Twitter’s Innovation to Keep the Conversation Going

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.

Current Twitter Thread

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?

8 thoughts on “Twitter’s Innovation to Keep the Conversation Going

  1. Nice, I look forward to exploring these features. My favorite article on Twitter was a Businessweek piece that called Twitter “the company that tried to kill itself, but couldn’t.” Many of the improvements they have done in the last few years have been a real improvement. I hope to see it continue.

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  2. Funny, I was actually scrolling through a comedic twitter thread today and was thinking to myself how all the posts seem to follow no specific order and found myself thinking there is no way I will ever reach the end of the thread. I think the addition of this feature will certainly help to grow Twitter’s attraction to consumers. The thread feature that looks so similar to a group chat seems like a comfortable addition that will have very easy adaptability for users.

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  3. This was definitely a cool topic to read about because I am an avid twitter user and I’ve never heard of such changes coming along! I think these could be great and definitely have a lot of potential in better organizing the twitter sphere so people can choose what they want to see. The only issue is that with so many colors and ways of organizing, it can be a bit distracting from the way content the user is looking for. Great post!

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  4. Interesting post! Cool to read about how Twitter is considering changing this as it is a big part of the design of the app. I think that a lot of public skepticism often comes along with design changes to social media apps (like major Instagram or Snapchat updates), but after a short amount of time, everyone seems to get used to the new layouts. I wonder how this change will go over with avid Twitter users. Although it might take some getting used to, it seems like a helpful feature to organize responses to tweets in a way that makes more sense.

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  5. Really interesting post! After reading this and then taking a second look into my twitter feed, I found that I really liked the new features that Twitter is thinking of adding. While it would be much more convenient and organized, I am skeptical to see if Twitter’s overall purpose changes as a result. In other words, I wonder what was once a platform to update and share information, thoughts, and ideas becomes simply another form of basic messaging. I would think that this could take away from the Direct Messaging feature and begin to resemble companies, such as What’sApp and Snapchat’s messaging, that as of right now are not major competitors. Will be looking to see if my feed changes any time soon!

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  6. Great post! These changes seem to be significantly different, so I wonder how the public will react. This reminds me of the TED talk group B watched in which Youtube was dealing with a ton of pushback when they changed the five star rating to a thumbs up or down. They said that informing the public about the changes and why they are making the changes made a hug difference in their reaction. I can see here that Twitter is doing the same thing. I don’t know if I will be a fan immediately, but will likely adapt.

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  7. Cool post. I wonder if Twitter is releasing multiple Beta versions of this new layout. I think it was our first class, but I remember somebody (maybe Prof. Kane or one of the videos) saying that Facebook is running thousands of slightly different versions of the app at once. It looks like Twitter is trying to make some pretty significant overhauls, and so it might be difficult to see what exactly influences the user the most if a bunch of different features change at once. Looking forward to your presentation.

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  8. Very interesting update on Twitter’s new features. Although I do like the ideas, I am a little skeptical on the colors. One of the reasons Twitter stand out from other social media apps is the cleanness and color schemes (or lack of) in the app. Collapsing the threads is definitely a good idea for organization but it is also a lot like Facebook comments.
    This also reminded me that in Hatching Twitter, when the team first suggested to use @ and # to tag people and organize tweets, people were saying these new features were too “technical” for the general public to understand. Now these features are a major part of Twitter.

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