Were you panicking at the thought of Twitter messing with your timeline order? Were you declaring #RIPTwitter and getting ready to move to Peach? Relax. Twitter chief Jack Dorsey has piped up to say that there’s no truth to the rumors of a Facebook-like feed arriving next week. It was “never planned,” he says. In fact, Dorsey adds that the company hopes to make Twitter “feel more, not less, live” — he knows full well that you want that steady stream of updates.
It’s not clear where the rumor came from if it wasn’t true, but it’s not shocking that Twitter would largely stick to a chronological feed. That feature is precisely what separates it from other social networks — despite Facebook’s attempts to improve its handling of live events, Twitter is still where you go to find breaking news, share reactions to a TV show or watch the latest music beef unfold. Out-of-order features like “while you were away” can help you catch up on things you missed, but they wouldn’t make much sense if they were your primary gateway to Twitter.
Hello Twitter! Regarding #RIPTwitter: I want you all to know we’re always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week.
— Jack (@jack) February 6, 2016
This week, a group of Android users noticed a new feature in the Twitter app: a GIF button that can be used to search through trending GIFs to drop into status updates. As you’d expect, the internet lost its collective mind. Twitter is the unofficial home of GIFs. Whether you’re sharing a quick moment in time or trying to make a point without words, bite-size animated images are a perfect match for the social network’s dynamic timeline.
— Phil Pearlman (@ppearlman) February 4, 2016
Introducing a native way to search and add GIFs to tweets seems like a no-brainer. It’s what the people want, which is good, because Twitter is desperately trying to create a service that more people want. If the company pulls this off, it’ll appease the will of animated-image aficionados, gain some new users and (gasp) give the not quite profitable company another source of revenue.
A few years ago, developers and brands tried to convince us that “second-screen” apps were the ideal way to follow along with our favorite TV shows. For the most part, they sucked. In the end, the ultimate second-screen application was Twitter. Whenever there’s a TV event, you don’t go to Facebook to see how people are reacting; you head to Twitter. Sporting events, awards shows, premieres or even episodes of Game of Thrones see more juice on Twitter than they ever would on Facebook.
Twitter is in the moment; Facebook is “Hey, did you see that thing that happened a few hours ago?” Twitter knows this and plays up its part of the right-now aspect of its service. For the upcoming Super Bowl, the social network is going all out to remind users that it’s the destination for real-time information.
Now Twitter has the opportunity to partner with networks to offer up nearly real-time GIFs of these events to add to the conversation. During last week’s hilarious X-Files episode, for instance, it could have surfaced the following image:
It was a turning point in the episode, and if it had been available within the Twitter app, it would have been tweeted out almost immediately. Then retweeted again and again. As it currently stands, a GIF like this would be created after the show aired, by someone in the audience, from a recording. Instead Fox could have created this GIF with its branding beforehand and let the entirety of Twitter handle its advertising.
To get these animated images into its system, Twitter could partner with consumer and entertainment brands. The GIF button would not only allow users to search for GIFs but would also surface trending and featured images. For example: The NFL could sponsor the featured area and fill it with GIFs of big plays from the game immediately after they happen. The trending section would have the top GIFs being shared at the moment, and the search field would offer up a library of GIFs for any situation. All of this in the Twitter app ready to go at a moment’s notice.
This weekend’s Super Bowl will be watched, as always, by billions. Twitter will light up with play-by-play commentary of not just the game, but the pregame, the commercials and the halftime show. Those comments could be accompanied by GIFs of amazing plays and halftime shenanigans. (Oh, I hope Left Shark returns.)
In 2014, Twitter purchased SnappyTV to help it quickly create short videos of live TV events. Going that extra step to create a GIF from those videos is simple enough.
Twitter could make sharing animated images easier — something that’s quite cumbersome on mobile right now. The by-product of that is relevancy. If it can get more people to join the conversation with these images, maybe, just maybe, new users will jump aboard for the chance to send GIFs about their favorite show or movie.
These topical GIFs can easily become the reaction GIFs of the future. The Abe Simpson snippet below is from Simpsons episode “Bart After Dark,” which aired nearly 20 years ago. Maybe we’re not all walking into a brothel and seeing our grandson working the front desk, but the bit works when you want to convey the feeling of walking into a situation and realizing you should leave right away. It’s timeless and will outlast the actual show for as long as we use GIFs to communicate.
