All posts in “Tweets”

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 more about a given timely topic across a number of categories, like Sports, News and Entertainment.

But Twitter Moments are a curated selection of tweets that tell a story, while Happening Now will take users to a dedicated timeline of tweets related to the event at hand. Moments are also often more visual, featuring images and videos, which is why they’ve been likened to Twitter’s version of Snapchat or Instagram’s “Stories.”

In a demo of the new feature posted to the official @Twitter account, there are Happening Now events for MLB, NBA, and NFL games shown at the top of the Twitter timeline. You can swipe horizontally through these events, each depicted with a title (e.g. “NFL Giants vs. Buccaneers”) and an image.

When you tap into a game to see more, the current score appears at the top of a customized timeline containing real-time tweets about the event.

Twitter, of course, already offers ways to tune into live events via its network, including via its live video streams of an event, as well as by following an event’s hashtag – like #wwdc for Apple’s Developer conference, for instance.

Happening Now, though, builds on top of Twitter’s understanding of how to sort tweets associated with an event, like live video. The tweets will display algorithmically in these new custom Happening Now timelines.

What’s interesting about this new implementation is that it’s not entirely hashtag dependent, it seems.

In the brief demo Twitter shared, some tweets did reference hashtags related to the event at hand – the Giants vs. Bucs game – like #Giants, #GiantsFan, #Buccaneers, and #GoBucs. However, other tweets only referenced the match up in plain text, sometimes even vaguely. For instance, one tweet in the stream simply read: “Man oh man I am at the edge of my seat.”

This is not the first (nor likely the last) time Twitter will try to make its service more useful to newcomers who just want to follow topics, not people. Last year, it updated its homepage for logged-out users so they could dive into various categories like News, Sports, Music, Entertainment, and more; plus view Moments and other featured tweets.

It also revamped its Explore section earlier this year to help users find videos, trends, and Moments in a single tab.

Though Happening Now may appeal to newbies who don’t want to create customized lists, track hashtags, or figure out who to follow to follow relevant news on Twitter, it’s also likely to irk longtime Twitter users. Many today feel like their timelines are being invaded by ever more features they don’t need – whether that’s “While You Were Away” updates, or those that inform you of interesting links and trends Twitter thinks you’d like to know about.

With all these features and algorithmic suggestions, Twitter is losing a bit of its simplicity – ironically, in an effort to be “easier” to use.

Twitter says Happening Now is rolling out on iOS and Android starting today.

Featured Image: nevodka / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus

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 impending launch was first unveiled on Twitter itself, naturally, when head of product Keith Coleman announced that a new way to save tweets was in the works, as a result of a company HackWeek project dubbed #SaveForLater.

Other Twitter employees, including newly hired senior director of product, Sriram Krishnan, and PM Jesar Shah, also noted Twitter’s plans in this area.

Like Coleman, Shah said the feature was a popular user request – adding that many people, “especially in Japan,” had asked for this ability.

As Shah said in her thread, there are a number of ways people privately save tweets to reference later, including bookmarking them with the heart, DM-ing them to themselves, or even retweeting. (I’d also add we open them in new tabs, save them to our Notes app, email them to ourselves, Instapaper their links, or create private Twitter Moments or Storify collections, among other things.)

None of these methods are ideal because they’re not as quick as simply clicking a button to save the tweet, with the exception of the “heart” icon. However, the heart can be misinterpreted since it implies you feel positively about the tweet you’re saving, when the opposite could be true. Plus, for those who regularly use the heart to respond to tweets that don’t require a reply, those saved tweets you wanted to look back on again could be easily lost in your Favorites.

Twitter isn’t the first to realize that its constantly-updating feed needs a save button. Facebook, too, launched its own bookmarking tool several years ago.

A prototype built during HackWeek shows that Twitter’s bookmarking feature appears under the tweet’s “More” menu (three dots), where you then find a new “Add to Bookmarks” option. But this design could change by the time it’s released to the public.

According to Shah, Twitter wants to build the new bookmarking tool with the community’s help and feedback. That’s interesting, given that building “with” user input is how Twitter used to develop features borrowed from the community. For example, Twitter’s @mention and retweet functionality grew out of Twitter turning actions people were already taking on its network into useful product features.

But some of Twitter’s more recent product launches – like the controversial @reply format or decisions about what counts as a character – were developed more as an overly-engineered response to the problems with social network’s 140-character limit, rather than by a deep examination of user behavior.  (Twitter has since said it will test expanding character count to 280, which makes more sense than its confusing rules about character count.)

There are no details yet on how soon the new bookmarking tool will roll out or who will be able to test it. But a Twitter spokesperson confirmed the feature is not just an experiment – it will publicly launch soon. They also said the best way to find out more is to follow @jesarshah’s account, as this is where information about #SaveForLater will appear. Product designer @tinastsh will be tweeting, as well, we’re told.

Featured Image: nevodka / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus

Twitter can keep its extra characters, I want to edit tweets

Geez, Twitter, have you not been listening?

Yesterday, in an unsolicited act of largess, Twitter doubled the number of tweet characters from 140 to 280 characters for unspecified number of Twitter users. The change was announced by Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey.

This is exactly what we don’t need. Forget brevity. I’ve spent a decade perfecting concise, 140-character tweets, even coining the term “Twoosh” (like a “swoosh”) when I hit exactly that number.

