a mainstream microblog and improve the service while being mindful of its strong online presence.

Want to hear Don complain some more about Twitter? Follow him and indulge yourself!

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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