Hey, @Twitter, Facebook Lets Us Edit Our Comments, So Why Can’t We Edit Our Tweets?

Last month, Facebook rolled out a revamp to their comments system, which included real-time updates, the removal of the actual comment button itself (users now hit ‘enter’ to post), and a novel way for users to edit their replies.

This edit window is activated by clicking on the X button to the right of the comment. It’s the same one you use to delete your replies, but if you click it fast enough Facebook allows you to edit the comment instead. Wait longer than a minute (or if somebody else replies below you) and your comment is locked for good.

This is a fantastic implementation from Facebook. Why? Everybody makes a mistake from time-to-time. The best of us make typographical errors. Occasionally we screw up links. Some people even write nice things about Justin Bieber. This edit window allows you to quickly correct those gaffes, and the Facebook user experience all the better for it.

So, here’s my question: why can’t we have this exact same functionality on Twitter?

This isn’t the first time I’ve whinged written about this. Back in June 2009, I mused about how an edit window on Twitter would massively improve the platform’s UX.

Thirty seconds, that’s all I’m asking for. A thirty-second window that starts immediately after you submit a tweet that allows you to edit and then re-publish. Once the thirty seconds has passed, that’s it – no more edit for you. This prevents abuse, but also gives users the facility to correct bad links, edit stupid typos, and all that other ghastly stuff that arises just because you hit the enter key by mistake. It’s common courtesy.

While it’s true that since publishing this article Twitter has done the right thing and ensured that deleted tweets actually are deleted (they used to stay alive in Twitter search), it’s still the only viable option if you’ve made a serious faux pas in a just-published tweet.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit fussy about the quality of my work, and this includes Twitter. I have an almost OCD obsession with ensuring that my tweets are close to perfect. Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, bad links, botched @usernames… this stuff niggles me. Especially when I’m the one making the mistakes. (I know, I have a sickness.) And if it’s my error, I should be able to fix it. I can edit my blog posts. I can undo my emails (even on the move). And now I can edit my Facebook comments. What makes Twitter so special? So different?

So awkward?

OK – so Twitter is a real-time feed. The emphasis is on the immediate. Everything is urgent. It’s all go, go, go. Once a tweet has been published, it’s out there (somebody call the cops). I get that. But to me this places an even greater importance on accuracy.  Being able to immediately correct a mistake becomes more valuable.

Facebook’s example is a good model to copy. All Twitter needs is a brief, 30-60 second window to edit a tweet, and they could even lock ‘em down for good once someone else has retweeted the message and/or replied. Or, they could take things a step further and ensure that edited tweets are parsed down to retweets to prevent the original dubious message being spread.

As I said at the beginning of this rant, everybody makes mistakes, and Twitter has enough problems with noise as it is. Earlier today I noted the minimalist, almost Zen approach the company has taken with their homepage redesign. It would be great if they could apply those same, clutter-free principles to the management of tweets.