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Maxvoltar - #fixreplies

Maxvoltar is the personal weblog of Tim Van Damme, a freelance interface designer at Made by Elephant.

50° 54' 47" N, 4° 25' 50" E


Recently, Twitter has made some changes to how replies appear in your timeline. This caused a lot of commotion (#fixreplies even made it to the trending topics list). Impulsive as I am, I joined the “Let’s burn Twitter down for these hellish changes!”-group, but there’s a bit more to it…

Like I said, my first reaction was to hate these changes. I was missing half of what people were saying. After a good night of sleep, I changed my opinion. The change had made Twitter a less noisy place.

But then…

A couple of days went by, and now I’m starting to miss all the replies. I like following conversations between people I follow and people I don’t follow. It’s the bit of voyeurism that is inside all of us, and a great way of discovering new people to follow.

Just because a tweet isn’t aimed at me, doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting for me.

Twitter is like a ghost town right now. It’s lost its social aspect. You’re listening to monologues instead of dialogues (or group discussions).

But I want to reply to everybody

I completely understand. You have 2 options, from which neither will clutter what your followers are seeing. The big question you have to ask yourself is: Is my answer to this user of any value for my followers?

If the answer is yes, feel free to use a public reply to answer. If not, send them a direct message. If people ask you a question on Twitter, there’s a big chance they’re following you, which means you are able to send them a direct message.


You are the one responsible for the amount noise in your timeline (which is Twitter’s biggest strength). If you want less noise in your timeline, just unfollow the loudest people. I don’t know why, but it seems like people have a hard time unfollowing others. Hey, we’re still friends, but you’re just too loud. Beers on Wednesday?


  • Ole Martin Kristiansen

    3595 days ago

    I feel that @reply is sorta doing the job of direct messages just a bit more public Twitter is as you say a ghost town, and I experience it being less interesting now than earlier. Change it back and give people options.

  • prisca

    3595 days ago

    spot on, Tim :)

    I do agree that Twitter feels like a ghost town now, and lost a major part of its social aspect – or as Jeffrey Zeldman puts it:” The change in replies turns Twitter into a kindergarten playground at recess: all the kids are talking, none seem to be listening.

    I personally don’t always consider whether my updates are useful for my followers or not. Twitter is much more informal than that – or at least that’s how I saw it when I first started using it. And I myself do like the personal and useless information which comes through some people’s tweets – it is what makes it fun :)

    as far as the replies are concerned – I just think we as Twitter users should get the choice of opting in or out here – and not be patronised by settings someone else made for us – after all – that is what our individual account settings are for. And not to forget the ‘unfollow’ function which enables anyone to cut down the ‘noise’ as some people seem to see it.

  • Kelly

    3595 days ago

    I explained this to my wife the other day that it’s like standing in a crowded room and only hearing what people say to you and no one else. Weird.

    I also like being able to see how people tweet to others. It helps round out what I know about them, and ultimately why I keep following them, by how they treat others. Knowing someone never replies to anyone means they’re either a dolt or an a-hole marketer, and not someone I care to hear from.

  • Daniel Matthews

    3595 days ago

    I always found that people’s public replies to others were the way i found other people with like minds and similar interests.

    Now that i only see the replies to people i’m following it feels like a natural way of exploring new people to follow has been removed. And discussions between two people often contained a lot of good information.

    Give USERS the ability to distinguish between public and private information, that’s what DMs are for.

  • Els

    3595 days ago

    I agree that I’m responsible for how much noise I allow in my timeline. With the new lack of option, that’s difficult though.

    I don’t follow people I find too noisy, but I still want to see the replies that people I follow make to these noisy people. That way, I will be able to click through to the one worthwhile tweet of the noisy person, and don’t have to follow all of their noise.

    With the new situation, I miss a lot of tweets from people I follow, simply because I don’t want to follow their noisy friends. They used to be my filter. When they replied to their noisy friend, I’d know the friend had said something worth replying to, the reply itself would give an indication of the subject, and I’d have the choice to click through or leave it be.

    Also, I wish Twitter would give us an indication of when they think they’ll be able to implement the new system with per user settings they’re working on, and also what exactly they have in mind. Somehow I don’t think it’s gonna help me follow replies from my friends to strangers. I’m afraid they’ll be coming up with some sort of complex recommendation system, that lets me filter on subject and user. Am I too pessimistic?

  • Chris Wallace

    3594 days ago

    I fully agree. It feels less like twitter and more like Facebook. And I really hate Facebook.

  • Dan

    3593 days ago

    From the sounds of it, they decided they wanted to remove the feature because it was hammering their database, and so they came up with some baseless line that “ We removed a setting that 3% of all accounts had ever touched”

    I didn’t really understand that…

  • Tim Van Damme

    3591 days ago


    I don’t follow people I find too noisy, but I still want to see the replies that people I follow make to these noisy people.


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