Category Archives: Twitter

Florida student scores 124 free pairs of Crocs for a very comfy graduation ceremony

There is perhaps no shoe as contentious as the Croc. Say what you want about the way they look (and yes, the company that makes Crocs is aware they're not exactly beautiful), but there's no denying that the shoe is comfortable and functional.

In fact, one Florida teen realized that Crocs were the perfect footwear for graduation. Sarah Agee of Seminole High School told the Tampa Bay Times that the school required girls to wear "white or light-colored shoes" to graduation. When one of her classmates had concerns about wearing heels, Agee proposed Crocs. Read more...

More about Twitter, Social Media, Graduation, Crocs, and Culture

Twitter algorithm changes will hide more bad tweets and trolls

Twitter’s latest effort to curb trolling and abuse on the site takes some of the burden off users and places it on the company’s algorithms.

If you tap on a Twitter or real-world celebrity’s tweet, more often than not there’s a bot as one of the first replies. This has been an issue for so long it’s a bit ridiculous, but it all has to do with the fact that Twitter really only arranges tweets by quality inside search results and in back-and-forth conversations.

Twitter is making some new changes that calls on how the collective Twitterverse is responding to tweets to influence how often people see them. With these upcoming changes, tweets in conversations and search will be ranked based on a greater variety of data that takes into account things like the number of accounts registered to that user, whether that tweet prompted people to block the accounts and the IP address.

Tweets that are determined to most likely be bad aren’t just automatically deleted, but they’ll get cast down into the “Show more replies” section where fewer eyes will encounter them. The welcome change is likely to cut down on tweets that you don’t want to see in your timeline. Twitter says that abuse reports were down 8 percent in conversations where this feature was being tested.

Much like your average unfiltered commenting platform, Twitter abuse problems have seemed to slowly devolve. On one hand it’s been upsetting to users who have been personally targeted, on the other hand it’s just taken away the utility of poring through the conversations that Twitter enables in the first place.

It’s certainly been a tough problem to solve, but they’ve understandably seemed reluctant to build out changes that take down tweets without a user report and a human review. This is, however, a very 2014 way to look at content moderation and I think it’s grown pretty apparent as of late that Twitter needs to lean on its algorithmic intelligence to solve this rather than putting the burden entirely on users hitting the report button.

Favstar says it will shut down June 19 as a result of Twitter’s API changes for data streams

As Twitter develops an ever-closer hold on how it manages services around its real-time news and social networking service, a pioneer in Twitter analytics is calling it quits. Favstar, an early leader in developing a way to track and review how your and other people’s Tweets were getting liked and retweeted by others on the network, has announced that it will be shutting down on June 19 — a direct result, its creator Tim Haines notes, of changes that Twitter will be making to its own APIs, specifically around its Account Activity API, which is coming online at the same time that another API, User Streams, is being depreciated.

Favstar and others rely on User Streams to power its services. “Twitter… [has] not been forthcoming with the details or pricing,” Favstar’s creator Tim Haines said of the newer API. “Favstar can’t continue to operate in this environment of uncertainty.”

Favstar’s announcement was made over the weekend, but the issue for it and other developers has actually been brewing for a year.

Twitter announced back in December that, as part of the launch of the Account Activity API (originally announced April 2017), it would be shutting down User Streams on June 19.

User Streams are what Favstar, and a number of other apps such as TalonTweetbotTweetings, and Twitterrific (as pointed out in this blog post signed by all four on “Apps of a Feather”), are built on. Introduced as the Twitter Streaming API for developers, the aim was to provide a way for developers to get continuous updates from a number of Twitter accounts — needed for services that either provided alternative Twitter interfaces or a way of parsing the many Tweets on the platform — in a way that did not slow the whole service down.

The newer Account Activity API provides a number of features to developers to help facilitate tracking Twitter and using services like direct messaging for business purposes:

As you can see, some of the features that the newer API covers are directly linked to functionality you get via Favstar. The crux of the problem, writes Haines, is that Twitter hadn’t given Favstar and other developers that had been working with User Streams (and other depreciating functionality) answers about pricing and other details so that they could see if a retooling of their services would be possible. (Twitter has provided a guide, it seems, but it doesn’t appear to address these points.)

The post on Apps of a Feather further spells out the technical issues:

“The new Account Activity API is currently in beta testing, but third-party developers have not been given access and time is running out,” the developers write. “With access we might be able to implement some push notifications, but they would be limited at the standard level to 35 Twitter accounts – our products must deliver notifications to hundreds of thousands of customers. No pricing has been given for Enterprise level service with unlimited accounts – we have no idea if this will be an affordable option for us and our users.”

One of the consequences is that “automatic refresh of your timeline just won’t work,” they continue. “There is no web server on your mobile device or desktop computer that Twitter can contact with updates. Since updating your timeline with other methods is rate-limited by Twitter, you will see delays in real-time updates during sporting events and breaking news.”

Favstar has been around since 2009 — its name a tip of the hat to the original “like” on Twitter, which was a star, not a heart. Haines writes that at its peak, it had some 50 million users and was a “huge hit” with those who realised how the network could be leveraged to build up audiences outside of Twitter — including comedians and celebrities, tech people, journalists, and so on. It’s also tinkered with its service over time, and added in a Pro tier, to make it more user-friendly.

Somewhat unusual for a popular app, Favstar appears to have always been bootstrapped.

