Posts tagged with "twitter"

Twitter’s Project Lightning

Mat Honan, writing for BuzzFeed, has shared some details on Project Lightning, a Twitter feature that will let users follow events across all Twitter apps with a simple swipeable interface for full-screen content (tweets, photos, videos, Periscope, Vine, etc.).

Following an event won't require to follow people whose tweets are featured in the event.

What’s more, you can also opt to follow an event and have curated tweets blended into your timeline. And that doesn’t mean you follow accounts where those tweets originate. So, for example, while you might see Ellen DeGeneres’ tweets from the Grammys in a curated Grammys event, you would not actually begin following her if you were not already. When the Grammys end, so do the tweets. In other words, you automatically unfollow an event at its conclusion. And you can still experience curated events without following anything just by going to that center tab.

Interestingly, Twitter has assembled a team of editors to curate the best tweets as they happen around events in real-time.

Launch one of these events and you’ll see a visually driven, curated collection of tweets. A team of editors, working under Katie Jacobs Stanton, who runs Twitter’s global media operations, will select what it thinks are the best and most relevant tweets and package them into a collection.

This sentence by Stanton sums up why Twitter is doing this:

But the challenge we’ve had over the years is, although we have the world’s greatest content, it’s like having a television without a channel guide or even a remote control.

This is another example of Twitter moving beyond Legacy Twitter and the belief that Twitter is still only a timeline of tweets in chronological order. The company has been enhancing the service with media improvements and design changes aimed at making Twitter less static – the opposite of a traditional timeline. If anything, they've been moving too slowly in this area.

As I wrote last year, the writing was on the wall for the traditional timeline in Legacy Twitter:

The Twitter timeline was built to be a reflection of a Following list people could build meticulously over time. But as it approches its ninth anniversary, Twitter has realized that curating a list of accounts isn’t most people’s forte, and they want to make sure that the timeline stays interesting even without investing time into finding accounts to follow. And that meant breaking the original concept of the timeline to include content and account suggestions. It meant to make the Twitter timeline a little more like Facebook.

And:

Once you accept the idea that Twitter timelines may expand beyond your following list and tweets’ timestamps, it’s easy to imagine how they could be remixed to offer more topic suggestions, summaries, or recommendations. But Twitter needs to go easy with that. The idea of a timeline still is a powerful one: Twitter wants to show you what’s happening, and events – no matter the algorithm you use – always happen in succession. Being able to stop and watch events as they unfold is what makes Twitter great and essential and unique – whether it’s #Ferguson, the elections, an Apple keynote, or just a regular news day.

Project Lightning sounds exactly like what Twitter needs to keep users engaged and respect the inherent chronological nature of the service as events unfold.

Mat Honan's story for BuzzFeed includes more details and a mockup of how this could work.

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Twitter Removing the 140 Character Limit from Direct Messages

With a post on the Twitter Developers forum yesterday, Product Manager for Direct Messages Sachin Agarwal has announced that Twitter will be removing the limit of 140 characters from DMs this summer:

We’ve done a lot to improve Direct Messages over the past year and have much more exciting work on the horizon. One change coming in July that we want to make you aware of now (and first!) is the removal of the 140 character limit in Direct Messages. In order to make this change as seamless as possible for you we’ve included some recommendations below to ensure all your applications and services can handle these longer format messages before we flip the switch.

When I first read this, I felt skeptical. Much of Twitter's appeal to me lies in the streamlined approach to short messages that fly by in the timeline. But, some of my most important conversations over the years have started from Twitter DMs. From this standpoint, it's surprising that Twitter hasn't put more thought in the DM product as a messaging platform, alienating users who were looking for a direct, nimble communication system – and pushing them to other services.

The strength of Twitter DMs is, for me, the existing graph between users (people I'm interested in), speed, and the lack of baggage from email. Lately, I've come to like the ability to easily share links and pictures in DMs as well. I don't know if raising the character limit to 10k characters will by itself improve DMs, but Twitter is wasting an opportunity with DMs, so maybe their new CEO could use this as a starting point.

