Tag Archives: tweets

Twitter’s latest test lets users subscribe to a tweet’s replies

Twitter in more recent months has been focused on making conversations on its platform easier to follow, participate in, and in some cases, block. The company’s latest test, announced via a tweet ahead of the weekend, will allow users to subscribe to replies to a particularly interesting tweet they want to follow, too, in order to see how the conversation progresses. The feature is designed to complement the existing notifications feature you may have turned on for your “must-follow” accounts.

Many people already have Twitter alert them via a push notification when an account they want to track sends out a new tweet. Now you’ll be able to visit that tweet directly and turn on the option to receive reply notifications, if you’re opted in to this new test.

If you have the new feature, you’ll see a notification bell icon in the top-right corner of the screen when you’re viewing the tweet in Twitter’s mobile app.

When you click the bell icon, you’ll be presented with three options: one to subscribe to the “top” replies, another to subscribe to all replies, and a third to turn reply notifications off.

Twitter says top replies will include those from the author, anyone they mentioned, and people you follow.

This is the same set of “interesting” replies that Twitter has previously experimented with highlighting in other ways — including through the use of labels like “Original Tweeter” or “Author,” and as of last month, with icons instead of text-based labels. For example, one test displayed a microphone icon next to a tweet from the original poster in order to make their replies easier to spot.

The larger goal of those tests and this new one is to personalize the experience of participating in Twitter conversations by showcasing what the people you follow are saying, while also making a conversation easier to follow by seeing when the original poster and those they mentioned have chimed in.

This latest test takes things a step further by actually subscribing you to those sorts of replies — or even all the replies to a tweet, if you choose.

The new experiment comes at a time when Twitter is attempting to solve the overwhelming problem of conversation health in other ways, too. Beyond attempting to write and enforce tougher rules regarding online abuse and harassment, it also last month officially launched a “Hide Replies” feature in Canada that would allow the original poster to put replies they didn’t feel were valuable behind an icon so they weren’t prominently displayed within the conversation. It’s unclear how “Hide Replies” would work with this new reply notifications option, however — presumably, you’d still get alerts when someone you follow responded, even if the original poster hid their reply from view.

Twitter says the new test is available on iOS or Android.

Twitter’s underrated Lists feature finally gets some attention

Twitter Lists have never gotten the attention they deserve. A feature largely adopted by Twitter power users, lists allow you to create custom timelines by adding only those users whose tweets you want to track. And this can be done without having to also follow those Twitter accounts, which keeps your main timeline clutter-free. But the Twitter Lists feature has always been somewhat buried in Twitter’s interface — at least until now. The company today announced it’s testing a way to make lists easier to access, by relocating them only a swipe away from your home screen.

According to a tweet shared today, Twitter has been thinking about how to make lists easier to get to.

“One idea we had is for you to be able to swipe to your lists from home,” the company explained, followed by a request for feedback.

If you’ve been added to the test, your home timeline will now show dashed lines across the top for each list — a familiar design for anyone who’s ever used Snapchat or Instagram Stories, for example.

From the main timeline, you simply swipe left to move through all your custom timelines, much like you’d advance through Stories.

Lists are especially useful for things you want to track only sometimes — like tweets about a favorite sports team, TV show, or hashtag, perhaps. Or you could make a list of Twitter accounts that tweet cute animal photos, for when the rest of Twitter gets you down. You can also use lists for tracking notable accounts in a given industry, for research purposes, or for following accounts around any other particular interest. You can even use lists as a way to follow someone’s tweets without actually following them.

Lists can also be both public and private, depending on whether you’re looking to share your Twitter curation with the wider world or not.

Twitter didn’t say how many people would be added to the test.

Nor does a test mean the feature is definitely going to launch to the public. But a better interface for accessing lists is something those who use the Lists feature have wanted for some time.

The test is available in Twitter’s mobile app for those who have been opted in.

