List 'best of Twitter' with custom timelines
TWITTER on Tuesday introduced a tool, called custom timelines, that allows its users to drag and drop tweets to form custom lists of Twitter messages on whatever topic interests them.
The idea - to make it easy for anyone to create a "best of Twitter" list - could be especially appealing to news organisations and other heavy users of Twitter who constantly scan the service looking for interesting nuggets and then share them.
A user of custom timelines could create a list of anything on Twitter, from news about major events, like the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to less weighty matters like the best cat jokes posted on Twitter.
"Whether you want to collect the best tweets about a TV show or help people find the latest information about fast-moving real-time situations, custom timelines let you give everyone a place to follow along," wrote Mr Brian Ellin, a product manager at Twitter, in a blog post announcing the tool.
Custom timelines also help Twitter address one of its biggest problems: It is often hard to find meaning amid the chaos of half a billion Twitter posts a day.
Essentially, Twitter is hoping to enlist its most dedicated fans as tour guides. The company said the political-news site Politico, the British newspaper The Guardian and Carson Daly, host of The Voice, were early users of the timeline tool.
Each timeline is public and has its own page on Twitter.com. Users can keep adding new posts.
Initially, custom timelines will have to be put together using TweetDeck, a Twitter-owned software program that sorts the posts into columns.
But Twitter said it would share the technical information necessary for developers to create their own tools and even write programs to automatically collect, say, all tweets with a particular hashtag, sent by certain accounts or with particular keywords in the post.
Users will also be able to embed their custom timelines into their Web pages, much as they can embed tweets now.
It remains to be seen how the new tool will be used or how popular it will be. A similar tool from Twitter, called Twitter lists, which allows people to compile lists of accounts they follow, has never gained much traction.
Twitter also faces stiff competition in the area of organising tweets. Many news organisations and blogs already use a tool called Storify, which allows a user to compile content easily from Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Reddit into a page.
Unlike the new Twitter tool, Storify allows users to add comments between the tweets and other items to weave them into a coherent narrative.