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?

3 Replies to “How I Twitter”

  1. I opened up a twitter account a long time ago, and lost interest in it in about three days. I let some apps tweet for me, but I don’t bother to open up Twitter myself. I don’t have it on my phone nor laptop. I do all my posting on wordpress and let it post for me on Facebook etc.

  2. How I Twitter:

    1. Lists. This and Tweetdeck (more on that shortly) are the two best functions/services Twitter provides its users. With lists, I can categorize the accounts I follow. What are my friends up to? Check my Friends list. What’s the latest news? Let’s take a look at the accounts in my News list. I still check my generic Twitter feed to pass the time (better than watching a progress bar while at work), but I use lists to filter out the white noise whenever possible.

    2. Threader. This Twitter account is actually a web application which will compile (or unroll) a Twitter thread into a single web page. I find this function especially useful when somebody like Seth Abramson posts an especially insightful thread which goes into double digit territory.

    3. Tweetdeck. Like you, I put Tweetdeck to good use, especially when I’m following a live event such as a baseball game or the Oscars. This is where I tend to do my most interaction with other Twitter users and is a great way to follow the lists I talked about in #1 above.

    By the way, in the Total Irony department, I saw this post because I subscribe to your RSS feed. 😁

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