Twitter Should Have Groups and Here Is How They Should Work

How a Simple Product Enhancement Could Alleviate Twitter’s Community Woes

Rex Sorgatz

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This post has been in gestation for years. Whenever there’s a new flare-up concerning Twitter, which is comically often, I dip into my Drafts folder and dust off this post, but due to the exasperating complexity of the topic, never muster the polish to hit Publish. It happened last summer, during the public tussle over purported “shadow banning,” which induced John Herrman to write “Twitter’s Misguided Quest to Become a Forum for Everything,” and again during the fracas over Sarah Jeong’s tweets, which induced Ezra Klein to write “Twitter Is Not Your Friend.” These skirmishes arise at a steady clip, and the sturm und drang surged again last week, after the abject failure of something regrettably called #KaraJack, which induced Taylor Lorenz to write “It’s Impossible to Follow a Conversation on Twitter.” Many people have enunciated some version of the problem, but this quote from Taylor nudged me back into the misbegotten Drafts folder, to dust off this post one last time:

The theoretical benefit of being on Twitter, a broadcast-based open social network, is to talk with other people and follow their conversations, even ones that don’t include you. Somehow, in 2019, the product has degraded to the point where this has become impossible. It’s like running through a public square shouting at people, trying to start a dialogue while getting jostled by a crowd.

There are many problems with Twitter. There’s the abuse problem, the bots problem, the threading problem, and the hellfire nazi shithole problem. I will not feign to solve every headache, but I will say this: Most of the woes emanate from a single disfunction at the core of the product — a lack of organizing structure. Twitter is just too damn miscellaneous.

Are the Constraints the Message?

Designing software is the art of creating constraints. Before we even encounter the written rules of a new platform — its standards, its policies, its terms-of-use — we contend with its informal strictures. And Twitter is incredibly unique in this regard, because it has effectively zero product constraints.

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Rex Sorgatz

creative technologist, author, entrepreneur, designer, consultant rexsorgatz@gmail.com