Twitter is expanding a feature that displays a number of ostensibly important tweets to users who stopped drinking from its rapid stream of information for a few hours.
The feature is meant to surface tweets from a user’s network with a high number of favorites, retweets, and other engagement metrics with the hope that this correlates to the overall quality — or at least the interestingness — of whatever the tweet contains.
It’s not clear exactly for whom this feature was made. Those who want to preserve the reverse-chronological nature of Twitter’s timeline will likely view it as an unwelcome distraction; those who want to avoid information overload have better tools available.
Pando’s David Holmes summarized the fears of the former crowd in August 2014:
Your future Twitter feed may be full of share-baity viral videos, listicles, and of course advertisements that crowd out smart reports about the things we care about most from people we follow. After all, why would I follow all these smart journalists and news enthusiasts if not to see what they’re sharing?
I belong to the latter camp. Twitter has become an overwhelming force that I feel obligated to check because of the all-powerful fear of missing out on whatever my colleagues are discussing. It’s not enjoyable, and it’s not particularly useful, either.
But I do like using a service like Nuzzel to collect all the links shared by the people I follow — and, more importantly, to snoop on others’ Nuzzel feeds so I can preserve what little sanity is left on my Twitter feed without feeling like I’m missing something.
Twitter will have to make sure the algorithm powering this new feature is foolproof (which is next to impossible) to provide value to someone like me without scaring off someone like David. It will be difficult to find that fine line and even harder to walk it.
[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]