All posts in “Tweets”

Watching people retweet Trump in real time is both mesmerizing and depressing

Up and up it goes.
Up and up it goes.

Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images

One hundred and sixty-two thousand retweets. Two hundred and eighty-nine thousand likes. Donald Trump’s tweets routinely garner engagement on such a scale that it’s hard to really understand what any of those numbers actually mean. 

That just changed. 

A new Twitter feature, announced in a June 15 blog post, displays retweets and likes in real time as they come in — and oh boy is it both simultaneously totally captivating and super depressing. 

Here’s the deal: When clicking on a tweet in the past, users were shown the number of retweets, comments, and likes the tweet had at that specific time. Wanted to check if the count grew? If you were on a smartphone, you’d have had to navigate out of the tweet and tap back in. Basically, you had to refresh the tweet to see any growth. 

No more. 

“Tweets now update instantly with reply, Retweet, and like counts so you can see conversations as they’re happening – live,” explained Twitter’s VP of user research and design Grace Kim.

A video showing likes piling up demonstrates just how compelling this is. 

In this new Twitter reality, before you can even begin to thumb out your pithy response to the latest nonsensical outburst, hundreds if not thousands of people could have retweeted it right in front of your very eyes. 

It’s quite a sobering realization. 

And sure, on the face of it this isn’t that big of a change. People still retweet and like stuff, and the corresponding numbers displayed below a tweet get updated when they do. But watching those tallies increase by the second — knowing that each time there’s a bump some random person somewhere just decided to “like” the garbage in front of you — provides a visceral sense of connection to other users that was previously missing from the Twitter feed. 

Dare I say it introduces a bit of much-needed humanity into a product that at times has been more than a tad lacking?

At the same time, however, it’s also super depressing. When the numbers were static, it was much easier to overlook their true significance. Now, as each and every “like” is added to the count, it’s impossible to ignore the cold, hard truth: Real people (and sometimes bots) are out there constantly retweeting garbage — one clearly visible click at a time. 

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Editing Tweets: A serious discussion

And thus he spoke:

Covfefe.

It’s an embarrassing Twitter mistake, especially for a sitting President. Donald Trump’s solution, after waking up and discovering he left this bizarre remark in the ether, was, ultimately, to delete the tweet. I bet he wished, like many of us on Twitter, that he could simply edit Tweets. 

I could point Trump to Facebook. It’s not really his social medium platform of choice, but it does let you endlessly edit posts and doesn’t really sweat the details too much. It notes that a post was edited, but that’s it. In truth, Facebook’s posts are generally not news makers (especially since most of them are private), sorry Mark Zuckerberg, and I’m not sure anyone cares that much about an edited Facebook post.

But we obsess about it on Twitter.

This may be the one thing I and many other Twitter users, have in common with Donald Trump: the desire to edit tweets.

A few hours after Trump’s mis-tweet and hoping to join on the Covfefe fun, I tweeted something smart, possibly even witty. Sadly, I didn’t notice that I messed up Trump’s malapropism and briefly created one of my own. 

Staring at the glaring error, I knew I had two, no, make that three choices: Ignore and keep moving along like there’s nothing to see here, delete, or acknowledge. I chose making light of it and made it clear that I butchered the thing. Before deleting his post, Trump notably chose a similar path and, perhaps for the first time in recorded history, made fun of himself

That was a bad Twitter day for me. I had, I think, two more stupid errors. Sometimes, though, the Tweet error is not really an error at all. It’s a realization that I left something out: maybe I didn’t tag someone, forgot to add an image card or missed a crucial hashtag. I just want to fix it.

When I rail at Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey for not enabling editable Tweets – and I’ve done this often – other Twitter users rally to my side. 

This is an obvious and simple change, we cry, why not make it now? Like right now.

But it’s not so simple. Is it?

Sure, most Tweets are disposable, but there are also millions that are worthy of preservation.

Twitter is a record of historical events. Sure, most Tweets are disposable, but there are also millions that are worthy of preservation. President Trump knows this better than most. It’s illegal for him to delete tweets now, since they are part of his Presidential Records,” though he does so anyway. 

By not offering us the ability to edit Tweets, Twitter is essentially encouraging us to delete the erroneous, inaccurate and embarrassing ones. What choice did Trump have, really? It’s a wonder he hasn’t deleted more of historical Tweets, many of which contradict his current positions.

However, I realize that this is just one of the many considerations Jack Dorsey wrestles with when considering this fundamental change.

Let’s imagine that Jack simply flips the switch and enables Tweet editing for all users. What’s to stop Trump from crawling back through his Twitter history and editing all his Tweets into alignment with current policy positions?

