Why Algorithms Suck: Twitter Tries Again to Make Discover Tab Content “Magical”
Last year Twitter launched a web and mobile interface redesign that included a Discover tab as one of its new core features. This tab was meant to be a place to find interesting tweets, people and topics to follow, but it fell short on its goals — really short.
Users, including myself, were a little mystified how Twitter curated this content. What algorithm were they using to personalize the Discover experience? Do they take into account what I tweet about? Tweets I click on? My bio? My followers?
Judging by a comparison of these two Twitter accounts it’s none of the above. One account is my own and the other is Flud's, however, they are showing identical Discover Stories. Apparently Flud and I are destined to discover the exact same things?
You get it.
Two people, let alone a brand and a person, are not going to be interested in the exact same people, stories and topics. This is the problem with algorithms, especially ones that promise to be magical and lead you to a land of discoverability. The only way you’ll reach that is if your content is curated by people.
People are interesting, curious, intelligent and most of all, weird — a winning combination for curating awesome content. Plus, whether you know it or not, you most likely share something in common with the people you are connected to on a social network.
You both may love music and have different tastes in genres, but you love that new song they just listened to on Spotify. Both love technology, one’s an iPhone and one’s a Droid, but you didn’t know that app existed until they tweeted about it. Isn’t that the point of connecting with people on social networks? They’re supposed to bring you new and exciting things, expand your horizons — so if an algorithm is getting in the way of that I say adios algorithm.
There’s always a level of discoverability you can count on with people — they’re unpredictable and real. That’s why scrolling through a person’s tweets is more likely to produce an interesting find than the Discover tab.
Maybe Twitter will up their game and produce this magical experience in the coming week, but until then I’ll stick to my custom searches and hashtag following. And if I need one more reason to bash on algorithms, I couldn’t have written finer words…
algorithms suck. especially ones that think charlie feathers and jimmy eat world have anything in common
— mattvella (@mattvella)February 6, 2012