Given the brevity of space and simplicity of controls, Twitter hasn’t exactly been the greatest forum for in-depth conversations. The expansion to 280 characters does offer a bit more freedom and some have even gotten used to splitting up long replies into multi-part tweets. All that’s left, then, is a way to control the flow of conversation. That is apparently coming soon as Twitter starts to play around with the idea of hiding replies to tweets to “protect conversations.”
Despite Twitter’s character limits, the social network has actually been infamous for its tweetstorms. Those can come in a series of related tweets, usually in response to another tweet. While that may increase network traffic in Twitter’s favor, users are often uncomfortable with the lack of control they have over the conversation that happens over their tweets.
Jane Manchung Wong, who has reverse engineered and revealed many features the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are working on, stumbled one solution that Twitter is playing around with. To put it simply, it allows a user to hide replies to their tweets. In a rare and unexpected twist, Senior Project Manager Michelle Yasmeen Haq not only confirmed that feature but even explained the rationale behind it.
Twitter naturally values the conversations that happen on Twitter (network traffic) but also has to balance the interests of everyone involved, from the original author, the people who reply, the people who view the tweets, and Twitter itself. Currently, Twitter’s controls are not exactly appropriate or sufficient for moderation. Blocking and muting only works for the one who blocks the tweets and report is only to be used for violations. Hiding replies works for everyone who views the conversation with one admittedly smart twist.
Anyone can view those hidden tweets without unhiding them for everyone else. This, Haq explains, would allow the community to call attention to times when the author just hides replies because he or she doesn’t agree with their opinion. This pretty much goes in line with Twitter’s general stance of disallowing users to revise history at their convenience.