Hi Twitch! Long time user and small-time streamer here. I’m writing this as an engaged member of the fighting game community, and we are having a problem that I think a lot of your users are having — our Twitch streams are the most visible place for people on the Internet to come by and see what we’re about, and if they have the chat windows open during our biggest events, they’ll likely see random people from all over the Internet spewing a whole bunch of shit that is spammy at best and harassment at worst, for no other reason than because they can.
I don’t think this is because our community is a toxic cesspit; we have our issues, but in my experience we’re an inclusive community and we’re trying to be even more so. And we need you to help us do that by fixing Twitch Chat.
I know that Twitch Chat is an integral part of what makes Twitch special; it gives the livestream a sense of vitality and reciprocity that makes it feel more intimate than a one-way broadcast.
The problem is the chat.
The model you’ve used to design your social spaces is probably older than the average Twitch employee, meant for a time when the Internet was a lot smaller. Everything else we’ve built in the social internet has done different things to handle the scale, by creating smaller spaces, filtering conversations through relationships (FB/Twitter/Instagram), tying conversation to content (comments), and other similar vectors. Open chat is simply too difficult for any streamer to reasonably moderate at scale, and when streamers are already doing so much work to build content for your platform, it’s a big ask to add moderating a chat room of thousands of people on top of it.
I imagine you could experiment with any number of solutions to build on top of chat. I thought about this for an hour and talked with some folks on Twitter and came up with a bunch of low-hanging fruit worth exploring at different points in a stream ecosystem. Some examples:
- Build an in-house moderation team for major events.
- Give streamers better options for filtering or changing the display for chat. Right now the best options conflate follows/subs with behavior, which sucks because it makes streamers who want better spaces come off as uncharitable and greedy.
- Make moderation less costly. Lots of folks talked about autoscroll making moderation physically difficult in large chats; there’s clearly a lot of potential for UI improvements that would make moderation more effective for less work.
- Enable users to crowdsource moderation work across channels. For example, enabling support for cross-channel moderator groups, word filters, codes of conduct, and ban/mute lists would at least help distribute the load.
- Enable users to control their social experience — shareable mute lists, client-side chat filters (let me view sub-only or whatever even if the streamer didn’t turn it on!), etc.
- Design for persistent Twitch-wide account reputation — I bet you can find some data scientists who would love to take an algorithmic approach to scoring a Twitch account’s prosocial and antisocial behaviors, and you can let users adjust their view threshold so they can have it as raw as they want.
But if that’s not big and sexy enough to build an internal case, consider: How about just building a new model for mass social at events? It’s not the scrolling lines of text and the emote spam that people love about Twitch Chat, it’s the sense of vitality and the possibility for open real-time communication. I’m sure there are plenty of designers out there who would jump at the chance to build a new social model for events that make that hype shit something everyone can comfortably enjoy.
Twitch is hands-down my favorite social platform these days; if I’m not building my own stream community or watching other fighting game streams, I’m probably watching someone build an IKEA chair, or work at a cafe, or dance, or drive to the airport. And I think it’s real unfortunate that for all the cool stuff that happens on the video feed, the chat window next to it is quite often super wack.
To me, that sounds like an opportunity for you to invest in social design talent that could quickly experiment on some cutting edge shit and learn a lot. That’d be quite a reversal from what “Twitch Chat” means to the world right now. Stuff like how Slack emoji reaction helps larger channels remain manageable. Or, hey, how Twitch Plays Pokemon had both democracy and anarchy modes, and each mode created a different social context that was valuable at different times. That was pretty cool! I bet you could do a lot more than that for a fighting game tournament.
Your service is at a point where a thing that has been crucial to your success is also holding the overall experience back. I understand being hesitant to modify an important part of the platform because it’s gotten you this far, but the current chat experience just makes it real hard for anyone to have a good time because it’s so easy for a small minority of jerks to pollute the space. If you want to shitpost at an IRL event, you at least have to put in the work of making a real big sign.
You don’t have to fix people on the Internet being jerks. We’d just really appreciate it if you could fix the chat.
Thanks for reading!
For further reading on this subject:
Loose Screws — Rotten Twitch Chats and the FGC’s Refusal to Fight It (KingHippo, Them’s Fighting Words 2019)
For Streamers Dealing With Stalkers, Twitch’s Solutions Fall Short (Nathan Grayson, Kotaku 2019)