So, is Twitter gonna get creepy?

Storytelling for Success

As you’ve no doubt heard, Twitter is talkin’ turkey about making changes. And the user base is…let’s say less than thrilled.

Over at Gigaom, Mathew Ingram dropped the news that at a “financial conference, Twitter’s chief financial officer Anthony Noto suggested that the service will offer algorithm-driven curation of feeds much like Facebook does, in order to try and improve the relevance for users.” Possibly starting by nuking the reverse-chronological feed that Twitterers have been used to since the service rolled out in 2006. 

Yep, you read that right. The basic convention of the service for eight years might be tossed out like the last stale bite of pizza crust. The bite with no cheese on it.

Now, that’s less creepy than it is weird — why would a business deliberately abandon the thing that has made it successful? — but the creepy isn’t far behind. Because the way they make this change might be with a Facebook-style algorithm. You know, the same sort of algorithm that has turned your Facebook feed into a puzzle that requires you to try and figure out what you’re missing from friends and organizations and companies you decided to follow. The same sort of algorithm that has made marketers for small- and medium-sized businesses despair, walking around with the hollow eyes of sleepless wretches as big spending becomes the only way to reach folks.

And the same sort of algorithm that made eat24 write an epic Dear John letter to Facebook and reduced advertising on the service into a shell game as detailed in the now-famous Veritasium video.

I’m not saying it’s time to panic, here. Any changes will be implemented gradually, and I’m sure the UX (user experience) designers will make sure everything is transparent and useful.

Er. But you say they might not? That they might be fixing something that isn’t broken for the sake of ad dollars and at the expense of usability? Well, you’re not alone in your cynicism, my friend. Pabini Gabriel-Petit, founder of both Silicon Valley firm Strategic UX and industry-leading website UXmatters points out a “disturbing trend in UX design” — including “companies crafting user experiences that selfishly further their business goals rather than deriving business value by meeting users’ needs better.”

The sky isn’t falling, here. Honest. This isn’t the end of Twitter or the end of social media or the end of online marketing. But it is creepy. And if there’s an exodus from Twitter, some other social media site is going to be the next big thing. A service that gets too big for its britches and puts users second to profits can only coast on inertia for so long. Let’s not forget MySpace, mm?

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