June 3, 2011

Hey, @Twitter, Get It Together!

By Kara Klenk, Contributing Writer

Twitter is certainly a busy bee these days. It’s a celebrity publicist, it’s aided national revolutions, and it's helped link victims of natural disasters to the outside world. It’s also a pretty sh#*ty website. OK, put the iPhone down. I’m sorry if I’m offending the Tweeters out there, but before you begin composing a 140-character bitch slap, hear me out.

Twitter Is Over Capacity
No one can tell me you haven’t seen this little guy once or twenty:

It’s the Twitter Fail Whale! When is he getting a Nick Jr. show? Fail Whale is bailed out once again by his flying friends after a perfume launch proves more than he can handle! Tune in to Episode 1: The Kardashian Konundrum, Mondays @ 5am! I’ve got plenty more preschool show pitches, but let’s stay on track.

For a while, I was a rare tweeter. 2 or 3 times a month I’d log on to the site and blast an inane thought or joke into the abyss, but it wasn’t really having a profound effect on my life or how I communicate, like say Facebook or Menupages. Still, even my infrequent usage was fraught with appearances by this G-D whale! Really? Over capacity? YouTube has 48 hours of video uploaded every minute and 3 billion hits a day. Meanwhile, a few million people exchange simple text blurts and Twitter sh#*s the bed?

No Tweet Results for Kara Klenk
(Chandler Bing cadence) Could Twitter’s search function be any lazier? I am the only Kara Klenk (if Google is to be trusted) in the world and if someone searches me, even if that person follows me or we have a ton of followers in common, if they misspell one letter of my name, Twitter does not return correct, or sometimes any, search results.

Formatting + Retweets = Twitterversal Harmony
Twitter does not allow even basic formatting so text cannot be even bolded or italicized. Which could be useful for communication, but also could solve another problem: Cryptic retweets. Sometimes they look like the wall scribbling from A Beautiful Mind, ie: RT @lilsuckface456 OMG no U didn’t! @maggieluvsbieber der wuz a thing 2day @tubetopinchurch WTF its going down.

What in Jersey Shore’s name is happening here? Who said what originally and who is responding? It’s something a little formatting could easily clear up. (BTW I hope I invented these handles but if any of them are real #FF ASAP.)

A Little Less Conversation
Do you follow @KatyPerry and @Rihanna? K, we’ll make this quick, I’m sure you have a Spanish quiz to study for. Now, everyone knows these two gals tweet each other on the reg, but unlike Facebook, you have no way of seeing their conversation without tracking time codes and toggling between the two profile pages. And let’s face it, proximity to celebrities is one of Twitter’s biggest draws. How hard can it be to allow users to click on a tweet and see the conversation thread? Not so hard that a bajillion third party developers couldn’t figure it out.

Speaking of, almost every third party app allows one to shorten long URLs into the shortest possible link so as to conserve precious characters. How has Twitter not paired up with a link shortener like bit.ly or ow.ly yet?

Adding Your Two Cents
Continuing to speak of, third party apps also let you RT something and add your own commentary while Twitter: Original Recipe, only allows you to RT something as it was written, if you wanna comment, best get to copyin' and pastin'.

When Twitter first arrived on the scene it seemed people were divided into two camps: Team "this is amazing, I’m already tweeting with Ashton Kutcher!" and Team "this is completely unsustainable and will collapse within the year." I’m definitely somewhere in the middle of these two schools of thought. I see why people like Twitter, why it’s useful and powerful.

And surely you understand by now that most of my problems with Twitter are with the actual site, not the concept. I don’t care that people are tweeting about their lunch meat, their undying love for Justin Bieber or using abbreviations I have to Google for translation; that freedom is the blessing and the curse of social media.

These days I tweet for a living and survive, but for the grace of a third party app (shout out to HootSuite!) but still use the actual site mostly for (super crappy) search. It seems strange that a company that makes $100+ million a year and is worth an estimated $8-$10 billion can’t afford to make a few functionality improvements here and there. I make quite a bit less than that, but I still hang a picture in my apartment once in a while. Just bought a new dust ruffle. It’s like Twitter, buddy, you could use some new curtains, maybe lose the college futon, and when was the last time your toilet met a sponge?

I also thought, how do an estimated 175 million users put up with the terrible functionality of Twitter (assuming they don’t all use third party apps)? Aren’t we supposedly living in world where tech products rise and fall based on "user experience"? How did Twitter get this far? If Facebook were crashing 2-3 times a day, I dare say Jesse Eisenberg would not be up for a prestigious MTV Movie Award this weekend.

It might be because Twitter grossly exaggerates the actual number of users it boasts. 175 million registered users, technically, but 56 million do not follow anyone, 90 million have no followers, and only around 12 million are fairly active, following more than 60 people. 12 million might be nothing to shake a stick at, but it's easier for me to believe that 12 million people grin and bear Twitter’s many shortcomings, than a mob 175 million deep.

I think with all the amazing accomplishments Twitter has under it’s little blue bird belt, imagine how much better it would be if it were as easy to use on a computer as it is to use it on a smart phone! Here’s hoping Twitter’s acquisition of TweetDeck will save the day!

Kara Klenk is a NYC based stand up comedian, actor, and writer. 
See her work at KaraKlenk.com, 
Follow her @karaklenk 
or Stalk her at Facebook.com/karaklenk