Space & Innovation

Best Tweets, Not Newest, Will Now Rise to Top

Twitter said their show-me-the-best-tweets-first feature is optional.

Twitter revamped its timeline Wednesday, allowing the "best" tweets to rise to the top, despite warnings of a revolt from members loyal to the real-time flow of the messaging platform.

The tweaked format aims to inject new life into the struggling one-to-many messaging service by moving away from a pure chronological timeline to one determined by algorithm, as used by social network leader Facebook.

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Twitter said the "Show me the best tweets first" feature is optional and that users can stick with tweets rushing by like leaves on a fast-moving river, if they prefer.

"You follow hundreds of people on Twitter -- maybe thousands -- and when you open Twitter, you may feel like you've missed their most important tweets," senior engineering manager Mike Jahr said in a blog post.

"Starting today, you can choose a new timeline feature that helps you catch up on the most important tweets from the people you follow."

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Jahr did not detail what factors were being used to determine which tweets individual users might be most interested in seeing.

The algorithm was most likely built on a "while you were away" feature that Twitter introduced about a year ago to show people notable posts they missed while not using the service.

"When you first open Twitter, the tweets you're most likely to care about will appear at the top of your timeline -- they are recent, and in reverse chronological order," Jahr said.

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"Then the rest of the tweets will be displayed right underneath, also in reverse chronological order, as always."

Twitter users can refresh a page to begin seeing live, real-time tweets as usual, according to Jahr. The "Show me the best tweets first" feature is available to people accessing Twitter using a Web browser or applications on mobile devices powered by Apple or Android software.

"We've already noticed that people who have used this new feature tend to retweet and tweet more, which is good for everyone," Jahr said.

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Twitter planned to begin turning the feature on during coming weeks, sending people notifications to let them know about the change.

"If you love it, great," Jahr said. "If you don't, you can easily turn it off in settings."

The new feature is being introduced as Twitter strives to expand its ranks of users and ramp the amount of time people spend at the service, as its stock plumbs new lows and fears rise about the future of Twitter.

But reports of the shift have already prompted protests from some users who say it may lead to the death of the platform, tweeting with the hashtag #RIPTwitter.

July 31, 2012 --

No matter how many cautionary tales about the perils of social media emerge, there are still high-profile falls as a result of social media fails. The latest Twitter takedown happened to Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella. Shortly after the South Korean soccer team beat the Swiss in an Olympic preliminary match, Morganella "quoted a message in French slang that expressed hostility to South Koreans and questioned their intelligence," according to the New York Times. Although Morganella quickly apologized and removed the offending tweet from his feed, the Swiss Olympic delegation elected to expel the athlete from the games, on the grounds that his comments violated the Olympic Charter. Morganella isn't the first person to have his life turned upside down by 140 characters or less.

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Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou had her spot in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. In a matter of days, she would have taken to the field and competed against fellow athletes from around the world for her shot at gold and the Olympic dream. But before she even had the chance to march with her countrymen, Papachristou made a mistake that probably could not have happened at any other Olympics in history: She took to Twitter, and posted something she shouldn't have. This is the racist tweet that cost Papachristou the games: "With so many Africans in Greece… At least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!"

In 2010, after a rugby match between the Australian Wallabies and the South African Springboks, Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice took to Twitter to celebrate her home country's win. Her message to the South African team? "Suck on that, f-----s!" According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the episode cost her a sponsorship deal with Jaguar, which included a $100,000-plus XF car.

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Actress Kristen Stewart's Twitter account might not be to blame for the recent scandal surrounding her relationship with Twilight series co-star Robert Pattinson. But Twitter did play a role. Stewart has admitted to having an affair with "Snow White and the Huntsman" director Rupert Sanders. Stewart played the lead role in the film, and Sanders' wife, Liberty Ross, had a role as the title character's mother. Prior to Stewart and Sanders confessing to their fling, Ross posted a series of cryptic tweets that appeared to allude to the affair. Her last tweet was a simple, "Wow," before the actress deleted her account.

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In the midst of the Arab Spring that brought revolution to Egypt, Kenneth Cole apparently saw a social media marketing opportunity. The fashion designer tweeted the following in 2011: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo" Cole removed the tweet and issued an apology, but that didn't stop a wave of criticism by Twitter users for what were considered insensitive and highly offensive remarks. As Mashable reported on the incident, spoof accounts mocking Cole soon cropped up, with tweets such as: "Our new slingback pumps would make Anne Frank come out of hiding! #KennethColeTweets"

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New York congressman Anthony Weiner lost his office as a result of making a very private photo public to his thousands of Twitter followers in 2011. The congressman originally alleged that a photo of his crotch appeared on the microblogging site as a result of the account being hacked. He later admitted that he had in fact tweeted the photo himself, but meant to send it privately to a young woman. The admission led to allegations Weiner had been unfaithful to his wife, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Dubbed Weinergate, the episode forced the congressman's resignation after even members of his own party called for him to vacate his seat.

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A racy photo also sparked a firestorm for Meghan McCain where she tweeted this image of herself on her Twitter feed. Alongside the photo, McCain tweeted: "(My) 'spontaneous' night in is my Andy Warhol biography and takeout. ... I'm getting old." McCain threatened to delete her account after receiving a torrent of criticism mixed with outright insult. She later apologized for the photo.

Courtney Love might not have had her reputation damaged by Twitter. But it sure took a toll on her bank account. After Love tweeted a rant against fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir in 2009, the Hole frontwoman was sued in 2011 for making defamatory comments that Simorangkir claims ruined her reputation and cost her millions. Love ended up paying out a settlement of $430,000, according to CBS News. The incident made Love the first person in history sued for comments posted on Twitter. A year later, Love was sued again by Rhonda Holmes, a San Diego lawyer, for tweets dating back to 2010. The case is currently still pending a judgment.

While covering the revolt that would overthrow Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan (pictured here) was sexually assaulted by a mob of Egyptian men. Shortly after the incident, Nir Rosen, a journalist who had a fellowship with New York University (NYU), tweeted the following: "Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson. Where was her buddy McCrystal." He also described her as a "war monger." Claiming he didn't recognize the seriousness of the assault on Logan, Rosen later apologized and resigned from his post at NYU.

Rosen isn't the only journalist to derail a career on Twitter. In 2010, CNN's senior editor of Middle East affairs, Octavia Nasr, tweeted: "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.." Hezbollah is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization. Nasr quickly backpedaled and apologized, claiming she wasn't endorsing the Fadlallah's work as a terrorist, but rather praising his efforts to push for women's rights, according to the New York Daily News. CNN fired Fadalallah for her tweets.

If tweeting something favorable about a terrorist weren't bad enough, Wisconsin state senate candidate Dane Deutsch in 2010 posted a tweet that seemed to support Adolf Hitler. The message read: "Hitler and Lincoln were both strong leaders. Lincoln's character made him the greater leader whose legacy and leadership still lives on!" Deutsch intended his comments to mean that Hitler was a powerful demagogue, but ultimately the nuance of his message doesn't lend itself well to political soundbites. Deutsch lost the election.

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