an open letter to Twitter about information overload

Dear Twitter,

Congratulations on the exponential growth you are experiencing. You’ve stumbled upon a great idea and you deserve to be well rewarded for this new way of sharing thoughts, ideas, and helping people reach out to others.

You must be very proud of how Twitter has been used to affect social change in developing countries and helped revolutionaries topple dictators.  You get lavish attention from heads of state, media moguls, and corporate giants.  You’re the hot new kid on the block.

You’re also on an unsustainable path.  You are going to crash and burn, and I don’t want to see that happen.  I find your service useful to me.

Like many of you, I follow some information sources (i.e. people) because they are personal friends, colleagues, family, because it’s socially expedient to do so, or so that we can carry on the occasional @reply/DM conversation.  However, I don’t care about everything said by the people I follow.

As more information sources use your platform (people, news services, sources for #tigerblood), I will want to follow more of them.  However, I’m already overloaded.  I might put a few close friends on a twitter list to check the most imporant tweets.  I might banish a few broadcast sources to a list, unfollow them in my timeline, and check the list when I want to read the news.

As I follow more people, the quality of my feed will go down, but the quantity of tweets will go up.  That’s unacceptable, and it’s the kind of thing that will cause me to leave twitter.

What I need is filtering.  This has been implemented by several twitter clients, adhoc greasemonkey scripts in browsers, and proxy API services, but not by you.  Why should YOU do it?  Because then YOU can gain information about what people are filtering and then understand and profit from your ecosphere.

Things like the Quick Bar (by the way, #quickbarsucks) in the latest update of Twitter for the iPhone are a step in the wrong direction.  We don’t need our feeds polluted with information we don’t care about.  Be smart, like Google, and make it easier for us to get our jobs done.

Give me the ability to filter the sources I follow.  Let me mute users, hashtags, and twitter clients, either temporarily (mute for # hours/# days) or permanently.

If I want to see trends, make them available, but unobtrusive.  The new twitter UI for the webpage does just that.  I can ignore them.  The Quick Bar on the iPhone stuffs them in my face and distracts me from the information I really want to see.

I’m all about you making money.  When I helped start Juniper Networks (JNPR), the mission statement I presented was not about being “the best carrier class networking blah blah blah.”  The mission statement was “Enhance long-term shareholder value.” The magic in that statement is “long-term.”  Decisions become easy–you don’t screw your customers,  your colleagues, your clients, your suppliers.  Make your decisions based upon being around five years from now and being rabidly profitable five years from now.  Think about your kids growing up to either run your business or building off the ideas you’ve created.

Promoted tweets, trending topics, advertising, are all great ideas, but use them judiciously or you will lose the eyeballs that are keeping you in fast cars and nice homes.