Any chance of marking Twitter links like Youtube ones? September 8, 2017 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm wondering if there's any interest in marking links to Twitter in the same way that we already mark links to Youtube, so that people who want to avoid them can do so more easily.

I pretty much interact with MetaFilter via my smartphone, and also do not use Twitter or have any interest in using it. What this means is that when I tap on a link in a thread which goes to Twitter, I find myself unceremoniously dragged out of my browser and dumped onto… an error message. Yay! It's annoying and I'd like to be able to avoid such links altogether.

Yes, I know I could long-press every link to see what domain it goes to before following it, but that's a cure that's worse than the disease. My expectation on the Web is still that any link I choose to follow is going to at least open in my browser. With links to Twitter (which break that expectation) being so common now, I feel like it might be good to give people some warning that they are about to leave the Web and head over to a proprietary platform that may or may not actually work on their device.

We already do this with Youtube for somewhat similar reasons and it seems to work well. I know we don't do it for every platform, but Youtube and Twitter seem far and away the two most common platforms that people actually link to. I'd like to propose that we mark Twitter in the same way, by automatically inserting a small, discreet icon next to any links to Twitter's domain. Then those who don't want to deal with it can simply pass them over, rather than having their browsing experience interrupted.

What do people think? Does anyone else think this would be a good idea, and do the mods have any interest in actually implementing this feature?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Feature Requests at 8:56 AM (55 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I only get anything productive out of the most basic twitter links. Chains/discussions on twitter are basically nonsensical. As such I tend to avoid links to the same unless they are obviously one tweet quotes and/or messages which, honestly, could often be conveyed just as well via a direct cut and paste into the comment itself. But I digress.

Moral of the story: I support this sort of thing for this particular thing.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:59 AM on September 8 [6 favorites]


Noting that we talked a little over email about the specific error that motivated this, since that's not normal twitter behavior on mobile browsers and seems like something that more eyes may be able to help debug (and possibly more people are quietly running into but haven't mentioned). So if folks have something to add on that front that may be helpful, please go for it.

As for the feature request, my gut feeling is it's sort of overkill for something that doesn't seem (oddball situations like yours aside) to have a heavy impact for link followers compared to basically any other webpage; the Youtube thing came into being when it did partly because the impact of streaming video on an unsuspecting surfer at the time was more of an outsized concern than it generally is today.

That's not to say we can't talk about it, but having thought about it a couple times previously we haven't landed on moving forward with it before and I'm not sure anything's fundamentally changed there. Even if we did consider it I'd have to put heads together with frimble to look at what the implementational implications would be and whether those present a headache in their own right.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:02 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


cortex HATES PONYS!
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:06 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


THEY ARE ENDLESSLY CHEWING MY APPLES
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:11 AM on September 8 [19 favorites]


One convention that evolved in the politics thread is noting what, if anything, is actually at the tweet. I'm not sure how often that comes up elsewhere, but I know I'd appreciate a little note stating that there's a photo or something at the link. That's a user-end choice, though, so maybe not what the OP is looking for.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:20 AM on September 8


Yeah, I'm looking for a technological solution rather than a social one because I don't think a social solution would be effective. That said, if people want to start warning others before linking them to Twitter, that'd be great.

FWIW I'm not too concerned about the error itself. Getting sent to a login page for a platform I don't use is equally unhelpful. We already discourage linking to Facebook on those grounds, but people seem to really want to link to Twitter. I think it would at least be polite to give us non-tweeters some warning that you're leaving the open web and heading to a walled garden that not everybody has (or wants) keys to.

