Fixing the Twitter feed

The saying used to be "Facebook is the people you have to follow, and Twitter is the people you want to follow". That's what made it great. 

No matter how much the world changes, you have a limited amount of time and attention. Twitter allowed you to be in control. It wasn't personal, it was about information and as a user I could shape how that information would be presented. The rules of engagement were simple - you follow someone, they post messages of 140 characters or less, the messages of all the people you followed were presented to you in a chronological order. 

Knowing how it all worked allowed each Twitter user to set up their feeds according to their own preferences. 

  • Someone posting too often and filling up your feed? Unfollow. 
  • Want to keep tabs on someone every once and a while but not all the time? Add them to a list. 
  • Want to follow a million people and never be able to keep up? Go crazy.

There was always room for Twitter to add some sponsored tweets to the feed and make some solid dough. I was delighted that the company went public and was actually able to make some good money by trading their stock as the price went up and down and up again. Wall Street couldn't grasp the potential but I was a believer and it seemed just a matter of time until the business model proved itself. Now it seems the company veered off course long ago and has lost their way. 

Now it isn't about following the people you want, presented according to rules you understand. It is what Twitter thinks you want presented to you in a way they're guessing you want it. The user doesn't have control.

Now I rarely check Twitter. It has been that way for at least a year. Why? Take a look at the image below. 

This is 30 minutes worth of tweets from a few weeks ago. On the left is the feed from my native iOS Twitter app & on the right is how the feed used to be and should be. Highlighted in red are Twitter's "recommendations", in green are the tweets I found interesting, and yellow is an ad. The grey stripes represent the viewable screen height within the app.

Even though some of the recommended tweets came from a few of my best friends and favorite tweeters, all 15 recommendations were not of any interest to me. 

The first tweet that I found interesting was the 3rd tweet chronologically... it was on the 4th page! That is a big problem. 

What's worse is this is a best case scenario... by default Twitter now suggests what they think are "the best Tweets first". I have this setting turned off, but when activated it just creates further chaos. The best analogy I have for this feature is a grocery store knowing what brands I like, what I might be interested in, and what I need to buy and gave me a full cart with their recommendations when I entered the store... making me sift through everything to get rid of all the stuff I don't want to buy that trip. Annoying and way more time intensive than starting with an empty cart.

In the "olden days", the first interesting tweet would have been showing up just as I started scrolling through the feed, and I'd find something else that would keep me engaged every 3-4 pages. Enough to keep me around to see more sponsored tweets and keep me addicted to the platform.

The Solution

So how does Twitter go about fixing their problem? I actually think it is pretty straight-forward.

1. Simplify the basic feed.

There are some interesting new features that I love within Twitter, such as inline quotes and removing links from the character limits, however the feed itself should go back to the old rules. Tweet by tweet in reverse-chronological order. Sometimes it is a little annoying or confusing when someone rattles off 10 messages in a mini-story, but at least the rules are understandable.

With a simplified feed, sponsored tweets can show up at a slightly increased frequency.

2. Move the concept of "discovery" below the tweet.

Discovering news, content, and personalities within Twitter is part of what makes it special. Instead of getting in the way, if features that allow users to go down a rabbit hole of discovery are moved out of the user's view, they will likely be used more often. 

Currently a user can click on a tweet to get more detail on that message (replies, access to links & media, etc) or they can click on an avatar to get more about that user... however there isn't a feature (that I'm aware of) to find out more related to a tweet or user. 

I would suggest a feature that allows a user to swipe a tweet to expose a "More" button. Clicking "More" would open up a bunch of Twitter's recommendations based on the content & author of the tweet. Twitter could generate all kinds of interesting feeds based on recommendations that the user is explicitly asking for with defined parameters. Not only would the feeds be more welcomed and relevant - so too would any sponsored content.

By giving control back to the user I think that Twitter can get back on the path to greatness.

Amazing parody actually enhances original campaign

Last week a very well done Dove ad, done by Ogilvy, went viral. It was a continuation of the work that Dove's been doing towards reaching and recognizing real women as opposed to the stereotypical model imagery seen in most ads for beauty products.

The company (Dove is owned by Unilever) and its agency have done a good job celebrating normal women, and the ad/video that came out last week was quite moving.