Twitter, though, would never flip the switch on editable tweets like that. Without some crucial checks and balances already in place, editable Tweets would result in Twitter chaos.

I can, though, envision what I think they would look like.

Tweets already have a time (and place) stamp. Every edited Tweet would, similarly, have a little edit note on it, probably with the time and date of the edit. In theory, editable tweets could be edited multiple times. At the very least, Twitter would never introduce an edit function without an audit trail. (They wouldn’t, would they?)

While this sounds like a rational solution, there’s the question of how many edits and even to what degree. I think that if you allow editing, every single one of the 140 characters and associated images should be editable. 

If that’s the case, how many versions does Twitter allow? One? One hundred? Unlimited edits could be a heavy, heavy burden for Twitter. Remember how long it took for them to implement search? I’m not sure Twitter could adequately scale such an editing solution for all Tweets.

In addition, Jack must decide if editing is a global change for every Tweet ever posted or only a going-forward one: From this day forward, you will be able to change your mind within a single Tweet.

That probably won’t sit well with most Twitter users, but it’s the solution I prefer.

Then there’s the question of how global do you make this change. Is editing for the Twitter masses or just verified accounts?

I might argue that Verified don’t get to edit their Tweets without going through a two-step process: Request editing privileges and let a Twitter Editorial Board decide if an edit (maybe for a silly typo) is warranted. 

Unverifieds could edit at will.

A Tweet is a statement. A concrete thing with import and value. That value does not increase after the first 60 seconds. It’s constant.

Sadly, that solution has its flaws, as well. Just because you’re not verified doesn’t mean you’re not tweeting something historic. Sohaib Athar, who tweeted about hearing the helicopters that happened to be on their way to kill Osama Bin Laden was not verified.  No one wants him going back now and editing his tweet.

I’m not sure the idea of still editable tweets for the first minute or so of their existence is much of a solution, either. Tweets travel at bullet-speed around the globe; a minute into its life-span and it could have been retweeted thousands of times. How would it look if, after that first minute, the next 5,000 retweets are sharing something different? A Tweet is a statement. A concrete thing with import and value. That value does not increase after the first 60 seconds. It’s constant.  

I hate Twitter mistakes (unless they’re happening to someone else) and desperately want editable tweets every time I make one, but my desire to save myself from embarrassment does not override the reality that this is a much more complex issue than it seems. 

I don’t think we should dismiss it. Instead, it’s time for a serious, open discussion and a timetable for final call on whether Twitter’s 328 million users should be able to edit Tweets. The ball’s in your court, Jack.

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Twitter stops counting @ Replies towards its 140 characters on web and mobile


Nearly a year ago, Twitter announced it would begin distancing itself from the requirement that all tweets could only contain 140 characters by no longer counting some things – like media attachments or @ replies towards the character count. However, it didn’t begin testing the change with @ replies until last fall. Today, Twitter says this change to replies is rolling out to all users across the web, iOS and Android.

As a refresher, Twitter was originally designed as something of a public text messaging service. SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, so Twitter went with a character limit of 140, thinking to leave room for a username ahead of the tweet.

However, the @usernames in Twitter replies did end up counting towards the 140 characters, as did other media attachments, including photos, GIFs, videos, and polls. That left precious few spaces for a user’s actual thoughts.

This also led to informal conventions like “tweetstorms” for sharing longer thoughts, and “Twitter canoes” – large, multi-person conversations which eventually break down because so many people join, there are no characters left to actual post responses.

Twitter has been trying to rectify the problems with its 140 character limit over the past several months by changing its user interface and lifting various technical restrictions. It already stopped GIFs, images, videos, and quote tweets from counting towards the 140 characters. (Links still do count).

With today’s change to replies, Twitter’s interface on web and mobile will now display those you’re replying to above the tweet text, instead of within the tweet, which frees up more characters for your thoughts.

You can tap on this “Replying To” field to see who’s in the conversation and make changes to the reply list, if you choose. This is done by unchecking the checkboxes in the small pop-up that appears on the screen after tapping this field.

The change also aims to make reading longer conversation threads easier, because this “Replying To” field is much smaller and not in the tweets themselves. That way, you can focus on reading the actual posts, without having to first note the usernames.

There are some caveats to be aware of here, however. On the tweet Compose screen, for example, this “Replying To” field is fairly small. It could be overlooked if you’re in a hurry – making you think you’re writing a fresh tweet, when really you’re participating in a conversation.

That’s important because replies are a second class kind of tweet. Not everyone sees your reply appear in their Timeline, even if they follow you. Instead, they only see the reply if they follow both you and the recipient.