The NFL doesn’t want you livestreaming its games from Periscope, but it might be open to feeding branded GIFs to Twitter. The UFC isn’t a fan of you making GIFs of its fights, but it might want to create and serve its own.
Then of course there are the brands. Yes, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Honda, H&R Block and others will want in on this. But the beauty of the implementation is that users will determine which tiny ad will end up in their timeline. Most ads are lame, but there are some gems out there. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want a Night Vision Top Hat?
Twitter selling your tweets as ad space seems, well, icky. But we’re already making GIFs from commercials, movies, TV shows and sporting events. Users are pulling in video from streams and their cable boxes, using a variety of apps to create GIFs on their own, and uploading them to Twitter, Imgur, Giphy and Reddit. Twitter could step in and make it as simple as a search. Brands (ugh, brands) have the opportunity to control the message Twitter users see by creating content that works in a snack-size format.
At the end of the day, users just want an easier way to tweet out GIFs. It’ll be up to Twitter to figure out if it can make money off that desire.
Completing the process of Facebook and Twitter doing battle by eventually copying all of each other’s features, a report by Buzzfeed says that Twitter could debut its “algorithmic” feed as early as next week. Since it launched, the microblogging service has always displayed tweets in a reverse chronological order. Users have recently spotted tests where tweets were reshuffled out of order, similar to Facebook’s method of sorting posts, and executives have hinted at just such a change for years.
While a Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the report, we know it is looking for ways to spark user growth, and the assumption that this could make the site easier to read might push the feature forward. Of course, longtime users and information addicts are worried we’ll lose the current sorting option. At this point, it seems that all we can hope for is that it’s not the default, but even that assumes the current sorting option won’t be snatched away, either all at once or gradually the way Facebook did it.
Update: NBC News Director of Branded Content Josh Sternberg cites sources telling him the algorithms are strictly opt-in — hopefully that’s true, and they stay that way.
One way ISIS has distinguished itself from other terrorist organizations is its use of social media to spread news and recruit followers. Now, following Google and Facebook, Twitter is revealing info about what it’s doing to stop extremist groups from using the service to get their messages out. According to a story tweeted by its @Policy account, since mid-2015 Twitter has already banned some 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts. It’s also increased the size of its team reviewing those reports, and turned spam fighting tools against the groups to help filter out related accounts that pop up.
Since mid-2015, we have suspended over 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts. Read more here: https://t.co/FQJeOTtPLz
— Policy (@policy) February 5, 2016
Tweets by @TrustySupport!function(d,s,id)var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s),p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id))js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+”://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);
Source: Twitter Blog
A few Twitter users on the social network’s Android app have begun to notice a dedicated GIF button within the Tweet composition box of the mobile client. Speaking with TechCrunch, Twitter user Phil Pearlman said that the new button lets users browse through current popular GIFs in a trending tab, or select a mood they’re feeling to see resulting GIFs based on that emotion. So far the GIF button appears to only be showing up on Android, but if Twitter is planning a wide rollout, it should presumably come to iOS as well.
— Phil Pearlman (@ppearlman) February 4, 2016
http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Pearlman wasn’t the only Twitter user to see the GIF button appear within the Android app, with quite a few people mentioning it over the past day. It’s also been disappearing for just as many who got to briefly test the feature out, with a couple users — including Pearlman — noticing the button suddenly disappearing from the app.
Besides a playful GIF of its own, Twitter didn’t respond to comment on the possible large-scale rollout of a GIF button feature for the service’s mobile app. Given that many users already go through the laborious process of searching for GIFs online and inserting them into tweets through the Media option, it makes sense for the company to begin streamlining that process.
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Twitter has begun testing a new feature for fans of reaction GIFs. Some users have spotted a dedicated GIF button in their Android apps, smack dab in the middle of the camera and poll icons. Bank of the Ozarks Director of Marketing Phil Pearlman was able to test it out for TechCrunch and discovered that the new button is a portal to a selection of trending GIFs. It also categorizes entries based on moods, so you can easily find Captain Picard if you want to facepalm. A lot of people, including Pearlman, only had access to the button for a short while, though — it disappeared from their apps as quickly as it came.
