Your tweets are not being seen

Your tweets are not being seen by who you think they are. Specifically, any “reply” tweet, which starts with an @ symbol, followed by a person’s twitter handle, is not being seen by the majority of your followers.

It was a conversation with Rebecca Corliss, aka @repcor, after the presentation she did this past weekend at TQNYC (TwitterQueens Social Media boot camp), that spurred my memory of reading something within the last couple of months that Twitter was eliminating the feature that everyone has the potential to be sent “@ -reply” tweets. Now, it is limited to the circle of people you have as followers in common, something which you can not know using Twitter alone. (I’m guessing there are 3rd-party apps which can tell you this information, but I don’t know them offhand.)

Twitter USED to have an option where you could see “@”s from people you follow, even if you don’t follow the person “@”ed. Now that twitter has removed this feature, ANY TWEET THAT YOU START WITH AN @ SYMBOL WILL ONLY BE SENT TO THE TWITTERERS YOU BOTH HAVE IN COMMON.

Unfortunately, this eliminates one of the most delightful aspects of twitter, and that is to be able to “see into” the conversations your friends are having with other people. That’s the best way to find and follow more people who you respect or like.

The solution is to NEVER START ANY TWEET with an “@” symbol. Here are a few inelegant workarounds: “Hey @…” “Hi @…” “So, @…” and so forth. Of course ReTweets (RTs) already don’t start with an @ symbol, so they’re not affected. Here is some more info about this issue on the Social Support wiki.

If you don’t like this recent Twitter development, voice your opinion here, and perhaps @ev and @biz will take heed.

Other articles/discussions on this topic:
Social Support discussion

Ev’s description of how things worked way back in May 08

CNET article on ticked-off twitterers

TechCrunch on KISS Fail: You Can Now See Twitter Replies Sometimes, Except When You Can’t



31 Responses to “Your tweets are not being seen”

  1. Elaine Says:

    If you use FriendFeed, ALL your friends’ tweets show up, none of this hiding stuff. When I want to be sure that others see an @ to someone, I just throw in “. ” at the beginning; I’ve seen others use “* ” as well.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    I confess, I was on the “haters” bandwagon when this new policy was first introduced, but have to confess I actually rather like it now.

    I’m guessing it was first implemented to shield the Guy Kawasaki-level users from additional millions of tweets and, given the fact that @ev and @biz received a LOT of ‘nasty grams’ immediately following its inception and have done nothing to change it, I’m also guessing it’s here to stay.

    Here’s why I don’t mind it so much:

    1. I am more free to @ reply to people I don’t have a DM relationship with, without subjecting the Twitterverse to a message intended only for that recipient.

    2. As you point out, if I’m following both parties, I can still see the reply, but I’m no longer subjected to the sometimes tedious @ replies of my *entire* stream.

    3. There’s an even easier (one character) work-around: just put a “.” before the @ and it’ll show.

  3. Christine Pilch Says:

    I knew this, but I forgot about it, so thanks for the reminder.

    Any character preceding the @ sign will work.

  4. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Elaine – Using FriendFeed to avoid this kinda misses the point… if you have hundreds or thousands of followers, there is no way a significant number of *them* will use or switch to FriendFeed. It’s not what YOU see that counts, it’s what “they” see that counts, and they ain’t seeing the tweets.

    @Jennifer – Yes, there are occasions when being able to @ someone when you can’t DM them, and not have it been seen by many of your friends, is a good thing. But for me, this is probably 2% of the time, so it’s not worth it. To most people the entire POINT of twitter is to have a conversation “out loud” with your circle of friends. And despite this blog entry and others like it, 99.9% of twitterers will have NO IDEA that this is what actually happens when you @ someone. It really runs counter-intuitive to how you EXPECT twitter to work, which is simply and straightforwardly. In fact, I’d say that even if you explain this whole deal, 98% of people won’t understand what’s going on. Trying to anticipate what is or is not seen by OTHER people on the medium is pretty conceptual stuff.

    Also, I personally don’t buy into your point number 2. Twitter is a stream of info. You dive into it when you want, read what you want. I’d rather continue to find interesting people to connect with, and stumble across interesting conversations, than to have a few less tweets in my stream.