But ideally I'd really like that warning to be automated, because otherwise I don't see it happening consistently.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:40 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


Despite not using it, do you still have the Twitter app on your phone? I ask because I read this and thought, "Huh, this is something I can check, I quite phone Twittering some time ago," so I got out my phone, went to the most recent thread I remembered seeing a Twitter link on, clicked it, and sure enough got brought out of my browser and into the Twitter app, which chastised me for not being logged in rather than showing me the tweet in question. Which made me realize I still had the Twitter app, so I deleted it, then clicked the link again, and it did what it should have done, ie, stayed in my browser and showed me the mobile browser version of the tweet in question (this is in Chrome 60.0.3112.116 on Android 6.0).
posted by solotoro at 9:42 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


FWIW I'm not too concerned about the error itself. Getting sent to a login page for a platform I don't use is equally unhelpful

To be clear, you shouldn't get sent to a login page when following a twitter link, like ever; you should just land at the tweet. With the exception of viewing the tweet of a protected account to which you have access because of mutual contact, there's no login-specific content masking on twitter at all that I know of, and that specific edgecase is deeply unlikely to come up in tweets linked on MeFi. So that really does seem to be a specific issue with your setup, not something that informs the general question of twitter links.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:44 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]


What this means is that when I tap on a link in a thread which goes to Twitter, I find myself unceremoniously dragged out of my browser and dumped onto… an error message.

This is really interesting because it's not the behavior I experience at all on my (Android using Opera) phone. I don't have Twitter's app installed, and when I did I disabled the option for opening links in Twitter. So for me clicking Twitter links just opens them in my mobile browser, and I can't recall seeing an error message?
posted by lalex at 9:50 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I don't have Twitter's app installed, and when I did I disabled the option for opening links in Twitter.

I don't want to abuse the edit window, so to be clear: when I did have the Twitter app installed on my mobile devices, I disabled the behavior where clicking on a Twitter link in my mobile browser launches the Twitter app. All my Twitter viewing activity takes place on my mobile browser.
posted by lalex at 9:54 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


Well, huh. I uninstalled the Twitter app and now I go straight to the tweet in my browser, rather than to a login page on the app. It was that easy? I still don't particularly care for Twitter links, but at least now they work. So this is no longer a big issue for me. If I'd known the behavior I was seeing could be fixed that easily, I'd not have bothered making this MeTa. Sorry for wasting people's time, I guess? But thanks very much for helping me out!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:00 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I wish twitter links would have a little arrow like the YouTube ones. And when you hit the arrow, a box opens in the page. But instead of a video playing in bix, it's that specific twit displayed. Then you could hit close window and continue on without leaving Metafilter.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 10:01 AM on September 8 [8 favorites]


Sorry for wasting people's time, I guess? But thanks very much for helping me out!

No worries, good chance multiple other MeFites have run into this at some point so it may help a few folks out to have talked it out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:03 AM on September 8


Sorry for wasting people's time, I guess?

No! It's always nice to discuss best practices for commenting, even if there won't be a technical solution for this. I do think for Twitter it's nice to indicate that it's coming from Twitter by using the @ sign and since the content is generally 140 characters or less, I just go ahead and quote the whole thing so folks don't have to do an additional click-through.
posted by lalex at 10:07 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


To be clear, you shouldn't get sent to a login page when following a twitter link, like ever; you should just land at the tweet.

Twitter is doing this thing now on mobile where you'll get a popover "Sign up for twitter" page. I have had that fail to render a few times and cause an error message. Firefox/FF Focus on Android. Anyway, you need to close that window to show the tweet, and with some frequency, it pops another up right behind it.

This behavior has really curtailed my reading of twitter, following links, and my desire to sign up for the service. Fuck pop whackamole.

Basically, I'm not reading anything on twitter anymore. Sorry not sorry.

A twitter link identifier would be handy. If we're voting I'd vote for that.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:20 AM on September 8 [6 favorites]


If there is a tweet I want to post, normally I would steal its text, but also link to the original.

(Of course, I just posted a bare link to a tweet because it had an embedded video that I just didn't know how to handle. In short: linking is a land of contrasts.)

But that behavior where your web browser launches another app, which then updates ALL THE CONTENT IT HAS EVER SEEN instead of merely loading one single item is....frustrating.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:24 AM on September 8


I think it would at least be polite to give us non-tweeters some warning that you're leaving the open web and heading to a walled garden that not everybody has (or wants) keys to.

This is a general principle that I can certainly get behind. Not a serious enough issue to require technical intervention, but maybe a nice social convention we can get started. Maybe folks can start slapping a [TW] behind their Twitter links.