 

 

After year-long lockout, Twitter is finally giving people their accounts back

Twitter is finally allowing a number of locked users to regain control of their accounts once again. Around a  year after Europe’s new privacy laws (GDPR) rolled out, Twitter began booting users out of their accounts if it suspected the account’s owner was underage — that is, younger than 13. But the process also locked out many users who said they were now old enough to use Twitter’s service legally.

While Twitter’s rules had stated that users under 13 can’t create accounts or post tweets, many underage users did so anyway thanks to lax enforcement of the policy. The GDPR regulations, however, forced Twitter to address the issue.

But even if the Twitter users were old enough to use the service when the regulations went into effect in May 2018, Twitter still had to figure out a technical solution to delete all the content published to its platform when those users were underage.

The lock-out approach was an aggressive way to deal with the problem.

By comparison, another app favored by underage users, TikTok, was recently fined by the FTC for being in violation of U.S. children’s privacy law, COPPA. But instead of kicking out all its underage users for months on end, it forced an age gate to appear in the app after it deleted all the videos made by underage users. Those users who were still under 13 were then redirected to a new COPPA-compliant experience.

Although Twitter was forced to address the problem because of the new regulations, lest it face possible fines, the company seemingly didn’t prioritize a fix. For example, VentureBeat reported how Twitter emailed users in June 2018 saying they’d be in touch with an update about the problem soon, but no update ever arrived.

The hashtag #TwitterLockOut became a common occurrence on Twitter and cries of “Give us back our accounts!” would be found in the Replies whenever Twitter shared other product news on its official accounts. (Well, that and requests for an Edit button, of course.) 

Twitter says that it’s now beginning — no, for real this time! — to give the locked out users control of their accounts. The process will roll out in waves as it scales up, with those who have waited the longest getting their emails first.

It also claims the process “was a lot more complicated” than anticipated, which is why it took a year (or in some cases, more than a year) to complete.

However, there are some caveats.

The users will first need to give Twitter permission to delete any tweets posted before they were 13, as well as any likes, DMs sent or received, moments, lists, and collections. Twitter will also need to remove all profile information besides the account’s username and date of birth.

In other words, the company is offering users a way to reclaim their username but none of their content.

Though many of these users have since moved on to new Twitter accounts, they may still want to reclaim their old username if it was a good one. In addition, their follower/following counts will return to normal after up to 24 hours after they take control of their account once again.

Twitter says it’s beginning to email those who are eligible starting today with these details. If the user doesn’t have an email address, they can instead log into the account where they’ll see a “Get Started” button to kick off the process instead.

To proceed, users will have to confirm their name and either the email or phone number that was associated with the account.

The account isn’t immediately unlocked after the steps are completed, users report. But Twitter’s dialog box informs the users they’ll be notified when the process is finalized on Twitter’s side.

Hopefully, that won’t take another year.

Image credits (of the process): Reddit user nyuszika7h, via r/Twitter 

Twitter to launch a ‘hide replies’ feature, plus other changes to its reporting process

In February, Twitter confirmed its plans to launch a feature that would allow users to hide replies that they felt didn’t contribute to a conversation. Today, alongside news of other changes to the reporting process and its documentation, Twitter announced the “Hide Replies” feature is set to launch in June.

Twitter says the feature will be an “experiment” — which means it could be changed or even scrapped, based on user feedback.

The feature is likely to spark some controversy, as it puts the original poster in control of which tweets appear in a conversation thread. This, potentially, could silence dissenting opinions or even fact-checked clarifications. But, on the flip side, it also means that people who enter conversations with plans to troll or make hateful remarks are more likely to see their posts tucked away out of view.

This, Twitter believes, could help encourage people to present their thoughts and opinions in a more polite and less abusive fashion, and shifts the balance of power back to the poster without an overcorrection. (For what it’s worth, Facebook and Instagram give users far more control over their posts, as you can delete trolls’ comments entirely.)

