Category Archives: Twitter

Twitter is Testing a New Feature Called Communities

Twitter has been introducing new features one after the other. So far, they’ve introduced Safety Mode, edge-to-edge photos, and a way to remove a follower without blocking them. The newest feature is called Twitter Communities.

That feels like a lot of new changes in a short span of time, and I think it could overwhelm some Twitter users. It also feels like Twitter is using the “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” method.

Communities are described by Twitter as “imagine an alternate timeline where everyone just gets you”. Twitter is testing Communities, each of which will focus on one, specific, topic. The purpose is to help people easily find and connect with people who want to talk about the same things you do.

When you join a Community, you can Tweet only to your Community for a focused conversation. There will be Community moderators who pick the focus, create the Community rules, and invite the people who will make it a great place for conversation. Twitter provided examples of Communities they are testing: dogs, weather, sneakers, skincare, and astrology. More Communities will be added later.

Communities are publicly visible so everyone can see what’s being discussed. Personally, I think this is an excellent idea. Being able to see what is said could influence a person who enjoys that topic to join that Community.

All Communities and their members must follow the Twitter Rules. Both members and non-members of Communities can report any potential violations of the Twitter Rules to Twitter. I can see the good and bad in this. It is good to report Communities that are trying to organize hate raids (on Twitter) or who appear to be selling illegal goods. I worry that bad people will report Communities of marginalized people who have not broken any of Twitter’s rules.

Moderators have to continuously meet eligibility requirements including not violating the Twitter Rules. That makes sense. If you want more information, there is now an @JoinCommunities official Twitter account.

Twitter Tests A New Way to Curate Your Followers

Twitter announced that it is testing a way to remove a follower without blocking them. Here’s how Twitter Support described this feature in a Tweet:

“We’re making it easier to be the curator of your own followers list. Now testing on the web: remove a follower without blocking them. To remove a follower, go to your profile and click “Followers”, then click the three dot icon and select “Remove this follower”.

Previously, the easiest way to remove a follower was to block them, and then unblock them. Doing so would remove the follower. Twitter must have noticed that people were doing that to get rid of followers that were strangers who tweeted some really bad takes.

Twitter provided a screenshot that shows what happens when you remove a follower through the new feature. A box appears that asks: “Remove this follower?” It tells the person that the follower they want to remove won’t be notified by Twitter that they have been removed. Twitter also clarifies that the removed follower could follow you again in the future.

If you have a private account, (also called protected tweets) you can go through the same process to remove an unwanted follower. If they notice, and try to follow you again – they cannot automatically do it. Protected accounts put up a barrier and give the person who owns the account time to decide whether or not to let someone follow them.

The Verge reported that the Remove Follower feature is more of a remote unfollow button, “a gentler way to create some distance between you and someone else on Twitter.” The Verge also pointed out that, previously, the only way to remove a follower was with a “soft block” (blocking and then unblocking them again).

I think the ability to curate your followers – and remove the problematic ones – is a good idea. People change over the years, and your interests may no longer match the interests of some of your followers. It is also a good way to remove the friend or family member who Tweets misinformation from sketchy websites. Send them on their way!

Twitter Tests New Timeline That Looks Like Instagram

Twitter announced new timeline in a short thread of Tweets on the Twitter Support account. “Edge to edge Tweets that span the width of the timeline so your photos, GIFs, and videos can have more room to shine,” is how Twitter describes it. The Tweet shows an example with several Tweets that show photos, videos, and artwork filling up the majority of the space under whatever a person typed.

It bears a resemblance to Instagram, which was designed for people to post their own photos (sometimes filtered), videos, and other visual media. This is not surprising, since all of the big social media companies have a tendency to copy each other’s homework.

The second Tweet in the thread says: “Video summary: upbeat music plays as the Twitter Home timeline scrolls up to show bold colorful images and GIFs. They begin to animate and expand, showing a new test that will display Tweets and media edge to edge, across the width of the timeline to give them more room to shine”.

