Features from a handful of alternate Twitters:
- the ability to edit a tweet. There are several patterns in community software for handling the “I responded and then you changed what you said” pattern. One of then is versioning. The other is a short window of edits. It’s a question of balancing how much you prefer the conversational integrity vs the benefits of a little hypocrisy to a person’s self expression.
- privacy. I was an early thorn in Twitter’s side about supporting the privacy settings. But honestly it was just always too much work to respond manually to follow requests or to maintain two separate accounts. Per status privacy and per status geo-privacy would go a long way towards changing the nature of what people share on Twitter away from re-publishing Mashable headlines.
Both of the features I’ve picked out are hard. Allowing people to go back and edit data (and metadata) means not only providing a graceful UI, but also breaking the model of storing data once and being able to treat it as read-only. Per-post and per-feature privacy is also, obviously, pretty tricky, both in UI terms, and in the model of interactions that start happening. (If Eve is a friend and Brenda is family, when Anna posts a photo that’s friends and family but with location locked to family only, there’s lots of combinations to check.)
Of course, just because they’re hard, it doesn’t mean they’re not possible. Flickr has supported editing metadata (and even, for pro users, replacing the image data) along with a sophisticated (albeit arguably overcomplex) privacy model, while Facebook allows editing of comments (for a short time), and various Google services manage a mix of both.
It’s Twitter that, for whatever reasons (engineering expedience? a desire for simplicity?) not only ended up with both the inability to edit anything after the fact and an almost-not-there privacy model, but did so in such a way that a crop of services following along copied them. I’d single out Instagram, which made almost exactly the same design decisions. (You can’t change an Instagram photo’s caption or location once it’s post, or have different privacy settings per image, or (again) for location. Hell, they don’t even return whether a user is private in the API responses. At least Twitter, which otherwise has the same limitations, gets that one right.)
Obviously, there are some good reasons to implement systems the Twitter way rather than the Flickr one. I just wish - and I think that Kellan feels the same - that occasionally people would consider whether the richness that’s been lost might be worth spending some effort on.
I keep thinking that I’ve drummed this point home, but perhaps not, so: it still amazes me that almost everything we do online has a timestamp (if not two), and yet services are so bad about exposing them, and especially about using them as a way to organise your stuff.
Flickr has a calendar view (which perhaps isn’t as obvious as it should be, but it’s there). Tumblr has dated archives, even if they only show you them at a crude resolution. Elsewhere, though? Barely anything. Sigh.