“We already see people trying to keep their conversations healthy by using block, mute, and report, but these tools don’t always address the issue. Block and mute only change the experience of the blocker, and report only works for the content that violates our policies,” explained Twitter’s PM of Health Michelle Yasmeen Haq earlier this year. “With this [‘Hide Replies’] feature, the person who started a conversation could choose to hide replies to their tweets. The hidden replies would be viewable by others through a menu option.”

In other words, hidden responses aren’t being entirely silenced — just made more difficult to view, as displaying them would require an extra click.

Twitter unveiled its plans to launch the “Hide Replies” feature alongside a host of other changes it has in store for its platform, some of which it had previously announced.

It says, for example, it will add more notices within Twitter for clarity around tweets that break its rules but are allowed to remain on the site. This is, in part, a response to some users’ complaints around President Trump’s apparently rule-breaking tweets that aren’t taken down. Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde recently mentioned this change was in the works, in a March interview with The Washington Post.

Twitter also says it will update its documentation around its rules to be simpler to understand. And it will make it easier for people to share specifics when reporting tweets so Twitter can act more swiftly when user safety is a concern.

This latter change follows a recent controversy over how Twitter handled death threats against Rep. Ilhan Omar. Twitter left the death threats online so law enforcement could investigate, according to a BuzzFeed News report. But the move raised questions as to how Twitter should handle threats against a user’s life in the future.

More vaguely, Twitter states it’s improving its technology to help it proactively review content that breaks rules before it’s reported — specifically in the areas of those who dox users (tweet private information), make threats and other online abuse. The company didn’t go in-depth as to how it’s approaching these problems, but it did acquire anti-abuse technology provider Smyte last year, with the goal of better addressing the abuse on its platform.

Donald Hicks, VP Twitter Services, in a company blog post, hints Twitter is using its existing technology in new ways to address abuse:

The same technology we use to track spam, platform manipulation and other rule violations is helping us flag abusive Tweets to our team for review. With our focus on reviewing this type of content, we’ve also expanded our teams in key areas and geographies so we can stay ahead and work quickly to keep people safe. Reports give us valuable context and a strong signal that we should review content, but we’ve needed to do more and though still early on, this work is showing promise.

Twitter also today shared a handful of self-reported metrics that paint a picture of progress.

This includes the following:

Today, 38 percent of abusive content that’s enforced is handled proactively (note: much content still has no enforcement action taken, though); 16 percent fewer abuse reports after an interaction from an account the reporter doesn’t follow; 100K accounts suspended for returning to create new accounts during Jan.-March 2019, a 45 percent increase from the same time last year; a 60 percent faster response rates to appeals requests through its in-app appeal process, 3x more abusive accounts suspended within 24 hours, compared to the same time last year; and 2.5x more private info removed with its new reporting process compared with the old process.

But these are largely “vanity metrics,” as they don’t offer real, hard numbers about the extent of abuse on Twitter. One hundred thousand accounts may have been caught, but how many were not? Three times more abuse accounts suspended — but how many were there? How fast is private info actually taken down? How many people appealed their reports? How many feel the report resolved their problem? How many abuse reports in total are there? Is that number growing or declining? What percent of the user base has used the reporting process because of harassment towards themselves? And so on.

Despite Twitter’s attempts to solve issues around online abuse, it still drops the ball in handling what should be straightforward decisions. It’s not necessarily alone here, however. All of social media is at a crossroads, having built platforms that cater to engagement over health and safety; they’re now trying to back pedal furiously ahead of increased regulation.

But the problem is that human behavior is what it is. A giant public square will only bring out the worst of us. Twitter is a perfect example.

The changes to Twitter were announced as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took the stage at TED 2019 on Tuesday, where he admitted the platform’s failings in terms of online abuse.

The company admits it still has more to do, and will continue to share its progress in the future.

Twitter confirms a new ‘Subscribe to Conversation’ feature for following tweets of interest

In addition to testing out a new format for conversations within a prototype app called twttr and other features like a “Hide Tweet” button, Twitter today confirmed it’s also developing a feature that would allow users to subscribe to individual conversations taking place on its platform.

