Twitter.next?

So, start off by reading this.

Now, combine that with everything you think is wrong with twitter.

Got it? Good.

OK, so, now imagine an app called 29Words.

At first blush, it looks like Twitter. You can follow people, follow discussions with hashtags, you can repost someone else’s post, you can post your own words, videos, pictures, location. But there’s a twist. There’s four of them actually.

Twist the first:

There’s no timeline. Well, there is, but it’s different. Instead of a jumble of tweets, you’re presented one post at a time. To get to the next, you swipe right to engage (open a conversation or album, respond, repost, go to the posters profile, follow the originator of a repost, etc), swipe left if it’s bad/asinine content (or to report spam/abuse), swipe up to scroll (dismiss a piece of content without saying great or horrible).

Dismiss a content card by swiping, you’re presented with the next one in your feed. Your feed, by the way, isn’t necessarily chronological. You are presented with the “newest” pieces of content, but a piece of content that you’ve not yet seen can be made newer or older by the signals assigned it by other users (the direction that they’ve swiped). Meaning that you not only see the newest content first, but the best, newest content first. Post conversations and hashtag conversations operate on the same principle.

Twist the second:

Follower counts aren’t public. Instead, a profile gets a quality score. This score is a computed score (this computation will become, to a degree, the service’s secret sauce) with the following inputs: number of followers, overall average of content quality scores (swipes left versus right versus up they’ve received), moving average of recent quality scores, spam/abuse reports.

Twist the third:

All accounts are tied to a real person. Full stop. This “personness” can be verified by a facebook account or a google account (they’re validating people’s personness more and more these days, let’s go with that). One person to one account. You can still create alter egoes, or personas, or organizations, but in the end, all have to be tied to a responsible person. To answer the question of anonymity, your “personness” is only as displayed as you want it. You can put your “verified identity” on your profile, you can also choose to hide it. The link between any account and the responsible person is show only if the user so chooses. The linkage is primarily for the tracking of spammers and abusers.

Twist the fourth:

Instead of 140 characters, you can use up to 29 words in your post. Hopefully this will reduce LOLs, Emoji, YOLOs and the like.

Objection 1: Groupthink

If people are swiping left or right, won’t we be incentivizing saying things that people already agree with? I don’t think that we will. A swipe left will be a serious action, similar to reporting abuse. In fact, every left swipe will remind people of the seriousness of the action, and prompt them to either call someone a troll, a spammer, an abuser, or just someone with nothing to say. By making the left swipe a two-step process to get to the next piece of content, it incentivizes people to think hard about doing this. This will not be overly onerous, but just enough to give folks the idea that swiping left is not about disagreeing, it’s about the overall quality of a piece.

Objection 2: Anonymity

Yes, requiring a real person makes life slightly more difficult. But keep in mind, we’re requiring just a FB profile or a google profile. Those can be faked by people with significant objections with relative ease. This is mostly to dissuade spammers and trolls. If you have a real account and a trolling account, your troll account will drag down the quality scores on your real account. Similarly, if you run an account like “@NIHBear” or similar, your other accounts will get a boost on their content straight out of the gate.

Objection 3: No follower counts!

Quelle horreur! On twitter, yes, the follower count is the way that we measure the quality of an account. But it doesn’t truly get to the quality, just the popularity. A Kardashian is popular, but not necessarily high-quality. The profile quality score on 29words will be the thing to which users aspire, and they will get there by actually creating quality content. The difference between this and the follower count is the difference between the modern google algorithm and the original one that just counted back-links. The quality score will take into account the number of followers, but it will also level the playing field somewhat, allowing users producing good content to get the exposure they deserve.

Question 1: Monetization

Monetization is relatively easy. You’ll basically buy quality points. This will only get you so far, and user signals will still factor into how well your content performs. High quality ads will have higher overall scores, low quality ads lower. Ads will be affected by the base quality score of the account with which they’re associated (but will not affect the base accounts score, unlike posts).

Question 2: Why 29 words?

First, it gets you to about an average tweet length. Second, 29words.com was available, and so was @29words. It also brings parity across languages. Words in Spanish have more characters, Mandarin Chinese fewer. By limiting the number of words and not characters, this levels the playing field, and makes the platform similarly interesting in all languages.

What do you think? Is this idea crazy? Or is it crazy enough that it just might work?