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Help Jack Dorsey figure out how to take Twitter’s temperature

Help Jack Dorsey figure out how to take Twitter’s temperature
[Photo: courtesy of Twitter]

How might you describe–and measure–the “collective health” of your conversations on Twitter? Jack Dorsey wants to know:

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In subsequent tweets, Dorsey offered an apology of sorts for Twitter’s laundry list of offenses, from abuse and harassment to “manipulation through bots and human-coordination” and “misinformation campaigns.” And so, he explained, the company wants to measure conversation health on Twitter. But how does one measure the amorphous well-being of Twitter discourse? Dorsey and company aren’t sure–so they’re crowdsourcing ideas.

This is a bit confusing. Twitter simultaneously concedes that it has a problem and insinuates that data on the “collective health” of Twitter conversation is locked away in a black box. Twitter points to metrics offered by analytics nonprofit Cortico (For example, does a conversation use the same facts, and are opposing opinions grounded in those shared facts?) as a guide for determining its own metrics of conversation health.

But will sussing out the ratio of “healthy” to “unhealthy” conversation on Twitter do anything to reduce the myriad abuses on the platform? We already know that Twitter is home to volumes of unhealthy conversation. Or is this undertaking more about finding a way to prove out that Twitter still fosters positive, productive discourse?

I don’t doubt that Twitter wants to address this issue–after all, it desperately needs to prove to Congress that it can self-regulate without government intervention. This move is, I imagine, equal parts self-preservation and genuine concern for what Twitter hath wrought and whether there’s a better way forward. But will it actually provide any new insight? Like Twitter, I’m not sure.

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