Twitter's new group DM feature is pretty amazing for backchannel conversations. It just switched on for my account on Tuesday, and I already love it. But there's one aspect of it that I don't think has been fully realized yet.
Did you know you can add anyone who follows you on Twitter to one of its group chats, and start a room with a bunch of people even if they don't follow each other? All you have to do is click on Add People, enter a username, and if they follow you, they are automatically added to the discussion. Clearly, this presents opportunities for shenanigans.
So, sure, you could get two people who hate each other together in a room -- that is as long as they aren't blocking each other; you can't add someone to a room if anyone else blocks them -- but where is the fun in that (though there are plenty of good safety/support reasons for that)?
I mean, especially if you have famous followers (which happens to reporters, even though we are intrinsically boring). Like, say, this guy (who, to be fair, follows EVERYONE):
Or this guy?
What would happen if an historic Barack-Bieber summit took place inside my phone? I wanted to know!
But, for whatever reason, although both of them follow me, I couldn't add either to a group chat. Bummer!
However, I was also in a group chat with a group of technology reporters, one of whom, Nick Bilton, also counted President Obama among his followers. When I pointed this out, he clicked on Add Person, and presto!
"A/S/L Mr. President?"
I thought that perhaps Twitter had some sort of filter that kept people like me from pestering the truly rich and famous. But a Twitter spokesperson told me there is no such plebe filter, and that I was encountering a bug.
So I tried again on my phone, and suddenly there I was in a room with the President, the Champ, and the Bieb. Naturally I asked them what they thought of the feature. Nobody responded. So I added Jane Fonda and asked again. I'm still waiting on a response.
Despite the profound silence, this was, very much one of those experiences that makes you feel like you are living in the future. Sure, they ignored me. And no, this feature does not seem fully dickproofed yet.
But I can still nurture the dream that sometime, in the near future, they're going to reply. That Bieber and Obama and Tyson and Fonda will all talk about something, whatever that is.
I'll update this if/when it happens.
Mat Honan is the San Francisco bureau chief for BuzzFeed News. Formerly a senior staff writer at Wired, he has been writing about the technology industry and its impact on society for nearly 20 years.
Contact Mat Honan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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