Twitter is launching topics. This is a way to automatically follow topics on the timeline


Recently, a friend told me that he wanted to spend more time on Twitter, but he didn’t know it very well. He told me that his main interest is comedy and he wanted to find a way to see the best jokes posted by comedians on Twitter. But when he followed comedians, he mostly saw a lot of self-promoting things-tour dates, late-night appearances and things like that. No matter what your personal interests are, there are countless related good news on Twitter. But where are they?

The theme is a new feature of Twitter, which will be launched this week, representing a great effort to answer this question. Just as you can currently follow your personal account, you will be able to follow more than 300 “topics” in sports, entertainment and games. In return, you will see tweets from accounts you don’t follow that have credibility on these topics.

Twitter executives hope that Topics will make it easier for new and intermittent users to use the platform and make it easier for more users to discover new accounts and conversations. The feature began testing on Android in August and will be launched globally on November 13.

“We know that the main reason people come to Twitter is to keep up with things that interest them,” said Rob Bishop, who is in charge of the Topics team. “The challenge is that it is really difficult to do this on Twitter every day.”

In addition to (or in place of) personal accounts, the idea of ​​getting people to focus on topics can be traced back to the beginning of the company. However, this requires the development of machine learning tools and the hiring of human editing teams to achieve this.

As a reporter who spends about eight hours a day at least following the Twitter timeline, I am a poor test case for the value of Topics. I pay attention to those whose work is closely related to myself and others. Generally speaking, if this is important to the company I cover, then I will not miss it.

“The main reason people come to TWITTER is to keep up with what interests them.”

But I am also a professional wrestling nerd, and he recently opened a backup account to keep up with wrestling Twitter. (I found that the tweets about SummerSlam did not perform well on my main account. If you can imagine!) At the moment I created the new account, I was in the same place as my friend who likes comedy: I ​​know there are many good tweets. For me, but I can’t see where.

I did the obvious: follow the major professional wrestling federations, top stars, and a handful of wrestling journalists and podcasts. However, when Twitter enables “Themes” for my account, I can also just follow “WWE”. Suddenly, when I scrolled, a new icon appeared, indicating that the tweet I was reading was from a topic I was following.

During a recent visit to the Twitter office, Bishop guided me through how to select tweets about WWE and the like in the timeline. First, Twitter scans the incoming tweets for keywords such as “WWE” and “professional wrestling”. (At least it can’t search for these terms in images and videos.) Second, Twitter searches to see if the tweet comes from people who usually tweet on the topic, as a measure of its credibility. Finally, Twitter studies engagement: How many of other people who follow this topic like, repost or reply to a tweet? The more people interact with the tweet, the more likely it is to be an entry point.

The first and most obvious challenge here is to choose the right tweet to include it in the timeline. In my experience, Twitter’s algorithm seems somewhat obvious. Many of the first tweets I saw came from official WWE accounts and their wrestler accounts. Of course, some of them are good, but many of these highly engaged tweets are just naked self-promotion and are not particularly valuable to me. (Thank you, I already know that the pay-per-use time starts on Sunday)

After several days of testing, however, I started to see more related tweets. I learned that WWE has renewed its morally bankrupt transaction with the Saudi Arabian government, thanks to thematic tweets inserted in my timetable by reporters I never followed. The average wrestling fan posted another topic tweet on the same topic, and he provided some spicy and relevant comments. I hope the theme becomes everything.

The second challenge in perfecting themes is balance: how many theme tweets should Twitter show you? Bishop told me that, generally speaking, the fewer personal accounts you follow, the more theme tweets you might see. This seems to be a reasonable approach. I have less than 100 followers on my wrestling alt account, and many of the tweets in my timeline are just tweets that are liked by people I follow. So far, the tweets in the “topic” are at least as good as these tweets, and generally better.

Despite this, the subset of Twitter users’ voices is still very picky because of which tweets appear on their timeline. (When other people’s preferences seem to appear randomly in the feed, my own timeline is full of hows from aggrieved users.) Twitter executives want Topics to be widely used, but if advanced users think it’s not, I won’t Surprised. Not suitable for them.

You won’t find a topic in the first batch: politics. The company told me that it is very sensitive to the potential unintended consequences of algorithms because these algorithms will further amplify tweets on sensitive topics, so it insists on starting with a lower ticket price.

Tweets on many popular topics may now spread farther than before

Bishop said that this feature will shine for loyal followers such as large professional sports teams or South Korean boy group BTS. He said that the group and its members represent one of the most discussed topics on Twitter, but there are few official reports focusing on its daily development. (Soon, Jungkook will get better!) Although Twitter knows what the highest account is, it still allows fans to search for fan accounts. Now, fans can follow the BTS theme, and Twitter will post popular tweets about the band.

Bishop said that if Topics succeeds, ordinary people will not pay attention to fewer personal accounts. He said that in fact, they may be more. This also means that your tweets on many popular topics may now go further than ever before. This may be a mixed result, because anyone who has seen a tweet can spread the virus and be harassed as a result.

What’s next? Bishop said, more topics, including topics about international trends. The team is also working on the function of mute themes, for example, this function is useful for people trying to avoid disrupting popular TV shows. Ultimately, Bishop said, you might be able to “cast” your tweets to followers on a specific topic, which is another ancient dream of Twitter users. (Imagine being able to discuss the city you live in on Twitter, but only with people who follow the topic.)

The team is also studying the function of the silent theme

The company also plans to eventually allow you to browse the topics on the browse page and view the topics in a dedicated list. (This is my job, coupled with a narrow cast list, allows me to make all tweets from one account.)

Similar to other features released by Twitter this year-thinking of the ability to search for direct messages-the theme feature is obvious, popular, expired, and not yet fully completed. But for a company that has never known how to handle the incredible tweets that flow through its servers every day, this also seems to be a meaningful improvement.

Bishop said: “As with any machine learning problem, we will learn a lot from taking it in the hands of our customers and understanding their participation so that we can build better models.” “Our goal is to solve this problem as quickly as possible. And let people use it so we can improve the algorithm.”

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