Analysis | Make the Twitter edit button clear, ugly, and fleeting

Ah, the Twitter edit button.

For nearly two decades, hot-tech miners have been debating the merits of this mythical feature in Comment Coalface. Opponents doubt it will make the site functional and fear it will already be muddy in salt water; Advocates hope it will improve speech as well as eliminate typos.

(The surest way to proofread the prose is to express it, at a time when every eloquence becomes clear when a dozen more elegant phrases of your bien pensee appear like many esprits de l’escalier.)

But the old order changes, gives new space, and Iron Man fills himself in many ways.

Elon Musk’s recent Twitter acquisition of 9.2%, and his promotion to the company’s board, prompted a general Twitter poll: “Do you want an edit button?” At the time of writing, 4,406,764 votes were cast: 73.6% in favor, 26.4% against.

Twitter reacted defensively to the ensuing turmoil, protesting that Musk had been working on an edit button for months before cutting $ 2.9 billion to become a “passive investor.”

Don’t think that such protests are awkward with a retweet of Musk’s tantalization by Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, who said: “The results of this poll will be significant. Please vote carefully. ”

Some sites have been edited in DNA. Wikipedia is based not only on the constant modernization and restraint of its pages, but also on the public availability of their (sometimes abused) evolution. Donald Trump’s 16,806-word entry, for example, averages 7.3 edits a day – each visible and comparable, if you have the humanity to click on links. In fact, with the victory of Facebook’s worthy metrics, you can explore the history of dedicated Wikipedia pages to explain the history of Wikipedia pages:

LinkedIn adopts a less accountable approach where both posts and articles are editable – although neither changes and the former displays an “edited” warning, the latter does not:

“Your links will not be notified when you update your article, and there will be no indication that the article has been edited. Once your edits have been saved, the original version of the article will no longer be available.”

When it comes to Twitter, such silent corrections in published tweets are dangerous to the public sphere and detrimental to personal reputation. Imagine liking, retweeting or commenting favorably on a video of an adorable camel holding a fist, just to update it on the racist abuse threshold. Canceling culture can be a buzz word, but it’s also a buzz – killing characters in a keystroke, and rarely with due process.

If Twitter wants to embrace editableness, a number of changes could improve the change.

Stylistically, edits should be immediately obvious (to render changes obvious and incoherent) and somewhat rude (to block everything except the most pressed). There may be a method used by the Twitter bot Editing The Gray Lady that places clear but clunky color-coded tracking to highlight changes on the front page of the New York Times.

Such legal highlight-and-strikeout formatting will inevitably affect the character and character-count of edited tweets. Yet in the turbulent vortex of social media, unambiguous tracking must be safer than click-through links to edit logs or hover-over pop-ups in version history.

In terms of technology, it is understandable to limit the number of edits (say one) to prevent endless reconsideration ping-pong, and to reduce the editorial window (say, for a minute) to enable typo correction when pausing for long periods of time. Tail manipulation

(Twitter Blue, the company’s premium subscription service, already estimates this functionality with “Undo Tweet” which offers a pre-release preview period of up to 60 seconds before a post goes live.)

To the extent that tweet editing will empower the author, it will also protect the viewer. And so, despite such limitations, it would be recommended for Twitter that any user interact with any edited post that has undergone a change (provides an opportunity to revisit the interaction) and offer a setting that will work automatically. – Delete an interaction from an edited post. It is also possible to point out pre- and post-edit interactions (including an icon or text color) to protect users from accidental misunderstandings or cruel mis-distribution.

The risk of Twitter launching a free-wheeling edit function without such a stylistic and technical girdle would make an already uncertain speech even more unstable. Just as a lie can grip the world before revealing the truth, an amended tweet rarely “counts” its false ancestors. How much more dangerous (and toxic) would Twitter be if every post was reversed in the endless fandango of bait and switch?

More from Bloomberg commentators:

• Elon Musk gets a Twitter board seat: Matt Levin

Google AI unit’s high standard tarnished privacy: Permy Olson

The attack will be tickled: Stephen L. Carter

This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Ben Scott is a Bloomberg Opinion Advertising and Brand Columnist. He created Schot’s Original Miscellany and Schot’s Almanac series and wrote for newspapers and magazines around the world.

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