How to Make Twitter Better
I'm so excited about the things we're doing on TheStreet that I wake up at all hours of the night compelled to work. Because my wife would kill me if I fired up the home office at two, three, four in the morning, I do stuff exclusively on my iPhone at those times.
She permits me to power the computers, open the blinds and turn on the lights no earlier than five in the morning. In the interest of keeping a happy marriage, I make that compromise.
TheStreet's Editor-in-Chief, Bill Inman, has this nasty habit of calling me at like 5:15 in the morning, California time. He phones from Wall Street where, of course, it's three hours later. My wife loves Bill and she's cool, but she shoots dirty looks every time my ringtone blares at that hour.
She's perfectly content, however, that I write/send email and play with Twitter in bed, on a mobile device, in the middle of the night.
During the wee hours, however, my Twitter feed slows considerably. The same thing happens on Friday afternoons, parts of the weekend and on some holidays.
Because I was following way too many people, my feed, during normal working hours -- 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Don't worry, I take breaks) -- moved way too fast. To some extent, it rendered Twitter useless. With such a lightning fast scrolling of Tweets, I missed tons of content I know I would have liked to see.
So I cut the number of people I follow from over 500 to under 300.
During the day, it works great. At off hours, however, the Tweets come in agonizingly slow. At those times, I'm likely missing stuff because I don't follow enough people.
There's this 'follow too many people, feed flows too fast, don't follow enough,' feed moves too slow thing going on here.
Twitter can alleviate this problem and, equally as important, further personalize its platform by adopting what I'll call "congestion pricing" even though there's no money involved.
Allow users to create tiered levels of people they follow.
You always see Tweets from people in tier one, however, in tiers two through however far Twitter decided to go with it, Tweets get rationed on the basis of time of day and number of Tweets coming from tiers two through whatever. Twitter should include other factors such as time zone and overall Tweet popularity (you don't want to miss important and/or viral stuff from accounts not in your top tier).
By going this route, Twitter puts an end to the annoying follow/unfollow dichotomy.
If somebody you follow starts Tweeting stupid political stuff around election time, you can simply banish him to a crappy tier for a few weeks. If a (cough, cough) adult film celebrity you follow Tweets too many Instagrams of herself, you can adjust the frequency with which they hit your feed.