The Blue Lines Blues

I’m still not at a point where regular blogging is going to be happening, though I have some topics I plan to discuss. However, I’m still regularly on Twitter.

For the longest time my Twitter app of choice was Echofon. Unfortunately, last year its creators abandoned the desktop app. I haven’t found a replacement I like yet, so I just use the Twitter home page.

Recently, though, that’s been challenging. In an attempt to make conversations “easier to follow”, they introduced blue lines to connect a post to whatever it’s replying to. Here’s an example:

No big deal, right? Wrong. This change is incredibly frustrating and achieves the opposite of what Twitter claims it does. If you’re on Twitter, you already know why, but bear with me.

* It’s confusing. A conversation that gets a reply jumps back up to the top of your timeline, with the original message at the top and the reply at the bottom. Suddenly you’re looking at something again, and in the wrong order from how everything else on Twitter is displayed.

* Conversations now take up a lot more space. When a reply happens, not only does the reply appear in your timeline, but the thing it’s replying to does as well. So a reply takes up at least twice as much space as it used to. And a lot of that space is devoted to things you’ve already seen.

* It screws up your timeline. If person A does three tweets in a row and person B replies to the second one, Twitter will display the second one first (with the reply), then the first one, then the third one. When it jumps the “conversation” to the top, it reorganizes the tweets out of order. Getting the portions of a discussion in the wrong order does not make that discussion easier to follow.

* It makes you lose track of other things. If you have two “conversations” going on in your timeline, they will perch in the top part of your timeline and push everything else down. And since conversations can take up so much space, this often means that new tweets are showing up already pushed off the screen. I shouldn’t have to scroll down to see new things.

* It makes conversations hard to ignore. Before, if two people I follow were discussing something I wasn’t interested in, it wasn’t that big of a deal. But now their conversation is placed front and center, prioritized over everything else. Every single time one person replies to another, the conversation is pushed right back to the top of my timeline.

* It was unnecessary. Conversations were already easy to follow. On any reply there was a thing you could click on to see the rest of the conversation. No one was holding their monitors upside down, puzzling over how to figure out what a person was replying to. This new feature solves a problem no one had by creating several new problems.

This isn’t just a case of “change is bad”. I’ve been trying to accept and work with the blue lines for a couple of weeks now and it’s just maddening. I’ve stepped up my search for a Windows desktop Twitter client (with no luck). Twitter is by far the thing I have the most fun with on my computer and what I use to keep in touch with a lot of folks daily, and it’s frustrating to have it so screwed up right now.

Someone at Twitter, if you read this, please reconsider this change. At the very least, allow people to turn it off. It’s not doing what you think it’s doing.

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