The new option was first spotted by Jane Manchun Wong, a reverse engineer who often peeks inside popular apps to discover their yet-to-be-launched features and changes.

Wong tells TechCrunch she found the “Subscribe to conversation” feature within the Android version of the Twitter app, where it’s a user interface prototype for now. The button simply reads “Subscribe to conversation” and is positioned at the top right corner of a tweet view, she says.

Reached for comment, Twitter didn’t provide any details about its plans but pointed TechCrunch to its tweet confirming the feature’s development. The company’s short statement reads, “This is part of our work to make Twitter more conversational.”

Healthier and better structured conversations are among Twitter’s top goals at present, as the company tries to make its app easier to use and less prone to abuse.

The new subscription feature would allow someone to follow a thread without directly signaling their interest, or having to join in the conversation themselves. With a click of the button, users could instead opt to receive notifications when new tweets were added to that conversation.

To some extent, this feature is another example of how the change from stars to hearts as Twitter’s favoriting mechanism has had a ripple effect on Twitter’s development. The star had indicated interest, but didn’t convey an emotion. Twitter wanted to evoke a more positive vibe, so it shifted over to hearts several years ago. But as a result, people felt they could no longer save tweets they wanted to later reference using the default engagement mechanism, as it indicates an endorsement. (And not all tweets you’re saving are those you support.)

Twitter later addressed this problem with a separate tweet-saving feature, Bookmarks.

Now it’s creating yet another way to track tweets – and, in this case, the resulting conversation, too.

If Twitter had kept stars, it could have built out its “Likes” page with all these variations on tweet-saving and more. It could have added toggles for notifications, and who knows what else – keyword search across your saves? bookmarking with tags? private and public boards or collections, like Moments, but built from bookmarked collections?

Aggregating these features in one place could have made Twitter a valuable reference and “Read It Later” tool to rival apps like Pocket and Instapaper – or even web browser bookmarking itself.

But that’s not the path Twitter took, so now we’ll have Likes (hearts), Bookmarks, and conversation subscriptions, it seems.

Twitter declined to say when the new feature would arrive.

Library of Congress will no longer archive all public tweets, citing longer character limits

 The Library of Congress announced today that it will no longer add every public tweet to its archives, an ambitious project it launched seven years ago. It cited the much larger volume of tweets generated now, as well as Twitter’s decision to double the character limit from 140 to 280. Instead, starting on Jan. 1, the Library will be more selective about what tweets to preserve, a… Read More

Twitter confirms it’s testing a tweetstorm feature

 Twitter confirms it’s testing a feature that allows users to more easily create “tweetstorms” – those series of connected tweets that have grown to be a popular workaround for Twitter’s character count limitations. The feature, which was recently spotted in the wild, offers a new interface for composing tweets, where individual tweetstorm entries can be written… Read More

Study: Russian Twitter bots sent 45k Brexit tweets close to vote

 Research conducted by a group of data scientists looking at how information was diffused on Twitter around the June 2016 EU referendum vote suggests more than 150,000 Russian accounts were involved in tweeting about #Brexit. Read More

Twitter launches ‘Happening Now’ to showcase tweets about events, starting with sports

 Twitter is today releasing a new feature called “Happening Now” aimed to make its service more accessible to newcomers by highlighting groups of tweets about a topic, beginning with sports, before expanding to other areas like entertainment and breaking news. If this sounds similar to Twitter’s existing Moments feature….well, it is. Moments, too, offers a way to learn… Read More

Twitter will launch a bookmarking tool in the near future

 Twitter confirmed it’s planning to launch a bookmarking feature to save tweets for later reading. The addition will help users keep a separate list of items they want to refer back to, instead of using the heart (aka “favorite”) button, which can indicate more of a “like” – similar to the “thumbs up” button on Facebook. The feature’s… Read More