Twitter ‘Description Man:’ Curation Workforce Offers Context to Traits

On March 14, “aaron burr” was trending on Twitter. Why have been a flurry of customers on the platform partaking in dialogue in regards to the third vice-president of the US nearly 200 years after his demise? It wasn’t due to “Hamilton,” the musical by which Burr is the first antagonist. It wasn’t even for any specific historic anniversary both. The actual reply was extra sophisticated.

The dialogue was summed up in a Twitter-penned description hooked up to the trending subject: “The Wikipedia web page for the third vp of the US, Aaron Burr, has been altered to incorporate a reference to a bit of fan artwork depicting Thomas Jefferson sporting a chest binder depicting the face of Hatsune Miku.”

Offering context to Twitter traits — even ones as complicated as this, which invokes one of the vital Tumblr-famous items of fan artwork of all time — is the first duty of Twitter’s traits curation crew, which is staffed by groups in New York, London, and Sydney. 

Since Twitter’s public launch 15 years in the past in July, traits have turn into a vital a part of the social media platform’s ecosystem. Twitter first launched traits in 2008, in accordance with a 2010 weblog submit from the corporate. In the present day traits have turn into central to dialog on the platform, and continuously generate conversations themselves.

For these in control of offering context for no matter subject is taking up Twitter on a given day, writing descriptions is a means of not solely understanding traits, however speaking their which means to a common viewers. Within the course of, the writers have been mythologized underneath monikers like “Description Man,” imagined as an omnipresent entity with eyes on each trending dialogue on Twitter.


The truth is not fairly so easy.

Twitter descriptions intention to offer context for a continuing stream of knowledge

In keeping with Joanna Geary, the senior director of curation at Twitter, pattern descriptions arose from Twitter’s want to offer extra context to conversations.

“Traits is among the areas that’s clearly extremely excessive profile on Twitter, however may also find yourself with ‘WTF’ moments,” she informed Insider. “Individuals see it after they click on into [the ‘explore’ tab], and it isn’t all the time straightforward to inform from what the key phrase is that is trending what’s taking place, and generally folks can get the fully unsuitable thought about why one thing is trending. You realize, everybody will get terribly anxious each time they see Betty White’s identify.” 

Traits have lengthy been a contentious function of Twitter, significantly relating to the potential spreading of misinformation on the platform. In late 2019, Twitter started to experiment with offering context to traits, growing what Geary mentioned have been “some algorithmic instruments” within the course of. Nevertheless, the necessity for human nuance prevailed, and Twitter determined that it wished to decide to traits by bringing on folks with the power and data to contextualize the platform’s fixed stream of trending phrases.

The New York Instances reported that some present and former workers at Twitter had advocated for the elimination of the trending record altogether to curb misinformation, significantly within the lead-up to the 2020 United States presidential election. In September 2020, Twitter moved so as to add additional context to tweets via descriptions and “consultant tweets” meant to assist sum up the dialogue.

Anna, a former journalist who requested to be referred to solely by her first identify to guard her identification, is a traits well being curator and one of many folks whose job it’s to put in writing pattern descriptions. When a brand new pattern that necessitates additional context arises, she’ll dig round to unravel the dialog, and from there, synthesize it into one thing bite-sized that may slot in Twitter’s pattern part. Lastly, she’ll share her work with a gaggle of fellow writers who overview it and weigh in.

Fandoms, and conversations they drive on Twitter, are a frequent focus of pattern descriptions

Fandom — collectively referring to teams of followers of TV exhibits, influencers, musicians, sports activities, or anything — is among the largest forces on Twitter. In 2020, Twitter says there have been 6.7 billion Ok-pop tweets on the platform and 2021 has seen the ascendance Minecraft fandom a really seen means: the trending tab on Twitter. When a Minecraft YouTuber does one thing noteworthy on a livestream, as an example, followers’ speedy dialogue might result in the YouTuber’s identify or one thing associated to their actions trending on Twitter.

Understanding these fandoms and the language to navigate them in a really public means is not straightforward. Victoria, one other description author for Twitter, informed Slate in March that she went on a Minecraft fandom deep-dive as a way to perceive the huge internet of streamers and lore; Anna mentioned that her 14-year-old sister, who’s deeply concerned within the Minecraft area, was a “little little bit of a secret weapon” in offering her with essential data.

Geary mentioned that the crew has improved on account of suggestions from followers. 

Anna described one occasion by which she wrote a pattern description for a personality from “Assault on Titan,” a massively common manga and anime collection, together with a plot level about their demise. Some followers, she mentioned, voiced their disappointment at having the story spoiled for them by way of the traits bar. Because of this, the crew ended up altering its steering on media with spoiler potential. As Geary informed OneZero, on this case that meant altering the outline to one thing alongside the strains of “followers weigh in on newest episode of ‘Titan.'”

Whereas fandom has taught the pattern description crew classes just like the above, optimistic suggestions from followers is a rewarding a part of the job. The memes round “Description Man,” Anna mentioned, are a very good signal.

“That is my favourite half, seeing your work being shared in these communities,” Anna mentioned. “Truthfully, it is type of the spotlight of my day if that occurs, as a result of I really feel like I’ve performed my job within the sense of precisely representing the dialog.” 

To learn extra tales like this, take a look at Insider’s digital tradition protection right here.

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