Twitter tests a new way to describe what's trending

Giving trends a little more context

Twitter is testing a way to provide more context on what's trending by using the title of a matching Moment for a description, TechRadar has learned.

On Friday, we noticed the trend for basketball player Ben Simmons had a short blurb below it: "No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons fractures his foot." Typically, the number of tweets about a trend or the handles of people talking about it are located below, so the description stood out.

Twitter trends description

A short description appeared under the top trend on September 30

We asked Twitter what the blurb was about, as we hadn't seen it before, and a spokesperson confirmed the service is currently testing these descriptions:

"We're beginning to experiment with using Moments content to provide more context on trends," the spokesperson said in a statement. "When a Moment is found to be relevant to a trend, we may use the title of the Moment in the trend's description. As always, what's trending will continue to be determined entirely by algorithm. More details about trends in our help center, and our Moments guidelines are here. "

Trends, with context

In the test, which started this week, these descriptions appear when there is a correlating Twitter Moment for a trend. The title of the Moment serves as the trend's description.

When we clicked into the "Ben Simmons" trend, we saw the Moment created around the news the top NBA draft pick had fractured his foot at the top of the page. The Moment title matched the trend description:

Twitter Moment

Clicking into the trend showed the Twitter Moment at the top, including the matching title

The same trend description appeared on both twitter.com as well as in the Twitter iOS app. The test is small right now and it's unclear if Twitter will ever make this a full-fledged feature.

It's important to note that Twitter's trends are determined wholly by algorithm, though there are some elements of personalization based on where you live and who you follow. A team of humans, meanwhile, curates Twitter's Moments, and the same curation team writes titles for them to ensure clarity. As the Twitter spokesperson said, trends will continue to be determined entirely by algorithm.

The test, at least visible to us, isn't over yet. Late Sunday night, we noticed two more descriptive blurbs under trends, this time for news about Kim Kardashian-West and the HBO show Westworld. Clicking into Moments, the title for the Kardashian-West Moment matched the trend description.

Twitter trend description

Trends descriptions as they appeared Sunday night

Smart move

A contextual blurb culled from Moments could be a smart move for Twitter as it provides more information about what might otherwise seem like random words, phrases and hashtags to a user.

If users know why something is trending, they may be more inclined to like, retweet and post their own tweets about the same topic. The feature could also get users clicking into Moments, which would be a win-win for Twitter.

The company has dabbled in trend descriptions before, including enhanced trends with descriptive blurbs for those with tailored trends activated, as reported by TechCrunch last year. Twitter removed descriptions from organic tailored trends in November 2015.

Twitter has made a slew of efforts to become more user-friendly over the past year, including recently letting users upload media attachments and quoted tweets without those counting against their 140-character limit.

Though the new trend descriptions may never make it out of testing, Twitter is at least actively experimenting with a way to help users engage more readily with a feature that can be mystifying. With Twitter membership floundering, any little thing should help.

Update: This post has been updated with the trends and Moments description for Kim Kardashian-West and Westworld.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

News Editor (US)

As the US News Editor, Michelle (Twitter, Google+) keeps her eye on all things tech with particular interest on phones, tablets and finding out who the people are behind the devices. Any phone that can survive a regular (accidental) drop has her vote for best handset. Michelle previously worked covering local news in the Bay Area and has been with TechRadar since July 2012.