The Waving Flag: How I Use Twitter

Wednesday 27 January 2021

How I Use Twitter

I've been considering writing this post for quite some time.  The main reason for my procrastination being I wasn't sure how useful it would be to anyone else.  It's a bit "techie" but not overly so.  After much thought I decided that if it's useful to just one other person then it'll have been worth it.

The first thing to note is that I'm essentially a desktop user of Twitter.  I do use a tablet but I don't have, or want, a smartphone.  This makes a big difference in how I use Twitter.  If you always use Twitter on your smartphone you can stop reading now.

The key to how I manage Twitter is a combination of Twitter's list facility and Tweetdeck.  If you want to know more a simple Google search will provide lots of tutorials on using Tweetdeck and Twitter lists.

Lists and a clean timeline
When I first used Twitter I followed all sorts of users and quickly became swamped by a timeline that lacked focus.  The interesting stuff seemed to disappear in an endless stream of posts.

I made progress by creating a series of lists and adding users that seemed to post mainly on one topic to an appropriate list such as hobby, music, football, comics etc.

So far, so good. However, just using the lists didn't tackle the timeline problem.  The next step was to either mute or unfollow "noisy" users. I tend to mute users who I still wish to contact by the direct messaging service.  If I muted a user who mainly posted on a hobby topic I made sure they were on the "hobby" list so I didn't miss any of their posts.

This resulted in a nice clean timeline making it much easier to spot things like breaking news or the release of the next episode of my favourite podcast.  In effect the volume of traffic had been shifted to a number of different lists making it more manageable.

List quality
The next step was to "curate" the various lists.  I added interesting users; usually as they cropped up in retweets by, or replies from, existing list members. The bigger the list the easier this gets.

This built very active, and interesting, lists very quickly.  So much so that it became necessary to prune the lists.  The first to go were those who frequently post rubbish like "gratuitous beer shots" or endless pictures of their meals.

For other annoyances I use the filters available via Tweetdeck (and not available with regular Twitter clients) to remove posts with boring hashtags, politics and other minor annoyances.

Not all the curation was pruning. One of the benefits of using lists is you soon get to know who's worth following and who isn't.  In the past two or three years I've added quite a few really great users to my main timeline.

You can do all sorts of clever things with Tweetdeck like follow hashtags and run plain word searches but I found using it for lists was enough for me.

Changing tastes
In the last year I've adjusted the way I use Tweetdeck.  At first I had all my lists available and would scroll horizontally looking at each in turn.

Recently, I've settled on three lists: technology, hobby, and my local non-league football club.

My other lists are still there, and I add to them occasionally, but I don't follow them on a daily basis; life's too short.  Instead I use the regular Twitter web page to read them when the fancy takes me.

There are a couple of things that can help you get the best out of Twitter and Tweetdeck:

  • The Better Tweetdeck browser extension is really useful and adds lots of interesting options to Tweetdeck. Recommended.
  • Twitter offers a free analytical tool which they hope will lead to you taking out paid advertising.  Nonetheless, I've found this useful in assessing the impact of my own tweets.  At the very least it will reassure you that someone is reading your tweets.

Twitter cliches
On Twitter you are what you tweet so take care.  Here's a light-hearted list of things that I think are far too prevalent.  I wish they weren't but that's because I'm old and decidedly "unhip".  The list starts with some of my favourite wargaming cliches:

  • Available for pre-order ... (Pay now, goods to follow much later)
  • Based up ... (Based)
  • I'm calling these done ... (I've had enough)
  • Painted up ... (Painted)
  • These are done apart from ... (Nowhere near finished)
  • Five year anniversary ... (Fifth anniversary)
  • I wanna ... (Baby talk)
  • I'm gonna ... (See "I wanna")
  • I'm kinda ... (See "I wanna")
  • I'm so ... (I'm)
  • It's like ... (It's)
  • It's quite unique ... (It's either unique or it's not)
  • Ping me ... (Contact me)
  • Result! (I'm pleased/happy)
  • So ... (Redundant, originally hipster, verbal & now written tick)
  • Yeah, right! (A double positive that means the opposite)

How many have you used?  Add your "favourites" in the comments.

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