Thursday, December 31, 2015

Who can see your "replies" & "mentions" in their home page "tweets" feed?

The rule of thumb on who among your followers will receive your replies and mentions, in their home page "tweets" feed, is this:

1. If the very first character in your tweet is a @, then the tweet can only be seen by (a) the recipient and (b) any of your followers who are also following the recipient.

2. If the first @ is preceded by anything, even a single character, then the tweet can be seen by all your followers.

This distinction has no real logic to it, since the following forms of a reply are synonymous and of equal validity:

[a] Dear @RayBeckerman I enjoyed "Up Above My Head" sung by Sister Rosetta Tharpe
[b] I really enjoyed "Up Above My Head" sung by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, @RayBeckerman
[c] @RayBeckerman I really enjoyed "Up Above My Head" sung by Sister Rosetta Tharpe
[d] I'll tell you, @RayBeckerman I really enjoyed "Up Above My Head" sung by Sister Rosetta Tharpe

But they are treated differently. (c) will be visible only to those of your followers who also follow @RayBeckerman (So if you have a follower who loves you, loves Rosetta Tharpe, and can't stand or never heard of @RayBeckerman, that person will miss out on seeing your tweet.)

(a), (b), and (d) will be visible to all of your followers.

This distinction comes about only because of an historical anomaly.

Once upon a time Twitter offered an option in "settings" on how to treat replies and mentions [in those days they were all called replies, even if they weren't replying to anything]. You could elect to see all replies and mentions, or only those which were addressed to people you were following.

One day, in an effort to save bandwidth, Twitter -- without telling us -- removed that option, and prevented us from seeing any replies or mentions unless the person to whom they were addressed was also being followed by us.

When people became aware that many, sometimes most, of the tweets they'd been reading were now unavailable to them, and that they were unable to see conversations, there was a great uproar... for a lot of reasons. [E.g., (1) you were missing a lot, maybe even most, tweets of people you were following (2) it's much more meaningful to hear both sides of a conversation than just one side (3) for many of us, these conversations were a primary means of expanding our social circle in Twitter, since they offered a way of meeting people known to our friends, but not yet known to us; i.e. they served as 'social' introductions (See examples below).]

In order to satisfy our complaints, Twitter narrowed its definition of "replies" to tweets that begin with a @. We continued to be unable to see those unless we were following the recipient as well as the sender.

But if the @ appeared anywhere other than as the first character, we could see it, since it was no longer classified as a "reply".

So while the viewer or follower can no longer elect to see all of the sender's replies and mentions, the sender has it within his or her power to control which of his or her replies and mentions will be visible to all of his or her followers.

If you've ever wondered why some people will start a tweet with a "." or a ">", now you know why.

(By the way, this blog post is not about whether something is invisible to you if you were to visit the profile page of the person tweeting; it's just about whether the tweet turns up in your own "tweets" feed on your  homepage)

* [example 1: A, whom I follow, and I, are both interested in healthcare reform. One day I see A engaged in a conversation with B about healthcare reform. I might start following B at that point, knowing that (a) B is someone who is also interested in healthcare reform, and (b) B is someone who is valued and respected by my friend A. But if I never saw the tweet, I would never even know B] [example 2: A, whom I follow, has tweeted about an exhibition of an artist whose work I like. I then see A thanking someone named B for retweeting about that art exhibition. I know that B is someone who (a) probably shares my admiration for that particular artist, and (b) is someone who values and respects my friend A. But if I'd never seen the tweet, I would never know of B's existence] [example 3: I love giving my friend A a hard time. One day I see A engaged in a conversation with his friend B, who is also giving him a hard time. I might follow B, so we can both give A a hard time together :)].

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