Twitter Polls Are An Awful Idea

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They’ve done it. Twitter has cracked the code. No, it’s not a new CEO. Nope, it’s not a new way to deliver content with context that you might be interested in.

It’s polls.

The unfinished feature has hit the streams of many Twitter employees and early adopters. I’d embed one, but yeah, I can’t. So here’s an image.

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The great thing about Twitter, and something Jack Dorsey and the founding team likes to reiterate, is that the platform is a place where people can share their thoughts, speak their minds and do it all in real-time. Nothing says the exact opposite of that than polls. The truth is that Twitter needs structured data to make money. Lots of structured data. Something Facebook figured out a long long time ago. Rather than scanning all of the 140-character musings of its 300 million users for sentiment and other signals, we get polls.

Do you like me? Y/N

I’ve certainly used Twitter to ask questions of people who are nice enough to follow me (I’m very sorry for those who do). I’ve gotten some great answers. But the only reason why I’ve gotten great answers is because I didn’t limit people to two, three, four or whatever answers. They had 140 characters minus my username to respond. And it’s magic.

This?

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Not magic.

Now sure, you can still reply to someone with your thoughts and ideas while participating or not participating in the poll, but doesn’t that make the idea of the poll worthless in the first place? Very few things get added onto tweets natively, like photos, so space is limited. Did users ask for this? Is this the key to bringing new folks into the Twitter world?

Doubtful.

Brands will love it, media outlets will love it (BuzzFeed is gonna embed the shit out them, and oh…the presidential election!@#!@#), and sports teams asking questions of fans this Sunday will love it. But when you poll someone, you deter them from making their true voice heard. It’s simple psychology. Twitter users just can’t be trusted with their own words, I guess. Twitter can’t do anything with them, because it’s too hard. Tweets need structure now — to make money from the content, at least.

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No word on when this will make its way into the product for everyone, which I assume that it will since it’s in the hands of the folks I mentioned above. I reached out to Twitter for comment on polls and a spokesperson responded with: “We’re experimenting with a new way to poll users on Twitter.”

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Sigh.

Wake me up when we’ve thought of a way to get more people speaking more of their minds with protection from being harassed by jerks. Let’s not shut everyone up by turning Twitter into a Myspace Q&A widget. When I see glittered-up profiles, I’m outta here.