Twitter will probably work with GIF sources (such as Giphy) like Facebook does if the feature gets a wider release, but only the company can say for sure. TechCrunch tried to ask for more info, but a spokesperson merely responded with an apt Justin Bieber GIF. Despite the lack of a longer response, we know Twitter’s fond of testing experimental features. This might make it to everyone’s apps in the future; for now, you’ll have to continue scouring the internet for reaction GIFs of your own.
— Phil Pearlman (@ppearlman) February 4, 2016
New gif button on Twitter… pic.twitter.com/GySgnQdogX
— TWD ~ RT or FAV (@WalkerBait_TWD_) February 4, 2016
Twitter has a gif button pic.twitter.com/fDxWhKAPrT
— |CG| ArmoredDeath (@ArmoredDeath) February 4, 2016
In yet another sign of social media’s growing impact on the world, one of the most well-known figures of the #BlackLivesMatter movement is running for political office. Deray Mckesson (@Deray) filed just ahead of tonight’s deadline to join Baltimore’s mayoral race. According to the Baltimore Sun, there are 28 people currently registered to run including 13 Democrats, with a deadline of Friday to withdraw from consideration. Former mayor Sheila Dixon is reportedly leading the crowded field, and it remains to be seen how far the combination of activism and significant Twitter/Instagram following can take a political outsider in the race.
The fog is intense in some parts of Baltimore tonight.
— deray mckesson (@deray) February 3, 2016
In the last couple of years, Mckesson has been active in protests against police brutality in both Ferguson, Mo and Baltimore. Since then he’s been a part of Campaign Zero, an organization focusing on ending violence by police, and has met with presidential candidates on the campaign trail. According to the Washington Post, he says he’s running for office to “usher Baltimore into a new era where our government is accountable to its people and aggressively innovative in how it identifies and solves problems.”
If you participate in Twitter conversations with multiple accounts, you know that once you get past seven replies it can be difficult to keep track of the chat and your dynamic timeline. Today Twitter introduced pop-out conversations. Click on “view conversation” on a tweet on Twitter.com and the thread will appear in its entirety floating above the timeline.
— Twitter Support (@Support) February 2, 2016
After you’re done catching up with the conversation, just click on the “x” or background to get back to your timeline.
The social network also announced that it was rolling out instant access to the Twitter timeline on mobile devices for folks without an account to 23 countries. Previously, you could see a the individual tweet that got you to the service, but getting to the timeline or conversation that lead to that status update was difficult.
No one likes complaining to an internet service provider, but it’s especially frustrating when you’re not getting the performance you’re paying for. Many ISPs refuse to do anything unless your speeds are truly glacial, even if the slowdowns create serious problems. Well, Comcast customer AlekseyP has devised a clever way to make his voice heard: he created a Raspberry Pi-powered Twitter bot. The machine automatically tweets his speeds to Comcast whenever the downstream rate falls below 50Mbps, or a third of the 150Mbps he’s supposed to be getting. The approach saves him the trouble of calling out Comcast himself, and catches those speed drops even when the house is empty.
Aleksey admits that he hasn’t actually followed up with Comcast on his slow connection, since he believes that everyone should get their advertised speeds, not just the individual customers who raise their voices. That’s a bit counterintuitive when ISPs rarely do anything without a formal complaint in hand. Still, efforts like these could be worthwhile if they get internet giants to notice service quality problems that they’d otherwise ignore. If you’re willing to try it yourself, you can grab the source code to set up a Raspberry Pi watchdog for your own connection.
— AComcast User (@A_Comcast_User) January 29, 2016
Via: The Next Web
By Harry McCracken
This article originally appeared on Fast Company and is reprinted with permission.
Slate‘s David Auerbach has a plan to fix Twitter. In brief, it involves making it a more welcoming place and minimizing harassment by shielding users from tweets other than those sent by people they’ve chosen to follow. He outlines his strategy—soberly headlined “What Twitter Must Do”—in the form of an open letter to Twitter itself:
Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook share two purposes: They are information networks for high-content sharing and friendship networks for low-content social interaction. By defaulting to mostly public information sharing, Twitter has become a great information network but a horrendous friendship network. Currently, the friendship network is the price you pay for the information network. But restricting information sharing to reduce trolling will simply turn you into a second-rate Facebook and doom you for certain. Rather, Twitter, you need focus on information sharing while you gut and rebuild the friendship network, devolving moderation down to individual users.
