Twitter has been said to have a “product problem” for years: Its addictive 140-character format, deep advertiser support, and blockbuster IPO have all deterred the company from adding new features. That led to sluggish user growth, which led to sluggish stock growth. But within the past several months, engineer and data scientist Kevin Weil has re-energized Twitter by helping to create features to lure new users and captivate existing ones. “If we do a great job of connecting new users to all the great stuff that’s happening on Twitter,” says Weil, “they’re going to have an amazing experience every time they pull their phones out of their pockets.” As of March, stock was up 33%. Here’s some of what’s been added:
Floats important tweets you might have missed to the top of your timeline.
Offers new users a handful of people to follow based on topics their contacts are interested in.
Automatically filters out tweets that include abusive or spammy content (in tests with select “verified” users).
Lets media publishers curate a stream of live tweets they can display on the web, mobile, or TV.
The recent acquisition enables users to live-stream video to followers from wherever they are.
Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?
I try to meet with as many smart people as I can, inside and outside the company. I try and ask them questions. I want people to push my thinking, because I know that I get better at my perspective, my thoughts. My thinking improves by having other people push me.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Check Twitter. Then go for a run.
What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?
How high-energy it is, all day long. Getting to meet with different people, talk about a very broad range of things, to consumer products, to ad products, to things we do for developers, to thinking about the company more broadly. It’s very high energy and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?
Can I say Dick Costolo’s to score me some points? I actually like a lot of the weird Twitter accounts. It used to be @Horse_ebooks but it went away. Here’s a great one: @SportsPSA. Whenever there’s a game that’s really close, like coming down to the final minutes, he tweets. So you if you follow this account with notifications turned on, you get a text whenever there’s a close game on TV with any sport.
How do you keep track of everything you have to do?
I write notes on stickies throughout the day, and when I get time to work, I merge the stickies and try to knock as many things off the to-do list as possible. I try to prioritize my list every week so that I know the three things I have to get done every week and can focus on those first.
What are some things you do to refresh your mind when you’re in a rut?
I go for a run.
Who outside of your field inspires you the most and why?
There are lots of good ones. I think the work that Elon Musk is doing is incredible–the way he takes big bets and inspires people to go after really, really big goals. People tell him that things are impossible and he builds anyway, from PayPal, to Tesla, to SpaceX. So I love how he approaches problems and that he doesn’t back down.