Why I’m So Deeply Disappointed in the Moments Feature on Twitter

I love Twitter. But sometimes I feel like Twitter’s my screwed up aunt that keeps doing self-destructive things. Still love her, but boy do I wish she’d get on track.

Moments let me down in a big way. I mean, look at the Moment on the debt deal. 15 tweets, curated, from thousands. Most from news org or reporters. That’s basically syndicated news. A few lukewarm opinions at the end. Meh.

This is what’s supposed to represent the best of Twitter? Twitter, that place where you can eavesdrop on a thousand conversations from people with widely different experiences? Moments are the leftover buffet meatloaf to the bacon-wrapped halibut of the real conversation on Twitter.

Compare that same Moment of debt to the REI #optoutside conversation (repro: search #optoutside on Twitter, click into Live. Protip: Always click Live, it’s better than Top.) Ever-scrolling tweets. Real people reacting. A variety of perspectives. And I even gave the Moment a handicap, because #optoutside is a company-originated hashtag. Organic stuff is even better.

The Texas abortion rights filibuster story broke on Twitter. That was one of the most fascinating moments in the history of the Internet, in my opinion. The slow-motion tragedy that #BlackLivesMatter is exposing, is on Twitter every day. These are real moments that thousands would never have heard of if not for Twitter. In a more mundane way, communities of all kinds find each other and connect on Twitter, from data geeks to fans of a particular brewery. It’s where brands go to start conversations and see what people really think of them. It’s where blimps tweet.

Not only is each individual “Moment” impoverished, but across the five sections (Today, News, Sports, Entertainment, Fun) we’ve got a total of about 50 moments. Meanwhile, on Twitter, thousands if not tens of thousands of organic conversations are springing up. Among people who are not already reporters with platforms to publish their thoughts. In those conversations, curation is not dulling the edge.

Moments has been compared to a newspaper. I would compare it to a terrible newspaper, one of those newspapers that have been gutted to a few AP headlines and the sports section. A newspaper without investigative reporters and where the pulse has been sucked out of the opinion pages.

Unlike Moments, Twitter is the real newspaper of the Internet. Stories break there. You can dive into any subject with free-form, user-definable sections. We call them hashtags. Inexplicably, Moments has taken the best of Twitter — its depth, its instant suitability for any new topic that demands attention, its conversational nature— and replaced it with thin, curated and watered-down compilations.

Why do I feel so invested in this? Why take a bad product release so hard? Well, for one thing, I’ve been a fan of Twitter since six months after I started using it, when I finally started to understand how to make use of it. I’ve told friends about it. Hell, I’ve given Twitter tutorials to some of the smartest people I know. I want people to see what I can see there. I wanted to be able to dive in more easily, and to find compelling conversations more quickly.

But more than that, I’ve seen how great Twitter can be. Twitter’s pioneered a whole new way of communicating. Public, informal, and both banal and brilliant. Twitter, in its very format, discourages small talk. And when I see Twitter friends in the real world (IRL — am I doing that right?) I talk with them differently.

Email is too formal. Its overuse has made it a soul-crushing burden for most people. Well, for me, anyway. Chat is great, but only with predefined groups of people like friends or colleagues. Twitter is better than either. It’s crisp. It’s (on the whole) far less self-promotional than LinkedIn. It carries heavier-weight payloads than Facebook.

If Twitter keeps disappointing everyone around it, one day it’ll get acquired. The acquirers will keep all the stuff that might make money and will lose the frank, unpredictable genius that is Twitter. And that would be a real shame.