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What Twitter Can Be

Chris Sacca's essay on what Twitter can become is worth a read if you're interested in the future of the company. The piece contains several interesting ideas for enhancements to Twitter's curation, discovery, and timeline design – this bit on Nuzzel in particular:

A third way to organize content from Twitter is to highlighting what the Tweets are linking to. If you’ve used Nuzzel (disclosure: one of our portfolio companies) you know exactly what I mean and how simple yet magical that experience can be. If you haven’t used it, try it. Nuzzel makes Twitter better.

Want to know what are the most popular articles linked to on Twitter? That should be a channel. What are the most popular sites linked among the people we follow or people that our friends follow? Great channel. Which books are people Tweeting about? Channel. Which videos are garnering the most attention? Channel. Any particular .gifs blowing up? Channel.

I use Nuzzel every day, and I love it. As I argued last year, I'm a fan of Twitter's experiments with the timeline on iOS, but I also believe they should experiment more and break free of old ideas about Twitter. I disagree with some of Sacca's proposals, but the entire piece is spot-on.

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Twitter Rolls Out Option to Receive DMs from Anyone

Vindu Goel, writing for The New York Times:

Twitter announced Monday that its users will be able to change a setting on their accounts to allow anyone to send them a private message. In addition, if a person follows a big account — for example, from a company like United Airlines — the Twitter user can respond to messages sent by that account even if the account, United in this case, does not follow that individual.

According to early reports, the option is off by default and can be managed from a user's Settings on the Twitter website. On the Twitter blog, the company explains how businesses and other profiles could benefit from the new setting:

Communicating with people you may or may not know in real life just got easier. Previously, if you wanted to send a Direct Message to the ice cream shop down the street about how much you love their salted caramel flavor, you’d have to ask them to follow you first. With today’s changes, the ice cream shop can opt to receive Direct Messages from anyone; so you can privately send your appreciation for the salted caramel without any barriers.

The Twitter apps for iPhone (iPad not mentioned) and Android will get a new icon to indicate whether a user can receive direct messages from anyone or not. This new DM feature is not exactly new as, like many other options, the company first rolled it out for a limited amount of time in late 2013.

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Redesigning Twitter Profiles

Over at the Twitter blog, Sana Rao has an interesting post on the design process of Twitter profiles for mobile devices and desktop. Some fascinating numbers:

On web we saw a 6x increase in the number of Tweet impressions from logged-out visitors browsing profiles and a 2x increase in the number of logged-out visitors who saw an impression of the profiles.

On iOS, the most remarkable change was a 38% increase in people visiting the new profiles and a massive 6x increase in users visiting the media timeline. Similarly, on Android we saw a 128% increase in people visiting profiles and over 2x increase in people visiting and scrolling on the media timeline.

I like Twitter profiles on the iPhone. The profile view (and many other features) could use some love on the iPad, though.

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Twitter Launches Periscope

Periscope, Twitter's latest acquisition, has launched today on the App Store. For those who haven't been following the news, Periscope is a company that Twitter bought before the rise in popularity of Meerkat, a live streaming app. Periscope also lets you live stream video from your iPhone, but, according to early reviews, it's cleaner, faster, and obviously more integrated with Twitter's social graph – which was unceremoniously cut off from Meerkat.

Mat Honan has a good story on Periscope:

Fire up the app, launch the camera, and the app tweets out a message (if you want it to) that you have gone live. Simultaneously, a notification fires off — with that little look-at-me whistle — to everyone following you on Periscope. As they join in, they can comment on what you’re doing. And because it has super-low lag time — or latency, to use the term of art — people watching can comment on your actions more or less as they happen. It means that people watching the video can change the course of what’s happening. They can chime in with questions or comments, and all the while tap-tap-tap on the screen to send a stream of hearts to the broadcaster. Don’t want comments? Fine, you can turn them off. If you choose, you can let the video live on Persicope’s servers afterwards, where it will stay for 24 hours before disappearing forever. Or you can choose to let your video be purely ephemeral, living only in the moment and then gone forever. It is delightfully fun.

