Posts tagged with "twitter"

More on Twitter’s Project Lightning

Casey Newton has interviewed Twitter's Kevin Weil for The Verge, with a focus on Twitter's Project Lightning and their ongoing focus on rethinking the reverse chronological timeline.

Here's Weil on how Project Lightning will work initially:

One of the things we’ve talked about with Project Lightning is the idea of a temporary or an event-based follow. The idea is that as the VMAs conversation is playing out, in Project Lightning, you’re getting the best of this particular conversation. You’re seeing it curated live, so you can go and flip through it in a very immersive view of this conversation. You can also follow it, and when you follow the best tweets from that conversation or that event or that location or the game or whatever, it will be added to your home timeline as they happen. So it’s again breaking this notion of a purely reverse chronological home timeline where the tweets are only from the people you follow, and reimagining it to make it more about what’s happening now in your world that you care about.

The more I read about it, the more it seems like Project Lightning will be a bold step in reimagining the Twitter timeline for news, events, and topics. Twitter is amazing because it can keep you informed on anything that's going on, but right now it doesn't have proper tools for that. Search, trends, timeline tweet injections, and other tweaks always felt like halfhearted attempts that didn't want to risk too much. For that to change, a full-featured initiative is required, and Project Lightning is being described as a major change to the timeline concept.

I suspected this would be the case last year:

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.

This sounds like blasphemy to longtime Twitter users. And I completely understand: the idea of the timeline was a sacred one, especially for people who have invested hours over the years in following other people and trimming the uninteresting branches of their following lists.

And here's Weil today:

And for people like you and me, we’ve spent a lot of time curating who we follow, getting to exactly the right amount, the right set of people, the right set of content, and we follow, we unfollow, we curate. We’ve put a lot of time into it. But the next 500 million people who come to Twitter aren’t going to put the same amount of time that you and I have into making our Twitter timeline the best representation of what’s happening in our world right now. And that’s our guiding light for where the Twitter timeline goes.

With or without Jack, this is where Twitter wants to go.


Linky 5.0 Brings Better Sharing for Twitter on iOS with Images, Textshots, and More

I covered Linky for iOS back in September, when the app's iOS 8 update added a share extension that turned Linky into a supercharged share sheet for Twitter and Facebook thanks to excellent integration with any iOS app. I wrote:

Linky the share extension is a great way to tweet links from Safari on iOS 8. Once enabled, Linky will appear as an extension of Safari and other apps that can share URLs such as Instapaper or a Pinboard client. The design of the app’s composer is minimal and easy to understand. You can switch between accounts by tapping the profile picture, tap buttons to insert the title or link of a webpage (if they’ve not been automatically inserted), and there’s a character counter in the bottom right.

For the past nine months, I've been using Linky every day to tweet links and quotes from Safari and other apps. Unlike the built-in Twitter share extension, Linky comes with thoughtful touches such as highlighting for links and text that exceeds the 140-character count – if you share dozens of links on a daily basis, the convenience of details adds up, and Pragmatic Code found a good niche for Linky to thrive.

The problem with Linky was that it worked well for text, but it didn't have support for images. Tweeting screenshots from my camera roll or so-called textshots accompanying links to articles has become a common practice for me, but Linky couldn't be part of my social sharing workflow whenever I needed to post something that wasn't just text. Linky 5.0, released today on the App Store, wants to fill this gap with built-in support for images – but like prior releases, there are several hidden details that make the experience of sharing with Linky superior to alternatives on iOS.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.