It's also worth mentioning that Twitter accounts can be made private retroactively, and that individual Tweets can always be deleted or removed. There's no technical reason why a link to a Tweet (or any other social media post) should be any more or less ephemeral than any other web link, but in practice they do in fact seem to be at least a little bit more ephemeral than a link to a Medium post or something.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:47 AM on September 8


Twitter links frequently do not work for me on mobile, it will say page taking too long to load, or that I've been accessing it too much, which isn't true (1 time in one day is too much?) There are definite issues happening but I don't understand why and it makes it hard to follow threads when every other link is to Twitter and I don't know what people are talking about.
posted by agregoli at 10:52 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


[TW]

Trigger warning?
posted by zamboni at 11:06 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


Related, similar concerns about Facebook.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:16 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I support the idea to mark twitter links. I freqently get a messsage that i am not authorised to access the tweet if i follow a link leading to twitter. So i mostly stopped following those links.
I assume it happens because i removed the app from my phone (as i have no intention to use it or register and honestly dislike twitter).
So i rely on posters kind enough to not only link but actually paste in the text. Thank you for doing that. I think that is actually more useful to readers than marking it as twitter but it helps.
posted by 15L06 at 11:21 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


Let's just put the hostname in brackets after every link. For example [example.com].
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:49 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I wish twitter links would have a little arrow like the YouTube ones. And when you hit the arrow, a box opens in the page. But instead of a video playing in bix, it's that specific twit displayed. Then you could hit close window and continue on without leaving Metafilter.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 1:01 PM on September 8 [3 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


YES

THIS

PLEASE YES CORTEX
posted by rebent at 12:36 PM on September 8 [6 favorites]


"cortex HATES PONYS!"

A Pøny once bit his sister.

Mynd you, pøny bites Kan be pretti nasti ...
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 12:45 PM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I think it would at least be polite to give us non-tweeters some warning that you're leaving the open web and heading to a walled garden that not everybody has (or wants) keys to.

Hm. On my smartphone (in Chrome) whenever I tap a link to something there's an app for (youtube, tumblr, twitter), I get a popup asking me how I want to view it, web or app. Is this not universal? I've found it pretty handy. It does give me the option to treat all future links the same way, but I've declined to make that choice so I get a popup every time.
posted by ODiV at 12:58 PM on September 8


Also, little arrow for youtube links? What?
posted by ODiV at 12:59 PM on September 8


And when you hit the arrow, a box opens in the page. But instead of a video playing in bix, it's that specific twit displayed. Then you could hit close window and continue on without leaving Metafilter.

I feel you on the idea for its own sake. That said, our previous experiment with modal window pop-outs ran pretty rough—it's non-trivial to do that in a way that works well across a wide and responsive range of devices/browsers—and that's setting aside any question of needing to support whatever the hell content the twitter API might throw at us or having to navigate rate limiting for a site with a userbase the size of MetaFilter's.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:00 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


And I don't mean to be, like, naysaying recreationally here, but I'll note that the one place where dealing with lots of twitter links is most likely to be an issue for people is in political megathreads, which is the precise context where adding the additional page weight of parsing every comment for twitter urls to offset with a marker would significantly further degrade already compromised page rendering performance.

We would see that with the existing youtube maker widget for threads that had an especially large colleciton of youtube links, even without being necessarily very long threads in their own right. Stacking that kind of extra load into a thread with 2000 comments...I shudder.

Whereas reengineering thread storage and rendering for the sole purpose of optimizing the marking of twitter links is super duper not happening.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:04 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


ODiV: "Also, little arrow for youtube links? What?"

There's a preference "YouTube & Vimeo video inline?" If you have it checked, you get a little arrow next to YouTube links, and you can play them in a popup window, rather than the link taking you off the MeFi page.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:16 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: naysaying recreationally

sry not sry
posted by lalex at 1:17 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


here's a preference "YouTube & Vimeo video inline?"

Oh, thanks. Huh. Seemed like it was being discussed as a default part of MetaFilter. I don't think I've ever had it on.
posted by ODiV at 1:18 PM on September 8


I think it would at least be polite to give us non-tweeters some warning that you're leaving the open web and heading to a walled garden that not everybody has (or wants) keys to.

