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Unsubtle reminder from Facebook to media companies: We’re really big, and we can send you a lot of traffic.

The longer version comes here, via a Facebook blog post boasting about all the eyeballs they have passed along to sites like BuzzFeed and Bleacher Report recently, in an experiment to boost referral traffic.

Facebook said it got those sites and 27 others to increase by 57 percent the number of articles they posted to the social network, and that those sites saw their referral traffic jump by 80 percent.

The bigger picture is that Facebook is making a renewed effort to get media companies to distribute their stuff on the site.

Today’s blog post is specifically about Web publishers. But Facebook has been making a particular push to engage TV programmers and networks to use the site, in the way that Twitter has been doing for a couple of years.

Twitter on Tuesday announced it would add a service to its mobile apps that will suggest new users to follow or tweets to view based on increased activity in your network. For example, if many of the people you follow start following a new user like, say, Madeleine Albright, the new service would send a push notification to your phone to suggest that you, too, should follow her on Twitter. The service was born out of Twitter’s experimentation with its employee-run @MagicRecs account.

20131007 181739 520x245 Twitter embraces Gmails quick actions. Now you can respond to notifications without opening each email

Back in May, Google announced new quick action buttons, letting users respond to emails without opening them. So, for example, if you want to let the sender know that you’re attending an event, you can do so directly from your inbox. No typing required.

Now it seems that Twitter has signed up, letting those who receive email notifications carry out actions with a single click. As you can see here, @mentions let you click ‘View Tweet’, which opens the message in the browser.

Untitled 11 Twitter embraces Gmails quick actions. Now you can respond to notifications without opening each email

The same applies to other actions too. For example, Simon Owens first brought this feature to our attention earlier when he tweeted this out, and it clearly shows

MzSa4hS Twitter embraces Gmails quick actions. Now you can respond to notifications without opening each email

a ‘Follow Back’ quick action in response to notifications for new followers.

Other users, including Abraham Williams and HTeuMeuLeu, have reported seeing this feature in their inbox too, so this covers the US, France and the UK at least, meaning it’s likely this is probably available globally, though it’s perhaps being tested with a select number of users in a handful of countries.

It’s not a huge development for sure, but it’s one designed to remove any semblance of friction from the Twitter user experience. You can read more about the these new Actions by following the link below.

Google | Actions in the Inbox

162642967 520x245 Does anyone still use Twitter #Music? Why the Web and iOS app are quickly fading into obscurity

It’s been a little over three months since Twitter #Music was launched on the Web and iOS. The release signalled Twitter’s desire to broaden its influence on the Web. To be more. To leverage the ever-increasing number of tweets to disrupt the status-quo.

Yet for all its hype, Twitter #Music has been a disappointment. The mobile app sits patiently in a folder on my iPhone, gathering virtual dust and a sense of increasing irrelevancy. I have no desire to open it. Perhaps that’ll change with a future update, but for now it remains rather useless.

It’s not just me either. I’ve asked friends and family what their go-to app is for listening to music on the move. Spotify, Rdio and the default iOS Music app rank high. Twitter #Music does not.

Admittedly, that’s a small group of people to poll. But a quick inspection of the top free music apps in the App Store tells a similar story. Alongside the apps I just mentioned are Deezer, Soundcloud and Shazam, as well as a bunch of emerging services such as Bloom.fm filling out the top 20.

Twitter #Music isn’t featured. Nor is it in the top 50. Top 100? Nope. Top 200? Nope. At the time of writing, the app sits ranked 285. Ouch.

So why is no-one using it?

The purpose of the Twitter #Music app is three-fold; help listeners discover new music; act as an overlay for playing said music; incentivize the music industry – particularly artists and labels – to continue engaging with their fans on Twitter.

To help users find a bunch of brilliant new records, the app offers five charts with rather ambiguous names such as ‘Emerging’, ‘Unearthed’ and ‘Hunted’. They all sound inviting, but I couldn’t tell you what the difference is between any of the three.

twittermusic1 Does anyone still use Twitter #Music? Why the Web and iOS app are quickly fading into obscurity

Tapping one reveals a very compact grid filled with tiny square display pictures. Each of them represents an artist and they’re ranked in accordance with their popularity. The interface is pretty terrible though and at times completely bewildering. The various images are the size of my fingernail and reveal next to nothing about the artist or the sort of music they play. Twitter has also chosen to show their Twitter handle by default – rather than the artist’s name – which only adds to the confusion.

