If you don't live in or around London, the Transport for London (TfL) blog is probably not one of your go-to online destinations. But TfL, which manages most of the transit systems in the greater London area, found itself thrown into the debate over Twitter's recent timeline changes.
And it was all because of one blog post (since removed) that said it might shake things up a little. In light of Twitter's decision to give users the option to see organize some messages by relevancy rather than simply when they were posted. Initially, on Thursday, the government body seemed to say that —given that some messages may be shown out of order — it was changing the way its Twitter account would operate and put a greater focus on major events rather than minor ones, saying:
Now selected content on Twitter is shown out of sequence, we will reduce the amount of minor alerts and focus on providing up-to-the-minute alerts for major issues, as well as a renewed focus on customer service across our various accounts.
But after news reports interpreted the post as being critical of Twitter's changes, TfL has since said that its not making any "immediate changes to the current range of information" it's putting out on the network. Phil Young, the head of the online division at TfL, said the first post seemed to suggest, wrongly, that "we’re stepping back from providing the full range of information we currently provide our customers and that we object in some way to the changes being proposed to Twitter."
That's also why it may have taken down its previous post, though you can see a cached version of it in Google results.
The back-and-forth taps into the confusion that some Twitter users are feeling over the timeline changes. A simple Twitter search reveals there are whole lot of people expressing confusion about the changes, how they affect their own timelines and how Twitter's presented the changes.
Others who rely on Twitter for real-time updates are watching the issue. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority spokeswoman Sherri Ly said that the agency is was aware of TfL's decisions but said that, when it comes its social media accounts, it had not "made any changes to our approach at this time."
So will Twitter's new change to the timeline actually mess up anyone's ability to get real-time updates? Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
It doesn't seem like it should, however, given how the company has described the changes. If users choose to turn on the "show my the best Tweets" option, they may see certain messages out of order. But, even if there is a message out of its chronological place, the normal timeline is still right below it — with time-stamps. Recency is also a factor in Twitter's algorithm, so even if an update message was pinned to the top of a user's timeline out of order, it's unlikely to be too old.
Plus, if you're really interested in what a specific account has to say about updates, you can always head to that account's profile page to see their messages.
Regardless of whether Twitter's new timeline has a significant effect on how live it feels, however, it's clear that some — even those for whom tweeting is part of their job — are pretty confused about how Twitter's new changes will affect them. This may not be the last we hear about this sort of concern.