    @all – Yes, any character preceding the @ character will work. I was just suggesting “hey” and “so,” to try to make it a little less weird for human beings to read. Also, I highly recommend a space after whatever initial character you use, because many twitter apps will not recognize the person’s name as an actionable link (i.e. Tweetie, UberTwitter, etc) unless there is a space in front of the @name. (I received complaints about this when I started using vi@name in some cases.) I am testing now to see if simply a space in front of the @ has the desired effect.

  5. Christine Pilch Says:

    I just tried just a space preceding an @Reply, and the space was removed in my TweetDeck display. I’ll be interested to hear if you have different results, M.

  6. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Christine – Yup indeed, it looks like TweetDeck strips out the space, possibly even before sending it in to twitter.

  7. Ginny Brady Says:

    I didn’t know that. Thanks for the tip, Morriss. Do you any any other Hidden Twitter Tips from the TwitterQueens event?

  8. Caleb Says:

    I’m with Morriss. I use Twitter primarily as an open conversation and limiting the visibility of the @ replies has greatly reduced the opportunity for me to discover other like minds. I’m slowly implementing the work-around of embedding the @username within rather than at the start of my tweets – but as with all things, old habits are hard to break.

  9. Bryan Sims Says:

    Very helpful post Morriss, thanks for keeping everyone updated!

  10. american1fcu Says:

    For the good of the group, you can check whether Twitter has fixed this or not:

    Two-word answers from Grant Hutchinson, or @splorp, plus a countdown since the change.

  11. Mark McSpadden Says:


    I understand your frustration with losing the option to see EVERYTHING that someone you are following says. However, what you’ve done with the .@, I believe is actually much worse than the removal of the “Firehose @ option” in the first place.

    First, some history. The way twitter works today with @, only showing them to friends that share a common bond, was the way it worked BY DEFAULT even before the removal of this option. (It’s been this way almost since the day twitter first started acknowledging the @ function over a year ago.) The toggle switch for turning on this firehose was buried deep in the settings and only the powerest of power users knew it even existed.

    Fast forward to today. In starting tweets with .@ you have essentially turned on this firehose for me, and I have no way to turn it off, other than to unfollow you.

    I get that you are upset because Twitter took an option away from you, forcing you to play the way they see their service best being utilized. However, is the right response to force all of your followers to play the way YOU believe twitter ought to be used?

  12. Tim McAlpine Says:

    Sorry Morriss, I agree with Mark on this one. I want to see conversations happening within the people that I follow.

    My understanding about this change was that it was more of an architectural issue than anything else. I say anything to ward off the Fail Whale is a good decision in my books.

  13. Credit Union Warrior Says:

    Me three…I’m with Mark and Tim on this. There’s a reason I follow the people I follow. And, usually, there’s a reason that I don’t follow the people I don’t follow.

  14. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Tim @Mark Interesting to have this convo both here and on twitter at the same time. I put this blame squarely on twitter. I wish both of you WOULD start your @’s with period-space; you wish I wouldn’t. Since I respect you both, I WANT to see who you are tweeting with that I don’t currently follow. I WANT to discover conversations that I’m not a part of initially. I WANT to see who you are tweeting with that I’m not currently following. To me, that is one of the PRIMARY reasons I am on twitter to begin with. Twitter has taken away this setting from the user, and that’s never a good thing. I will not change my behavior, and I don’t expect anyone else to change their Twitter behavior either. Please feel free to unfollow me at any time; I definitely won’t take it personally.

  15. Ron Shevlin Says:

    I don’t get what Mark, Tim, and the Warrior “disagree” with Morriss about. Morriss has decided to tweet in such a way that works around the way Twitter works. That’s HIS choice. I don’t understand why Mark concludes that that’s “much worse than the removal” of the original option.

    Morriss’ decision means that I see more of his Tweets than I would have otherwise. If I don’t like that, I can: 1) Unfollow him, 2) Ask him to stop doing it, or 3) suck it up.

    These are the same options I have re: other people who do tweet that annoy the hell out of me like tweet about their breakfast, do play-by-play tweets on baseball games, and bash Republicans.

