Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twitter Tries to Get Your Attention

Twitter’s great, but if you’re a regular human, you can’t spend all of your time looking at it.*

So what if someone plops out something interesting, and you miss it?

Twitter has a plan for that.

Former Foursquare product head Alex Rainert happened to catch a glimpse of it yesterday, when Twitter sent a push notification to his iPhone, telling him that two of his pals were talking about … “Grey’s Anatomy.”

twitter push notification

As Rainert notes, he’s not particularly interested in knowing about that. But Twitter is very interested in TV, so you can see why it would experiment with different ways of telling users what people are saying about TV on Twitter. (Here’s an earlier experiment from this summer.)

And more broadly, as John Herrman pointed out a while back, you can imagine Twitter using push notifications to tell people about all sorts of stuff that’s happening on Twitter.

Note that Twitter has recently rolled out two features/experiments designed to surface interesting stuff for you — Event Parrot for breaking news, and Magic Recs for people your friends are paying attention to — and it has already converted Magic Recs into a push notification system. If you opt in, Twitter will start suggesting Twitter users for you to follow, based on the fact that your Twitter pals have started following them, too. (The most recent heads-up I received was about Danah Boyd’s new “think/do tank” called Data & Society Research Institute.)

In Rainert’s case, he didn’t ask Twitter to tell him that his pals were talking about TV. And you can see the downside of this thing if Twitter pushes too many of these to people who don’t want them.

But I think Twitter thinks the upside is pretty significant. Highlighting cool stuff is nice for power users, and may keep them more engaged. And it could be crucial for new users, which Twitter really needs: Hey, we know this seems like a lot of people jabbering about weird stuff — WTF is an RT, right? — but look over here! You might want to know about this.

So I have a hunch we’ll see more of this. Even if we don’t ask for it.

* I do know some people who look at Twitter every minute they are awake, but they are most definitely not regular humans, even though they are nice people in their own special way.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald