Twitter's Edit Problem

I use Twitter more than I’d care to admit. It’s the reason I was able to build LaxRecords.com after getting laid off from ESPN and able to reach my intended audience. Over the past year, I’ve been worried about Twitter’s continued existence. Twitter has always been the primary driver of traffic to my site, and even with a concerted effort, Facebook accounts for a small fraction of my traffic.

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With Twitter’s updates lately, the call for an Edit button has increased. But I’ve been thinking about it and while adding an Edit button to Twitter is easy, technically speaking, there’s more to consider than the technical implementation.

And this comes from someone who could really use the ability to edit a misspelling or grammar error.

My Biggest Issue

My primary concern with adding editability is how it could be used. How does adding an Edit button affect the meaning of tweets and how does that impact user who share those Tweets?

How do you avoid someone changing something they said to the complete opposite after it’s been shared?

In the most basic example what if someone tweets “I love people!” and it gets retweeted 1,000 times.

Then, in the trolliest of troll moves that person edits that tweet to “I hate people!” a few hours later. How many times do you check your retweets? Are you going to go back and check that tweet 24 hours later to see if it’s been changed? That’s a hassle and I know I’m not going to add it to my to-do list.

I’m sure this could be an isolated incident and whoever pulls this type of stunt will be called out for it, but the damage is done. Depending on the nature of that tweet, it could cost your employment if you’re seen endorsing hate speech.

Edit Within Limits?

Of course, there could be a window in which tweets can be edited. For me, this would be a majority use. I make a spelling error and in my haste, hit Tweet too fast. Give me 5 minutes to go in and fix it. But what about people who schedule tweets and don’t catch those errors until hours later?

Maybe you get 24 hours and a limited about of edits. Considering the lifespan of a tweet is around 18 minutes, is 24 hours too much time? Maybe 20 minutes is enough time to make the edit.

How many edits should be allowed?

If you’re editing tweets more than twice, I think you’re doing it wrong. Despite the doubling of characters and addition of Tweetstorms, Twitter is still meant for short, off-the-cuff conversation. If you need to edit, refine, edit, refine, then post to your blog and tweet out the link. You get unlimited edits that way.

Not New

I’ve made my share of mistake online and being able to go back in and correct a spelling, meaning or clarify something is invaluable. In this manner, adding an Edit button to Twitter is not going to shatter the Internet. Facebook added an Edit button and the world kept spinning and the last time I checked there has not been an influx of locusts plaguing the Earth.

If Twitter added Edit to its suite of options tomorrow, there would be an adjustment and outrage (because it’s Twitter), but life would resume to normal within a few hours.

How would you implement an Edit button on Twitter?

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Mike Loveday

I started my journalism career in college as an entertainment writer and eventually moved into the Sports Editor position. After graduation I worked as a Stringer for the Wilmington Star-News and covered Track & Field and Lacorsse. After eight months I was hired as a General Assignment Reporter for the Topsail Voice. In 2006, I was hired by Student Sports as a general assignment writer and moved into the role of Editor for MDVarsity.com. Purchased by ESPN in July 2008, Student Sports relaunched as ESPNRISE.com and I was promoted to the Contact Sports Editor in charge of football and lacrosse. In 2009, I took over lacrosse full-time. I am currently the Founder and COO of LaxRecords.com and the Mid-Atlantic reporter for US Lacrosse and where I manage the Nike/US Lacrosse Top 25 voting panel and a staff of four freelance journalists.