Twitter Announces Custom Timelines For Hashtags Or Topics On Tweetdeck, Launching API Too

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Twitter will let you create custom timelines based on topics, hashtags and more from Tweetdeck, it announced today. Twitter is also providing an API to allow developers to build this functionality into their products.

This will allow people to create powerful streams of information out of Twitter’s public firehose, effectively allowing anyone to curate individual streams of data tailored to a topic. The topics could be literally anything that’s contained in a tweet, including hashtags, a phrase like ‘drinking coffee’ or event-specific keywords like ‘Superbowl’ or ‘TC Disrupt’.

The ability to create custom timelines in Tweetdeck is rolling out slowly, so not everyone will have it right away. This is apparently in an effort to educate people about the new capabilities of custom timelines and to see how people are using them. Not all of Twitter’s consumer products will get this feature right away. If it’s successful, however, it could definitely expand to other products.

Twitter’s Brian Ellin says that the custom timelines are ‘entirely new’. “You name it, and choose the Tweets you want to add to it, either by hand or programmatically using the API…This means that when the conversation around an event or topic takes off on Twitter, you have the opportunity to create a timeline that surfaces what you believe to be the most noteworthy, relevant Tweets.”

Every timeline will have its own permalink page that you can refer users to on Twitter.com. That makes it easy to share and shuffle them around and refer people to them. They’re also completely embeddable.

Over the past few months, the ‘tweet collection’ tool Storify has been expanding to other networks like Facebook in an effort to allow people to create stories around all kinds of social media. That seems wise at this point as many of the use cases of Storify appear to be covered by Twitter’s new custom timelines.

You’re able, for instance, to create a custom timeline in Tweetdeck and drag-and-drop individual tweets to it if you wish. Any custom timelines you create will show up in your profile card in Tweetdeck, and users can view them from there.

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Each timeline is public and has its own page on twitter.com, making it easy to share so others can follow along in real time as you add more Tweets. And since custom timelines are part of our Twitter for Websites toolkit, you can embed these timelines on your website.

The tweets can also be added programmatically, using an API that was announced today as well. This allows users of the API to ‘program’ timelines based on logic operators or to add the custom timeline creation feature to their own products. Politico, for instance, is using the API to feed policy industry tweets into a Tweet Hub.

Twitter offers a host of examples of people already using the timeline, and those spell out exactly what Twitter hopes to see it used for including TV shows, live Q&A sessions, ‘Twitter playlists’ and sporting events.

The custom timelines look like a great way to expand the flexibility of Twitter’s ‘power’ product Tweetdeck. And it also offers a bunch of customization options for people that use Twitter for information gathering. Specifically, this looks like a great way to gather a focused stream of information around particular events, which has always been tough on Twitter. If you want to create a running timeline to follow a particular game or team that doesn’t clutter up your main timeline, for instance, these custom timelines will make it easy to do so.

But we can’t help but be drawn to the uses of the custom timelines as an information gathering tool. When breaking news happens these days at least some component of it happens on Twitter. Custom timelines will add a bunch of ways for people who use it for info-gathering in times of news to slice out feeds of solid meaty information from the random chatter around these topics.

The custom timelines product is still obviously very early on in its development, but it should be interesting to see where it goes from here.

Image Credit: Robert Benner/Flickr CC