February 02, 2016

Twitter, Product, and Conversations about Product

I legitimately think it’s kinda neat that whenever Twitter launches a new product feature, hundreds (thousands?) of people start tweeting about whether or not it’s good or bad.

Sure yeah, that’s probably annoying to the people at Twitter, who have no doubt spent a lot of time researching and testing said change, only to have people blow up in a matter of seconds (and then forget about it or get used to it a few days later).

And for another thing, the people venting are probably not the audience Twitter cares most about.

But it is still the most instant feedback I think anyone working in web product can hope to get. I mean, usually what you do when you launch a product change is eye the metrics closely and pray nothing spikes. Occasionally you’ll get an angry email. But being able to hear people voice thoughts they normally wouldn’t about how the change affects them and what they like or hate (usually hate) about it? That has to count for something.

We can forget sometimes that other people use products differently than we do. And you can’t please everyone, or as XKCD puts it, “every change breaks someone’s workflow”. When loud conversations about product are front and center it serves as a bit of a reality check, I think, for those of us who would otherwise feel slighted. And conversation often helps bridge the gap between the people implementing the changes and the people affected by them. After all, the worst thing that can happen to a product and its user base is for anyone to feel like they are the other’s enemy, rather than collaborator.

So in that spirit, let’s talk about what actually happened. I’m writing this on Feb 2, 2016. Twitter just did this:


Basically, clicking on a tweet opens it up in a lightbox now, rather than expanding it in the timeline.

Is that it? Well yeah, but that one tiny change sends quite a few ripples:

Some of those things are going to be nice for some people. Some of those things are going to piss others off. And that was just a cursory list! I’m sure there’s dozens more places where this change has some sort of effect that I will never see because I don’t use those aspects of Twitter.

So. Was this change a good one or a bad one? I don’t know. One thing I do know though is that this is the deepest I’ve ever explored a product feature that wasn’t one that I was making, and look at how minor a change it is! And I did it all because I saw people talking about it and I wanted to be a part of that conversation.

If you agree or disagree with something I wrote here, you know where to reach me. I like talking about this stuff (especially as an alternative to complaining about this stuff).