One of the behaviors that the social networking site, Twitter, has employed since launch has been the ability of users to “protect” their updates. That is to say, a user can keep their tweets hidden from the rest of the world until they choose to let a particular follower “into the club” and allow them to be read. The theory goes that some users don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry knowing what they are up to at any given moment, or perhaps they want to restrict information only to a select group of people like real friends and family. While I certainly understand the logic behind protecting one’s updates, the way Twitter has implemented the feature needs work.
On any given day, I receive from 5-10 notices that new people have begun to follow me on Twitter, which is awesome. Twitter is a social network after all and the more people that want to listen to what you have to tweet, the better. Whenever I receive a new follower notice, I visit their twitter page to see if they are the kind of user I would like to follow back. Typically this could be someone in the design field, or a big Mac geek like myself, or someone who is just plain funny. It helps if they have a custom page style or an interesting avatar, but what seals the deal are the last 20 or so tweets that I read on their landing page. I can tell from these tweets if they are posting updates I’m interested in, or if they are just tweeting junk.
But there’s a problem when a user starts following me who’s updates are protected. I can’t see their tweets. I have to “send a request” to gain access to the clubhouse before I know if I want to follow. This wastes everyone’s time and quite frankly is a little insulting. They can follow me on a whim but I have to ASK to follow them? I don’t think so.
This is a serious design flaw and Twitter needs to adjust the behavior of how protected users interact with those they follow. The good news is there is a relatively simple fix that would solve the annoyances of protected users and it is this: Accounts with protected updates should automatically allow their tweets to be viewed by those they chose to follow. In other words, if you’re gonna follow my updates, I automatically get to see yours without having to first ask permission. In my opinion, it’s only fair.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind if Twitter did away with protected updates all together. Although I’m sure my closest friends who protect their updates wouldn’t agree. They have chosen to limit the number of people who follow them by manually filtering all requests that come in. Are they friend or foe? Spammer or special someone? As far as I’m concerned it’s a lot less work to allow everyone to follow you than not. If I get followed by an account name that I consider “spammy” then I go and check them out. If they are a Facebook life coach or are hocking their blog non-stop then I block them. To everyone else I say, welcome to the Ged-fest! If you want to protect your updates, that’s fine, just don’t make me jump through hoops before I’ve even paid to see the show.