Think before you tweet

A bit of a kerfuffle blew up last week when Twitter engineer Alex Payne tweeted some insider views on what’s cooking at Twitter – his workplace –regarding forthcoming usability features on the Twitter website.

Payne wrote, “If you had some of the nifty site features that we Twitter employees have, you might not want to use a desktop client. (You will soon.)”

As TechCrunch noted in its blog post, such a comment – now deleted – had some third-party Twitter application developers worried.

Payne clearly realized the impact his original tweet had when he tweeted an apology on March 1.

Still regretting wasting everyone’s time this weekend over nothing. Learn from my mistake: talk about your business carefully.

It’s a good example of what the consequences could be when you engage publicly in conversation and where you don’t apply all your common sense to what you’re saying. It also illustrates the value to everyone of an organization helping employees be clear on what they should or should not discuss publicly by providing clarity though guidelines or policies. If Twitter doesn’t have those, they ought to.

But it’s not only the obvious consequences that arise from an act like this: it’s also the collateral effects as expressed in this comment to a post on GigaOm reporting on events:

[…] Because of this event Alex’s behavior has changed, his approach to the very product he helped to create has shifted- he will now police himself, his tweets now need a layer of approval in his own mind before charging out to the web. Maybe they always had this layer of approval going on, but now it has a new DEFCON 1 process being applied to it.

All of this results in Alex’s true thoughts revealed on twitter to be less authentic, natural and free. Alex isn’t the first to have something like this happen to them. Over time more and more people will police their tweets. This will impact their participation in these networks too.

Every action has a consequence, some you couldn’t anticipate.

(Via GigaOm)

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Chris Norton

    Nice post Neville, I saw this tweet the other day and was immediately interested because I am developing a third party Twitter application at the moment. I will give you a head’s up when its ready for you to take a look obviously.

    I think the power of this tweet was quite significant because if Twitter do launch a service which kicks the butt out of all its 3rd party applications that is going to have a significant impact on Twitter’s usage. I think 3rd party apps are what has made it great – because they are simple. If you take away this community, you take away a bit of the fun and soul from the platform – the bit that makes it great.

    You should always think before you tweet – you should also remember than text can be taken literally even when it is sarcastic or just a joke. I would also reccomend putting your twiter account down after a couple of drinks – in other words don’t drink and tweet!

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