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Twitter: Compounding Stupidity
Frolicking and partying in the Land of 1,000 Ruby Dunces™.
It's undoubtedly one of the most important applications on the Internet. The ability to keep up with the volume of input tossed at it is astounding. But for all that back end technology, Twitter ultimately fails for a crew of user interface designers and programmers who raise the bar on stupidity. Things only get worse.
We think perhaps that we've seen it all. But that's not likely.
First there was 'NewTwitter' aka 'Twitter 2.0', a monstrosity of design that the entire corporation put their weight behind, but to no avail. And it wasn't hard to understand. Twitter 2.0 was a designer's nightmare. It had 40 pixel margins - quadruple what they'd had when they had their breakthrough, and this when things started moving to mobile where real estate is premium.
Then there was all that defensive talk about the 'golden ratio'. There was supposedly such 'symmetry' in a design; but no one could see it and no one could really care: the danged thing was a huge fail.
Twitter suits didn't know what to do, so they brought in a market research company to find out what it was people didn't like. Even though everyone already knew what was wrong.
The market research company seemed more clueless than the people at Twitter. The questions asked were downright bizarre. The survey was a flop and resulted in nothing.
Gradually Twitter 2.0 was replaced with the gas guzzler Twitter 3.0. People fled to the mobile version. But then the geniuses decided to screw that up too.
The list of gaffes is endless, and it's all the more dramatic because they're all embarrassing. Not just the type of gaffes made by programmer noobs, but the kind made by people who don't have a clue anywhere.
And now tonight, 21 October 2014, the ignominy took a giant step downwards. This one's to do with Twitter's URL shortener.
URL shorteners are important for a number of reasons. They've been around for a long time, but what with the Twitter limit of 140 characters, they become vital. There are many projects out there, with is.gd near or at the top of the list.
That Twitter will ever have a URL shortener of that class is out of the question today. There's a wrong way and a right way to go about things, and Twitter long ago chose the wrong way.
Twitter's main problem is figuring out what a URL is. This section should give them a hint of what's in store. Note as well that the first URL in the list is still unrecognised by Twitter.
But the overriding key to recognising URLs (and knowing where they end) is to flag only the characters that can actually delimit.
Space delimits, but ö does not - and multiple hyphens don't either. The RFC in question even has a tidy table of delimiters and sub-delimiters.
reserved = gen-delims / sub-delims
gen-delims = ":" / "/" / "?" / "#" / "[" / "]" / "@"
sub-delims = "!" / "$" / "&" / "'" / "(" / ")" / "*" / "+" / "," / ";" / "="
The Internet's exploded with the full force of Unicode, and Twitter still can't do ASCII URLs correctly.
Twitter: Compounding Stupidity
Thus the use of is.gd even on Twitter where the built-in t.co simply doesn't cut it. This is just another of the many embarrassing gaffes people have got used to and found a way around. Until tonight when another Twitter brainiac improvement popped up.
So now, as of 21 October 2014, Twitter are disallowing URLs shortened by is.gd (and probably a host of other similar services). Which would be OK if their own service worked. Which of course it does not.
'This request looks like it might be automated. To protect our users from spam and other malicious activity, we can't complete this action right now. Please try again later.'
Yes that's true, Twitter. The URL was automated. Sort of. It was automated by a URL shortening service that's better than yours. You've literally had years to get your own act together and you've failed miserably. Your people can't even read the RFCs to figure out how to parse URLs. After all these years.
Twitter UI geniuses have of late been busy shuffling desk chairs. A lot of people use third party clients - or at least other interfaces - to access Twitter logic, and they're hopefully spared. But the corporation's main interface on the web just gets weirder by the day.
They're shifting controls from the right side to the left, or back again; the envelope icon for direct messages suddenly moved from the right to the left; they screwed up the code for opening entry fields inline so focus point didn't match cursor position; they just keep doing what they're best at - annoying their users with pointless design changes and screwing up with even more programming errors.
Changes to the Twitter interface have to be rigorously tested, as they go out to potentially several hundred million people at once, but it's more and apparent that Twitter UI programmers have no test suite at all. Gaffes as big as Twitter's can't otherwise sneak out.
Twitter Greatest Hits
Below is a list of some of Twitter's best over the years. There surely are more. One can only hope the company structure can undergo a massive upheaval so this important service starts working as it should. This is basic programming to the rest of us, even though it looks like Rocket Science to Twitter.
Software Reviews: #NewTwitter
Industry Watch: Link Shortener Exploit Cripples Twitter
The Technological: Happy Twitter Holidays
Radsoft: Twitter is a Mess
The Technological: Twitter Twits Discover ROT-13
The Technological: Those Math Geniuses at Twitter
The Technological: 'You Can't Reply Or Send A Direct Message'
The Technological: 'It's too long'
The Technological: 'Twitter : <%= reason.capitalize %>'
The Technological: Clever Twitter
Developers Workshop: Another #EpicFail for Twitter UI Code