Last year in November, Twitter had revealed its plans of introducing a few new features that promise to improve user engagement. One of these new features is a "While you were away" tool that would recap tweets that users may have missed while they were off busy doing something else. Now, it appears that this feature is starting to be rolled out by the social media company to a sizable chunk of its users.
To be clear, the feature is not fully live at this point. But it is currently rolling out to large numbers of users, which means that very soon, a full roll-out should be underway.
Twitter has always had a chronological approach to displaying tweets from every account that users follow. But the new tweet recap feature is decidedly non-chronological. Much like Facebook's Timeline, Twitter's latest feature displays the best tweets (not necessarily the latest) that users may have missed since they last checked their Twitter feeds. Those best tweets are then placed at the top of the timeline so that users can see them immediately once they check back in to their Twitter accounts.
The roll-out process of the "While you were away" feature is certainly not consistent at this point. Reports suggest that some users have already gotten the feature during Christmas week. Others reported that they got the feature as early as the first week of December.
And the reaction from users is mixed, to say the least. Others were unprepared, even confused with the feature, especially those used to Twitter's uniformly chronological approach to displaying feeds.
Still, there were others that were more appreciative. It is still too early to tell if it is a hit or a nuisance. Perhaps when the full roll-out is complete, we will all have a better idea if the users who like the feature outnumber the disgruntled ones.
The success of the "While you were away" feature certainly hinges on how good Twitter's algorithm is. After all, what good is a recap of things you missed if it does not show you stuff that is relevant, interesting, or important to you?
Interestingly, there are already certain other services that exist today that do the same job as Twitter's new recap feature. For instance, Nuzzel is a social news aggregator that taps into users' Twitter and Facebook network in order to round out news stories that are popular with the users' circle of friends or contacts.
It is not too late for Twitter though to make some adjustments to its new feature. The feature, after all, is still in the initial, partial roll-out stage. If Twitter manages to pull this off, it should finally offer something that might be really useful for people. Well, at least more useful than sponsored accounts, or tweets from people users don't follow, that appear on the timeline.
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