Pankaj Gupta, the Personalization and Recommender Systems group lead at Twitter tweeted on Thursday: ”Search & discovery in
@twitter set to change forever after tmrw (sic).” The next morning the magical Twitter search that would change my life forever was unleashed into the Twittersphere and I was unmoved. I did find a privacy setting that was alarming though, which I explain later.
In my new personalized discovery I learned that Justin Bieber had been pulled over for doing 100 miles per hour, and there was a really informative article about how I could know if my husband was cheating on me, and the Seattle Mariners have a ticket offer I could participate in (if I still lived in Seattle). So this revolutionary search engine seems to think I am a married female teenager that lives in Seattle. If any of that were true it certainly would change my life forever, but it’s not and it hasn’t. Also new:
- There is a new activity feed that strictly shows who has followed whom and makes it easy to follow them yourself.
- The “who to follow” recommendations seem a little better – Twitter recommends far fewer celebrities that they have in the past which I appreciated.
- The search is improved so that you can search exclusively within your network (in addition to searching all tweets or top tweets).
While I imagine that these changes are technical feats, it feels like Twitter missed the big picture for user experience. If I want to find someone to follow I’ll use SocialBro because its filtering functions are off the charts. If I want to find news, I may look to see what’s trending, but I’m likely going to read it someplace else. And if I want to learn more about Justin Bieber, I will take a long hard look in the mirror.
Twitter may have made some improvements, but benchmarked against some of the companies exploiting their API these new changes are quite pedestrian. And even then, these changes could have been much better. For instance, I should never get an offer about Seattle when I am logged on in Cincinnati. It’s too easy to geo-target.
And one other thing….
In Twitter settings there is a “Personalization” tab that says I can “tailor Twitter based upon my recent website visits.” I can’t confirm this but I think it is new, and it is opt-out – meaning that I was a part of the program until I stopped it. In the details about the program, Twitter purports to track your activity on all sites within the Twitter ecosystem – defined as sites with a Twitter button. Remember all of that trouble that Facebook got in for tracking user activity after leaving their website? Seems Twitter put a finer point on it, but with the reassurance that Twitter will “start the process” of deleting your browsing data after ten days. I imagine this is in the same vein that I told my wife I was starting the process of mowing the lawn an hour ago.
In summary: Twitter’s changes aren’t so revolutionary, but they are proactively tracking your web browsing activity unless you opt-out.
And let me take this opportunity to thank you very much for visiting my humble stop as you travel within the Twitter ecosystem.