Twitter engineers are on a never-ending quest to balance quality with quantity. Too much of the firehose, and it becomes unusable; too little, and … well, you’re just left with Facebook Lite.
On Monday, they rolled out another tweak which attempts to nudge the balance back towards quality.
The new change applies to conversation pages for individual tweets. Before today, viewing a single tweet or conversation page would show all the replies to it in one unfiltered stream. That’s not so helpful for popular posts.
From now on, opening up a tweet’s page—the page you get to if you click on the time or date on a tweet—shows the most noteworthy responses to it at the top. In a blog post, Twitter product manager Akarshan Kumar says it uses a variety of criteria to determine this, such as whether the original account has replied. It’s a little bit like the way Facebook filters items for the News Feed, but applied to replies to single tweets.
Conversations are also getting grouped together underneath the tweet so they’re easy to follow; clicking on a conversation expands all of the replies. The changes are rolling out across Twitter today for logged in and logged out users, and will be coming to the mobile apps “in the future.”
“Like with other features, we will continually be iterating and improving on this experience to make it easier to understand and participate in conversations on Twitter as well as to find the best, most relevant content we have to offer,” writes Kumar.
Feel The Noise
At first glance it’s a much needed feature: A lot of Twitter’s most interesting conversations come from replies between users and don’t necessarily show up in timelines. This should help surface “the most interesting exchanges,” according to Kumar.
What it doesn’t seem to take into account is Twitter’s ongoing trolling problem—will the to-and-fros with the most bile get promoted over more worthwhile conversations?
The nonstop barrage of updates is one of Twitter’s greatest strengths (during breaking news events and live sports for example), but it can also be a major problem. It makes it less easy for casual users to catch up afterwards, which is part of the reason a new feature called While You Were Away was launched at the start of the year.
This is a small change, but it’s another step forward for Twitter in trying to refine the user experience, whether those users sit in front of TweetDeck all day or catch up in the mobile app a couple of times a week.