Twitter pretty much is is the open web inasmuch as any website which has passwords anywhere can be said to be open. The defaults are all "make this post/account open." Everything has a URL. I get that facebook has had a versted interest in obscuring what sort of stuff other people can see, but with the exception of content from closed accounts--which people shouldn't link to--the content on Twitter is available via Google, linkable via standards means, and it's only "smart" phones where this goes a little sideways. Are there other examples where this is not the case?
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:36 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]


Since iOS 9, Apple has had Universal Links enabled. (Android has a similar setup -- they're sometimes called "app links" or "deep links.") The mobile operating system recognizes links which can be opened in a native app (in iOS by retrieving the Apple App Site Association (AASA) file from the linked website), and sends them to open in the app itself.

If you click on a link to a Tweet in iOS, it may very well open in the Twitter app rather than mobile Safari. My android phone running Nougat (7.1.1) does the same thing every once in a while, but it's weirdly inconsistent. I suspect (but have never tested) the behavior may have something to do with the difference between shortened links and non.

I don't use iOS often, but my understanding is that if you long-press on a link in your browser, you'll get an options menu which will allow you to change how those links are handled? I don't know how to shut the option off on an Android device.
posted by zarq at 2:36 PM on September 8


cortex HATES PONYS!

I don't mean to be, like, naysaying recreationally


neighsaying?
posted by nickmark at 3:16 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


I'm a fan of...

@username meat of tweet goes here so you don't really need to click, lorem ipsum etc.

...as a format myself but it;s probably best left to commenter preference. And then there's threads, which don;t really have a great solution.
posted by Artw at 4:27 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


As a reminder: When you're on a mobile device, you can hold your finger down on a link until a popup menu appears. That popup will include the URL of the link; you can see whether it's YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Daily Mail, or whatnot else without needing an inline warning about it.

This behavior works on iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile; I assume it works on any other mobile OS but man if you're that far down the long tail you probably know a hell of a lot more about the inner workings of the system you're running than anybody else can tell you.
posted by ardgedee at 5:19 PM on September 8


A Pøny once bit his sister.
Always avoid large ungulates in IKEA stores.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:26 PM on September 8


Yah jessamyn, I realize now that the behavior I was seeing was not the way things are supposed to work. For whatever reason I was getting errors in my Twitter app when I tried to load links, and then later sent to the login screen for the app. I thought that the latter behavior was the way things were meant to work, but now I see that that's not the case. Something was clearly a little bit mangled between Safari and Twitter, but deleting Twitter (no loss to me) seems to have fixed it. I can now see tweets when people link to them, and I understand that this is how it's meant to be. I was laboring under a misapprehension.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:32 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


If you are clicking on a Twitter link and it's opening in your browser, and it says either "you are not authorized to view this" or "taking too long to load", don't hit the reload button on that twitter page, reload from the browser reload button. It works for me pretty much every time. Using the "try again" button or whatever it says on the taking too long to load page doesn't even appear to actually try to reload the page. It is a deceitful button. Hmph.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 6:11 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


This behavior works on iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile

In some browsers, no doubt; certainly not all. (I get a menu that includes "Copy link URL," but that URL isn't displayed. I could copy it and then paste it elsewhere to see where it leads, but that is entirely too much trouble.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:15 PM on September 8


I think it would at least be polite to give us non-tweeters some warning that you're leaving the open web and heading to a walled garden that not everybody

Yes please. I'd be happiest if everything twit was piped into /dev/null but I realize that's not going to happen... but still, far more often than not, somebody in a thread here posts a comment that links to the twitter and I go but see nothing like what was alluded to, just a bunch of tweety conversation about something that I can't see. Don't understand the point, actually. Sometimes, like in the political threads, comments with links like this seem to be the only content, so boring. (Note I'm using an old Firefox browser on a CentOS Linux machine.)
posted by Rash at 10:26 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


When I link to Twitter (usually in politics threads), I'll usually do a couple of different things depending on context:

- (Most typical, where the point is that I want to share the content of a tweet) @username: text of the tweet here [where @username is a link to the tweet]
- A thread, which I've been trying to either not post, turn into something readable in-thread, or summarize, with a link back to the original.
- A link to a photo or video, and I'll say photo or video to give the reader an idea of what to expect
- A blind Twitter link in the middle of a sentence, which I'm mostly using as a quick way of sourcing or attributing something that I've put into my own words. These are mostly links I don't expect anybody to really click on, but the attribution is there if you want it. As an example, I'll write something about how "the President signed the XYZ bill into law" and link back to where I got that on Twitter. I don't mark these with an @ sign or paste the entire tweet because I'm just using the link like a footnote.

