How I Twitter

As you may know I deactivated my half-million follower/bot twitter account last August. I don’t miss it at all except as a newsfeed.

Twitter practically killed RSS readers by providing a firehose of instantaneously “curated” news. With all its flaws, that firehose is useful for a variety of reasons. If there’s a story breaking right now, it’s likely breaking on Twitter, even before it breaks elsewhere. It’s also a pretty good gauge of what attracting the attention of the hive mind at any given minute. For someone in my business, those are fairly useful signals.

So I’m left with the problem of how best to use Twitter without getting mired in the muck of the world’s most famous swamp. Here’s how I do it.

While I have deactivated my personal account @leolaporte, I’ve maintained an impersonal account, @links_for_twit. That account follows journalists. Period. I can lurk there any time. I don’t want to be a leech, though, so I also use Zapier to automatically post all the links I save for use on the shows.

That workflow (which should work just as well on IFTTT) goes:

When I see a story I think we should cover, I click a special bookmark in my browser which sends it, and any selected text from the story, to Pinboard. On mobile I can share to Pinboard for the same effect. (On iOS I use Pushpin to add that share sheet, on Android I use the Pindroid app.)

Links I post to Pinboard go two places:

  • A Google Sheet shared with Karsten, my producer, that he can use to build show rundowns.
  • The @links_for_twit Twitter feed.

I tag each story on Pinboard with the show I would like to use it in but those tags don’t go to Twitter. I also sometimes edit the notes, which do go to Twitter, for more coherence or to highlight a salient point.

So that’s how I feed stuff to Twitter. But more important to me is how I read Twitter.

My secret weapon is Iain Dodsworth’s  Tweetdeck (acquired by Twitter itself in 2011 – please don’t kill it Jack). Tweetdeck’s column layout and real-time streaming let me follow breaking news in real time. Also it’s ad-free; I hate the confusion caused by “promoted tweets” in my legitimate stream. But most importantly, I can use the Tweetdeck column settings to turn off retweets and I never look at @replies or DMs.

Screen Shot 2019-03-01 at 10.32.27 AM
My Tweetdeck setup – add columns as needed

Retweets, @ replies to my account, and DMs are the biggest part of the suckage on Twitter. Since I’m following quality feeds the stream is fairly pure as long as I keep those main sources of pollution out. This makes it most like a real-time RSS feed. I don’t engage in conversations on Twitter – that’s almost always a recipe for disaster – and I avoid the outrage engine fueled by retweets.

Tweetdeck allows me to add columns as needed. I use this to follow breaking stories via a #hashtag or other people’s curated lists, like Robert Scoble’s Tech Journalists list, in separate columns. Adding lists, yours or others, as separate columns is one of the best features of Tweetdeck. In fact, lists are a critical feature in making Twitter useful. It’s a shame more people don’t know about them.

Two other features in Tweetdeck make it irreplaceable. I can schedule tweets for later release — I don’t use this much but it’s great to have — and custom link shortening. I use a free bit.ly account to shorten links with the domain leo.ist. Tweetdeck converts my links automatically.

I worry that Tweetdeck will at some point follow the third-party clients down the tubes. Twitter seems hell-bent on getting everyone to use twitter.com or the official apps. But, Jack, I’d gladly pay $5 a month for the features of Tweetdeck. That’s got to be more than you’d make showing me ads. Please consider that before you kill this little gem.

So, how do you Twitter?

So Long and thanks for all the fish…

The New Screen Savers on hiatus

I was so excited when we launched The New Screen Savers” three-and-a-half years ago. Since then it’s been one of my favorite shows in our line-up and a great way for us to showcase products and ideas that don’t fit any of our other shows. But doing justice to that mission makes it the most complicated and expensive show on TWiT. We’ve been trying to do a network television show on a podcaster’s budget.

As you know, TWiT is a bootstrapped operation. We have never taken investments; we can only spend as much as we make. And if a show, however much we love it, can’t pay for itself, we just can’t afford to do it. Unfortunately, “The New Screen Savers” just hasn’t developed a big enough audience to pay for itself. So, as much as it breaks my heart to do this, we’re going to end its run December 29, 2018.