The responses to the new edge to edge Tweets includes mostly negative comments. That is to be expected whenever any social media changes how something looks or functions.

However, in this case, I think I can see the problem. If I post a photo, will Twitter animate it – and add music – automatically? Or, would I get to choose whether or not to let it do that? My hope is that there are some buttons or sliders or something that allows a person to choose what they want to happen with the photo they wish to post.

The Verge reported that the edge to edge Tweets are being rolled out to a select group of iOS users. That means those who use the Twitter website should be unaffected by this change for a while.

Another thing to consider is that if Twitter rolls this new feature out to everyone, it could mean that Twitter wants to emphasize photos, art, and videos. I have concerns that some of the more interesting threads will be pushed out of Twitter’s algorithm, in favor of this new thing.

Twitter Introduces Safety Mode

Twitter introduced a Safety Mode on September 1, 2021. Twitter will be testing Safety Mode out with a small group of people on Twitter in the coming months. Eventually, the pool of beta testers will be expanded.

What is Safety Mode? Twitter explains that it is designed to make people feel more comfortable and in control of their experience on Twitter. The feature is meant to reduce the burden on people who are dealing with unwelcome interactions.

Unwelcome Tweets and noise can get in the way of conversations on Twitter, so we’re introducing Safety Mode, a new feature that aims to reduce disruptive interactions. Starting today, we’re rolling out this safety feature to a small feedback group on iOS, Android, and, beginning with accounts that have English-language settings enabled.

What does Safety Mode do? It temporarily blocks accounts for seven days for using what Twitter defines as “potentially harmful language”. That includes insults or hateful remarks, or sending repetitive and uninvited replies or mentions.

Once Safety Mode is rolled out, you can choose to turn it on in your Settings. Once you do that, Twitter’s systems will assess the likelihood of a negative engagement by considering both the Tweet’s content and the relationship between the Tweet author and the replier. According to Twitter, their system takes existing relationships into account. The accounts you follow or frequently interact with will not be autoblocked.

If Twitter’s technology finds a tweet that it identifies as harmful, or uninvited, Safety Mode will automatically block it. Those accounts will temporarily be unable to follow your account, see your Tweets, or send you Direct Messages. To me, it sounds like a temporary form of blocking.

I can see where Safety Mode would be useful, especially for people who are marginalized and often are the target of bullies. Safety Mode would give them the opportunity to be heard without having to deal with harassment. On the other hand, I don’t think Safety Mode should be used by politicians to block out the opinions of the people whom they represent.

Twitter Needs to Fix the Eye Strain Problem

You may have noticed that Twitter changed its font. It appears that Twitter’s goal was to make its platform more accessible. Unfortunately, Twitter ended up making it inaccessible for some.

TechCrunch reported that the new font style is called “Chirp”. It is Twitter’s proprietary typeface. Other updates made the interface less cluttered, removing unnecessary divider lines.

It appears Twitter was attempting to make things more accessible for people who have low-vision. According to TechCrunch, high-contrast design can make websites more legible, but the current contrast level was so high that it caused eye strain for some users. The change wasn’t good for people who suffer from chronic migraines, either.

Twitter Accessibility (@TwitterA11y) tweeted “We are seeing some display bugs, so if you encounter those please send us a screenshot. This will help us troubleshoot the issues. Also, if you continue to experience painful eye strain or headaches/migraines because of the font, please check-in with us again.”

The tweet was responded to by many people who stated that the new font was giving them terrible headaches, migraines, and/or nausea after they looked at Twitter for a short period of time.

The Verge reported that the changes made by Twitter also included a black follow button that’s filled in if you’re not following someone, which caused confusion for many people who are used to it being the other way around. It’s not yet clear when that change will be reversed.

The Verge also reported: Accessibility isn’t one size fits all; a feature that makes a site more accessible for one person can make it harder to use for another. High contrast is often useful for people who have low vision or are colorblind, but it can be painful for people who are sensitive to bright colors or light.

