Curating the Micro.blog Discover Timeline

Micro.blog is a blogging platform with a social engagement component. We have a timeline where you can follow and interact with other bloggers. Sometimes it feels like Twitter, because of the timeline, mentions, and conversations. But there are key differences, built into Micro.blog, to make it a safe and sane place to share ideas with others.

For more details on the differences, see my Guide To Micro.blog For People Who Have A Love/Hate Relationship With Twitter.

In our quest to keep people safe from harassment or harmful viral waves of trolling, we limit the usual parts of a social network like search and trending posts for discovering new people. We do want like-minded people to be able to find each other on Micro.blog. We tried a few strategies in the beginning: a short list of people to follow, then a photo gallery of the images that microbloggers were posting. Neither was really working for us or for the community.

And then we came up with the Micro.blog Discover timeline. It’s a simple general timeline, with entries culled from everything posted by registered microblog accounts. As Manton recently wrote in his essay on Open Gardens, at Micro.blog, we are curators, not gatekeepers. You control the posts on your own blog, and when you choose to follow someone, you see all of their own posts in the timeline. But for Discover we want to provide an easy-to-skim cross section of posts, so the culling is done by hand: no algorithm, no upvoting, no promotions. And from the response we’ve received, it is a very popular feature with the community.

The curation is done by me and Manton. We thought some of you might be interested in how we choose what to add to Discover. Here are the basic guidelines:

  1. Our goal is to start conversations, not arguments. We almost never include political posts for this reason.
  2. Posts that fit into the 280 character limit, not truncated, are preferred. Sometimes a link to a longer post is included, if it has particular relevance for the community. But in general, the Discover timeline should be easy to skim and read without clicking through to outside links.
  3. No expletives. Not everyone enjoys that kind of language.
  4. No obvious reposts from Twitter or Instagram. The Discover timeline reflects our vision that posting first on your own blog is best.
  5. Limited hashtags. Micro.blog does not support hashtags which can accelerate the spread of fake news and harassment. So we don’t want to confuse people by including hashtags in our Discover timeline. If an otherwise Discover-worthy post has a single hashtag, it might be included.
  6. One or two photos at most. Too many photos affect skimmability of the timeline.
  7. The Buddy Bench principle, as explained by Patrick Rhone. We include posts from people who are seeking out others with similar interests and questions. The Discover timeline can be a digital Buddy Bench, where our community can connect.
  8. The posts we include are from people, not companies or organizations.

The Discover timeline has evolved and will continue to evolve with the community. The guidelines will evolve too. We want to have additional curators from the community. We need to build some tools to make that possible. It would be particularly nice to have curators who can encourage discussions and connections in languages other than English.

Jean MacDonald @macgenie