I don’t use Twitter’s Discovery timeline, because although it is ‘curated for you’, I don’t find it curates what I’m looking for. However, it IS using my data, and it is different between my desktop version and the mobile app that I use more often.
I selected the the top 10 tweets in my Twitter Discovery timeline in both Mobile and Desktop versions, at 1.30pm Sunday 15 March. (They are listed below, under Appendix). I carried out a content analysis of the tweets to see why Twitter might serve them to me.
All the tweets included some visual component: a screet shot, picture or gif. Most of the accounts are large, established accounts belonging to publishing platforms or authors.
I did a quick content analysis, where I coded the text, image, embedded content, or information from the link (but not following the link) in each tweet into:
- Geek culture
- Gender or cultural Diversity
- Privacy/online security
- Hard News
- Pop culture
- Visual attraction (pictures that accompanied the tweets were pretty, rather than funny or screen texts)
(These categories are in order of identification, not anything more significant).
Tweets were coded with as many of the above catagories as might be relevant. Saladin Ahmed is a fantasy writer and geek/pop culture critic, he writes about racial, gender and religious diversity, and he often posts humourous tweets. He appears at the top of both lists, once more on desktop and twice more on my mobile list. His top tweet registered in 7 of the above catagories (the highest of any tweet).
There were 5 tweets coded Humour on mobile and 4 on desktop. 4 tweets coded Geek culture (Desktop: 3) and Diversity (Desktop: 2) on my mobile timeline. 3 tweets coded Privacy/online security (Desktop: 2) and History (Desktop: 1). Overall, mobile Discovery tweets registered 34 categories, where as desktop tweets only fitted 28.
Therefore, categories that met my interests were more likely to be served to me in the Discovery timeline of the mobile app than the desktop web version.
However, this left a large gap–what was influencing the desktop version to rate these particular tweets highly?
I had included the information Twitter shares in grey above a tweet to tell me why it’s in my timeline in the descriptions (See appendix). One clear difference stood out so I added another emergent category:
- High Retweet count
Of the tweets in the desktop Discovery timeline, 5 had a high retweet count (66-197). Of the tweets in the mobile app, there was only 1. This accounted for most of the gap between desktop and mobile.
In the absence of individual engagement data (suggested by what I favourite, RT, click on, reply to etc), Twitter uses general popularity as a category to decide what is going to appear on my Discovery timeline.
And yes, I did make pie for Pi day.
Appendix 1: The top 10 tweets
1. Saladin Ahmed (who I follow, RTd by another person I follow) on the Telegraph pointing out that now, gasp, white men are being targetted for online abuse too. [Desktop & mobile]
2. Slate (who I follow, RTd by 147 other people) on Pi day 3.1415. [D]
New York Times (who I follow, RTd by William Gibson) on how the ‘tech titans’ of Silicon Valley who created platforms that require and harvest personal information are protecting their own privacy. [M]
3. Bibliophilia (who I follow, RTd by 66 other people) on an 18th century double bible. [D]
Newsweek (followed by someone I follow) on whether the Antropocene started with the Native American genocides [M]
4. The Economist (who I follow, RTd by 197 other people) on the increased risk of nuclear war.
Classicpics (RTd by someone I follow) on the ‘perfect body’ in 1955 (the woman is a healthy weight, with muscles and curves). [M]
5. New York Times (who I follow, RTd by William Gibson) on how the ‘tech titans’ of Silicon Valley who created platforms that require and harvest personal information are protecting their own privacy. [D]
Slate (who I follow, RTd by 147 other people) on Pi day 3.1415. [M]
6. Saladin Ahmed (Rtd by 2 people I follow) with a Star Trek reaction gif about Gizmodo, diversity. [D]
Science headline of the week about snail sex (RTd by someone I follow). [M]
7. Science headline of the week about snail sex (RTd by someone I follow). [D]
Saladin Ahmed (Rtd by 2 people I follow) with a Star Trek reaction gif about Gizmodo, diversity. [M]
8. Wall Street Journal (who I follow, RTd by 166 other people) on the return of the business phone call. [D]
Endgadget (followed by someone I follow) on the fact that new HBO still ‘has strings attached’. [M]
9. Advice to Writers (who I follow, RTd by 82 other people) with a quote from Maya Angelou. [D]
Person RTd by someone I follow on 11th century limestone head discovered in Norfolk.[M]
10. An academic I follow (favourited by another academic I follow), joking television marathons should count towards tenure. [D]
Saladin Ahmed, with a reaction gif from Lord of the Rings about having too much work to do. [M]