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Fixing (Some) Twitter Replies .:. kentbrewster.com

Hidden Tweets

    A short while ago, something sucked the fun right out of Twitter. All of a sudden, replies from people who I was following to people who were a) not me, or b) not people I was also following, mysteriously quit showing up. Without knowing more about the underlying data structures I'm not certain I understand Twitter's explanation; it seems to me they'd have to go out of their way to find and remove tweets from people I'm following that were in reply to tweets from others that I'm not following, rather than just show me all the tweets from everybody I am following.

    Anyway. I figured I'd go with it for a while and see if I noticed any difference ... and ... yeah, I do. Turns out the main way I found new, interesting people to follow was through those half-conversations. I haven't followed anybody new since replies broke, and find myself growing increasingly bored with Twitter.

    Enter the Hack

    At the top of this page, you'll see an entry box with my Twitter id filled in. If you click the button, you will see a list of tweets from people I'm following. Each of these tweets is the most recent one posted in reply to another Twitter user. If I'm not following that person, I won't see it when I look at my Twitter page. Right, some of these are false positives, for reasons mentioned below. I could clean it up, but I'm probably not going to do it. It's a hack, people. :)

    If you'd like to try it out and see some (probably not all) of what you're missing, fill in your Twitter screen name and click Go.

    What This Won't Do

    • Show all your friends. I'm calling the friends/status API five times to get the most current status from the last 500 users you followed; that's enough to show some of what you're missing. (Hey, while I have your ear ... please take a moment to think about the extra carbon you're causing Twitter to release into the atmosphere with all those follows you never actually pay attention to. 500 ought to be enough!)
    • Show all the tweets you're missing. Sorry, it's only looking at the current status and reporting it as possibly hidden if it's listed as in-reply-to another Twitter user.
    • Hide the tweets you're not missing. Again, sorry: since I'm only looking at the last 500 people you followed, I have no way of knowing what's in reply to the other 6000. (Again, please ... thin that ridiculous herd of follows, and help save Al3x's sanity.)
    • Work on your site with a single line of JavaScript. Sorry, this is not a case-hardened badge. (It might make an interesting Greasemonkey plug-in ... but somebody else gets to write it. Please keep in mind that you will quickly use up your 100 API calls in an hour if you bang on it too hard.)

    Please Re-Tweet! :)

    Twitter is much less useful to me without replies to friends I haven't met yet, so I really do hope they can fix it. Have fun with this, and if it's useful, kindly tweet it up on Twitter. Thanks!

    Comments from before Disqus:

    Buyog .:. 2009-12-07 07:11:46
    Nice hack. The change to replies bugged the heck out of me when it first happened for exactly the same reasons you mentioned. I've noticed that some people have gotten around it by prefixing the @ in their replies with a period or other small, unobtrusive character, turning it into a mention instead. Not a perfect solution, but a decent-enough hack when you want to ensure that your reply is broadly read.
    Arveno .:. 2009-09-18 10:53:33
    Mh, Twitter's reply functionality seems to be broken from time to time. E.G I cannot find my mentions when they come from special Tweople.
    Martin Sutherland .:. 2009-06-03 00:12:14
    I completely agree. It's as if your RSS reader started removing links to news sources that you weren't already subscribed to. The opportunities for discovery are drastically reduced. I can see Twitter's point that the feature was confusing to some, but removing the feature completely was the wrong answer.

    Another annoying aspect of this new system becomes apparent when I want to reply to a specific person's message, but also want the tweet to be visible to the rest of my friends. Unless they follow the person I'm replying to, they won't see it.

    Because the replies stream now also shows _mentions_ of your username anywhere in the message, you can get around this by putting the username of the person you're replying to somewhere other than right at the beginning... but it just doesn't feel right.
    Nicholas C. Zakas .:. 2009-05-28 19:27:20
    Oh good, I thought I was the only one annoyed by this "feature." I also miss those extraneous replies and can't imagine why Twitter removed them by default.

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