Excursions by Amit Gawande

Your Users Aren't Always Right

There is a lot of chatter recently around the features on Twitter/Facebook that should be incorporated in the new1 social media platforms. Or even the lack of the Twitter/Facebook like features that make the platforms better. Just look at the timelines at any of these platforms and you are bound to see some meta discussion on these lines. You will see it on Micro.blog. You will see it on Mastodon.

Let’s just take a couple of examples. Here’s how Mastodon’s boost is presented as better.

Boosts are essentially like retweets, with one key difference: there’s no option to add your own commentary. You simply can’t post something awful with a message saying how awful it is—all you can do is boost something awful without commentary.

Well, I can’t be the only one to remember the early Twitter days when retweets were just that, without commentary. It was all the third party clients that had an option to quote” tweet. Remember those days of appending RT:”, etc? We were using the feature and Twitter was forced to officially support it.

Same was the case with hashtags, another feature that made experience on Twitter a nightmare - but was brought in because users were enjoying” it. We kept boasting we brought the hashtags to Twitter and now we want nothing to do with it.

Don’t get me wrong here. I do not want to sound like a Twitter apologist. The platform is in a dire state and their current and previous owners are rightly to be blamed here. As I recently wrote, I have no sympathy for these folks. Examples mentioned above are not the primary reasons why Twitter, and Facebook, are struggling.

But it is worth considering the fact that many of the features being touted as responsible for Twitter’s fall are ones introduced by its users.

So a plea to all the decision makers behind these new” platforms - don’t let us, your users, drive the roadmap for you. We cannot foresee what’s right. You on the other hand can decide where you want to take your platform. That may mean some people won’t ride along and get left behind. But, at times, it is better to follow what’s right in the long run than chase the immediate growth.

I know people behind both Micro.blog and Mastodon are making these design decisions very carefully2, and are not heeding to the pressure.

So just stick to your beliefs, Manton, Eugen and others. Take your time and decide what’s right for us.


  1. New, not in terms of the time that they have existed. But rather new in terms of the time that they started getting noticed.

  2. Just read the timeline of Manton Reece, the man behind Micro.bog - he is constant pushing back on feature requests which do not fit his vision behind the platform. Eugen Rochko’s doing the same for Mastodon, just read his post where he details his decision decisions.

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