Chris Caple

Web developer

A proposal for making tweets editable

Not being able to edit already-tweeted tweets on Twitter is the single greatest hardship modern humans have to endure.

Okay it's not. But it still sucks. A lot.

This page contains a detailed outline of how Twitter could make tweets editable. If you like this proposal - share it around and let Twitter know you want this (or something much like it) to happen ASAP.


Short version: Hitting "edit" on an already-tweeted-tweet creates an editable copy of the tweet; the original tweet remains, linked to the edited tweet; edited tweet replaces original as version that's displayed by default in timelines etc.

Longer version:

1. On selecting "edit", a copy of the tweet is created

There are now two versions of the tweet - the original version and the edited version.

2. User makes any edits they want

The user makes whatever changes they want on the new, edited version of the tweet. The original copy remains unaffected.

3. Edited tweet replaces original in timelines

When user has finished editing, they click "tweet" and their edited tweet seamlessly replaces the original tweet in their own timeline and the timelines of all followers and in all instances where it's been retweeted or starred. A simple symbol or the word "edited" indicates that the tweet has been edited.

4. Original tweet always linked to from edited tweet

All edited tweets display the date of the original tweet, the date the tweet was edited, and a link to highlight what was edited. The "Original" date is a link back to the original unedited copy of the tweet.

Keeping a copy of the original tweet directly linked to the edited tweet allows anyone interested to check to see if the meaning of the edited tweet diverges substantially from the original.

5. Direct links to tweets

Direct URLs to original tweets remain unchanged. Large "there is an edited version of this tweet" message displays above the tweet, with a direct link to the edited version.

6. Deleting original tweet deletes edited tweet

If the user deletes the original tweet, the edited tweet is always deleted. If the user deletes the edited tweet, they can delete the original or allow it to remain.

7. Notifications to retweeters and fave-rs

Users who retweeted or starred a tweet which was subsequently edited get email notification that a tweet they retweeted or starred has been edited. The notification shows both the original and the edited tweet with changes highlighted. Users can leave their retweets and stars as they stand or choose to un-retweet or un-star.

8. Always just two versions - edited and original

Users can edit and re-edit the edited copy of the tweet as often as they want. Every time they edit it, the "Edited" date changes. The original tweet remains, unaffected by any edits.

9. Edit anytime

Using this approach there wouldn't be any need to put a time limit on when a user can edit their tweets. Other proposal for editable tweets suggest allowing users a short "window" to edit their tweet, a time interval ranging from 30 seconds to 5 minutes after tweeting it. With this two-copies approach, though, users can edit any of their tweets at any time.


Why is being able to edit tweets important?

Here's why:

Twitter is a heat-of-the-moment, fast-paced, go-go-go medium ideally suited for live reporting and commenting on events. It's easy for errors to be included in tweets and not be noticed for minutes/hours and sometimes days.

You can bet the employee in charge of the @esa twitter account was kicking themselves a few minutes after the above tweet went out. But what can be done in such a situation, when a tweet about an historic event has already been retweeted and starred many hundreds of times? The way Twitter currently works, all you can really do is shake your head and move on.

Allowing users to edit their tweets in the manner described above lets them fix typos, spelling errors, grammar errors, bad links, wrong photos, missing photos, or any other errors that went into a tweet unnoticed before it was tweeted (and retweeted, and starred...) at whatever point the errors are noticed and without losing retweets or favorites or the original tweet's place in the timestream.

Which makes Twitter a whole lot better.


Posted: November 12, 2014