I have applauded Twitter changes that reduced the impact of including Twitter handles and media on the character count. 

Tweets are, overall, much richer than they were when SMS forced the 140-character limit (in total, SMS gave you 160 characters). Not only can we squeeze in multiple images, Twitter is home to endless streaming video content, which says far more than you ever could in 140 characters.

Even so, the rule of 140 character to accompany that media has remained. It’s the heart of what makes Twitter unique.

We have, of course, been begging for a critical tweet change for years: Editing tweets. We wanted it in 2010, and we want it today.

In June, President Donald Trump, not six months into his term, electrified Twitter with a bizarre non-sequitur tweet:

It started off fine, but ended with “covfefe.”

Trump eventually deleted the tweet (a problem in and of itself for a sitting president), but it was obvious what Trump, who has made numerous Twitter errors and deleted just as many, and virtually every other Twitter user needs. So certain was I that this was, finally, the time to get serious about editing tweets, I wrote about it. Sadly, Jack Dorsey didn’t read my post.

I’m not naive. I get how much editable tweets could change the platform, which some see as the social media of record. To allow editing is to, potentially, let people alter historical record, and I tried in my post to offer some ideas for managing the changes including an audit trail that anyone could view by clicking on the time stamp. Right now, though, our only choice is to delete tweets.

Not long ago, I posted a, for me, wildly popular tweet that included an embarrassing typo. With almost 1,000 likes, I couldn’t delete it. Every fresh share was like a little thorn digging into my side. I winced at my horrible typing skills and wished, yet again, for the ability to edit tweets.

Instead, we got 280 characters, a change intended to simplify the service to those intimidated by a 140-character limit. I know it’s just a test, but these things have a way of sticking. With few exceptions, most of Twitter’s platform experiments have become part of the product.

The 280-character tweets is 140 more opportunities to make a mistake. At least with 140 characters, we spend considerable time crafting each word. Most people spend more time on that dozen or so words than we do on paragraphs we write in emails. 

Having 280 characters means we will spend twice as much time editing and polishing our tweets. We’ll be tweeting less and making more mistakes. 

Granted, no one has to tweet in 280 characters. I’ve posted thousands of tweets with fewer than 140 characters and, yes, have been occasionally frustrated at the constraint. On the other hand, I always appreciate how Twitter forces me to follow one of my core writing rules taught to me by my first editor, the late Monte Temple: Omit needless words.

The 280-character tweets will be full of needless words as people get lazy, sloppy and Twitter transforms from its original micro-blog format into a bloated beast of endless nattering. 

We needed editable tweets, we got more to edit and no new tools to manage our social media prose. Thanks for too much of something, Jack.

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If you like ranting on Twitter, a new tweetstorm function is your dream come true

Image: Niranjan Shrestha/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Sometimes, 140 characters is not enough.

Twitter is reportedly secretly testing out a new feature in Android that lets users publish a string of tweets all in one go, according to a report by The Next Web.

A user under the alias Devesh Logendran reportedly shared screenshots showing the tweetstorm feature with Matt Navarra of The Next Web, who added that the feature was still hidden and “not live yet.”

The feature, if real, is not currently available for public testing.

It’s unclear at this point in time if this unreleased feature, which appears to be in testing with a select group of developers, will eventually become real.

But if it does, you’ll no longer have to worry about your Twitter rant being interrupted before you’ve finished.

Twitter declined to comment.

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Watching people retweet Trump in real time is both mesmerizing and depressing

Up and up it goes.
Up and up it goes.

Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images

One hundred and sixty-two thousand retweets. Two hundred and eighty-nine thousand likes. Donald Trump’s tweets routinely garner engagement on such a scale that it’s hard to really understand what any of those numbers actually mean. 

That just changed. 

A new Twitter feature, announced in a June 15 blog post, displays retweets and likes in real time as they come in — and oh boy is it both simultaneously totally captivating and super depressing. 

Here’s the deal: When clicking on a tweet in the past, users were shown the number of retweets, comments, and likes the tweet had at that specific time. Wanted to check if the count grew? If you were on a smartphone, you’d have had to navigate out of the tweet and tap back in. Basically, you had to refresh the tweet to see any growth. 

No more. 

“Tweets now update instantly with reply, Retweet, and like counts so you can see conversations as they’re happening – live,” explained Twitter’s VP of user research and design Grace Kim.

A video showing likes piling up demonstrates just how compelling this is. 

In this new Twitter reality, before you can even begin to thumb out your pithy response to the latest nonsensical outburst, hundreds if not thousands of people could have retweeted it right in front of your very eyes. 

It’s quite a sobering realization. 

And sure, on the face of it this isn’t that big of a change. People still retweet and like stuff, and the corresponding numbers displayed below a tweet get updated when they do. But watching those tallies increase by the second — knowing that each time there’s a bump some random person somewhere just decided to “like” the garbage in front of you — provides a visceral sense of connection to other users that was previously missing from the Twitter feed. 

Dare I say it introduces a bit of much-needed humanity into a product that at times has been more than a tad lacking?

At the same time, however, it’s also super depressing. When the numbers were static, it was much easier to overlook their true significance. Now, as each and every “like” is added to the count, it’s impossible to ignore the cold, hard truth: Real people (and sometimes bots) are out there constantly retweeting garbage — one clearly visible click at a time. 

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