Twitter's out-of-order timeline prompts TfL to narrow travel updates (updated)

It'll send fewer tweets for minor disruptions.

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Transport for London (TfL) runs a whole host of Twitter accounts designed to keep commuters up to date with travel disruptions. The organisation is now changing its approach, however, and reducing its overall tweet output for minor delays and incidents. Why? Well, because of "various changes" that Twitter has made to users' timelines. The organisation doesn't blame any specific features, mentioning instead how "selected content on Twitter is (now) shown out of sequence." In response, certain accounts will soon be tweaked. The handles for the Underground lines, for instance (@bakerlooline, @circleline, etc.) will switch from real-time service updates to focused news and alerts for major disruptions.

In a blog post, TfL has documented some of Twitter's major experiments and feature additions since 2009. These include the now abandoned Discover tab, the While You Were Away catchup service and Moments. Notably, the list ends with a line on the company's new timeline option, introduced earlier this week, that promises to show a selection of highly ranked tweets at the top of your feed. The service is opt-in, but with its current approach TfL says it's still worried only "high impact and important updates would be likely to reach customers."

It's true that Twitter has been experimenting with features that weigh heavily on curation and algorithms. These, it hopes, will surface the best of the social network for users that don't want to be constantly refreshing their feed. The core Twitter experience remains the same though -- it's a list of tweets in chronological order that show you conversations and moments happening right now. As a result, TfL's minute-to-minute travel updates should still be effective. If, however, it sees Twitter's new timeline option as a problem (regardless of whether it poses one or not) that could indicate a larger perception problem for Jack Dorsey's company.

Update: Just like that, it seems Transport for London (TfL) has had a change of heart. The company has deleted the blog post which explained all of the changes, replacing it with a new article that stresses: "We're not going to make any immediate changes to the current range of information we put out on Twitter, which means customers will continue to get everything they are used to receiving."

The new post suggests that TfL's previous position was misinterpreted; the old version did, however, contain a table stating explicitly how each Twitter account would be altered. It can be read here.

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