I agree with that. Twitter needs to continue working on fixing this problem. Nobody wants to stay on a platform that cause them pain, migraines, or eye strain. The best option is for Twitter to give users a wide variety of customizable choices that people can use to make Twitter’s interface the most effective – and least painful – for them to use.

Twitter Paused its Verification Applications – Again

Are you among the many people who really want to get that little, blue, verified checkmark on Twitter? Sadly, you are going to be stuck waiting for an indefinite period of time. Twitter has paused its verification process (once again).

The Twitter Verified account tweeted: “We’ve temporarily hit pause on rolling out access to apply for Verification so we can make improvements to the application and review process. For those who have been waiting, we know this may be disappointing. We want to get things right, and appreciate your patience.”

Engadget reported that Twitter has not said when it plans to start taking applications for the verified checkmark again. According to Engadget, Twitter said it is taking time to implement tweaks for both the application and review processes.

As Engadget reported, there was a briefly verified fake Cormac McCarthy account. A quick glance at Wikipedia shows that the writer died in 1933 at the age of 88. Engadget pointed out that an account holder has to provide evidence that they are who they say they are. One example is a government ID. Clearly, Cormac McCarthy could not have provided that himself, from beyond the grave!

The Verge reported that in 2017, Twitter verified one of the organizers behind the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. There was backlash against giving that user a verified account. As you may recall, the rally resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, an activist who was protesting those who organized and attended the rally.

In addition, The Verge reported that Twitter admitted that several fake accounts, which reportedly seemed to be part of a botnet, were incorrectly verified.

These are vivid examples of why Twitter needed to “implement minor tweaks” for both the application and review processes before an account is given the blue verified checkmark.

The verified blue checkmark could be viewed as a vanity thing. It shows people that you are who you say you are, and potentially makes people more interested in seeing what you tweet. Having a verified blue checkmark also has a practical purpose. Having one makes it much harder for people to attempt to impersonate you on Twitter.

Twitter is Testing a Downvote Button

Twitter announced they are testing something called downvotes. The name of this potential feature is exactly the same as what Reddit uses to enable users to express dislike on a Reddit post. Twitter downvotes work differently than the ones on Reddit.

Twitter Support tweeted: “Some of you on iOS may see different options to up or down vote on replies. We’re testing this to understand the types of replies you find relevant in a convo, so we can work on ways to show more of them. Your downvotes aren’t public, while your upvotes will be shown as likes.”

A second tweet follows with “some key notes about this experiment”.

1 This is just a test for research right now.
2 This is not a dislike button.
3 Your downvotes are visible to you only.
4 Votes won’t change the order of replies.

9to5Mac reported that the test of the downvote button is only available on Twitter on iOS. There is no information on when or if this will be tested on Android or the Twitter website.

Based on images that Twitter posted in its Twitter Support tweet, there are at least three varieties of icons that are being tested. In one example, a “like” is a circle with an arrow pointing upward. Clicking that turns the circle green. A circle with a downward pointing arrow is a downvote. It turns red when clicked (and still shows the arrow). Numbers appear next to the “like”.

In another version, the “like” is a heart shape that turns red when clicked, and the downvote is a circle with an arrow pointing down that turns red when clicked. Numbers appear next to the “like”.

The third option takes its example from Facebook. The “like” button is a thumbs up that turns green when clicked. The downvote button is a thumbs down, that turns red when clicked. The thumbs up shows numbers next to it.

As 9to5Mac reported, this is a test, and none of the information is shown publicly. In other words, if someone responds to your tweet with a really bad take, or a completely unrelated one, you can downvote it. Only you will see the downvote. The invisible downvote is a good idea. Making it visible would likely cause people to get angry.

Keep in mind that Twitter stated that the test is to find out the types of replies that a specific users finds relevant in a conversation, so Twitter can work on ways to show that user more of them. It’s not about which type of downvote button people prefer. It’s about Twitter finding a way to curate your experience based on what you tell it you don’t want to see.