Expanding the Twitter club for the rest of us

In this political season, I have a modest suggestion how to further the flow of Twitter conversation, which right now remains broken up by gated communities.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read

So there I was, watching the replay of Katie Couric's interview with Republican vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin when a tweet flew by on my Twitter transom. Dan Gillmor was asking why the Democrats' Joe Biden didn't get equal grief for making dopey remarks. Among the Best of Joe-isms was his recent blooper confusing the timeline for FDR and the age of television.

Does she Twitter? State of Alaska

Well, I think I have an answer. But I've taken an oath to keep my big mouth shut for the remainder of the political season--at least on these pages. (If you want to bore yourself reading my election rants, you'll have to go up on Twitter.) But I was so keen to share my opinion with Dan that I immediately composed a ditty of a twitty and sent it off as a direct message. Not so fast, Twitter informed me; Dan was not "following" me.

Bummer. As much as I was sure that he might enjoy my 140-character pearls of wisdom, there was no way to engage in a private Twitter dialogue. I think I understand why Twitter maintains the padlock. Who wants every Tom, Dick, and Harry convinced you're a knucklehead sending private tweets to that effect? We already live with the unexpected consequences of unfettered access on e-mail. There's enough spam in the world, thank you. (A few days ago I saw what purports to be a hack that allows you to send direct messages to non-followers.)

Right now Twitter is populated by the cyber equivalent of gated communities. If you're not part of the club, you don't get to participate in the gabfest. A more general critique is that Twitter still makes it hard to find folks to follow. I can't follow what I don't know about. But that's fodder for another day. Right now on my wish list of future features, I'd love to see Twitter incorporate something akin to a "knock knock" button where you can still ping someone who is not your friend. It would be up to you whether to grant permission. The idea here being a more free-wheeling conversation that allows more people to participate. And isn't that supposed to be the point or am I missing something?