Twitch wants its streamers, who spend hours talking to and playing on the site, to know what it is now testing.
The firm has launched a new webpage for its experimental services to improve transparency and inform users about upcoming changes. The new experiments page will provide a monthly rundown of Twitch's ongoing experiments, each of which will be removed from the list after completing their intended purpose or being incorporated into the main experience.
In an interview, Twitch Chief Product Officer Tom Verrilli said that the company should do a better job of communicating with its user base. "Sometimes I believe we have been guilty of offering less clarity on what we're doing," Verrilli said.
Nevertheless, "here's the whole plan, and here's the monthly page" is our attempt to put all that out there and communicate with them what we're doing and why.
The user bases of many social media sites are used as guinea pigs for experiments on new features and alterations to existing products. Even when platforms don't make their plans public, users may discover and announce new capabilities; nonetheless, these kinds of experiments often go unannounced.
Once in a while, a social platform's test trials of a big change or is especially despised and garners attention, providing corporations with information into what people think in the process. This is particularly evident in the case of Instagram's full-screen feed test from last year, which was reverted along with an apology from Adam Mosseri after Kim Kardashian mobilized people against the new design.
Twitch’s Previous Experiments
Twitch has done such experiments for quite some time, and many of them—though not all—end up being included in the main product. Pinned chat, tested for a month on Twitch and allowed channels to emphasize announcements and other significant messages, was released to all users in November, 2 years after the test had begun. The channel switcher, a tool tested last year, allows users to swiftly and efficiently move between channels without being subjected to a barrage of pre-roll advertisements.
Verrilli addressed that, while it may not be immediately visible to viewers, Twitch conducts three distinct sorts of experiments. "Learn-not-launch" studies on Twitch are conducted to gauge player interest in a potential new functionality. Users may need clarification if any feature used in testing may eventually make it into the final product when this is not the case.
Verrilli distinguishes another kind of experimentation, which he terms "real testing," for situations in which a corporation is certain that an issue exists but is unsure how that problem should be remedied. Verrilli said that a remedy would be tested on 20% of the population to see whether it was effective before being expanded to the rest of the population.
As for the third kind, a more typical phased rollout, this is for when Twitch has identified a problem and is confident in a remedy but wants to proceed cautiously so as not to disrupt broadcasters' profits or their viewers.
To clarify to streamers and end users, "when we're simply testing something vs when we're pushing something out," Verrilli explains, "since all of those things seem the same."
The alternative is that "people witness an experiment someplace, they screenshot it, dump it on Twitter, and all of a sudden it becomes fact — because as far as I can tell, nothing on Twitter is ever true," as the author puts it.
Twitch is already quite expressive about what it is playing around with, tweeting out tests in progress, while other firms (looking at you, Meta) are only somewhat public with this approach and merely conduct a lot of testing behind the scenes. Streamers who depend on the platform and care about how even minor changes could affect their communities will appreciate this new centralized location for all relevant data.
According to Twitch's new explanation on experiments, the platform doesn't always notify users when they're included in a test group for a new feature, but when it can, it does so by email, notice, or a lab flask symbol on the user's profile. Since telling the audience of what is being tried might skew results, Twitch notes that certain live tests won't appear at all on the new page.
The New ‘Research’ Button
There is a new website dedicated to Twitch's experiments, and it features a rundown of the company's most recent trials from February and March. A new "research" button will assist streamers to figure out when to plan their broadcasts, and a new analytics tool will show broadcasters how their channels are found by viewers already exploring inside Twitch. These are all part of the analytics-focused experiments being conducted.
In addition to analytics, Twitch is now testing out a feature called "viewer milestone signals," which will reward active viewers with special rewards when they reach particular milestones in their involvement with the service, such as viewing a set amount of broadcasts in a row. Furthermore, Twitch is also testing a new chat option on mobile that superimposes translucent bubbles over the video.
In contrast to Instagram, which may risk alienating its whole user base on occasion, Twitch must tread more carefully since it is focused on content creators. Although Twitch is the undisputed leader in long-form livestreaming, YouTube Gaming is always a close second. And although it may seem that anybody can broadcast to a social media platform like Instagram, the most popular streamers on Twitch are the ones that keep people coming back for more. If Twitch is going to succeed, it is imperative that its core community, the broadcasters, be pleased and well-informed.
Featured image: Twitch
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