Twitter’s ‘Who to follow’ feature sometimes gets lost

This isn’t ‘Fight Club,” we want people to talk

This post is for serious Twitter users, so others should feel free to check their Facebook pages.


Twitter's "Who to follow" feature is a generally useful way to do what the name suggests: find new people to follow. I am primarily interested in technology and the media, so most of Twitter's recommendations to me are indeed techies, journalists and those on the fringes of both. I stray into politics every now and then, so "Who to follow" will occasionally punish my wanderings by suggesting the likes of Newt Gingrich. My bad.

But what bugs me about "Who to follow" is this: Why would I want to follow someone - anyone - who rarely if ever tweets? I'm talking about one tweet in nine months, four tweets in 13 months, none since the holidays, that kind of thing. (I'm not linking to examples because this isn't about them.) These types of quarter-hearted Twitter accounts pop up in "Who to follow" on a regular basis.

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So I asked Twitter about this; specifically whether there is any minimal-participation standard applied to accounts before they are recommended.  Here's the reply from a Twitter spokeswoman:

"We suggest accounts based on your interests, which is primarily based on the accounts you follow and the accounts those folks follow. We don't have anything more to share beyond that, though you raise a valid point. Thanks for flagging."

You're welcome. Now fixing it would be swell ... though I'm told by one third-party Twitter app developer that doing so would be no easy task.

"There are a number of these sorts of tweaks that could be added," says Si Dawson, who until recently was sole proprietor of the now dearly departed Twit Cleaner. For example, Dawson would like to see "Who to follow" recognize and respect that he doesn't follow celebrities.

"I'm not sure how much of a priority it is for them, however," he adds.

Given that "Who to follow" occupies an extremely prominent piece of real estate on the Twitter user interface, I'd suggest that they should make these tweaks a more prominent priority.

(Update: Upon further reflection, Dawson adds: "Rather than working from time (how many tweets in the last X months), work from tweets. Just grab, say, the last 5 tweets. If they happen in the last month, it's active. More than that, it's inactive. Super efficient, super fast." ... OK, Twitter dev team, you have your assignment.)

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