Recently on Twitter, I wrote a very confusingly-worded feature request. I later realized the idea made no sense after being compressed into 140 characters, and I figured I should probably just write about it here. I think it would be really useful, and I hope they implement it.
When a person follows you on Twitter, they’re telling you that they’re interested in what you have to say. When you follow them back, you’re sending them the same message. The difficulty is, it’s hard to know who is worth following. Twitter tries to help a little by sending an email with some information about your new follower, but it’s not enough information to be very helpful.
Let’s say Steph (@stephlewis on Twitter) decided to follow me. Before sending me the email notification Twitter sends, it could compare the list of people I follow with the list of people following Steph, and just show me the number of people in both lists. Because of the inherent meaning behind following a person, having more people in that special shared list tells me that some of the people that I find to be interesting also find @stephlewis to be interesting. It’s a built-in recommendation of @stephlewis. Showing the list of all their Twitter names would be even better than a number, but a number would be a good start.
To clarify, I wouldn’t care if @stephlewis followed the same people I followed. She might be interested in the same people, and that might be useful to know. But she might also be a spammer who is following thousands of people in order to artificially pump up that common number. It’s easy to fake. But being followed by people I follow isn’t easy to fake. It’s trustworthy and meaningful. Facebook does something similar by showing “mutual friends” with new friend requests, and we all use it all the time to make decisions on names we don’t quite recognize or remember.
I hope the folks at Twitter might consider adding this one tiny bit of extra processing to the emails they send. I’d be happy to get the emails a couple minutes later if it made them this much more useful.