If people really hate the last one, I can do something different, but I try to avoid dumping stuff without attribution, and for better or (usually) for worse, Twitter is where a lot of news is made.

In general, I don't personally consider Twitter a "walled garden" that requires special warning. Unusual situations like the OP had with a native app aside, it's just content on the web. Every tweet has a URL, and following that URL will open a web page where you can see that content with no login required (unless you're linking to a private account, but people shouldn't be linking to someone else's private tweets). How is that different than any other web page?
posted by zachlipton at 10:57 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


It's different because people like me are saying we can't see the content. At all. And I'm not having the same issue as described above with an app.
posted by agregoli at 6:10 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


> In some browsers, no doubt; certainly not all.

Which browser do you not experience this in?
posted by ardgedee at 6:10 AM on September 9


I mean, look, I don't expect this to be fixed by metafilter or human behavior or anything but wanted to share as another person that gets frustrated at twitter links with no context, like, look at this crazy picture! With the link...cause I don't see what it is.
posted by agregoli at 6:16 AM on September 9


Nor do I. Those linking to tweets should recognize this. You may believe you're just linking to a web-page, but feedback in this thread indicates that not everybody sees what you think we're seeing.
posted by Rash at 7:04 AM on September 9


Yeah, twitter's gone walled-garden for me if I'm not logged in. I either get this page immediately, or after scrolling very slightly: what a tweet looks like now if you're not logged in
posted by scruss at 9:56 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Eww.
posted by Artw at 10:02 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Those Twitter pop-ups are crazy annoying for the sliver of us weirdos who just read-only like it's a bunch of little micro-blogs, but in general I really appreciate how people have made an effort to clearly integrate the added content /context into MeFi discussions, and feel they mostly add to the conversation.

On the other hand, I've felt for a while, particularly in the mega-threads, that the YouTube in-line display option actively detracts from the reading experience for people who don't have that option turned on. It seems to be used a lot for jokey illustrative examples with no context given, which is fine but it can be very disruptive to the mental flow of following the conversation to hovercheck the domain, decide if it's worth A) opening a new YouTube window just to see what the reference is and then B) watching the video to get the reference.

I think it would be super if people linking YouTube videos were more clear in their comment about what they are linking to in the same way the Twitter linking norms have evolved!
posted by KatlaDragon at 10:33 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Can't you see the tweet if you click the close button in the upper left? It's a PITA for sure, but not really what I consider walled off.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:40 AM on September 9



Can't you see the tweet if you click the close button in the upper left? It's a PITA for sure, but not really what I consider walled off.


Sometimes, it takes 3,4,5 clicks. And then you'll get another 2-3 popups right away. Hitting anywhere on that page but the x takes you to the sign in page.

Twitter : always finding new ways to be internet shitlords.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:03 AM on September 9


> Can't you see the tweet if you click the close button in the upper left? It's a PITA for sure, but not really what I consider walled off.

In my experience, these dickbars and dickwalls for Twitter and Facebook just keep popping up, making the distinction between "walled off" and "too annoying to deal with" mostly academic.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:06 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


My "favorite" thing like that is Facebook letting you turn off its algorithm in favour of chronological ordering then sneaking it back to algorithm the moment you're not watching.
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Okay, just clarifying if the tweets were completely unseeable/unreadable.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:04 PM on September 9


Not sure if completely unreadable, but definitely some bullshit. So maybe folks think they're linking to a tweet, but it seems like for a lot of folks what they're being linked to is a big pile of bullshit with maybe a tweet underneath.

It would seem to behoove commenters to consider whether or not the tweet is such solid gold loveliness that it's worth inflicting a bunch of bullshit on a significant minority of the people who are trying to comprehend your comment.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:23 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


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