Social Media

What Twitter plans to do with Spaces

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on March 05, 2021

The experimental audio chat rooms will help facilitate new use cases

Twitter’s experimental audio chat rooms Twitter Spaces will help facilitate new use cases for users, communities as well as businesses, according to Dantley Davis, Head of Design & Research at Twitter.

In a Spaces session hosted by Twitter India communications lead Keya Madhvani Singh, the Spaces team, including Davis, Maya Gold Patterson, Staff Product Designer, and Danny Singh, Staff Researcher at Twitter, discussed the platform’s idea and shared it’s focus for the platform moving forward.

“We're basically building capability for new use cases to exist in the same way that video has different formats such as interviews and storytelling,” explained Davis.

“We'll also see storytelling happening on spaces, and perhaps new characters will emerge and new forms of influencers will emerge, who join Spaces to entertain,” he said.

“The Twitter team will learn and adapt based on how people are using it, the feedback that we're getting, and build out new capabilities, new features to enable those use cases to persist,” he said.

The social media major had begun testing Spaces on iOS in December in public beta with features and changes being added to the platform based on user feedback.

“We wanted to build a format, which is Spaces to allow for people to have conversations that are smaller and more intimate about shared interests, or even larger, maybe Q and A's and interviews,” said Patterson

According to Patterson, Spaces is a platform that can provide more “nuance” to conversations than the written format.

Spaces on Android

Earlier this week, the feature began to roll out for users on Android for broader testing. According to Patterson, for Spaces to be a truly global platform, it was necessary to extend the feature to Android.

“Unlocking this new format to Android has been super exciting for us because this is truly a global platform and to be a global platform, we have to do this with Android,” said Patterson.

However, there are certain limitations on Android as currently, users will only be able to join and talk in a Space. The ability to create a Space will be rolled out soon, the company said.

According to Singh, the rollout was done with limitations to feature out for as many Android users as possible.

“The reason why we did that was we didn't want to wait till we had the Android app perfect. We wanted to get it out to as many Android users as possible to participate in the conversation. And we will iterate in real-time as the team is able to add new features,” said Singh.

“From a research standpoint in our teams, if anyone needs to have a voice more than ever, its countries or regions that are more heavily relying on Android. So we're really excited to get Space in their hand and see how they use it and learn from it. And provide the tools they need to have the conversation they want to have safely,” he said.

Safe Spaces

Elaborating on Safety, the team further explained how it is working on enabling safety in Spaces.

“Health has been a primary concern for the spaces team since the beginning. And one of the reasons why we rolled out the beta, the way we did was that we wanted to take our time with hosts in the beta community to understand how they were experiencing service, what type of toxicity they might be experiencing, and then build in safeguards to help prevent that type of toxicity,” explained Davis.

Spaces is being built on the infrastructure of Periscope, the video streaming platform. The Spaces team is leveraging learnings related to safety from Periscope for Spaces, Davis further explained.

“There's a lot of similarities in terms of real-time interaction between hosts and participants in the current scope, context, and that gives us a foundation to learn from in the audio context. There are new use cases that are emerging that the team is actively brainstorming solutions for both in terms of preventative and reactive ways of keeping the conversation safe,” he added.

The platform is also engaging in what it calls “Red Team” evaluation extended to Spaces.

“We actually think of and consider different anti use cases around how our platforms might use be used for nefarious or negative and toxic purposes. So that brainstorming helps us to think about the product from the perspective of someone who wants to basically cause harm. And then the team designs against those use cases. So that work will also happen with Spaces,” explained Davis.

Talking about automation in the review process, the team is yet unsure as to precisely the actual review process that will happen long term for Spaces.

“With Periscope, being video, there's a whole host of computer vision technology you can use to identify bad things that might happen. We'll have to adapt some of that technology in the context of Spaces,” said Davis.

Over time it will leverage machine learning models and train them to adapt based on context and accents. Those considerations, however, will happen later on as the platform is scaled for a global launch.

Patterson further explained the current measures that are being taken to ensure safety in Spaces. This includes removing oneself from the Space, leaving or reporting the Space and removing certain people from the Space.

Twitter currently also stores Spaces conversations for 30 days for it “to have the ability to investigate any type of abuse that's happening on the platform,” said Davis.

What’s ahead

The team also discussed new features and tools that it is planning for Spaces shortly.

It is planning to launch a new scheduling feature for Spaces soon.

“This will allow people to talk about the what they're going to talk about in the future and let people sort of subscribing to those conversations through our notification system,” explained Patterson.

Patterson further said that though there is no definite timeline for the feature, it can also launch a transcription service.

“We are looking for ways for hosts and speakers to be able to indicate what language is being spoken in a room primarily so that people know from the start when they see a Space,” explained Patterson.

The team is also actively exploring introducing a recording feature on Spaces.

It will also be finding new ways for influencers and brands to interact with their communities and fans with Spaces.

According to Davis, a team at Twitter is already working with a number of different influencers for them to come and participate in Spaces.

“You'll hear more about that in the coming days. And I suspect we will do that in other countries and other markets as well,” he said.

Published on March 05, 2021

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