Twitter’s Best Idea For Keeping Up With News Is Buried Too Deep

by Alex Kantrowitz on June 24, 2016

Two major news events unfolded this week with the kind of incremental and quickly evolving updates that made Twitter an ideal place to follow both. On Wednesday, a group of congressional Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor to protest gun violence. And on Thursday, Britain voted to leave the European Union. Throughout both, informed insiders tweeted bits of news and information you simply couldn’t find elsewhere. But unless you were already following those people, or saw a retweet, their updates may as well not have existed; they were trees falling in empty forests. It doesn't have to be that way.

Twitter is built on a follow model, which is great for some use cases, but also means you’re going to miss a lot of great stuff from people you don’t follow. Unless you followed certain Democratic lawmakers, you likely missed lots of action from the House floor during the sit-in this week. But there’s a solution to that: A Twitter that temporarily inserts relevant tweets from the right people at the right moment into your timeline would be a much more useful Twitter. Amazingly, this Twitter already exists but is buried puzzlingly deep within the platform’s user interface.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is fond of pitching his service as the place you go to see what’s happening 10 to 15 minutes before anywhere else. And it’s true — possessing this information is what’s helped grow Twitter to over 310 million active users. But the company has struggled to grow beyond that, largely because the information Dorsey references is very, very difficult to unearth.

Alex Kantrowitz

That’s why Twitter released a product last fall, called Moments, that attempts to solve this problem. Moments curates the best things happening on Twitter and presents them in a collection format in a dedicated tab. These curated stories are often fairly anticlimactic, though, since, by virtue of being curated, they’re both after-the-fact and highly selective.

But there’s another component to Moments that’s been fantastically useful the past few days — if you could find it. Moments also includes an optional temporary follow function that, if you opt in, inserts tweets into your timeline from people you don’t follow when they’re pertinent to the news, sports, or entertainment event you’re following, and then, when the event is over, the temporary follow ends.

You don’t have to check in on the Moment to see these; they appear automatically in your timeline — which means you can stay up to date on events as they happen, without having to either follow lots of new people, or check in again and again on a live Moment.

During both the congressional sit-in and Britain's EU vote, Twitter’s temporary follow function was indispensable. It pushed through tweets from political journalists, beltway insiders, and members of Congress during the sit-in, and updates from British bloggers, politicians, and even a BBC bot during the referendum. And it did so all in that 10- to 15-minute early window, so if you opted in, you experienced the value of Twitter with just a single click.

This function works for new and casual users trying to figure out how (and why) to use Twitter. And it also works for power users who have geared their feeds toward other interests.

The temporary follow was one of the initial ideas for Moments, yet it’s surprisingly difficult to find. It is buried in the Moments tab, accessible via a “Follow” button that’s sometimes there and sometimes not. In a (very unscientific) poll I conducted on Twitter yesterday, only about a third over 175 participants said they knew the function existed.

Conversations with Twitter insiders and tech executives often come back to Twitter’s need to emphasize the temporary follow. “Twitter would be great to add ways to let people follow topics and individuals temporarily. Either to see all of their tweets or even just the best ones,” former Twitter product manager and now venture capitalist Josh Elman told BuzzFeed News.

Twitter seems to have added extra attention to the temporary follow function this week, with the U.K. Moments team playfully teasing the U.S. team about whose would run for longer. But it’s unclear whether the company plans to unleash it further. Asked if there were any plans to make the temporary follow more prominent, Twitter declined to comment.

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech


What Happens When A Stan Retires?

by Katie Notopoulos on June 24, 2016

When Myleeza Mingo first watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians as teenager in a small town in Louisiana, she didn’t see the show as a sign of the impending fall of Western civilization, or 22-minute chiaroscuro of the vapid nature of celebrity. She saw three stylish sisters, whose humor and charisma made the show incredibly watchable. But it was the ridicule of and negatively toward Kim after her breakup with Kris Humphries that turned Mingo from casual admirer to a true stan, ready to defend Kim against her haters.

The use of the term “stan” to mean superfan comes from the Eminen song “Stan”, about a fan so passionate he becomes homicidally deranged. Now the term is used to describe online superfans who are so ardent they devote their entire online existence to the celebrity or artist they stan for.

