Live from Twitter's Incomprehensible User Interface: Timothy B. Lee: Twitter replies are broken, and Twitter has a great plan to fix them: "Twitter's handling of replies might be the platform's most confusing feature...

...For the past three years, Twitter has used two different systems for identifying conversations. It still hides tweets that start with a username you don't follow. But... Twitter keeps track of... when you click the 'reply' button on a tweet.... [Since] the platform is already directly tracking which tweets are replies to which other tweets, it no longer needs to rely on the earlier hack of looking at whether a tweet starts with a username.... Twitter will announce that it's going to... only show... conversations when you follow both people involved--without forcing users to worry about whether a tweet starts with someone's username. This will mean the end of one of Twitter's strangest conventions: putting a period before someone's username to make a tweet visible to everyone.... And if you want everyone to see a tweet that's a reply to another tweet, you can do this by clicking the retweet button, a more natural strategy than putting a period at the beginning....

Rather than forcing you to include the other person's username in the tweet (eating up some of your scarce 140 characters), Twitter is going to start treating that as a separate bit of metadata, like the tweet's date and location, and display it outside of the tweet. But note that this is only true of people you're replying to, not mentions in general. If you write spammy tweets that mention random people, those extra usernames are still going to count against your character count.... One big question that doesn't seem to be answered by Twitter's announcement is how the company will deal with 'Twitter canoes'.... Right now this kind of thing is constrained by the fact that usernames are counted against character counts.... Cluttering up tweets with the names of the person you're replying to was always kind of a hack, and most users will be happy to see it go away.

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