One of the best things about Twitter is that relationships there can be asymmetrical. Even if I don’t know you or follow your updates, you can still follow mine if you’re interested. Over time, we might talk in @mentions from time to time and I might realize that you’re someone whose updates I’m interested in all the time. In fact, that’s exactly how I end up following most of the people on Twitter that I’ve never met before.

It’s not that I don’t want to hear what everyone has to say, but automatically following thousands of people back would make my timeline impossible to keep up with (and even more productivity-cripplingly distracting than it already is).

One thing about these loose, asymmetric relationships constantly frustrates me though. The requirement that I must follow you in order for you to direct message me, even after I’ve direct messaged you, is too restrictive. Pointlessly restrictive.

It often makes sense to take a Twitter discussion private, but we can only use Twitter to do that if we have a symmetric relationship with each other. Sure, I can follow you temporarily or message you my email address for follow up, but why? It should be easy for Twitter to allow anyone to reply to any direct message for some period of time, or even forever.

Wouldn’t that make the direct message feature a lot more useful?