Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Twitter Newsfeed Changes: Good or Bad?

Twitter Newsfeed Changes: Good or Bad?

This week, Twitter annouced that it was looking into offering users a more 'curated', algorithmically-sourced newsfeed to it's users - whether they like it or not.

As a business, that's their prerogative, but I have to say that it's a mis-step from them in my opinion.

My reasons?

  1. It's not their newsfeed: people like to be in control of what they see, and everybody is different. Whilst I know that algorithms take this into account, I'd rather have the primary option of being able to control exactly what's in my newsfeed, and what isn't. Twitter is forgetting that we already have a way of curating our newsfeed: following and unfollowing.
  2. Social networks are top-down, but can be destroyed from the bottom-up: Social networks, as opposed to user-built (and even business-built) communities are traditionally ran in a top-down model: the guys at the top make the changes, and the guys at the bottom (the users) have to suck it. That may make people using the network think that they are powerless to stop this, but you only have to look through Silicon Valley's graveyard of failed social networking sites to see that the true power lies with the users. If you build it, they will come, but if you piss them off, they will leave.
  3. Media influencers and early-adopters are still crucial: Twitter has gained traction as a social platform with influencers and people working in the media like no other social network I have seen.
    As a platform, it is genuinely transforming the way many media outlets get their news, and produce their content. It has become an essential part of the content-creation and news-sourcing loop because it appears to be a source completely unfiltered by any internal or external forces. Being able to pickup and follow the trail of a story as it develops across Twitter is one of the few mainstays of the constantly-evolving digital content age. If you curate what a journalist sees, or what a person sees, how can we trust you as a platform? How can we trust the fact that Twitter isn't going to start hiding controversial updates regarding #Ferguson? Or about #ISIS?
    We already know that Twitter censors our newsfeeds in countries easily-offended by free speech - fine in principal if you dislike hate-speech, but what does removing that hate-speech, controversy and illegality really do? It certainly doesn't stop it from existing. It will just stop industrious people fighting it on the net, and acts as a sop to the 'down with this sort of thing' brigade, who would rather not have views expressed that they didn't agree with - on the left and the right of these debates. A journalist won't use a compromised news source - believe it or not (and I do), the vast majority go there for unvarnished facts, commentary and opinion. To remove that would remove one of the major benefits for using Twitter. 
So, with that in mind, can you tell which side of the fence I'm sat on, Twitter?