Twitter likes to release updates every so often that address the biggest bugs that users have identified. Thursday it debuted an update to its “trending lists” feature after this reporter saw tweets rolling in at the moment of discovery. All it had to do was say “No.”
The company should not rank hashtags as well as they do. Twitter’s posts trending under a hashtag should be the public commentary about the topics trending on the platform. In a post on Medium, Twitter said “Trending Lists are about allowing creators to engage with topics they care about. These lists also provide a valuable, aggregated view of the public conversation around trending topics that’s missing from the timeline.”
Historically, a user can see a list of tweets from the #slightlyinteresting #awkward# and #sighful hashtag lists. But people typically saw the tweets, and hashtags, when a tweet was clicked or they looked at the tweet in the timeline. What it made more likely was to see tweets from influencers and amateur trend setters. Perhaps people didn’t bother to find these lists themselves because it wasn’t particularly noteworthy or insightful. But they were viewed as a way to see more of the discussion around the issue.
That changed in March of this year when Twitter completely removed the hashtag list feature from its trending menu. People who bothered to look at the lists would still see most of them — but it now feels like the trend to see all tweets from a given user or hashtag when they tweet their profile pic.
But now, with the update the trending lists are less helpful.
Enter CNN reporter Charli Pirnie, who posted a tweet at about 3 p.m. on June 5 that started as a refutation of Donald Trump’s self-congratulatory press conference earlier that day. At the end of the tweet, she wrote, “Social media has moved past watching for tweets. Sometimes it seems we need to look up to be a part of the conversation.”
Charli’s tweet attracted hundreds of retweets and likes, and over 400 people re-tweeted her post. She got so many replies that she had to turn off comment threads on her Twitter account because of traffic. Those who seemed to be responding to her tweet included people who were struggling with conflicting feelings of being excited about what was happening on the news but also wondering if it really had significance.
It’s clear from Charli’s tweet that she was not alone in her feeling about the change. Several people retweeted the tweet talking about a need for both “subtlety” and the need to have the lists included in the trending menu.
By the time news stories started to flow out about Charli’s tweet, the “Trapsterati” — as Charli’s followers affectionately call them — that Twitter’s trending lists exist to create had already come into being.
There was a debate on Twitter about what would be seen as the “right” number of tweets to be included in a trending list. But there also seemed to be a broader discussion about what platforms should do to make sure people are able to have an active dialogue about what’s happening in the world and be seen as a part of it without feeling left out.
Twitter previously called people who use its trending lists “Trending Curators.” After this news was published, Twitter did a number of quick Twitter-brains and changed its tagline to “Projecting More Public Conversations.”
In addition to a feature change, the “Trending Curators” will no longer do their own trendsetting and will instead help connect people to people who are also “Counting on Twitter to Tell Their Stories.”
“Right now, people Twitter curate these lists,” an unidentified Twitter spokesperson wrote to TechCrunch. “These lists are about organizing the public conversation around the topics and hashtags you care about. We’ve partnered with public figures to begin to curate lists that bring you Twitter conversations from real people, as well as having a built-in function to help you find these lists by topic.
“The lists are private, and will never be public, which allows creators to be able to focus on their content. We’re excited to see the conversations sparked by the work of these curators and the trend products.”
Twitter is not adding a new concept to the way its trending lists work, but is instead adding tools to help them manage growing lists.