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Twitter Takes Another Swing At Curation; Yup, Still Hard

By , on May 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Twitter’s announcement yesterday of an update to their content recommendations for users was the company’s latest attempt to address a long-standing problem: Twitter is really really hard to consume for many users. 

That is, Twitter offers users complete access to a non-stop stream of Tweets from all the folks the user follows. Unlike, Facebook, which curates each of our Newsfeeds based on what we click and who we talk to, Twitter gives us our full stream, uncut and unedited. If someone you follow said it, you’ll be able to find it.

The challenge for users is, of course, that once your start following enough people, your stream very quickly becomes unwieldy. Sure, it’s cool to get access to everything that everyone you follow said…it just turns out that it’s next to impossible to make sense of all of that information.

Some users address the issue with carefully managed lists, others use apps like Flipboard, Zite, or News.Me, while others just throw up their hands and make their peace with the fact that they can’t really deal with Twitter. 

Twitter understands the problem. And they’re trying to solve it. With this latest update to the “Discover” tab (rolling out to Twitter.com as well as the official mobile apps over the next few weeks), Twitter is refining the recommendations they make for each user. and is using the actions of the folks you follow as a relevance signal. Specifically, they’re planning to show the stories that are popular among “the people you follow as well as the folks they follow.”

The question remains: is this enough? Is a curated list of stories from Twitter enough to flip more casual users into heavy users? Will they continue to marginalize the Lists feature (full disclosure: as someone who works hard at my lists, I don’t appreciate how deeply they’re now buried in the mobile app experience)? Are all roads still leading to omnipresent curation (similar to Facebook), where the default view is headlines and you can only get to the full stream if you really dig for it? 

We’ll be curious to see if the tweaks to the Discover algorithm make a difference (and if Twitter will share any success metrics around the features). As we’ve noted before, as challenging as it is for marketers to figure out what to say on Twitter (ten times a day, no less), the more pressing issue for Twitter’s business is helping its audience consume the product — because it’s that audience that matters for Twitter’s sustained success. 

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