After announcing (and rolling out) some initial changes to the timeline last year, Twitter is back today with the latest modification to the stream – a recap of popular tweets you may have missed.
A lot can happen while you’re on the go. To fill in some of those gaps, we will surface a few of the best Tweets you probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise, determined by engagement and other factors. If you check in on Twitter now and then for a quick snapshot of what’s happening, you’ll see this recap more often; if you spend a lot of time on Twitter already, you’ll see it less.
When Twitter started rolling out tweet recommendations based on accounts you follow, many complained about the fact that the change was breaking Twitter's nature and making it more akin to Facebook, and therefore not intuitive. While I understand that position, I actually found the “tweet injections” to be not that terrible in practice:
Twitter is working on an instant personalized timeline that you don’t need to set up, but their willingness to bring discovery of tweets and users to the timeline is trickling down to existing users who have an account and already follow people. Like many others, I’ve started seeing tweets from accounts I don’t follow pop into my timeline based on what another person saves or follows. External tweets (as I call them) I’ve seen always came with a reason attached – “Joe favorited” and “Kyle follows” indicate why a tweet is being included in the timeline.
In my experience, these relevant tweets have been mostly good – I’d say 70% of the time I either laughed at a funny favorite I was being shown or got interested in opening the profile page of a user I didn’t know. The other 30% of external tweets were either American sports or duplicate tweets that I had already seen but that a person marked as favorite.
I don't know if tweet recaps will be useful to someone who's always reading his timeline (the only time when I miss tweets is usually at night). Twitter seems to be aware of the controversial nature of the change:
Our goal is to help you keep up – or catch up – with your world, no matter how much time you spend on Twitter. With a few improvements to the home timeline we think we can do a better job of delivering on that promise without compromising the real time nature of Twitter.
Apps like Nuzzel have shown that there's potential in figuring out ways to let users catch up with news shared on Twitter, but Twitter's feature appears to be much simpler, offering less controls. In theory, I think it's a good idea. Most people still don't get Twitter and how you're supposed to keep up with news after you've closed the app. Offering small chunks of inline tweet recaps could help in letting relevant tweets surface more easily, but it's too early to tell.