Twitter Finally Attempts to Filter Tweets

As it’s grown, Twitter has tried to make sense of its overwhelming stream with features like trending topics — keywords that a lot of people are already currently tweeting about — and a suggested user list — a troubled effort that underwent revisions after charges of favoritism. Now, for the first time, the company is recommending individual tweets, by harnessing the power of its user base to algorithmically show which ones are interesting. The new Top Tweets account, which will be featured on a new Twitter home page that’s currently being tested, shares a small sampling of popular tweets.

Twitter spokesperson Sean Garrett gave us some more detail on the signals Top Tweets takes into account.

This algorithm looks at all kinds of interactions with Tweets including retweets, favorites, and more to identify the Tweets with the highest velocity beyond expectations. One thing to note is this is intended to highlight Tweets from all users and doesn’t favor those with large follower counts.

Most of the tweets that Top Tweets has retweeted (say that 10 times fast!) had already been retweeted by other users more than 100 times (though I did see one with only 47). That means it may not be particularly timely, since it retweets only after many others have done so.

The algorithm, of course, favors updates from celebrities. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a Wizard of Oz personally picking tweets behind the algorithmic curtain, since one of the launch-day Top Tweets is from the off-color account “bieberbangedus.” Top Tweets also picked a recent update from the lovable Canadian teen himself, an automated location status from the unmanned spacecraft Voyager 2, some words of wisdom the Dalai Lama and a deal from PriceGrabber.

There do seem to be two Top Tweets streams: one, of the account’s favorites, adds about 10 new tweets per hour. Then the account seems to pare those down and retweet every few hours. Of course, all that could change.

Top Tweets is current following “everyone!” on Twitter and has about 1,000 followers of its own. Existing users may find plenty of value in subscribing to the account and getting a sort of crowdsourced TMZ (after all, some real celebrities tweet way too much; a digest is a helpful feature). Twitter said in a blog post that the feature was created with new users in mind, in order to make Twitter more accessible to them.

With the new design, we’re intentionally featuring more dynamic content on the front page, revealing a sample of who’s here, what folks are tweeting about, and the big topics that they’re discussing. The homepage now features a set of algorithmically-selected top tweets that automatically appear every few seconds…People who internalize the value of Twitter understand the power of this simple medium. But it hasn’t been easy to make that value transparent or obvious for curious folks coming to Twitter for the first time.

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