Since February 10th, I’ve been using the new Twitter timeline. I’ve been outspoken how a new algorithm timeline would ruin and take away all the value from Twitter. I am the vocal minority, and Twitter has pressure from Wall Street to make Twitter usable and easier for normals. While I’m in no means a normal, I’ve found a lot of value in Twitter. I’ve made friends, found work, and had the chance to see the perspectives of people in all walks of life. I also use Twitter to drive traffic to this site, so I have a lot invested in Twitter’s future.
I had an overwhelming fear the new timeline would break conversations, surface irrelevant tweets, and make following live events extremely difficult. I first noticed conversations weren’t broken, and in fact Twitter made sure to keep them intact. At the same time I have a bad habit of opening the Twitter app and pulling down to refresh. Which meant I had a hard time telling the difference of when I was using the new algorithmic timeline or if I was using the old school chronological timeline. This likely won’t be a problem for normals’ because Facebook also hides the setting to switch between their algorithmic timeline and their chronological order timeline. Facebook users don’t know this, but at the same time users don’t mind having their timeline curated by Facebook algorithms.
Once I stopped pulling down the refresh constantly, I started noticed Twitter would surface the same few accounts. I follow well over 300 accounts, and the ones I used to see often started being pushed off the timeline almost constantly. They weren’t accounts I interacted with often, but I would read them to find out breaking news, know what’s going on somewhere, or to just enjoy. Twitter would surface accounts that I would heart, and it made me rethink how often I would heart or tweet an account. I understand Twitter thinks if I’m interacting with an account I would want to see more, but seeing the same account every few tweets became annoying. I also felt that I missed out on a lot of other tweets that I thought were important but don’t interact with on a daily basis. The best algorithms feature isn’t new, and has been around for a while now. ‘While you were away’ served up great tweets and they were normally from different accounts that I normally replied to, hearted, or retweeted. I didn’t feel like I was getting the same few users pushed onto my timeline.
I also noticed a lot of tweets from publishers were being pushed into the timeline hours after they were relevant to me. The tweets were breaking news, and Twitter didn’t start to push them to the top until they started trending on the social network. Many times an hour or two after the event meant I was out of the loop, had to go in and read about it on Buzzfeed or Vox. The value of Twitter for many were how you could know about breaking news seconds after it happened, letting citizen journalist share images, videos, and first hand accounts of what occurred. The new timeline doesn’t understand the difference between something that’s important and something that won’t become trending. Twitter may argue this is where Moment’s become an important tool to follow a viral tweet, a sports event, or breaking news. However, this breaks their main timeline into a separate product that could be removed from core Twitter or have moments or dm’s removed in the future.
Overall Twitter’s new timeline needs work, but if the algorithm understands the trends and promotes tweets based on that, Twitter could have a hit on their hands. I also have concerns of how you’re not going to be exposed to different walks of life. You may follow coworkers, friends, and brands but they’ll always relate to you and expose you to different ideas like you could in a chronological timeline. A normal wouldn’t always be on Twitter checking constantly, so an algorithmic timeline would fit their needs and wants. Someone like me who is a news junkie and constantly refreshed Twitter won’t like the new timeline because it takes the value away from what Twitter has become.
My experience may not be representative of everyone so I’d love to hear from you! Tell us in the comments below what you think of the new Twitter timeline, if you’ve started using it, or tell us why you’re sticking with the chronological timeline.