One Last Visible Change, Goodbye Fellow Tweeps

Apr 1, 2022
10 minute read

Hard to believe it's over. My time at Twitter wasn’t perfect but it was incredibly special and there's little I would change about it (though less crypto would be cool). I was able to provide constant feedback about products across the entire platform and the entire organization, work on some of the most pressing digital societal health issues of our time, including the 2020 US presidential election, and help launch numerous products to minimize abuse and harassment. I never once felt like I couldn't advocate for the concerns of the sometimes thoughtful sometimes bonkers people who use Twitter, providing a voice for people who don't get to have a voice inside Twitter.

There's so much more I could say but instead I decided to post the going away email I sent to a thousand or so people at Twitter. I was really heartened by plethora of thoughtful, meaningful, and overwhelmingly kind responses I received, enough so that I decided to publish it publicly with minimal edits to provide context or clarifications such as the fact that Visible Changes is an internal mailing list for new products shipping at Twitter since there are so many teams working on so many different projects that it would be impossible to keep up with everything happening at Twitter without subscribing to the Visible Changes mailing list.

If you're curious about what I'll be up to now that I no longer have a job, feel free to check out this thread, unsurprisingly on Twitter.

Howdy friends, colleagues, and strangers (sorry for the email strangers, feel free to send this straight to the archive!). You may recognize me from my occasional long-winded Slack messages so it should come as no surprise that I decided to squeeze in a 1,300 word going away email with a linked Google Doc1 of feature requests before I leave. After 3 years, 10 months, 3 days, and one pandemic at Twitter, my last day at Twitter will be April 1st. (Yes I recognize that me writing an org-wide email joking about quitting on April Fools Day would be incredibly on-brand for me, but I assure you it’s true.)

I’m so proud to have worked at Twitter, and I forever will be. I'm incredibly grateful for the work I've been able to do directly, influenced indirectly, and most importantly so thankful to the people I've met and worked with along the way. (Maybe the real friends were the coworkers I made along the way — those of you not in the strangers category will appreciate this.) I love this company, I love the people, I love using all the latest and greatest experiments in Earlybird (so please remember to bucket me into all the good experiments). I want to stay connected with many of you, now and beyond, so please don’t be shy about throwing some time on my calendar or reaching out to me by other means over the next two weeks or after — I’ll always make the time.

To get the first question everyone’s been asking out of the way, I’m not going to work anywhere else. It’s definitely not Facebook (lol, Meta or whatever they wanna be called), and never will be. I’m taking some time off (2, 3, heck maybe 6 months off but don’t worry I’ll still be tweeting) to recover from what’s been a very taxing year physically and emotionally, focusing on some health issues that I’ve been dealing with. But what I’m really looking forward to is wandering around the streets of NYC this spring, riding around on my bike, and enjoying time with family, friends, and loved ones.

Twitter has been the job of a lifetime, but right now the last thing I want is a job, so I guess I’m just going to not have one. Since most of society has to exchange their labor for capital in some manner after I’m refreshed and rejuvenated I do intend to do the same, but working for myself again like I did before Twitter. This time around I’d like to try my hand at building playful and creative indie software products, tools oriented around helping people leverage technology for their personal needs, with a matching company that combines my love for teaching others and helping people reach into their hearts to derive the true value of what they can do. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I learned some of the valuable lessons I'll be using and sharing from my time here at Twitter, and will do what I can to reach others through writing (longer than tweets) so they too can benefit by learning from others learning. If you’d like to know more about what I'll be up to by all means please reach out and I’ll be happy to share.

I’m sure you'll appreciate that this is where I say the best way to keep up with how it’s going is by following me on Twitter @mergesort, with indie development updates and red panda gifs @redpandaclub. I'm always looking for feedback, the sense of community I built here is something I wouldn’t trade for the world and will miss dearly, I'd love to keep as much of it as possible. And because I trust you all with my personal email you can always reach out to me at [nice try but you don't get this random blog post reader].

I want to say thank you to every team I worked with (aka bugging every feature team to build my pet idea — some of them were actually good!) and worked on, Communities, Communities Health, Twitter Dev, and Notifications. But a special shoutout is reserved for Health, and that goes even further for the team formerly known as Health Client. We built some incredibly meaningful things on Societal Health and beyond, but more importantly we built a team of amazing people on the foundation of empathy, caring, and curiosity. To those people I’ve had the pleasure of working with on that team, I don’t say this lightly but I love you like family. The work you do isn’t only about helping Twitter today, it’s some of the most important work for keeping Twitter an important part of the world in 5, 10, or 50 years from now.

But today I’m still at Twitter, and as a parting gift in the spirit of our company value fearless honesty I’d like to leave a few thoughts I’ve had bouncing around in my head over the last few months while thinking about the unique and wonderful place Twitter has been to work.

  • Twitter isn’t the biggest platform in the world, but its effect makes it the most consequential tech company in the world. The world takes its cues from Twitter, and because of that we should find ways to get more users by opening Twitter, not closing it off from the open web. When we move away from Twitter’s open nature we’re losing a bit of Twitter’s service to the world, I hope we remember that in everything we build.

  • Let your values guide you. The success of Twitter isn’t DAU, DAU is a lagging indicator that shows we’ve succeeded in building a good product. We’ve heard a lot about our DAU goals and we should shoot for them, but please don’t let the ends become the means.

  • Never stop looking for paper cuts. If you look closely you’ll see more of them happening more frequently as the system we build becomes more and more complex, and the expression death by a thousand cuts has resonance for a reason.