But there have been two trends at play for years now, one specific to Twitter and another a more general shift in the wider industry of apps:

The first, regarding Twitter, is that the company has been sharpening its business focus for years to find viable, diverse and recurring sources of revenue, while at the same time putting a tighter grip around how its platform is appropriated by others. This has led the company to significantly shift its relationship with developers and third parties. In some cases, it has ceased to support and work with third-party apps that it feels effectively overlap with features and functions that Twitter offers directly.

In the case of Favstar, the service rose in prominence at a time when Twitter appeared to completely ignore the star feature. MG once described the Favorite as “the unwanted step child feature of Twitter. Though it has been around since the early days of the service, they have never really done anything to promote its use.”

Fast forward to today, and Twitter has not only revamped the feature replacing the star with a heart (I still prefer the star, for what it’s worth), but Twitter uses those endorsements to help tune its algorithm, and populate your notifications tab, and to provide analytics to users on how their Tweets are doing. In other words, it’s doing quite a bit of what Favstar does.

And if you think of how Twitter has developed its own business model in recent years, with a push for video and working with news organisations and other media brands, the same early users of Favstar as detailed by Haines (celebs, news and other media organizations, etc.) are exactly the targets that Twitter has been trying to connect with, too.

The other, more general, trend that this latest turn has teased out is the one that we’ve heard come up many times before. Building services dependent on another platform can be a precarious state of affairs for a developer. You never know when the platform owner might simply decide to pull the plug on you. Your success could lead to many users, business growth, and even an acquisition by the platform itself — but it could nearly as quickly lead to your downfall if the platform views you as a threat, and decides to cut you off instead.

Interestingly, there could be some life left in Favstar in another galaxy far, far away. We’ve reached out both to Haines and to Twitter for further comment and will update this post as and when we learn more.

And now, a toast to the #CeleBreadies hashtag

Love puns, bread, and celebrities? I feel like a lot of you do. If so, please direct your attention to Twitter, where the hashtag #CeleBreadies provided a fair amount of yeasty delight on Wednesday.

The concept here is simple: fresh-baked bread puns made using celebrity names. 

There is literally nothing else to it, and there doesn't have to be. And so I present these examples without further comment, hopeful that you'll also almost spit out coffee when you see the phrase "Sharon Scone."

Please enjoy.

Condoleezza Slice #CeleBreadies

— Shea Browning (@SheaBrowning) May 9, 2018

More about Twitter, Celebrities, Bread, Social Media, and Culture

At long last, we know the 4 words every girl wants to hear

A new relationship meme recently made the rounds on Twitter, and — like "build the perfect man" before it — it got really weird, really fast.

The meme is based on a dated stock image of some dude whispering in some girl's ear (barf) with the caption: "Post the four words every girl wants whispered in her ear." 

At some point, this was probably some earnest 2011 Facebook thing, but it's taken on a new life: the life of a 48-hour meme that people got tired of almost instantly.

That's not to say there weren't a few gems, though. Like most memes of this nature, "post the four words" is best when it's super niche — and if there's one thing Twitter can deliver, it's niche content.  Read more...

More about Twitter, Memes, Social Media, Culture, and Web Culture

Twitter is testing secret, encrypted direct messaging

With the proliferation of secure messaging apps out there, Twitter is set to join in on the action.

The company is seemingly testing end-to-end encrypted direct messaging in the Android version of its app, as spotted by computer science student Jane Manchun Wong on Twitter.

The feature, dubbed "Secret conversation," will apparently be available in the conversation info section of the app, when direct messaging. Users can also view encryption keys of themselves and a recipient.

End-to-end encryption ensures that messages can only be read between the sender and the recipient, and not by the company whose platform you're using, or any authority who may try and intercept the message. Read more...

More about Twitter, Apps, Encryption, Social Media, and Messaging

Twitter has an unlaunched ‘Secret’ encrypted messages feature

Buried inside Twitter’s Android app is a “Secret conversation” option that if launched would allow users to send encrypted direct messages. The feature could make Twitter a better home for sensitive communications that often end up on encrypted messaging apps like Signal, Telegram or WhatsApp.

The encrypted DMs option was first spotted inside the Twitter for Android application package (APK) by Jane Manchun Wong. APKs often contain code for unlaunched features that companies are quietly testing or will soon make available. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the record. It’s unclear how long it might be before Twitter officially launches the feature, but at least we know it’s been built.

The appearance of encrypted DMs comes 18 months after whistleblower Edward Snowden asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for the feature, which Dorsey said was “reasonable and something we’ll think about.”

Twitter has gone from “thinking about” the feature to prototyping it. The screenshot above shows the options to learn more about encrypted messaging, start a secret conversation and view both your own and your conversation partner’s encryption keys to verify a secure connection.

Twitter’s DMs have become a powerful way for people to contact strangers without needing their phone number or email address. Whether it’s to send a reporter a scoop, warn someone of a problem, discuss business or just “slide into their DMs” to flirt, Twitter has established one of the most open messaging mediums. But without encryption, those messages are subject to snooping by governments, hackers or Twitter itself.

Twitter has long positioned itself as a facilitator of political discourse and even uprisings. But anyone seriously worried about the consequences of political dissonance, whistleblowing or leaking should be using an app like Signal that offers strong end-to-end encryption. Launching encrypted DMs could win back some of those change-makers and protect those still on Twitter.