Part of what made The New Screen Savers” special is the many former TechTVers joined me as co-hosts including Patrick Norton, Kevin Rose, Megan Morrone, Martin Sargent, Robert Heron, Roger Chang, Sarah Lane, and of course, Kate Botello. TWiT regulars like Jason Howell, Jason Snell, Jason Calacanis, Ron Richards, Iain Thomson, Fr. Robert Ballecer, SJ, and others have stepped in as co-hosts as well. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

We thought it fitting that Patrick and I host the last live episode together on December 22. The Best of 2018 show will post on December 29, 2018. The entire back-catalog of episodes are available to watch anytime at twit.tv/nss.

But wait, there’s more.

Know How
Iyaz Aktar started Know How…” in 2012 to highlight a variety of how-tos and DIYs. Since then, hosts Iyaz, Fr. Robert Ballecer, Megan Morrone and Florence Ion, Jason Howell, Sam Machkovech, and I have shown you everything from building computers, drones, soldering, Raspberry Pi projects, LEDs, smart devices, and gaming. We’re also ending its run this month but we’ll move some of the content into a new show coming in early 2019. The last episode published on December 20, 2019. You can see all “Know Now…” shows anytime at twit.tv/kh.

This Week in Law

After talking with Denise Howell, we all agreed that “This Week in Law” will also end in early 2019. Denise and her panel of legal minds covered the wide spectrum of topics related to law and tech, including Intellectual Property, privacy, copyright, regulation, and the ever-expanding segment of animal selfies. The last episode will be January 11, 2019 at 3p Pacific. As sad as this news is, I’m thrilled to say Denise’s brilliant legal mind and entertaining style will take on a larger role on the network going forward with regular appearances on “This Week in Tech” and “Triangulation.” All of the TWiL shows will remain available at twit.tv/twil.

I know you share my sadness at losing these three shows. We don’t cancel shows lightly, but we also understand it’s part of the process in keeping TWiT fresh and vital. And every ending brings a new beginning. We’re working on a new show we’ll unveil early next year. More about that later.

We all work every day to fulfill our mission to bring you the best tech programming on the Internet. As always, I thank you for your continued support. TWiT wouldn’t exist without you.

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There’s now strong evidence that Trump committed two felonies when he instructed Michael Cohen to pay off two women to silence them just before the election. The Cohen indictment also showed Trump continued to plan a Trump Tower in Moscow while running for president (and denying any contacts with Russia).

In other words, Democrats have what they need to impeach when the new Congress is sworn in next month. But I agree with James Comey…

“All of us should use every breath we have to make sure the lies stop on January 20, 2021,” Comey said, advocating the electoral removal of the man who fired him from the FBI.

Comey said Democrats “have to win” in 2020.

“We need a moment of inflection where we all get off the couch and say, ‘That is not who we are,’ and, in a landslide, rid ourselves of this attack on our values,” Comey said.

He said he hopes the president is not impeached before the election because it would “let the country off the hook” and leave a third of the country believing Trump had been the victim of a coup.

Congress should focus on doing what it can to protect the country and advance a progressive agenda. Let the voters throw the scoundrels out. 

Neil Armstrong Deserves Better

Just saw First Man and I’m so disappointed.

Never mind that a key scene in the movie never happened, but how do you take one of humankind’s greatest achievments and drain it of all interest? The chief focus of the film seems to be Armstrong’s inability to say he loved his sons. Claire Foy, as Armstrong’s long-suffering wife, is wasted. She’s all blue eyes and pouty anger, with none of the simmering power of her young Elizabeth in The Crown. It would be pretty hard to waste Ryan Gosling‘s scant talents, but is that supposed to be a Wisconsin accent? Yah sure, you betcha. At least he didn’t get to sing or dance. Or emote.

Hollywood obviously wanted to reward Damien Chazelle for his Best Picture Oscar last year for La La Land, one of the saddest movies of the year. Oh yeah. Except Moonlight won. Ron Howard would have done a better job. Stephen Spielberg would have done better. Adam f*ing Sandler would have been better. Well maybe not, but you get the idea.

This is not the movie Neil Armstrong or any of the heroes at NASA deserve.