Twitter’s success is tied to its ability to facilitate real-time conversations, and that includes conversations around breaking news. That’s why Facebook is falling all over itself trying to get people to use Facebook like they use Twitter. It’s one of the reasons why Twitter just slayed its IPO. Real time talk is one of the aces up Twitter’s sleeve, and breaking news generates real time talk. So it’s no surprise that the micro-blogging service is experimenting with breaking news alerts sent to users through push notifications — it’s a way for the network to integrate with news services and make sure accurate reporting gets surfaced. Buzzfeed reports that Twitter tested a breaking news push notification service following a shooting near a school in Pennsylvania on Wednesday.
Twitter users reported receiving a push notification for an AP Tweet linking to an article about the breaking news. These notifications didn’t just go to the 35,000 users who have signed up for Twitter’s breaking news service — they went to a seemingly random test group. And some people were more confused than pleased with the test:
@AP I don’t live anywhere near Pennsylvania, why did I get a notification?
— Rusty James (@RustyJames39) November 14, 2013
Still trying to figure out why Twitter sent a notification about a school shooting in PA yesterday Almost like they were pushing an agenda
— Full Metal Atheist (@arcturax) November 14, 2013
it pisses me off that twitter sends me a notification to let me know a shooting happened near a high school in Pittsburgh
— Bry (@darkslugg) November 13, 2013
This isn’t the only recently foray into breaking news experiments from Twitter’s end — the company has also been experimenting with a bot called EventParrot meant to tweet breaking news notifications to its followers.
While using randomly selected participants and highly-charged content like school shooting to test breaking news notifications isn’t the wisest move on Twitter’s part (they might’ve put more effort into first developing an algorithm determining whether news would be relevant, and then chosen a less incendiary news story) the basic concept is a smart one: If Twitter can find a way to deliver relevant, verified breaking news updates to its users, it will enhance the real-time conversation, potentially boost its status as an emergency warning provider, and perhaps eradicate some of the rumor-mongering that occurs when information flies fast and furious on the site.