Twitter, keep the block and introduce a mute function

TwitterAnyone paying attention to Twitter on Thursday will have noted their changes to their blocking feature.  Then their subsequent reversing of those changes to revert back to the original settings.

I had first noticed something different about the block feature when someone sent me a message to tell me they thought Twitter had been unblocking people they had blocked.  I had a look, seemed like that might be so – yet it still said *blocked* on the person’s account that I checked.  I didn’t think much more of it because Twitter, like much else on the Internet, suffers various glitches.  It would right itself within time.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a glitch it was a change to the block function.  It meant that instead of blocking someone outright, that the person being blocked wouldn’t know about it, they’d still be able to interact with the other user’s timeline.  In effect, they would have been ignored, or for want of another explanation *muted*.

Personally I wasn’t happy with that decision.  If I block someone it’s because I want absolutely no more interaction with them.  I don’t want to see their tweets, I don’t particularly want them seeing my tweets, or being to use them in any manner.  It’s one of the very few safety features that Twitter actually has in place that I felt worked.

It turned out I wasn’t alone in my feelings towards these changes and a few hours later, following a Twitter backlash, the changes were reversed.  Good news.

In a statement from Twitter they said that they felt that a user knowing they had been blocked was not “ideal” due to the possibility and fear of retaliation.  That may be true.  So it got me to thinking.

A while back I used to use Tweetbot for iPhone to access Twitter while on the move.  A simple function built into their software was the *mute* function.  It’s as simple as it sounds.   You were able to mute a user without any aspects of the block function coming in to play.  It didn’t unfollow them or anything like that.  You muted them for as long you wanted, then reversed the mute when you wanted to read their tweets again.  Simple, and they never had to know.  It’s a function that Tweetbot still uses so it must work.

It’s also a feature that Tweetdeck uses as well, allowing users to mute people or terms.  It’s a simple function.

So why can’t Twitter introduce a mute function as well as a block function.  This gives people more choice in how they deal with their own followers.  If there is abuse going on and a user has had enough then let them use the block and report functions.  If it’s just a case of not wanting to see someone’s tweets for a while because they’re off on a tangent about something or they’re over-tweeting or, if indeed, someone who is receiving abuse would rather the other person didn’t know they were *blocked* then that’s all where a mute function would come in to play.

Essentially, having the option of either gives more power to the user to deal with people how they see fit.

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