That’s why you need to rethink yourself from the ground up. Start with an information network of tweets and retweets but no replies or mentions as we currently know them. Twitter users would see what their friends post and retweet and subscribe to people they find through retweets or hashtags. Already, things are a lot better. You don’t encounter anyone beyond the filter of your list of friends unless you search a hashtag. If a hashtag fills up with crap, you avoid it.
By helpfully providing advice directly to Twitter in the form of an open letter, Auerbach is following a tradition that’s been around nearly as long as Twitter has been a household name.
What leads people to write these letters? Well, more than any other modern kingpin of the web, Twitter has never reached a point of happy equilibrium in which everyone agrees it’s in fantastic shape. A sizable chunk of its users have always been convinced that it needs to to change—and much of the remaining chunk has consisted of people who are afraid that Twitter will change.
Moreover, the service’s intensely personal feel leads many people to conclude that all Twitter needs to do to thrive is to make people like themselves happier—despite the fact that Twitter is radically different things to different users.
Herewith, some earlier letters to Twitter, dating back to the era when it was a privately owned startup with 18 million users, 30 employees, and no advertising whatsoever.
April 2009: “An Open Letter to Twitter”
In an early example of the Twitter open letter, Web developer Arthur Kay tells Twitter that it’s fundamentally annoying, but—unlike many who would follow—fails to provide any advice on the matter:
What am I doing right now (in 140 characters or less)? I’m wondering why anyone cares! If anyone really wants to know what I’m doing, they should call me. If they don’t have my phone number, then I’m worried they might be stalking me.
Seriously, if anyone has time to wonder what Shaq is doing right this minute then they really need to get a life. If he’s doing something worthwhile, it will make the news.
Twitter—you need to stop this madness. Your friends are encouraging people to share intimate personal information about themselves with the entire world. . . and I’m really getting sick of companies and [newscasters] saying “Check us out on Twitter.”
June 2010: “Get Shorter: An Open Letter to Twitter”
In no less an august venue than The New Yorker, Blake Eskin gripes that the http:// in links eats up too many precious characters, and should be replaced with a single symbol:
Winstead proposed a colon (e.g. :tmky.us/3191); Kottke suggested % or //; another correspondent floated ^ or =>. My own preference would be for !, although I discovered, on a site devoted to microsyntax, proposals that the exclamation point should be reserved for “urgent or time-sensitive posts” or even as a Tweet 911, for posts “associated with a specific named disaster or emergency.” In either case, it will have to be reclaimed from bubbly teens, soccer fans, and publicists.
July 2011: “Dear Twitter: Don’t Change the 140-Character Limit”
Responding to Farhad Manjoo’s call for Twitter to double its 140-character limit, my friend Lance Ulanoff contends that longer tweets would only encourage people to hold conversations on Twitter—and that if people want to converse, they should use something like Google+:
In the case of conversations on Twitter, they work differently. Usually someone posts something interesting and someone responds. The response doesn’t have the original tweet, just a little notation that it was “in reply to…,” which links to the original tweet. These conversations can go on for a while and sometimes expand to a number of Twitter members. The person outside the conversation will see a random post from this Twitter conversation in their feed and have absolutely no idea what it’s about. Conversation tends to clutter up Twitter and make it far less useful. This is not to say that I do not use Twitter for crowdsourcing. I ask concise questions and get concise answers.
People who want to have conversations online have numerous options, including old-school forums, Facebook, and threaded comments on various websites. Google+ is the newest and easily most exciting one. I’m using it to say more and collect richer thoughts from all Google+ conversation participants. Oddly, I sometimes have to remind myself that I can post and respond in more than 140 characters (I see other people with this problem, too).
December 2011: “Twitter, How About Liberating Some Usernames?”
In a post which uses the phrase “An Open Letter to Twitter” as as subheading, the Royal Pingdom blog argues that too many of the good Twitter user names are in limbo, registered to people who don’t use them:
It doesn’t have to be complicated. If a Twitter account is completely unused for six months, go ahead and delete it. If you must, send an email to users before you do it and give them a week to sign in to avoid having the account deleted.
Granted, you’ll have fewer “registered users” to boast about if you start deleting unused accounts, but this is the right thing to do. Your users will have a more positive introduction to your service and a better user experience.
