I avoid following conversations in Twitter. The reason is simple: Doing so is hard and RTs lead to reading the same staff over and over. Plus, I can’t always actually read everything, as not everyone uses “reply” and I am rarely a follower of all parties. Use of multiple URL shorteners don’t make it any easier to identify identical links, either.
I would expect Twitter threads marked with a #hashtag to work a bit better. Indeed, most Twitter clients make following threads with a #<subject> very easy. The #hashtag makes tweets hard to miss. Still, almost none of the above issues are answered. RTs (with the #hashtag) are still noise. Plus, not everyone always uses the #hashtag, despite the fact it’s automated in some clients.
I agree with Robert Scoble that “Twitter isn’t about conversation. It’s about broadcasting that there is a potential conversation happening.” (http://www.quora.com/Should-discussions-on-Twitter-evolve-to-those-of-FriendF…). How do you get all the parties interested in an already started conversation in Twitter to a single different service and which one would that be? People don’t always join new services that easily. Nor migrate their conversations, for that matter… Let’s face it; conversations do happen in Twitter.
So, this is what I suggest would improve following the conversation in Twitter, using what we have:
- A conversation should always have a #<subject> hashtag
- A conversation should have only one #<subject>. It should be as short and decriptive as possible. A bad #<subject> is prefferable to none at all and to multiple ones
- The #<subject> should be thoroughly used within the discussion, even if this takes reposting. There is a “delete” option for slipped tweets
- RTs of a tweet that already has the #<subject> don’t help the conversation
- RTs and mentions of the conversation for each user’s stream are ok, provided the #<subject> hashtag changes to a ~<subject> tildetag (which won’t appear in the original thread). It’s easy to do and saves everybody time and effort
- Twitter clients can implement the ~tildetag in no time, replacing # with ~ on RTs, ~ to # on Replies and having both ~tildetags and #hashtags point to the same search on click. They could also suggest a #<subject> hashtag as we type our tweets
I admit this is somewhat bureaucratic and I am open to suggestions. Where should we take the conversation?