  • Health isn’t a fixed goal and it isn’t a lever we can pull up and down depending on where we’re focusing our energy. As we gain users and build new surface areas Health problems will only become exponentially more difficult in unpredictable ways so please don’t view Health as something that can be balanced with user growth. Lean into and invest in the infrastructure the Health org has built and turn expansion into newfound success, striving to build a better and healthier social network than any of our competitors.

  • Twitter’s culture is unique and one of a kind, please don’t lose it. Especially as the company grows it’s easy for culture to dissipate. New perspectives are incredibly important, don’t be shy about integrating new tweeps and their ideas, but for those of you who have been here for a while your job is also to teach what’s made Twitter so special that people all over the world want to join and leave their mark.

  • That culture only continues to be world class if we help new tweeps know about it. Unfortunately over the last year I’ve seen a lot of newer tweeps across the entire company struggle to feel like they understand what they’re supposed to be doing, and that’s not their fault. Every person’s job involves doing the work they came here to do, but a part of that is setting every new tweep up for success. Keep helping new tweeps succeed, so look at a person to your left, look at a person to your right, look at your Google Meet screen, and remember that you only succeed when they succeed.

I’ll sign off with a few words @Kayvon once said that have stuck with me since — you are absolutely right Joe. ✌🏻

P.S. Thank you Kayvon for always being a good sport the 945 times I’ve used this clip to make a joke, all the best on your parental leave!

P.P.S. Bothering y’all while I still can, here’s a list of features and ideas I would like to see be built.

  1. Consider this one last dump of practical and reasonable ideas I’d love to see Twitter build since I won’t be able to bother people after April 1st, 2022. (You don’t want to see the list of impractical ideas I have saved.)

    • A quote tweet redesign that de-emphasizes the original content to detract from the nature to dunk, rendering more like an organic reply that’s visible on your timeline, and the ability to de-index your tweets from search as discussed in Slack here.

      (We've talked about de-linked quote tweets on the Health side before, and I'm all for it. I've also wanted a similar feature for search. It would be useful to give users the power to delist their tweets from search, that way we could prevent people searching through people's old tweets and dogpiling them for years-old comments that may not be reflective of today's norms, but still allowing those tweets to live on a user's profile so the original author can choose to surface/resurface them as desired. I guess a better way of putting it, allowing users to opt out of letting their tweet(s) be publicly indexed for search.)

    • Third Party Verification. Twitter should be the central hub for identity on the internet, and we can get a step closer to there by letting people authenticate with third parties such as YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok, Github, etc, and have those destinations displayed on a user’s profile without resorting to hacks like LinkTree or this.

    • Fix open graph tags. I cannot tell you how many iOS users would rejoice if you could play videos in tweets without leaving iMessage, or at least see that a tweet contains a video with a little play button over the image rather than rendering a static thumbnail from the video. If you send a quote tweet to someone it shows up as some text and a link so users sometimes don’t realize it’s a quote tweet. And showing the date of the tweet would do well to help lessen the spread of outdated information (which can become misinformation).

    • Please don’t ship an edit button, but do ship Clarifications. (go/clarifications)

    • Timeline sync, the way third party clients such as Tweetbot implement it. I would love to leave my Latest timeline on one device and pick it up on another device, that way I don’t lose my place. This can be pretty simply done by sending down a “sync cursor”, and would likely bring a lot of fanfare and users over from third party clients.

    • A slight redesign to the composer to make it feel more WYSIWIG. Reading in the context of a tweet makes it easier to catch mistakes so looking at a live preview as you’re composing it not only should look better, but should hopefully reduce the rate of errors and typos in tweets.

    • Tweet digests. Follow the best tweets from a person in a day, being able to set custom criteria. Show me the top five tweets from a person in a day, only show me tweets with 50 likes or more from people I follow, etc.

    • Thread marker. Instead of users manually writing 1/25 to signify the first of a 25-tweet thread, since we know how many tweets are in a thread we should show a little bubble on the tweet in the top right corner that says (1/25). It’ll save people precious characters and let threads grow in size without having to know how long they’ll be upfront.

    • Searching my bookmarks and likes has gotta be some of the lowest hanging fruit at the company and has been built in hack weeks multiple times, can we please ship that? While we’re at it can we expose filter:follows filter:nativeretweets in search so users can find tweets they’ve seen (including injections) without having to remember such a wild query? 🥺

    • Please stop making Latest harder to use. I know research and metrics show that Latest has less engagement than Home but people who use Latest are different users, not worse. They may not engage as much by choice but you won’t convert many in that specific batch to being on Twitter more by making Latest harder and harder to use, instead you risk losing them entirely.

    • And last but not least, it’s not a feature per se but I would love to see Twitter become the industry leader on harassment, spam, misinformation, etc, not only by working with with governments and NGOs — but by working with other companies and our peers there who also want a safer and more secure internet. Together we move farther than we do alone, and a healthy internet is an internet that’s healthy for every participant around the world.

Joe Fabisevich is an indie developer creating software at Red Panda Club Inc. while writing about design, development, and building a company. Formerly an iOS developer working on societal issues @Twitter. These days I don't tweet, but I do post on Threads.

Like my writing? You can keep up with it in your favorite RSS reader, or get posts emailed in newsletter form. I promise to never spam you or send you anything other than my posts, it's just a way for you to read my writing wherever's most comfortable for you.

If you'd like to know more, wanna talk, or need some advice, feel free to sign up for office hours, I'm very friendly. 🙂