Joanna Stern's article, however, really hit close to home for me:

Maybe I should be thankful. Periscope’s biggest promise lies in those times when life is far from boring. Whether it be a breaking news situation or a friend’s traumatic experience, there are times when peeking in and watching a live story unfold makes the most sense. While it’s bound to be abused, this new way of communicating could bring us closer than any photo or recorded video could.

I experienced that this week. My friend Drew Olanoff, who has been suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, just had a stem-cell transplant. He’s been using Periscope to stream (or “‘scope”) from his hospital room, updating his friends and followers on his progress. Every day, he shows the board that lists his blood stats and flips the camera around—by tapping on the screen—so we can see how he looks.

Like Joanna, I don't know if my life is exciting enough to warrant a daily dose of live streams. But then again, before Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, most of us didn't think we'd be inclined to share so much about our daily lives either. Reading how Drew is using Periscope reminds me of when I was stuck there doing a stem cell transplant, and how I wished I could update all my friends and readers at once in a simple, natural way. Sure, I could send selfies to different iMessage threads and I could tweet text and pictures, but the idea of a real-time live stream is much more powerful. And Periscope is pretty cool: I came across some questionable streams in the Home tab, but the app is fast, polished, and, indeed, a window into the world of others.

Live streaming isn't new. But this new take on the category – fast, integrated, mobile – comes at an interesting time. Periscope is free on the App Store.

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Twitter Teams Up with Foursquare for Location Tagging

Earlier today, Twitter announced that Foursquare will soon power location tagging across the company's suite of apps. In a video shared today, Twitter showed how location data by Foursquare will be embedded into Twitter for iPhone to allow users to tag specific places instead of using Twitter's previous (coordinate-based) location database.

This is an interesting move for a couple of reasons. First off, Twitter has chosen to rely on a third-party for a precise database of places instead of building its own from scratch – and they cleverly picked Foursquare, which has amassed an impressive collection of 65 million places in six years. I'm curious to see if Twitter will use this newfound power to enhance ads and offers on the service (imagine Foursquare-powered deals available in a Twitter card).

Second, Twitter needs to improve their local discovery features. With a richer collection of places, Twitter could unlock previously unseen contextual, local features that wouldn't be possible with simple coordinates (think venues like concerts and museums or spots like a cafe in Rome).

Foursquare's Dennis Crowley writes:

In addition to building the world’s most accurate place database, we’ve learned how to see buildings the way our phones see them — as shapes and sensor readings on the ground rather than boxes viewed from space. We’ve built software that can understand when people move through, stop within, and then move on from these shapes — whether the shapes are places, neighborhoods or cities. And we’ve built search and recommendation algorithms that get smarter as they learn about the shapes you choose to spend time in and the shapes you simply pass through. You’ll hear us talk about these things as “stop detection,” “snap-to-place,” “the Pilgrim engine” — they’re the pieces that make us confident that no matter where you’re standing in the world — whether it’s your own neighborhood or a far-away city you’re visiting for the first time — we can raise your awareness of the best experiences nearby and help you find places you’ll love.

Smart move from Twitter, and long overdue.

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Twitter’s Dilemma

Twitter is two things. It is a concept — everyone in the world connected in real time — that’s so obvious in retrospect that it is impossible to imagine it not existing. It is also a product that has had a rough time living up to that concept.

A good piece by Matthew Panzarino on Twitter's recent launches and struggles to establish a product that makes sense to new users and investors. I'm curious to see where Twitter takes the service in 2015 – Panzarino mentions a redesign, which could be interesting (especially on iOS).

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