There are thousands of brilliant, funny, and notable people on Twitter who help share some of the estimated half a billion tweets on Twitter every day. And it all started with a chain of simple invitations, the kind Twitter needs users to continue sending in order to keep growing.
And Twitter can’t grow if no one enjoys using it. I have had one key problem with using Twitter in the past few years, a problem that I don’t think I am alone in having.
The timeline, the most important feature on Twitter, has ballooned into a difficult-to-manage list, especially on mobile.
As Twitter has grown, so too did the number of accounts I followed, hovering around 3,000. This is admittedly the unique circumstance of a power user — one estimate puts the average following closer to 200). Since the day I started following people, I’ve had nothing but problems, no matter how big my total follow list was. Lists are impossible to use on mobile—including the following list, which has no basic sorting or even search functions. By 2012, I reached a plateau of accounts I could unfollow simply because there are a ton of great people I did not want to forget about.
My expanding timeline also reflected the growing value of the service, but was overwhelming, I recently mass unfollowed and used a third-party app to shift everyone to a private list.
I grew to despise reading my timeline. Adding video, gifs, and photos only made my ability to sort through it a more arduous process. With every product addition in my timeline, I liked my timeline less.
I don’t think noise is a problem exclusive to power users because the more a person use Twitter, the more they discover and are prompted to follow new accounts. I’ve just been on Twitter for a really, really long time. My unsustainable timeline was created over that period of time, and represents a valuable opportunity to address new and existing user interests. Twitter realizes this; I can see it in the way they now offer a curated summary of tweets to help pull meaning out of chaos. But the curated summary is not a solution to scale over time; it only hides it by taking away the question of scale and focusing solely on addressing the timeline as a real-time feed.
Here’s what I suggest. Twitter could start by asking new and existing users questions about what they like or don’t like based on behavior, device, and preferences, and start auto-populating topical feeds, event feeds, and timelines for specific interests and needs. I would love to have a curated weather feed on mobile, for example. I also don’t want to see 100 of the same tweets during a live sports event; that doesn’t mean I want to unfollow a friend, either. Being able to mute on mobile would help filter timelines, too.
The current timeline experience is far too simplistic. But I don’t want to stop using Twitter. Twitter, let me pick who I follow by offering me many timelines I can shift through on different devices, in different times, and curate without losing touch.
This post was also published on Medium.com here.