Selecting a specific artist then reveals a jarring profile page that tries to blend both their Twitter account and more of these tiny cuboid images. It’s the same story in the app’s ‘Suggested’ and ‘#NowPlaying’ sections. Everything feels unrefined and lacks consistent aesthetics.

Too many alternatives that are just better

Discovering new music should be a visually stunning and frictionless experience. Soundwave, Bloom.fm and even the ‘Discover’ tab in Spotify do a much better job of this than Twitter #Music by keeping their respective interfaces refreshingly simple and uncluttered. Twitter’s mobile app just feels messy in comparison.

Twitter #Music would also be a novel proposition if it offered its own digital storefront or an on-demand streaming service. But it doesn’t do that either. Tracks are either 30-second previews from iTunes with direct store links – another bid to get music labels and artists on side – or only supported with an active Spotify or Rdio subscription.

twittermusic2 Does anyone still use Twitter #Music? Why the Web and iOS app are quickly fading into obscurity

It begs the question though: why would a Spotify or Rdio subscriber leave their dedicated mobile app for this? There’s no way to create custom playlists, queue tracks or access premium features offered by these more robust and expansive services. The idea, presumably, is to reinforce Twitter #Music’s discovery options by giving users the ability to listen to new tracks in their entirety.

Twitter #Music lacks a defining feature or hook to keep users engaged. It’s an odd blend of ideas that never seem to mesh or offer a significant value proposition to the listener. There’s some potential here though and plenty of time for Twitter to turn it around – but no wonder it’s performing so poorly in the App Store at the moment.

Image Credit: David Ramos/Getty Images

Twitter and Egypt

It’s far from a scientific sample, but I noticed a lot of people in my Twitter feed over the past few weeks lamenting a lack of thorough media coverage surrounding the political crisis in Egypt. Certainly, when the George Zimmerman trial reached its apex, one might have assumed things in Egypt had reached a peaceful resolution, given how little news could be found in the mainstream US media.

It turns out that media companies are pretty astute at knowing what their audiences want to see, even if it doesn’t jibe with the smaller but more vocal Twitterati. Turn on your local network news for five minutes and you’ll figure out the formula: If people aren’t interested in a given topic, the media doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to change our minds.

What about Egypt?

Egypt seems to have all the makings of a sensational news topic, with its mass protests, violence, and intrigue. But do Americans really care?

We surveyed over 2,000 US adults over the past few days to gauge how concerned they were about the crisis in Egypt. Here’s how they answered:

Interest in Egypt

Over two-thirds of Americans have some degree of concern, with a full 30 percent characterizing themselves as Very Concerned. Thirty-two percent don’t seem to care at all. When we looked at demographics, we found that women were much more likely than men to be Very Concerned, as were people over age 45, and those with an advanced education.

This doesn’t tell us much, though, without comparing Egypt to other issues. So, we looked at 19 other issues we’ve studied using the exact same question format, like this one:

Interest in Income Equality

Most topics we follow on a daily basis (for our long-term tracking questions, we looked at results over the past 3 months), but a few issues were timely, like last December’s Fiscal Cliff. We included a mixture of both for contrast.

To develop a consistent “Concern Index,” we took the percentage of people who said “Very Concerned” and multiplied it by two, then added the percentage of people who said “Somewhat Concerned” (this did NOT take a Carnegie Mellon-trained data scientist). Based on this system, the crisis in Egypt would have a score of 98 ((30% x2) + 38%). Income inequality achieves a score of 115.

Now let’s look at a litany of other issues to see how the crisis in Egypt compares:

Concern Index

What Stands Out?

Let’s first address the elephant in the room. No matter how we sliced our numbers, the public health implications of texting-while-driving (“TWD”) produced the highest concern score. These were all large samples sizes, over 5,000 respondents, reweighted to match the full US adult population. So we can’t argue with the numbers. TWD is a big deal to a lot of people.

The next items on the list should come as little surprise. Health Care and Public Education rank slightly above the Economy and Jobs, but within a thin margin of error. Consumer Privacy has surged in recent months, making it to #7 on the list, just behind Gas and Energy Prices.

It’s interesting to note that issues like last year’s Fiscal Cliff and Bullying in Schools rank so highly above Crime and Violence and Climate Change among the general population. Clearly, these numbers might be different among respondents across the socio-economic and ideological spectrum.

We don’t find the Crisis in Egypt until #17, ranking more highly than only Concussions in the NFL and last summer’s LIBOR interest rate scandal. These are niche topics, to say the least.

