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Workaround for Twitter @Replies Issue

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on May 14, 2009 at 9:20:16 pm


About this Article 

This article was distilled from several tech-articles and tests by several people. It was not meant to explain all the nuances of the issue, but only what most Twitter users could do to ensure that their public replies to users were seen by all of their followers--as most assumed they always were (which is discussed more in Updates).   


Possible problem: Recently, @Twitter co-founder Evan Williams posted a tweet suggesting that he was swamped with messages about it, and that something about this article "is wrong."  But he offered no details, and it could merely be some technicality. No way to know until he tells us.  Many Twitter users have read it and find nothing operationally incorrect. Any problems reported will be corrected immediately. It's a volunteer effort just trying to be helpful. Proceed at your own risk.






For recent updates on this issue, follow twitter.com/shoq




For reasons known only to Twitter, their handling off @replynames is in transition from something most people understood, to a new and convoluted process that has confused almost everyone.


If you really need to real the whole weird backstory, as written by geeks who will confuse you with pointless jargon and concepts you have no use for, just start here: http://bit.ly/3cVkAAnd then if you have courage, see Twitter's blog post presuming to clear things up (kinda, sorta) here replies-kerfuffle.


If, however, you're a normal person who enjoys simple language, and because all of this will probably change before you've digested this page, then...


as of right now, all you really need to know is this: 


Twitter has changed how @replies are handled.  By default, when you click any kind of "reply" button (on the Twitter web site, in Tweetdeck, and in some other client program), your tweet will only be seen by the person that you @replied to, and only those of your followers who also already follow that person. This really upsets many of us who want--or need--to discover new people by watching who our friends engage by @replying to them * . 


*Note: The issue of what the original reply behavior (and settings) had always been,  and Twitter's explanation of what changed, is discussed more in Updates).  


To Illustrate:   Should  @whitehouse reply to @northkorea with a message like "We're invading your weird little country at dawn," the only people who will see that reply are @northkorea and anyone following that name.  Thus, even though you follow @whitehouse, you could miss their reply message if you never knew there was a @northkorea to follow in the first place. 


See the problem? This new and confusing policy removes the wonderful transparency that made Twitter a great place to discover people and ideas, and it's completely contrary to the spirit of most forms of social networking.  Twitter has suggested they will find a way to fix this.


But until they do, here is a very-less-than-ideal...




     If you want your followers to see your reply to someone, even if they don't follow that person:


  • WITHOUT USING ANY REPLY BUTTON:  Simply type their @replyname at the beginning of your tweet.

    There are two main downsides to this:


    • You can't easily copy the name into the input field using a single click (annoying for heavy tweeters).


    • The conversation is not a true "reply thread," so people who view your tweet: 1) cannot trace back to the tweet you were replying to, and 2) they cannot "View Conversation" using search.twitter.com Since many people do both to follow the context of a tweet, this is major PITA (click link, or just ask your granny what that means). 


  • USING ANY REPLY BUTTON:  Just use the button to copy the name into the input box. But train yourself to add a period or exclamation point in front of the @reply name. It's really annoying to have to do, and it uses up one more precious character, but after a few times, it becomes a habit.


!@shoqsmom Because I placed an exclamation point before your @name, all of my followers

will see this tweet, even if they don't follow you.


  • NOTE1:  While this makes it easy to reply, and forces the tweet to all your followers, the tweet will NOT be threaded (as discussed above). 

  • NOTE2: Simply prepending "RT" to front of your tweets has the same effect as an exclamation point.  It will be seen by all of your followers--assuming you actually wanted to retweet (copy).


     If you only want those also following a @name to see your reply to them, simply use any standard Reply button function.



If you want to sign a formal petition about this, here's one. (There are others.)




For News and Updates On The Issue



  • Follow Twitter's blog for the latest smoke screens, reversals, or policy changes at  http://blog.twitter.com/


  • Follow the #fixreplies hashtag for tweets from all the Twittervillians who want this problem fixed..NOW.


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