Mobile users relying on Twitter to stay in the know have just got a new town crier, personalized for their eyes and ears. A new push notification service has been rolled out for users with iOS and Android devices, said Venu Satuluri, a senior software engineer in Search and Relevance at Twitter. Using mobile alerts, the service recommends accounts and Tweets that the user might find interesting to follow.
"If you're like me you occasionally feel like you're missing out on some of the day's great Tweets, or that you're the last to find out when someone awesome joins Twitter," said Satuluri, writing in a blog post Tuesday.
Users of the new feature receive personalized recommendations when multiple people in the user's network follow the same user or favorite or retweet the same Tweet.
The push notification feature is the result of an experiment that went well for the Twitter team that focuses on platform experiments. The favorable user feedback in that experiment sent a signal of safe passage for the company to come up with a mobile notification service.
Namely, the recommendation system is built on Twitter's @MagicRecs, an algorithmic servant that Twitter uses as an experimental account to send personalized recommendations to followers via direct messages.
Test, Tune, Transform
Twitter users who follow @MagicRecs receive messages that highlight new accounts that people in the user's Twitter network recently started to follow. The stream-curating experiment was effective in calling out relevant notices and the algorithms were tested and tweaked for the Tuesday rollout.
Twitter is not banishing @MagicRecs; Twitter will continue to use it as an experiment for features and updates, according to the Tuesday post.
Based on feedback from @MagicRecs, Twitter appears confident that mobile notifications of filtered, relevant information is now the right way to move on. The assumption is that Twitter users are always appreciative of Tweets and contacts that Twitter believes they want to know about.
Human nature being human nature, however, the flip side of any notification service is a response that this is one more disposable in today's digital stream of information glut.
For those who balk, beyond Twitter, under today's optional pings of great deals, weather alerts, and stock market movements, even personalized push notifications of things to keep the user in the know might be bothersome. Twitter understands that no one feature can delight all. Twitter will allow the user to disable the push notification.
"As with any notification, you can change your settings at any time; you can turn these notifications off or on with the 'Recommendations' toggle in your notifications settings," Satuluri said.
Twitter watchers by Wednesday voiced strong agreement that the notification rollout is perfect timing for the company's pre-IPO standing, as a platform that needs to convince backers that the company knows how to engage present users and show value.
The success of the IPO depends on how well Twitter can send a convincing message that the company is a key pulse point of the Internet. Certainly, one more Twitter service that users find useful may help. A happy, robust audience translates into happy advertisers, real and potential.
A Sept. 12 blog posting by Twitter's vice president of engineering, Alex Roetter, said Twitter was constantly experimenting to help "make it easier to follow what you care about, connect with people, and discover something new on Twitter." Some, he said, are "under-the-hood changes that help us suggest relevant content in real time and make Twitter more engaging." He also said that, "With the majority of our users accessing Twitter from a mobile device, it's important for us to be able to test on mobile."