Twitter, Companies, and your Complaints

The rise of social media has been interesting to say the least. Many on twitter have found it to give them a type of power as they can voice their complaints directly to a company that has wronged them. Everything from bad customer service, bad prices, minor inconvenience, or even perceived slights that likely never happened as described.

This ability has given rise to social media teams at these companies that are often extensions of the customer support teams that traditionally handle phone and email based contact. Since the complaint isn’t a direct communication between the offended and offender, companies have figured out that it behooves them to control the narrative as much as possible. Since the original Tweet(s) have outlined a bad experience they must try to head off any additional commentary be it from the offended to friends of theirs sharing their own negative experiences or even random users that see a RT or search for those sharing negative stories.

Without fail, the offending company will reply and immediately ask you to take it to direct messages (DMs) to control the narrative. They show they are quick and eager to resolve your issue! After that they only need to provide a base level of customer service and hope that satisfies you. It is interesting to note that they will do this by asking you to send your name and specific information to assist you, even if your complaint isn’t specific to you. Don’t let them do this.

If your complaint is generic and not specific to your account or personal details, don’t go to DMs with them. Have the conversation publicly so everyone can see it and those searching down the road can find it. If you do take it to DMs and they don’t resolve it? Take them to task, again. Keep doing it until they make things right or ignore you like OptumRX did with me. Apparently you can only call them out for dreadful customer service and a web portal written by seven year-olds so many times before they give up trying to get you to go to DMs and away from the public eye.

Twitter’s crowd-sourced blocking idea good, implementation bad…

Yesterday I saw a few mentions of Twitter’s new method for “crowd-sourcing” user blocks. The idea is that one person may have blocked dozens of trolls, and you want to do the same without having to dig through a lot of Tweets. I read about how it was implemented, sighed, and moved on. Last night, someone I respect for his technical prowess over the years said it was “well done”, and I disagreed. He said I should post a blog with my idea, so your wish is granted.

welldonetwitter

The Twitter blog that outlines the implementation says some users “need more sophisticated tools.” Sophisticated, not convoluted and annoying to implement. There is a big difference. From the blog:

To export or import a list of blocked accounts, navigate to your blocked accounts settings on twitter.com. Click on the advanced options drop-down menu and select the action you want to take.

To download a list of your blocked accounts, select the export option and confirm the accounts you want to export.

The blog doesn’t even explain the next part for some reason, and I am curious why. Could it because the process starts looking more hassle than benefit? The next step is to host that block list somewhere, advertise you did so, have another user download it, then they go to twitter.com, and imports the list. Fast and easy right? Of course not; that is one of the most convoluted methods of using this type of feature. Your average Twitter user, especially the huge percent that only use it via mobile, simply will not go through this process (and cannot easily do it if they wanted to). Even sitting at my computer, having to do actions outside my Twitter client is annoying and this has too many steps.

How about integrate the functionality instead? Every client has a way to look up a user, or interact with them.

block-context

Just about anywhere on this context menu works nicely. “Add/Inherit @AlecMuffet’s blocks…” or “Block @AlecMuffet’s blocks…” or “Share @AlecMuffet’s blocks…”. One click and a confirmation box, and I could take any of his exported blocks and make them my own. That presents a smoother, more easily crowd-sourced model that is the intent here. If I have multiple accounts, it is three clicks as I choose which account (or all accounts) to add blocks to. Compare that 2 or 3-click method, with the one Twitter came up with. Designing the “User Experience” (UX) is an art, and not many companies do it well. It is often due to the disconnect between how the developers use a product or service and how their users or customers use it.

An Open Letter to @Twitter

Dear Twitter,

You run one of the largest and most visible social network sites on the Internet, highly visible to millions that don’t even have Internet access due to media saturation and today’s lexicon. And you suck at it. Despite your recent IPO and suggestions that you finally figured out how to make money off this beast you have created, you still don’t seem to understand the first thing about the monster you created. Namely, how your users actually use the service. Your overall user experience (UX) is horrible. In no particular order, a few of the incidents and poor decisions that support my case:

  • The dreaded “Twitter unfollow bug“. This has been plaguing your platform for many years, and you still have yet to solve it. Worse, you default to sending us junk mail asking if we know people, trying to get us to follow more people. These two things are at odds with each other.
  • When you finally made it easy for a user to download an archive of their tweets, you sent a URL that was broken. Only a fraction of your users could see that you were HTML encoding an & sign in one place, and manually fixing it would allow the download. The fact you missed this shows that you essentially have no Quality Assurance (QA) testing in house.
  • Your emails are annoying. I specifically opted not to receive them in the past, only to have you revert my decision, the subjects are laughable. Not only are they written with no thought to how they appear outside your world, you seemingly can’t figure out the purpose of a profile or make brain-dead assumptions about all users.
  • Subject: Do you know cyberwar on Twitter? <– errr…
    Subject: Twitter followers want to purchase from your business! <– hot damn. now I need a business plan…