If the mainstream media is providing little coverage of the Eqypt dispute, they may know what they’re doing. Our data makes a pretty convincing case that most consumers are concerned more about issues that impact their everyday lives, like failing schools, out-of-control health care costs, tight job markets and, most importantly, that college kid in the car in front of them sending a text to his girlfriend.

Pope Francis

The Vatican has taken another step in its efforts to embrace social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis’ (@Pontifex) Twitter account. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports that the church will reduce the time Catholics have to spend in purgatory if they follow official Vatican events on TV, radio, and through social media. One such event is the Catholic World Youth Day, commencing in Rio de Janeiro on July 22nd. The Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican tribunal responsible for issues relating to the forgiveness of sins, will award the privilege to the faithful that follow the event using different forms of media. Pope Francis’ followers are not immediately granted an indulgence for tracking the event, with the penitentiary noting that it would hinge on the user having previously confessed and being “truly penitent and contrite.”

Read the full story at The Verge.

Tweetbot for iPhone 2

Although Twitter has its own app that is available for free, third-party apps have been very popular, even at a price. One of the most popular, some would say the most popular, is Tweetbot. The app’s creator has been working for months on updating all of its apps, to be compatible with iOS 7. Today, Tweetbot 3 for iPhone and iPod touch has been given the iOS 7 redesign. It is just a matter of time before the company unveils the new iPad version.

As a foretelling of things to come for the iPad, the iPhone version of Tweetbot has been completely redone. Thanks to Apple’s background refresh feature, Tweetbot 3 can now fetch tweets for you while you are doing something else. You can create multiple drafts of your tweets and display how many are pending sot that you will remember to go back to them at a later time. You have more control over how the tab bar looks. You can even hide tweets that have certain hash tags in them.

Tweetbot for iPhone

Tweetbot 3’s new features include:

  • Completely redesigned from the ground up for iOS7.
  • Native Push Notifications.
  • Mute filters lets you block messages from users without unfollowing them. Mute services, hashtags, people, and even keywords (regex included).
  • Sync timeline position, direct message read statuses and mute filters between iPhone, iPad, and the Mac via iCloud or Tweetmarker.
  • Customizable Navigation. The last 2 tabs are customizable and unused tabs are easily accessible.
  • Support for multiple services like Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, CloudApp, Droplr, and more.
  • Save drafts, add locations and POI’s, attach photos/videos, manage your lists, and much more.

Tweetbot 3 for Twitter (iPhone & iPod touch) is available in the App Store for $2.99. There is no official information regarding the launch of the iPad version at this time. However, it will likely be within the next few months. We’ll keep you posted.

Twitter Infinite

Web comic XKCD is great for lots of laughs, and a little learning too. If you want a little less laughing, but lots more learning, there’s always the weekly XKCD What-If. This week it answers the eternal question, “How long would it take to read every possible English language tweet?” First you need to figure out how many valid English tweets there are. The answer is surprisingly complicated.

If you just look at the raw numbers, you have 140 characters per tweet. There are 26 English letters, plus the space. So with 27 characters, you come up with 10200 possible strings of letters and spaces. But then there is Unicode to deal with, which brings the total number up to 10800. That is a 1 followed by 800 zeros. Sounding insane? Not to fear, most of these permutations are meaningless nonsense. To get to the true valid English tweets, we have to apply some information theory.

To find out how many likely valid English tweets there are, we can estimate that value based on the information contained in each letter for aggregated samples. In the mid-20th century, Claude Shannon pioneered several key concepts in information theory. Among his contributions was the discovery that, on average, each letter contains 1.0-1.2 bytes of information. This was based on having test subjects guess on blanked out letters in a sentence. It sounds bizarre, but the compression ratio he predicted holds true when tested.

So where does that leave the math, according to XKCD? In a piece of text with n bits of information, there are 2n different messages possible. So 2140*1.1 equals 2*1046 different English tweets. This calculation is based on unicity distance, a principal in cryptography for predicting variations. Still a big number, but much less than the 10800 figure from before.

Back to the original question: how long would it take to read all of them? Just 1047 seconds, which is 3*1039 years. But that’s just if you read straight through! Let’s say you work a 16 hour day reading tweets out loud before retiring for a night of fitful sleep. At that rate, the heat death of the universe would have happened several duodecillion years before you finished the task.

XKCD creates a handy new unit of time to make this easier to grasp. Imagine each day was 1032 years long (again, that’s a 1 followed by 32 zeros). It would take ten thousand years made up of these super-long days to finish reading all those tweets. In short: lots of tweets and lots of years. It’s math!

Now read: Algorithm will tweet in your place after you die

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