Naturally, it’s down at the moment, but when it comes back up, you should notice something different about Twitter’s “Who To Follow” feature — it’s even better.
When it launched back in August, I noted that the feature, which recommends users for you to follow, was like steroids for Twitter’s social graph. Just looking at my stats between then and now, I’ve added about 50 people to follow — and it’s almost all just from that feature. Further, the number of people following me has been skyrocketing since the feature’s launch — and I’m hardly alone. All that said, the feature was also a bit monotonous. You would keep seeing the same recommendations over and over again. It’s a lot better now.
A few days ago, Twitter rolled out a change to the feature that seemed to make it refresh more often with much fresher recommendations. In a reply to my observation, Twitter’s Pankaj Gupta (on the research and development team) confirmed this was the case. A response from Twitter further confirms it:
We rolled out the first of many improvements, which is that we now take into account how many times a user views a certain recommendation without taking action. People are more likely to see new recommendations faster because we learn from what they don’t do.
That’s a good idea. Often, I didn’t want to explicitly click the “X” box to remove them from my recommendations, I just wanted new ones. Now Twitter is serving those up faster based on how many times they show other ones to you and if you don’t click on them. I’ve once again added a bunch more people since they made this update.
And this update was especially important because alongside the new twitter.com update, Twitter is now showing four recommendations instead of just two in the right sidebar. If these four recommendations aren’t fresh, this will get old, quickly. I brought this issue up with Twitter’s head of product, Jason Goldman, when we met after the new twitter.com launch, and he acknowledged that they needed to make these recommendations better if they were going to keep shoving them in peoples’ faces. This is the first step towards that.
That said, it would still be nice to at least have the option to collapse that area. Or to be able to shift items around in the right pane. But Twitter isn’t going to break what is clearly working. During the new twitter.com unveiling, CEO Evan Williams said that the new recommendation system was working very well so far. And he noted, “we’re just getting started with that.”
Twitter is still in the process of rolling out the new version to all users, but the recommendation update is separate from that, so everyone should see the improvements (when the feature is working, that is).
As a sidenote, Bing just rolled out an update to also recommend Twitter followers, based on searches. This is done entirely on Bing’s end, and is unrelated to Twitter’s Who To Follow feature, Twitter tells us.