Twitter’s algorithm changes make it key that journalists take control

For some time now Twitter has been flirting with abandoning the reverse-chronological ordering that attracted so many journalists to the service.

Having already introduced “While you were away…” tweets a year ago, and the curated “Moments” storylines 4 months ago, the suggestion is that it may finally be ready to make the leap to a Facebook-style “what we think you’ll like” timeline.

This may be initially opt-in, but then so, once upon a time, was Facebook’s algorithm.

I’m not one of those old users who are inevitably crying about the death of Twitter. We all change as we get older, and Twitter is no exception: once an always-on special companion, now it is a more occasional big crowd encounter.

A stream of tweets

Journalists love information to be as new as possible; but mass market users may not. And Twitter, like Facebook, is increasingly more of an editorial product than a tool.

If you miss the young Twitter, start dating Slack.

But mature Twitter can still be great. You just need to make more effort.

If and when Twitter introduces a more algorithmic timeline, there is a simple option: use lists.

As soon as you go beyond following a few hundred accounts on Twitter, you need lists anyway (I wrote about this as long ago as 2009). The thinking behind this is outlined in “Follow, Then Filter”: from information stream to delta.

Lists are your way of codifying ‘I find this interesting’ rather than leaving that decision to an algorithm (by the way, you can create these in Facebook too). And ultimately, as journalists we shouldn’t be delegating source selection to a third party.

Of course, this relies on Twitter not ‘algorithmifying’ lists, but let’s assume for the moment that this is going to be the case…


5 thoughts on “Twitter’s algorithm changes make it key that journalists take control

  1. HP

    Thanks for your post. Lists are still clunky and hard to reach. You have to introduce another aggregating app like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to make them convenient. Boo Twitter changes says this journo.

  2. Pingback: Twitter’s algorithm changes make it key that journalists take control | Online Journalism Blog | do not drop the ball

  3. Pingback: Twitter’s algorithm changes make it key that journalists take control | Digital Rugby League

  4. Pingback: What you need to know about Twitter changes | Community Journalism

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