February 2012: “Dear Twitter: Don’t Mean to be Rude, But Maybe It’s time to Hire a Full-Time Product Guy”
Eleven months after Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey’s return to the company as chairman—splitting his time with his new startup Square—Business Insider founder Henry Blodgett concludes that the company’s problems are too big to be solved on a part-time basis:
So, how’s Jack doing?
Well, officially, everyone raves about the amazing leadership and influence Jack has had at Twitter, and everyone gushed all over some of the recent product innovations Twitter announced under Jack’s leadership.
But I have to say this.
As a massively heavy Twitter user, the recent changes that Twitter has made to my Twitter app—TweetDeck—have been all for the worse.
My old TweetDeck for iPhone stopped working, so I had to upgrade to the new one. Yes, it’s buggy and crash-prone, but the old version had that problem, too. But it’s the “improvements” to the new version of the TweetDeck app that bug me the most. I won’t chronicle them here, but suffice it to say that I don’t like them. The new version of TweetDeck is now less intuitive and harder to use than the old one. And I’m holding Jack responsible for that.
October 2013: “An Open Letter to Twitter”
Speaking on behalf of ad-deleting software Adblock Plus, Ben Williams urges Twitter to come up with ads which ABP users won’t want to block:
…your users might not be too thrilled about what’s in store—and that will inevitably send that many more of them running to Adblock Plus. Our numbers are swelling even if advertising revenue is growing as well. Over 200 million people have downloaded our software, and last week alone we had over 1.5 million downloads. Your current ad offerings are actually not far from what we’d consider non-annoying (see more below)—but the idea of a fundamentally changed Twitter, now with ads round every corner, may direct users to Adblock Plus for no other reason than that they want their “old” Twitter back.
So why not work together? We would like to partner with you to engineer acceptable, nonintrusive advertising that would conform to our guidelines and make it to our whitelist. That’s right, we want you to advertise. But we want you to do it responsibly, by adhering to our Acceptable Ads guidelines.
March 2015: “An Open Letter to Twitter HQ”
Semil, a contributor to a site called Openlttr, basically informs Twitter that it’s way too stagnant, and should consider new features such as Klout-like reputation scores:
Reward engagement with reputation—maybe similar to an eBay score or forum rating mechanism. The higher your number the more likely your engagement will be noticed via a highlight, notification, or display in streams. Or perhaps create a perks system for the highly active users. Enticing people to engage will reward content producers for their time and effort with a simple retweet or comment, and it will go a long way.
Another perk here would be to allow people to select what level of reputation score they want to see on a daily basis or maybe have highlighted to them with a notification.
August 2015: “An Open Letter to Twitter: It’s Time to Advertise”
Ad man Rick Webb declares that Twitter’s salvation involves goosing its user base by spending at least $100 million on…advertising itself!
Twitter has advertised on TV before, or at least made TV ads. There’s another one I remember seeing that was a great sort of anthemic, inspirational piece. I can’t find it online anymore. But it was really good. Like many people who dip their toes into broadcast, it was too little media time, and maybe too soon. They used some people they knew personally (I hear), and didn’t really get some hardcore, outside genius experts. By the way, that’s an amazing, great thing about the advertising industry — it’s doesn’t cost any more to hire a legend such as Lee Clow as it does anyone else. God bless good old American competition, amirite?
But Twitter is a different company now. They have the money, they have the product, they have the story, they have the mainstream potential. In advertising, that’s exactly when wide-spread, go-big TV advertising becomes something you should seriously consider.
January 2016: “Dear Twitter: Please Don’t Do It”
At its core, Twitter is a real-time medium. It’s for a quick thought or a fast-paced conversation. Hashtags allow us to monitor what is #trending.
Twitter is not ideal for creating original long-form content, although it is a tool for sharing what exists on other sites and networks.
Reading through all of these, I’m struck by their confident tone. Also obvious: Today’s Twitter doesn’t seem to have been shaped in the least by the sort of advice doled out in open letters, with the possible exception that it continues to cling to the 140-character limit, at least for now.
And you know what? If Twitter had implemented most of the recommendations which people dispense in these letters, I bet that its current health wouldn’t be radically different one way or another. And no matter what, the letters would have kept on coming. That’s part of what makes Twitter, well, Twitter.
[Photo: Flickr user Alexandre Duret-Lutz]