If you use Twitter on a daily basis, chances are you’ve run into a DM Fail. The dreaded DM stands for the direct message, Twitter’s version of a private one-on-one message. I call it dreaded because if you rely on Twitter as a primary means of communication, you are often wondering just how private those DMs really are. Sometimes they inadvertently become public, usually when you are trying to reply to another DM via text message on your mobile phone.
This happened to me just this weekend when I was trying to edit a headline from the road. It turns out I am in good company. Even Twitter CEO Evan Williams runs into the occasional DM Fail, it would seem from a fleeting Tweet of his that is now deleted:
on phone w/bill. will call in a minute
Inadvertent DMs that show up in your regular Twitter stream are often banal like that, yet cryptic and intriguing. Who is Bill? And what was Ev talking to him about? What is even stranger, however, is that this particular message was from the Web, presumably the new Twitter.com, which makes it really hard to mix up your DMs with your regular Tweets. (It’s a different tab with a pop-up box). Perhaps Ev was using a keyboard shortcut and hit “m” for new direct message instead of “n” for new public Tweet. It can happen to the best of us.
But Twitter should really be designed to make it near-impossible to mix those two up. A couple years ago DMs would appear in the public timeline more frequently, before Twitter plugged some obvious holes. Maybe it is time to take another look. (Really, what’s the deal with the DM always failing when I respond via text or through the Twitter iPhone app?)
Originally from Nebraska, Evan Williams co-founded Pyra Labs to make project management software. A note-taking feature spun off as Blogger, one of the first web applications. Williams left Google in October 2004 to co-found Odeo. In late 2006, Williams co-founded Obvious Corp with Biz Stone and other former Odeo employees. Obvious has acquired all previous properties of Odeo, including Odeo and Twitter, another project started by Williams. On October 4, 2010, Ev Williams stepped down from his role...
Created in 2006, Twitter is a global real-time communications platform with 400 million monthly visitors to twitter.com, more than 200 million monthly active users around the world. We see a billion tweets every 2.5 days on every conceivable topic. World leaders, major athletes, star performers, news organizations and entertainment outlets are among the millions of active Twitter accounts through which users can truly get the pulse of the planet.