Twitter conversations can be notoriously hard to parse — just ask the company’s CEO and co-founder, Jack Dorsey, who participated in a conversation with Recode’s Kara Swisher yesterday that was deemed a “chaotic hellpit” that even Dorsey said was “definitely not easy to follow.” Part of the reason is that Twitter doesn’t automatically organize conversations in ways that are easy to dissect, and the volume of voices chiming in on certain threads can become overwhelming.
Dorsey says the company is hard at work on the issue, and one new feature Twitter is testing — a kind of profile preview overlay — aims to address the problem of following threaded conversations, in particular. Typically, when you look at a tweet’s replies and then click on the photo or name of the person replying, you’ll be taken to their profile automatically. That tends to disrupt how you follow along with a complex thread, forcing you to digest a new page of information and potentially lose track of what you were reading in the first place when all you really wanted to see was likely the bio of the person who was replying.
The new feature will now float a preview of the profile on mobile so that you can see a replier’s full twitter bio, follower counts, and when they joined the service. It works both within threads and outside it in the main feed. There’s an option to jump to the full profile as well as all of the standard share options you’d normally see by tapping the share button on a tweet, but tailored for the user’s profile instead. Twitter says the feature should be arriving for Android users soon.
We’re testing an easier way to check out profiles on iOS without leaving your timeline! Simply tap any @ handle in a Tweet, take a peek, follow, and get right back to it. Let us know what you think! pic.twitter.com/dIUFxI2r4C— Twitter (@Twitter) February 13, 2019
It’s not a groundbreaking change, but it’s certainly a useful one. Too often on Twitter, threads can be rabbit holes that, while fun to get lost in now and again, tend to leave users worse off or more confused than when they started reading a particular active conversation.
A feature like a profile preview is a good way to help users stay focused on one particular conversation and glean important information about who’s participating without having to jump around incessantly. It may not make a public Q&A with Twitter’s CEO noticeably less of a “chaotic hellpit,” but it’s a solid and subtle interface tweak that could go a long way toward making the Twitter reading experience a bit more user-friendly.
Update 2/13, 5:32PM ET: Clarified that the preview feature works in the main Twitter timeline, and not just in threads.