    Morriss made a choice. Mark, Tim, and the Warrior (and all of @mmpartee’s followers) have a choice to make as well.

  16. Mark McSpadden Says:

    @Ron: “Much worse” was based on the fact that the old Twitter option was a choice you made for YOUR twitter stream. The .@ is a choice you make for the twitter stream of everyone who follows you.

    You are correct about my options. I chose to start with #2. Looks like I’m down to #1 or #3.

  17. Charlie Trotter Says:

    There’s no real drought of ways to find people. If your preference is annoying your friends, why not just click out to people’s main page once in a while to see who they are talking to rather than alienating people with an ultimatum about something so meta?

  18. Ron Shevlin Says:

    @Mark: re: “much worse”. Ok, I see your point. But every tweet you make is a choice you make for your twitter follower base, regardless if you work around the established features or not.

    And Morriss isn’t a completely unreasonable guy (I think). If many of his followers ask him to quit doing the work around, I would imagine he’d consider the request. (I can think of another strategy that might work, but won’t share it publicly). I don’t know if that’s happened or not.

  19. Morriss Partee Says:

    Here’s why I use/see Twitter the way I do… I have more than one circle of friends on twitter, though circle is vague, and some people fit into more than one. There is no “clear” circle of friends for me. My main sets of friends are financial-related and Western Mass related. There are also definitely financial friends in the Western Mass region. I also have social media friends in the Boston area and elsewhere. Again, there is no clear distinction in these circles; there are financial people who are also in social media, etc etc etc. And through my girlfriend, I also now have a few real estate friends.

    All of this is to say that I have a very unique set of twitter followers (as does everyone). I am interested in “meeting” more and more people in any of these circles. I know there are new folks jumping on twitter all the time. Say Tim gains a bunch of new financial followers from a speaking gig and starts tweeting with them. I would enjoy following them as well and will be alerted to it via Tim’s tweets UNLESS he happens to start the tweet with the @name. If he puts the @name ANYWHERE else within the tweet, I’ll see it – how much sense does THAT make?

    For me, this goes for Tim, Mark, Matt, Jimmy, Charlie, and scores and scores of other people that I follow.

    YES, twitter is a Firehose… there’s no way around that. I view it as a Firehose that I dip into from time to time. That’s the way I want to use it. I’m sad that twitter has taken away the option from users so that I could use it my way and Mark could use it his way, and we’d both be happy as clams. So add your voice to the various petitions to bring this back, and/or use #fixreplies in your tweets. Yes, I’m just as upset that Mark (and others who don’t want to see @-replies) have to be subjected to my tweets that they wouldn’t otherwise, as I am that I NO LONGER get to see @-reply tweets that my friends are sharing with people I haven’t met yet.

    So Mark, just as I’m not going to stop using period-space-@, I am also not going to request that you *start* using period-space-@ in your tweets so that I can have Twitter behave the way I want it.

  20. Carla Day Says:

    This issue raises an important aspect of social communities. There are no set social agreements. How one person uses the community may be entirely different than how others use it. I was one of the few that had my twitter setting as all @ replies. I found some very interesting people by seeing who was chatting with each other.

    At the same time, if someone does not use the community has you want, you can unfollow or unfriend them. While that may seem harsh, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.

    I noticed that some of the professional people that I wanted to communicate with were unfollowing me due to non-industry posts. Ironically, I was doing this as this topic was being discussed on twitter. So, my solution to that was to create a separate account. I have to thank @itsjustbrent for the idea given his comment about moving to his @thehabdash account during the blog conversation yesterday.

    As far as .@ posts, I have done it, but I use it rarely now for replies that I think others who follow me and may not follow the recepient would appreciate.

    Morriss, I do like seeing your conversations with others, but can see how others may not. It all is about how people want to use twitter.

  21. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Ron – thanks for articulating that point – I completely agree. If someone just comes out and tweets “I really loved my Wheaties this morning, can’t get enough” I have no right to be upset by that. Likewise, Mark has no right to be upset with you if you tweet “I can’t believe what a moron you are, @jimnovo!” if he doesn’t follow @jimnovo (someone who I would not follow if not for your periodic tweets with him!). So Mark will see your tweet to Jim just because you happen not to have started your tweet with @jimnovo.