Typically, stans support female musicians like Beyoncé or Britney Spears — the kind of female solo artists who attract slavish devotion. Some of these tribes have their own names: the Beyhive, Arianators, (Lady Gaga’s) Little Monsters, Swifties, (Rihanna’s) Navy. On Twitter, you can easily identify a stan because they’ll likely have a photo of their idol as their avatar, and often use a fake name that incorporates the singer’s name — for example, if I were @KatieSpears, you’d know I was a Britney stan. True stans carry the flag for their diva, and will ruthlessly fight for them. (A recent Twitter thread by a Beyoncé stan laid out a brutal and hilarious evisceration of all current pop divas, ending commentary for each with “She doesn’t have the range.”)

All this devotion sometimes leads stans into sometimes extremely boring waters. Music stans are obsessed with statistics about album sales and metrics, flaming rival stans with facts — otherwise known as “receipts” — about how, say, Selena’s album sold more units in the first week than Demi's, thereby proving Demi is a “flop.” Recently, a petition launched by an Arianator demanded that Metacritic, a site that averages critic’s reviews into a numerical score, remove a lukewarm review of Ariana Grande’s recent album on Rolling Stone based on a detailed, point-by-point explanation of how the review did not fully examine the brilliance of Grande’s voice.

While the classic stan is a female pop-diva fan, there are also stans of other celebrities — like Kim Kardashian. And Mingo, aka @MyleezaKardash, considers herself the number one Kim stan of all time.

Right now, Mingo is facing a new chapter in her life — she just graduated college — and so she’s considering retiring from the stan lifestyle. But can a true stan ever give it up? I talked to Mingo on BuzzFeed’s Internet Explorer podcast to find out what happens when a stan retires.

Twitter: @KimKardashian

When Myingo tweeted that she was considering retiring, Kim manually retweeted her, begging her not to. “It was one of the saddest moments ever,” said Mingo about Kim’s tweet.

“I've been doing this since I was 14 years old,” she said. “It's something I love to do; it’s really become my hobby, so it's like giving up something you've been doing for almost 10 years and you realize it's time to hang it up. It's just a sad sad day. I grew up so fast — I'm about to be 22 in August and I have to be an adult.”

What’s exceptional about Mingo as a stan is that she has actually interacted with Kim, something most stans would die to do. Kim once replied to her on Twitter, and she actually recognized Mingo when she showed up to a perfume-signing event. The two struck up a friendship; Kim invited her to a Kanye concert and even visited her on her birthday.

For Mingo's recent college graduation, Kim sent an expensive gift. “I had tweeted asking if the Apple Watch was really worth it. I was a broke college student, and it was like $300,” Mingo said. “[Kim] DM'd me and said, ‘Hey, congratulations on graduating, I want to send you a gift.’ We get to my graduation, and I opened it up and it was this Apple Watch I had tweeted about. You can tell she's so connected and in tune with her fans — she knew I wanted it and was considering getting one, and she got it for me.”

As a true stan of a controversial celebrity, Mingo has done her fair share of fighting on Twitter, but she’s mostly stopped. “I've gotten so much better with it because Kim told me I could handle it,” she said. “I try to be more mature because I know I'm older than these people. But I used to argue with anyone who mentioned me, and I'd have arguments that lasted for days and days and days. When I see someone talking crazy, I try my best to ignore it. But yeah, there's times you argue all day with one person. You're just trying to prove your point … A true stan knows you can end up arguing all day.”

Mingo majored in public relations and business, and she knows that the sizable audience she's built on social media (26,000 Twitter followers and 21,000 on Instagram) is seen as an asset in those industries. If she goes through with her “retirement,” she plans to keep those accounts active, but just switch over to less stan activity and have each of them function as more of a personal account. However, she’s unsure if she’ll keep the @MyleezaKardash handle or switch it to her real name. People know her by her handle so well, classmates would even call her that; she even occasionally accidentally signs restaurant bills as “Kardash” instead of her real last name.

Still, she’s not sure she’s fully ready to break up with Kim. “I'm not 100% dead on it, but I think it's just the right thing to do. I'm 22, I'm getting ready to start my career, I just graduated college, and I just really think that it's time, even though I'm reluctant to give it up. I've had my fair share of years on Twitter cursing people out, all things a real stan does. But it's time to hang up my stan shoes.”

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech