Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

WTF Wednesday–How Twitter Will Be Ruined

Today, I just heard that Twitter appears to be imposing per hour Tweet limits of 50 per hour per account, even though the API limit is 100 per hour. (If you have less than 100 followers, I gather you are classified as a “small” account and only get 20 per hour.) If you exceed your 50 or 20 per hour limit, you get placed in the equivalent of TwitterLimbo, unable to send through any new Tweets for at least two hours.


Okay, I get that there are a fair number of Twitter spammers out there (although I’ve been blessed to encounter relatively few true spam messages through Twitter). I also know that Twitter gets overloaded from time to time and goes down because too many people are sending too many messages all at once. So I understand, in principle, the TwitterGods desire to prevent such problems by tamping down on the number of Tweets that come through on an hourly basis.

The problem is that such limitations, while they may reduce annoyances and downtime, fail to recognize Twitter for what it is–or at least, what it has become. I’m not sure the creators of Twitter fully appreciated what they were creating when they invented it. If you read their introduction to Twitter on the login page, it says:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Oh Twitter, how little thou know thyself!

Those who don’t Twitter or who only use the function sporadically might be forgiven for believing this, and I know for a fact that my husband doesn’t “get” Twitter because he doesn’t understand how much more it is. And I have to admit, I resisted joining for months because I couldn’t figure out why it would be better than chatting with my buds in Yahoo IM.

Honestly, it didn’t take me more than a week to understand. Twitter’s power is in the end user’s ability to follow and interact with a network of people who share common interests in something very close to real time (especially if you use an API like TweetDeck which updates the feed automatically). True, you’re limited to 140 characters, but it’s amazing how complex a conversation you can carry on with a dozen or more people at once despite having to keep your statements brief and pithy. I’ve learned so much from my Twitter network in the month or so since I’ve joined, and have (I like to think) made many new friendships as well as strengthened existing ones.

So, given that I think the entire purpose of Twitter is to let people talk to each other and create new social networks by doing so, it’s obvious why I think limiting how much people can talk is counter to the very soul of what makes Twitter so much fun and so successful.

But it gets worse. Because I think that one of the reasons the TwitterGods are clamping down and creating limits is because Twitter is getting too big for its own infrastructure. And one of the reasons it’s getting too big is that there is so much media “buzz” around Twitter. I keep hearing in the news about Twitter. About how all companies will eventually “have to” join Twitter to market their products and respond to negative marketing news that comes through the Twitterverse (#amazonfail, anyone)? In the past two weeks, I can think of dozens of references to Twitter and its “power” as a corporate tool (including at least one report in which someone said GM should Twitter to help it recover from bankruptcy).

Okay, media, guess what? I don’t follow companies on Twitter. I don’t want to follow companies. I follow people. And if corporate marketing becomes the primary focus of Twitter, I’m out.

So please, for the love of all that is holy and Twitterific, restore our Tweet limits to their original, glorious 100 per hour and upgrade whatever you need to in the underlying software to make that work. And remember the prime directive–Twitter isn’t about promotion or marketing or sales; it’s about PEOPLE!


  • Ames June 10, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I told you WEEKS ago when they were talking on my grocery store’s in store radio about Twitter that it was the beginning of the end!! LOL

  • Kris Eton June 10, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    But really, 50 an HOUR? Who does that much tweeting? How many twitter users would that impact?

    I maybe write 10 in a DAY at most. That’s it.

    I get your point, but personally, I don’t see any ‘normal’ Twitter users writing more than 50 tweets an HOUR, do you?????

    Maybe I’m not using Twitter right. LOL.

    • admin June 10, 2009 at 3:31 pm

      It’s not very hard to get over 50 tweets in an hour (and I get over 20 quite a lot). All it takes is to be involved in a fast-paced conversation (or a couple of them) with multiple people at the same time.

      The way I use Twitter is a lot more like chat than Facebook. I’m carrying on conversations, retweeting interesting stuff, and so on, with a group of people who come and go as they like.

      And jane_l regularly exceeds the limit during #RRTheatre. Which, as we all know, is one of the best things about Twitter.

  • Ashley Ludwig June 10, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I hope that twitter won’t be ruined. I really don’t.

    The limiting factor is worrying — how will new accounts stretch their legs? get involved?

    And, with the wonderful “word of mouth” harnessing that twitter is capable of, we are all in touch and creating networks of people with similar tastes/interests/careers/and or hobbies… what a better way to discuss life, the universe and everything!

    Thanks for your insightful post.

    ~Ashley (@wiremamma)

  • Kris Eton June 11, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Whoa, I think I misread this whole post, Jackie. I thought you meant that YOU could only have 50 posts an hour that you wrote yourself.

    LOL. You mean 50 communications back and forth an hour…including YOUR tweets and anyone else who responds to you.

    Now I get it.

    Call me slow.

  • admin June 11, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Kris…no, you had it right the first time. It’s 50 per hour from YOU. But it’s not that hard to exceed that number if you have several fast moving conversations going on at the same time.

    I think it’s easier to understand that if you use an API like TweetDeck instead of a web browser interface. The API updates automatically, as opposed to requiring regular refreshes to see new Tweets. And that can make a conversation move very swiftly.

    Like I said, jane_l keeps getting put in TwitterLimbo during RRTheatre, which is incredibly annoying.

  • Kris Eton June 12, 2009 at 7:32 am

    I must not be maximizing Twitter to its full potential. But you are right, I don’t use an API. I really just don’t have the time to get involved in lightning-fast commentary.

    But I do love the RRTheatre…however, I can’t keep up with it. Too many posts and then too many responses, so I just usually check in occasionally for a good laugh.

  • Rob the Greek June 12, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Yes, Twitter sucks at that, I’ve heard of people getting “timed out” because of this.

    FB is looking a lot like twitter too. and starting today at 23:01 you can have screen names)

    Good read!

    follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/robl27


  • Zoe Winters June 15, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    here here! (or is it hear hear! I don’t know anyway… one of those)

    I love how corporations see people gathering and having fun and their first thought is: “Egads! How can I market to these people?” (I bet they really think the word ‘egads’)

    The fact that they’re still thinking in those terms means they’ve missed the boat.

    I also find it interesting that large companies automatically assume they aren’t spamming you, cause they are a big important company, not a fly-by-night organization trying to sell penis enlargement.

    They don’t “get” that the reason people are gathering in these places is to AVOID such messages.

    If a bunch of corporate suits come to Twitter, I won’t leave, I just won’t follow them. And I’ll block them if they happen to stumble upon me and think: “Gee, that Zoe Winters chick, bet we can market to her! Score!”

    (Not that they would think such a thing.)


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