    Mark, if you are not upset with seeing such a tweet between Ron and Jim Novo, then really what you are complaining about is my blatant use of the period-space. This is a time saver for me because I then don’t have to worry about exactly how to word my tweet so it’s natural sounding with the name embedded within. But otherwise, it’s identical to putting the name in the middle of a tweet.

  22. tinfoiling Says:

    Ron you must realize that people must have something to write about and breakfast is top of mind. I am still waiting for that individual to write about what toothpaste they used and that tomorrow they will switch to a new toothbrush their dentist gave them.

    Can’t we always go back and look at all the tweets an individual has done if we want to see something specific? Remember when this all started and we found Twitter (or some of us anyway) lacking in certain aspects so went to Jaiku? We found out it wasn’t necessarily the program we use but the social group surrounding that program that was important. The use of second accounts (who doesn’t have a second account by now?) as well as the search functionality does show signs of somethings moving forward.

    Sometimes I read all of what one person twitters sometimes not. Just because I subscribe to a magazine or newspaper doesn’t mean I read every article. What I really enjoy is when everyone gets involved with comments to a post like this. This sure beats the crap out of that 140 character limit!!!

  23. Morriss Partee Says:

    @tinfoiling Believe it or not, I have discussed with William, on Facebook, about whether it is better to floss, then brush, or brush, then floss. Kate joined in on this convo too. Of course this was while Amy and Ivan were away, so I was happy to be there for Wm during the lull in his family life. 😉

  24. LesleyLambert Says:

    Wow, I hope twitter stops by to check out the controversy. I am with Morriss on this one, too. Twitter is by definition a “firehose”, but there are ways to manage that stream (ie: Tweetdeck or tweetgrid). The old @reply policy brought me a lot of new and very interesting people to follow (many of whom are now good friends & business acquaintances). If you use tweetdeck to sort the incoming tweets then you can slow that firehose right down….I still want to be able to find the people that the people I already like are talking to.

  25. heyamaretto Says:

    Twitter probably will not redesign, particularly if there is a workaround. But why can’t the interfaces (TweetDeck, Seesmic Desktop) implement an on/off feature that will automatically begin tweets with the dot-space? That seems like an easier approach than retooling the system, and the smaler developers are MUCH more responsie. Loic from Seesmic asked me the other day if there was anything that they could do to improve the product.

    I, too, use twitter conversation to decide if I will be a good match with people. I wouldn’t want to force anyone to do the same, but if there is a simple bypass that can be engineered into a product that we use, I think it would benefit those developers to include it.

    Seesmic? TweetDeck? What do you think?

  26. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Chaztoo Of course I’m not trying to alienate any of the folks who choose to follow me. And I am not issuing any ultimatums either. It’s Mark who has requested that I change my behavior, which I changed in light of Twitter’s recent feature removal.

    It really comes down to that I see Twitter in a different way than some in the rest of this group is seeing it. I see it as a place to have open conversation that anyone can join in on, rather than an insular world where only the current crowd can view. To me, that view seems less social. I feel like this style I’ve chosen to adopt is more welcoming for people new to Twitter, and connects more people to more conversations. Again, that was the original appeal for me with Twitter… it was via Twitter (and thus seeing @-names) that I connected with so many of you pioneering types. Had this system been in effect all along, I may not have met many of you.

    And I also want to make clear that this is not something I’ve done on my own. There are many others who have adopted this policy or something similar. Here’s some resources:

    Social Support discussion

    Ev’s description of how things worked way back in May 08

    CNET article on ticked-off twitterers

    TechCrunch on KISS Fail: You Can Now See Twitter Replies Sometimes, Except When You Can’t

  27. Morriss Partee Says:

    Yet one additional reason why all of this is messed up… say you get into a conversation with two, three, four, or five people on twitter on a topic, like this one did yesterday. Say I want to reply to three of those people at once, and start my tweet with “@markmcspadden @jimmymarks @CUWarrior You guys make an excellent point, but here are my reasons for what I’m doing.”

