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Automating Twitter’s Moments feature

Twitter recently unveiled their new “Moments” feature. Moments is a new product that they are saying will revolutionize the way people track and hear about breaking news.

Twitter has long been developing into a platform for breaking news, where users can track live tweets from reporters, broadcasters, and civilians on the scene of major sporting, social, and crime events. The problem with the current setup is that you need to be following the accounts of these newsbreakers or be on the page of one of them and not have the opportunity to see all of the other content that is constantly coming out.

Moments solves this problem by keeping a list of featured stories in a very conveniently-located place. These stories are all compilations of tweets, videos, and images that relate to the topic at hand and give the user a good idea of what they need to know.

The key point of this story is how the tweets for the stories are collected. Currently, Twitter has curators hand-picking tweets and molding them together to make a story pop. However, it seems as if there must be a better way of doing this – a way that’s way simpler than PageRank but probably even more effective. Twitter has very natural feedback as to which news sources are influencers (number of followers) and which actual tweets are very relevant (number of retweets, favorites, and comments). The company has ways of identifying which tweets are trending on some topic (hashtags). There are also very well developed text summarization libraries out there, if Twitter has not developed that functionality itself (a simple google search brought up a post with 30 separate libraries).

With Twitter having had a few bad years, it makes sense that they would be doing everything possible to ensure that their hot new feature only displays the best content and doesn’t mess up interpretations of text. But once this feature starts taking off, don’t be surprised if Twitter uses all of the technology at its fingertips to automate this process and allow it to grow larger than it ever could with human curators.


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October 2015