Replies are also tucked away in a secondary tab in users’ Twitter Profile page, “Tweets & Replies.” (Twitter earlier this month updated users’ profiles on mobile to display replies in the separate tab, like they are on the web.)

Because of the lower visibility for replies, users started putting a period (“.”) ahead of any reply they want all their followers to see, where they were referencing someone else’s tweet. This, too, has become something of a Twitter convention.

In addition, because the usernames of those you are replying to are no longer in the tweet’s text, Twitter suggests that you Retweet your reply or use Twitter’s Quote Tweet feature to cite it. That is, if you start a reply, you can’t really insert a dot into it anymore.

The company wants to eliminate the use of the dot, but it doesn’t seem like that functionality will actually break down entirely. After all, if you choose to start a new tweet with a dot followed by an @ mention, they’ll still see it as will everyone who follows you.

Third-party developers should be ready for this change, as Twitter communicated with them in May. However, we will need to wait until it rolls out publicly to see which developers then update their apps for this shift. (Tweetbot’s app is not ready, we confirmed with developer Paul Haddard, who says he’ll test this after it’s live and release updates in the future.)

The change to replies marks an end of an era for Twitter. The company helped to popularize this format and bring it into the mainstream. Today, using the “@” symbol to mention someone is supported across a range of services, including Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Slack, and even Outlook, among others.

While Twitter is making these changes as a means of trying to simplify its service for users, it’s really just swapping out one set of rules for another. And that can be super confusing. TechCrunch editor Matthew Panzarino even encouraged Twitter not to go this route.

Some have argued that Twitter should lift the character limit altogether – perhaps just truncating longer posts under a URL. But that would make it more difficult to read tweets in longer conversations, because of all the clicking.

Twitter says during its tests of the new format, more people engaged with the service. The updated format will arrive in the most recent versions of the iOS and Android mobile apps, and on the web. Some will see it now and others will see it shortly after.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Elon Musk just told some rando on Twitter when Tesla’s new solar tiles are available

Tesla’s solar roof tiles will be available for preorder starting next month—but there’s no official press release available from the company sharing the exact details of the release. Instead, we have an Elon Musk tweet spree to thank for the news. 

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO has been known to drop product knowledge and workshop crazy, off-the-cuff schemes like his tunneling project on Twitter. He doesn’t just share his own thoughts—he’s been known to interact directly with his followers, too.

Today was one of those days. 

Musk was feeling the Tesla Model 3 love, sharing info about the upcoming sedan and teasing a future Model Y vehicle. A curious follower asked Musk when we might be able to expect the tiles to hit the market— and Musk answered directly, as he’s wont to do.  

We already know quite a bit about the solar tiles—Musk unveiled them in a presentation last year. The Tesla tiles are designed to look more like traditional roofing than other solar panels, and have been demonstrated to be much more durable than anything else you’ve probably got on your house. If you’ve got solar roof panels. 

Tesla also claims that its tiles will be cheaper than normal roofing options once utility savings are taken into account, but it hasn’t offered any pricing details (Musk didn’t tweet those out, either). We also don’t know when they’ll be available for installation—Tesla’s site says production will start in the middle of this year.

If you want to know exactly when the solar roof will be available, you can sign up for updates on Tesla’s waiting list. That way, you won’t have to lurk in Musk’s mentions, at least until you have a question about another upcoming Tesla project. Then, just feel free to ask—he might just drop some insider knowledge straight into your replies. 

WATCH: Elon Musk says beautiful solar roofs are the key to sustainable future

British government warns staff to stop posting negative tweets about Donald Trump

The Home Office has made it clear that it doesn’t want its staff to post negative tweets about Donald Trump. 

In an email sent to the staff working at the department’s digital data and technology unit, the Home Office warned staff to “avoid commenting on politically controversial issues” in general and “giving personal opinions about the organisation.”

The Register and the BBC, which saw the leaked email, reported that staff were warned that some of their Twitter comments were “not compliant.” 

Accounts are “stating that they work for the Home Office, posting HO work, whilst tweeting or retweeting negative posts about, for example, [US President] Donald Trump,” it said.

“We need to be careful here and ensure all our staff are following this guidance which reflects the Civil Service Code,” it added.

The U.S. president is due to make a state visit to the UK later this year — but many MPs have criticised Downing Street for the invitation. Commons Speaker John Bercow has voiced his opposition to Trump addressing Parliament during the visit. 

A Home Office spokesperson said all civil servants are expected to abide by the core values and standards of behaviour set out in the Civil Service Code. 

“This includes the need for political impartiality and also applies to the use of social and other digital media,” it said. 

“We recently updated our guidance on the use of social media by staff to make it clearer and easier to understand. This is in line with the Cabinet Office’s guidance and the changes have been communicated to all staff.”