13 Oct 2010
One thing Meedan's recent adventures into translation and Twitter uncovered was that effectively and efficiently curating Tweets using conventional Twitter tools was no small task. The only real way a user has of marking Tweets they find interesting is by using the “Favourite” feature – Twitter has no in-built way to tag or comment on tweets, and as hashtags increasingly become swamped with “retweets”, it's easier than ever for interesting, original comment and links to get lost in the noise.
Curated.By is a long anticipated solution to this problem. By providing users with a simple and effective tool to “bundle” tweets, and a slick display that makes you feel like you're still on Twitter.com, the app has raised the stakes in real-time Twitter curation.
At Meedan, however, curation is only half our challenge. When we recently got our hands on a precious invite for the Curated.By, after orienting ourselves and playing with the excellent curation tools, our first instinct was to look to translation. Could Curated.By be used as an effective tool in translating content on Twitter and helping enable cross-language discussion?
The first step is to gather tweets into a bundle - around a certain topic, event or group of people - using the Bundler tool or, for easier use, the seamless Curate.By Chrome extension which becomes particularly versatile and powerful in “new” Twitter. For a topic such as the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, some of the most interesting links and opinions being posted will certainly be in Arabic: so our bundle - our feed of curated tweets - will be bilingual.
One part of the challenge our Twitter translation pilot endeavored to overcome, with difficulty, was maintaining a clear link between an original tweet and its translation. With one masterstroke, Curated.By has - albeit unintentionally - helped us overcome this.
The “Comment” feature on feeds is extremely useful for translation for 2 reasons:
1) It can be used as an @ reply to post content on Twitter. - This allows us to very simply maintain a link between the translation and the original, while adding any relevant hashtags and any translated links. In addition, a link to the Bundle is included in the tweet - leading the user whose tweet has been translated to the bundle where their tweet has been curated and translated at Curated.By.
2) Once a translation has been posted as a comment, it appears both on Twitter (as an @reply for the writer of the original tweet, in any hashtags included) and in the bundle, alongside the original. After several tweets in a bundle have been translated, it’s very easy to get a visual sense of translation in action. Much as on a Meedan event, English and Arabic appear side by side.
This comment feature helps bridge an important gap between Curated.By and Twitter: Because Curated.By is essentially “off-Twitter” in the sense that a curation takes content from, rather than curating within, Twitter, there is potential that the impact of the value created by curation could be limited. Put simply, normal Twitter users may not realize Curated.By exists or that curation of Twitter is taking place. By featuring a comment function that acts as an @reply and links back to the appropriate bundle on Curated.By, the app has gone someway to bridging this disconnect.
Additionally, should an interested user follow that link back to Curated.By, they will find human curated and translated content that will almost invariably be of interest to that user: content they are more likely to respond to and engage with. This could potentially solve another important problem witnessed in our pilots: people may use hashtags to mark tweets, but won’t necessarily follow and engage with hashtags on a day-to-day basis (the issue of "re-tweet noise" plays a role here).
With Curated.By still in beta, we’re looking forward to testing the possibilities for translation while hoping that the translation-friendly features continue to come.