    Quiz: Who is going to see this tweet? Do you know? Do you care? Are you able to figure it out? Do we really need to take the time to figure it out under the new twitter rules? The answer is – only the people that follow both Mark McSpadden and myself. So if you were otherwise following along the conversation, because you follow both me and Jimmy Marks, or me and CU Warrior, this tweet will be missing from the conversation.

    The point is, people shouldn’t have to figure out what tweet is going to be seen by whom. It’s WAY too complicated given the true nature of twitter… which is 20 million interconnected conversations.

    The people who run twitter view it in one particular way – which really misses the myriad of ways that different people use it. If @ev and @biz ever conducted extensive focus groups, field research, or ethnographic research on how people actually use and view twitter, their minds would be expanded by a great degree. They totally missed the boat when they started messing with this one because of their preconceived notions of how twitter “should” be used. Don’t blame me for my use of Dot-Space. Blame the powers that be at Twitter.

  28. Mark McSpadden Says:


    First. I will repeat again. Twitter is a service. If you want to blame Ev or Biz or Jack or the developer that pushed the change into production, do that but blaming a company/organization is just a hype mentality that perpetuates a me v. the man attitude that I really don’t think is beneficial in online communities.

    Second. It’s very clear from the blog post from May 12, 2008, that twitter has been working this way for over a year. The only a few difference between twitter then and now. 1) You personally are now aware of how the service actually works and 2) No user of the service has the ability to override this behavior. However #1 is a big difference and now that you know, you don’t like it and that brings me to….

    Third. It appears that have now joined a “vocal minority” This minority is made up of people that 1) understand how twitter actually works 2) doesn’t like it 3) is employing methods to either make it work the way they want it OR get twitter to change it’s stance.

    (Previously, per the twitter May 12, 2008 only 2% of twitter users knew about this behavior and wanted choose to override it. So at least in the past this represents a minority of those that understood twitter and choose to override its default behavior.)

    This minority is obviously vocal as shown by the links you posted, this entry itself, and the conversations on twitter.


    Here’s where I’m at on all this.

    We can chat about twitter all day long and in the end, people vote with their feet…or unfollow button. However to me there are two really interesting discussion that cut to the heart of what we are talking about and these I would love to see followed up on:

    1) In producing content in a Web 2.0 world, how do the wishes of the content producer and the content consumer play into how content is created and consumed? What happens when they are at odds?

    2) Vocal minorities. How do you treat an online vocal minority? Do absolute numbers in vocal minorities? (Is 2% of 100 less important than 2% of 1M?)

    Cheers to the discussion and the ever transparent state of online communities.

  29. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Mark – love your latest comment, and I must reply properly soon. You do bring up outstanding points that I want to continue to discuss.

    In the meantime, here is yet another reason why I stand by DotSpace. I’ve sort of stated this reason, but not quite in this way… and that is to very explicitly welcome new twitterers to twitter, and simultaneously introduce them to the people I tweet with. For instance, local eateries and pubs are now coming onto twitter, including one that has only been in business for two weeks. I know that nearly NONE of the 200-300 local people who follow me even know this place exists, let alone that they tweet. It’s too bad that 700-800 people who are not local have to see this tweet, but without DotSpace or other workaround, there is no way I can alert 200-300 people about it. Again, this is a perfectly social and proper use of twitter that there is no way around. And this business is cool socially too- I love their latest tweet: “Just entered week 2. Help us be the best by making suggestions, criticisms, ideas. Humor is good.”

  30. Joyce Says:

    After all the discussion above, I’m still confused. What does it mean to send a retweet like this: periodRT then space (.RT ). In the simplest of language, please tell me what this does. I use TweetDeck. Pls. reply to my email, if possible. Thank you.

  31. Morriss Partee Says:

    Hi Joyce,

    As far as I know, using “.RT” does not mean anything. I suspect it may just be a typo. Can you provide any examples?

    The example I was explaining in this blog post only applies when the message starts with an “@” symbol followed by a twitter handle. So starting with RT already accomplishes what was being done by using a period or some other character at the beginning of the message.

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