Twitter will be testing the use of Reddit-style positive and negative vote buttons to better highlight the most interesting and relevant responses in a longer conversation thread. The company announcement this afternoon he would start what he calls a “little research experiment” that will add up and down vote buttons to responses, or even replace the “like” button entirely. In some cases the positive and negative vote buttons may be up and down arrows, while in other cases they may be up and down buttons.
And in a group of testers, users may continue to see the “Like” button (the red heart), but will now find a negative vote button next to it. In this group, the positive vote would count as a “like,” Twitter said.
Twitter told TechCrunch that only a small number of testers will see these options appear in their iOS Twitter app, and user votes will not become public.
The company also said it is not currently using this voting information to rank responses at this time. (If, however, such a system ever became a public feature, that could certainly change.)
The goal of the test is to help Twitter know what type of responses users find most relevant during their conversations, which Twitter has been studying for some time. According to Cody Elam, Twitter user researcher, previous studies have determined that users believe that informative, encouraging, positive, and funny responses are the “best” types of responses. However, some of the best answers wouldn’t surface quickly enough – an issue Twitter hopes it can fix with an upvote and downvote feature.
Elam says the feature would allow users to privately voice their opinion on the quality of responses without having to publicly shame other users. Over time, this data could help Twitter improve its conversation ranking systems.
If Twitter acted on this information to actually categorize responses, it might be easier and more enjoyable to read longer Twitter threads, like those that follow viral tweets, for example. But it might also help to better present responses that add something informative or interesting or even just plain fun to a conversation, while also pushing the remarks behind in the thread.
Today, Twitter allows users to manually hide responses that interfere with a conversation by putting them behind an extra click. Maybe over time it could do something similar for responses that received too many negative votes, like Reddit does. But none of these types of features are currently being tested, to be clear.
This isn’t the first time Twitter has taken an interest in other types of engagement buttons beyond Like and Retweet. Earlier this year, for example, Twitter was spotted surveying users about their interest in a larger set of emoji-style reactions, similar to what you’d find on Facebook. This feature has since been in development, it seems.
The same survey also asked users what they thought of up and down vote buttons, in addition to emoji reactions.
Twitter says the test is now being rolled out to a small group on iOS only.