Think before you tweet

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on March 4, 2010

stillregrettingA 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, cross-posted from

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2 Responses

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  1. Good reminder for everyone. Brings to mind the question: why do they call it ‘common’ sense when it seems to be so rare?

  2. Great post Neville. It’s clear Al3x had some frustration at being unable to prove his point by showing. And the reign of hurt came down on him for exposing some “coming soon” ideas. Still, it is amazing how much hubub this Twitter thing is causing. If he’d emailed his comments to someone we’d never have heard about it.


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