Barely a week later, a parody video has come out from New Feelings Time representing the "average man" in the same scenario. Parodies are hardly a new thing. Since YouTube went mainstream basically everything that gets 15 seconds of fame has an accompanying parody video. What's unique this time around is that, for me, when the parodies hit the innernette the original topic of conversation is played out (harlem shake, Psy, etc), happens too long after the original event hit the news, or the video quality and content in the parody is horrible.

In this case, the parody is funny, timely, and has decent production quality. Because it has those three elements, it extends the relevance of the original ad.

Here are the ads in case you missed them:

Original Ad: Dove Real Beauty Sketches

Parody Ad: Real Beauty Sketches Men

For all the entrepreneurs out there

Watch live video from c3oorg on

This is Andrew Mason, the CEO of Groupon. I saw him speak at the GROW Conference in Vancouver a couple of months ago, and he has a self-depreciating, and easy going personality that I like. It's nice to see successful people be humble.

As he points out in this talk (and as I've mentioned before on this blog), being an entrepreneur is hard. And it's particularly hard to be a tech entrepreneur in a non-tech city. In this speech (which is for something called 'Startup School' in the Valley), Mason talks about previous failures that led to the current iteration of Groupon, the difficulties in starting in a 'shallow' tech market (Chicago), and what is keeping him going.

What I learned here: stay with it, learn when to move on when something isn't catching on the way you thought it would, focus on the smaller ideas, and even when you do all that it is still going to be really hard and you still need help (Mason concedes midway & again at the end that they were given a bunch of money to start & pay a team to keep going).

A heads-up: with the new TED Talks iPad app, I've gone on a bit of a conference/seminar/forum talk spree lately. They're great to have on in the background while you work or are trying to go to sleep, and I like listening to smart people. My blog is likely going to start reflecting that obsession for a while.

This is the first book trailer I think I've seen. And it rocks.

This came out in March, so it's more than a few months old and I'm not breaking any news here. I'm also sure there are other book trailers out there, but it is the first time I've seen something like this.

The movie/book relationship has been around forever - but usually one exists before the other and the trailer existed to promote the movie, not the book (there is no film version for this book). After seeing the trailer, it seems like an obvious way to boost readership for a series who's target demographic is likely to be motivated by visuals of zombies, ninjas and hot young women.

I've been intrigued by Pride & Prejudice & Zombies for quite a while now (solely on the book cover and title), but this trailer just convinced me to get the books (the trailer is for the prequel book - exploring how Elizabeth Bennett became such a great zombie hunter).

The genius behind this series of books (as well as Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, Android Karenina, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter) is publisher Quick Classics.

It makes sense that a company that is reinventing old literary classics is reinventing the way that books are marketed.

What's going on with Chrome?

Those that know me, know that I'm a bit of an analytics junkie. Today I noticed that I was getting a lot more traffic from Chrome users recently. This is admittedly a small sample size, but I compared at the last four days of traffic to the four days before that. Usually my site skews away from IE users, and Firefox generally makes up about 60%, but suddenly Chrome has taken the lead.

As a percentage of site traffic, both Chrome and Safari have doubled and Firefox is down about a third. I looked at some of the other sites I manage which get more traffic than this one, and although not as dramatic, the upward trend in Chrome usage the last few days applied across the board.

I couldn't find anything obvious online that would account for the uptick, but did find an interesting, and somewhat related, article comparing browser speeds. I've tried and liked Chrome, but I found the performance that sets Chrome apart started seriously suffering as soon as I tried extensions & having multiple tabs open (the article seemed to support this) - I switched back to Firefox 3.6 as a result.

I'm still curious as to the increase in Chrome's use - wondering both if it will continue & what 's causing people to switch. I don't get a lot of comments on this blog, but if anyone feels compelled to tell me why you prefer Chrome, I'm all ears.

I turned on my computer and this was there.

I keep many tabs open in my web browser (sometimes 20+). When I scan my twitter feed, I usually go through and click on all the links that I think will be interesting or worthwhile, then go back and read them later. Sometimes the pages are too content heavy and I can't get through everything (or even start) before it's time for me to go back to work.

Anyways, I opened up my computer about 5 minutes ago and I was staring at this slideshare presentation about branding and social media. I've made it about halfway through and so far it is bang-on. I'm now passing it along to you, the reader. However I have no idea where it came from, and I'm not sure who to attribute it to, or thank... if it was you, then thanks. Otherwise, enjoy:
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