Twitter has gained a reputation as the platform that connects everyone through conversation. It is a place where people go to converse with others to talk about things from breaking news to your favorite television show. This connectivity is something that I will go more in depth with later during my presentation of the company, but it is an important factor to note. This is important because Twitter is announcing new product features that would help increase engagement and decrease trolling/spam. These are two things that Twitter is really trying to improve upon. A main area of emphasis for Twitter revolves around conversation threads that can get quite congested and push engagement away. Twitter’s solution to this problem is to increase readability by incorporating group chat like elements into these long conversations. Sub-branches of threads will also be able to be collapsed so users can choose to not engage with certain content that they deem as unimportant. Twitter will be offering a select group of users to beta test their new product, that will transform the way that threads look. As being required to use Twitter for this class, we should all be familiar with the current layout of threads and of ways to engage with tweets, as shown below.
On the current layout of threads, content is not very organized, especially on tweets that generate thousands of replies. Often times, users can get confused and exhausted, especially when people begin to troll threads with hurtful replies or fake information. This is crucial for Twitter to alleviate given that their greatest priority is the health of the conversations that their platform provides. Making users feel safe is the main goal and they believe their new product features will help in this regard. The layout of how new threads would be presented is shown below.
As you can see, it does look sort of like a group chat and definitely more organized than before. There is also a new color scheme for each tweet, hoping to make it easier to differentiate and prioritize which replies to read. For example, replies from the original tweeter are blue, replies from people you follow are green, and all others are the conventional white. The main goal of this, noted by Twitter at CES, is to utilize more visual organization in order to elevate and highlight certain elements of different threads. It is also evident that the like, retweet, reply, and share buttons are not at the bottom of each reply in the new beta product. Instead, you are required to tap on the reply to have these options show up. You are also able to see when users are currently online. This is the one new feature I do not really love.
The other big change to threads that Twitter is experimenting with is the ability to collapse sub-branches of threads. A very common thing to happen in threads is for users to not only reply to the original tweet, but also reply to other replies. This creates even more of a confusion in trying to follow along and prioritize the content of a thread. Often times, these sub-branches can be filled with irrelevant, annoying, or hurtful content. By allowing users to collapse sub-branches, Twitter is hoping to minimize this kind of content that users are forced to see. As the Group A members of Tech Trek watched the Ted Talk by Del Harvey discussing her imperative job to protect users, we can see how crucial this safety is for users. Abuse, trolling, and stalking were some of these scenarios that Harvey discussed.
To round out the additions to the Twitter experience, beta testers will also be able to test out a new status update feature, allows users to display what they are doing or where they are when the tweet, without having to explicitly state it in the tweet. The goal of this is to provide context to what people are tweeting. Currently, many people will change their their username for certain periods of time in order to promote something or note where they are/what is going on. With this new feature, users will not have to do this, as shown in the image below. The user’s status update will appear under the user’s name and twitter handle, and above the actual tweet.
Overall, these are dramatic changes to Twitter’s current format, so it will be interesting to see how users react to this. Right now there seems to be mixed views, despite no one being able to test out these features yet. In the next couple of weeks, though, a select group of about two-thousand users will be able to beta test these new features. Unlike most beta tests, this test by Twitter is is going to be happening quite early in respect to launch. In most cases, beta testing happens much closer to launch. There will also not be an NDA that beta testers will have to sign, making reactions to the testing public. The reason for this is because Twitter wants the Twitter community to be engaged and see what is going on, even if they are not part of the group of beta testers. Twitters hopes to learn a lot from the beta tests, knowing that they may have to pivot significantly. Regardless, this instance of beta testing goes beyond traditional product development and research, as the company is hoping to sustain their relevance and value amidst steep competition.
What do you guys think of the changes to Twitter?