Twitter's new timeline: Waiting is the hardest part There wasn't a big switch. Twitter's new timeline didn't just appear after it was announced on Wednesday the site would officially get a "Show Me Best Tweets First" design based on relevancy, rather than chronology.
Worse yet, the news arrived without a single image showing how to turn on (or off) the feature in settings, or how the new Tweet order would look to users. This was odd.
See also: Twitter's new timeline is here, and it's all about the algorithm
In the brief blog post about one of Twitter's most significant service changes in years â a post that was, strangely, not written by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey â the company doesn't even properly describe its own settings.
"Just go into the timeline section of your settings and choose 'Show me the best Tweets first,'" the blog post by Mike Jahr reads.
However, there's no "Timeline" section in settings. There is, on the desktop version, a "Notifications timeline" setting, but that's not the the same thing, is it?
Fortunately, there are more explicit instructions available, but you have to find them by following a link from Jahr's post and scrolling down to a set of steps that, as I was writing this, did not match the current state of Twitter. Even though Jahr's post used the word "now," the update was actually rolling out slowly, and the iOS and Android features may have required an app reinstall (or maybe even an app update).
All morning, I scoured Twitter and couldn't find anyone who was enjoying or hating the new feeds.
The hours of waiting for this new timeline algorithm gave me ample time to think about how it works. Twitter's details on this point are scant: "We choose them based on accounts you interact with most, Tweets you engage with, and much more."
The first part is pretty clear. When I retweet or favorite (heart) an account a lot, its tweets will likely get priority in this Timeline "Best Tweets" block. Interaction could also include Direct Messaging, I guess, though that feels a bit invasive.
However, I don't understand how Twitter can measure tweets I engage with if I haven't seen them. In other words, if Twitter's algorithm chooses which new/best Tweets to front load, shouldn't they be tweets I haven't read and engaged with? Then there's the "much more" portion, which is the KFC Secret Recipe of the new Twitter Timeline Algorithm. We may never know all the ways in which Twitter's algorithm is managing our new feed.
The fact that this algorithm now exists, though, means that whatever it does right now, it could be doing something different in the future. We need only to look a few clicks over to Facebook's ever-changing Newsfeed algorithm to know this.
I know Twitter needs this â or something like this â to make the service more inviting to newbies, but what if it doesn't work? At some point Twitter is going to have to accept something that most long-time users already know: Unlike Facebook, Twitter simply isn't for everyone â and that's OK.
Now excuse me while I go back to waiting.
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