Code & Sundry

Jon G Stødle

The infamously illusive edit button

606 words, 4 minutes to read

Recently Twitter rolled out an visual update to their apps and website. Everything is round now and users aren't happy. For years there have been requests for an edit button and the ability to change their tweets, but Twitter hasn't complied.

While I admit that the ability to edit tweets would be nice sometimes, it's not a feature I've been sorely missing. I think there's only a handful of times I actually felt i needed it.

People are quick to complain that they can't edit their tweets, but adding tweet editing is not a simple problem however. I'm not saying it's the users' job to find a way to execute it, but I think most of them don't appreciate the problem without having tried to solve it.

The problem

The problem with editing of tweets was very nicely explained in, you might've guessed it, a tweet:

By being able to change the meaning of a tweet after the fact, you can create a lot of misunderstanding and conflict. If there's one thing Twitter is not in the dire need of it's misunderstanding and conflict.

The solution(?)

To make editing work, I'd impose two restrictions:

  1. You only get to edit a tweet once.
  2. You can only edit the tweet within 5 minutes of posting it.

You only get to edit a tweet once

The thought here is that all replies, likes and retweets are tied to the version of the tweet that was replied to, liked or retweeted. If you reply to the first version of the tweet and it's edited, your reply will not be seen with the updated version of the tweet.

Twitter should send you a notification that a tweet you interacted with has been edited, and offer to connect your reply, like or retweet to the new version too; making your interaction visible when viewing both versions.

When viewing an edited tweet, the tweet should be clearly marked that it has been edited. In addition, there should be an easy way to see the previous version of the tweet. This is to make sure the user's able to see all possible replies, likes and retweets.

While it would be possible to make this solution to work with an infinite number of edits, I believe it would only create unnecessary complexity.

You can only edit the tweet within 5 minutes of posting it

This restriction comes from my assumption that the thing people want, is to be able to correct their tweets right after they've posted them. I don't think people want to go back to a tweet they posted a year ago to change something, that's what deleting is for.

By restricting the editing to 5 minutes after the tweet was posted, you'll also keep the number of replies, likes and retweets to a minimum should the poster choose to edit the tweet.

In conclusion

With the ability to be notified and easily connect a reply to multiple versions of a tweet, I think editing could be possible. Free range to edit all your tweets will not work and I don't think that's what's wanted either. Editing of newly posted tweets however, with solid version control, is very feasible.