  • Twitter on a Tab? No thanks. When opting not to receive audible notifications, your software ignored that and kept dinging at me happily. No means no. Again, in your attempt to get more people using your service, you completely forget the basics of the UX and that all software should receive some QA time.
  • One of the most frustrating problems recently, is your constantly changing decision on how to handle URLs in direct messages. One day, they aren’t allowed without warning. The next day they work again. Days later, now I can’t send the same URL to the same person because I have “already said that”, even when the accompanying text is different. News flash: some web sites do not have static content on their front page. If you need an example, check out this web page: twitter.com. If you can’t figure out that I am friends with someone via the mutual follow, or the fact we have conversed via DM for months (or years in some cases) and that we may want to send URLs to each other, just get out of this business.
  • Your inability to fight spam on your service has moved beyond a running joke and on to the “sad” category. You still cannot detect profiles that are obviously spam and have every indication of being easily pegged by a half-way intelligent algorithm. At least twice, you have identified Twitpic as a “hostile” service, calling it “malware” once. All the while allowing these spam profiles to send sketchy links.

I fully understand that the size of your network makes some of this challenging. But this is also on you, because you opted not to address these problems years ago when it was more manageable. Instead of fixing these recurring nuisances with a solution that scales, you let them languish until they are beasts that are more difficult to vanquish. The list above is just the ones that come to mind quickly this morning.

In summary, you suck as social media. You don’t care about your users beyond figuring a way to profit directly off of them. In case it has slipped your mind, you need us. We are your business foundation. Figure a way to profit off of us! Just do so while occasionally paying attention to your user base please.

Sincerely,
@attritionorg

Twitter, the Ultimate Better Business Bureau

Over the last year, I have learned that Twitter has become the ultimate medium for getting a company’s attention. When you complain about a company and include their @ name, the potential for a lot of people to see it is there. As such, companies have quickly figured out to be very responsive, and very quick in responding to public complaints there. Personally, I have had good luck with this, and found many companies to be responsive and quickly fix, address, or promise to look into my issues. Today, I had another quick win.

ABC news sends out email-based news flashes for high profile happenings. I subscribe to them, as well as the blasts from CNN. ABC’s mail however, for a year+ now, has not carried a date header. This means that mail comes in, and if you sort by that date, it doesn’t sort well. It is also just bad etiquette not to follow a 30+ year old RFC that mandates that header in all emails. I took @ABC to task over it this morning before I went skiing:

twitter-abc

By the time I got home, ABC had sent out another news blast, and this time it carried the date header! After over a year, all it took was a single Twitter complaint.

abc-date

Selling out one more notch…

over a year ago, i created a twitter account under ‘attritionorg‘. it is shared with others on the system, but i do most of the tweets. it was a break down from my previous notion of avoiding social media. i figured out how to use twitter for my own benefit; not only as a source of information, but a new method to poke small bee nests. i now really appreciate the value of being able to throw stones at charlatans and large security companies, who now feel the need to be mindful of their social presence. that means, often times replying to me and trying to put out small fires i set once in a while.

weeks/months ago, i broke down and created a ‘real’ Facebook account (real name/pic/info attached), started following close friends and others i have known for some time, even if not as close these days. i even started playing a few of the various browser games to see what millions of people found so fun. while i do see the appeal, i also see countless bugs and annoyances that infuriate me.

today, i bought a smart phone. after years of getting by just fine with my RAZR, i sold out further and got a phone that does much more than phone calls. while my old phone worked, the service was pretty horrible, yet served its purpose. i probably told three dozen people over the last year that when i left my computer, i didn’t want to have one on me. that getting away from the computer was just that. so why the change of heart?

convenience. watching friends be able to google a restaurant, pull up maps of the local area or check e-mail has merits. while i don’t have any notion of checking e-mail while out and about, the ability to get to it if needed is helpful. having a real camera will also be nice; no need to carry the small camera in addition to the old phone. the ability to carry a sizable collection of music and not lug around an ipod is even better.

who knows, perhaps this phone will encourage me to get out even more. help sever various senses of obligation i sometimes feel that lead me to check online more often than i need to.