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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Ryan Barrett switched to Twitter Lists

Ryan Barrett:

A few days ago, I unfollowed everyone on Twitter, added them all to a list, and I now read that list instead. It’s shockingly better. Only their own tweets and retweets, in order. No ads, no “liked by,” no “people you may know,” no engagement hacking crap. It’s glorious.

I do not believe I’d be able to use Twitter without Lists.

See also.

Richard Bernabe on Twitter

Richard Bernabe, in an otherwise good interview on his photography, says this about Twitter:

I like Twitter, even if it does represent both the best and worst the Internet has to offer. If you’re there to argue politics with other humans, it most certainly is a dystopian hellscape that will make your life a dark, dark place. Don’t do that, ok? But even if you’re not a content creator, it’s the best and easiest way to consume news and information that touches on your life’s interests. Just remember to stay narrowly focused on the things that make you happy. If you want to wade into the planet’s biggest virtual town square and discuss world events, do so gently and don’t take anything too personal.

Ooof. He isn’t wrong though. And at over 1M followers, he knows.

I still get value out of Twitter but I have to work very hard to get it. I have a private and public account. I create Lists and hand curate them based on my interests. And I’m able to interact with companies very easily. But, again, it is work to avoid the dark shadows.

Twitter Lists are having a moment

Twitter recently released an updated UI that allows you to “pin” Lists you’ve created to your Home timeline view. This makes it possible to swipe between each List quickly. It is a nice feature – especially for those with only a few lists or for those just starting out with them*.

Since this update was released I’m noticing more and more people mention Lists. So I believe this update is working how Twitter wanted it to.

Here is something I wrote about Lists 7 years ago:

I suppose my favorite part about using lists is that I can check Twitter whenever I want without the feeling that I’ll be overwhelmed and distracted by tweets. I can choose when I want to be distracted. When I want to sit down and catch up on Twitter I can go through a few of my lists depending on my mood.

This remains true today. If I’m in the mood to catch up on some outdoor activity lists – fishing, hiking, kayaking – I can dip into that List and catch up. But if I’m in the mood to catch up on technology – I can scroll through that List. It sort of reminds me of reading a particular section of the newspaper, rather than skipping around the newspaper randomly. It allows me to focus a bit more.

Also, Lists do not suffer from the Home timelines terrible algorithm. For that reason alone it is worth building a List or two.

One List of mine that has stuck around is the idea of a “Scratch” list. Today I call it “Heap”. Call it whatever you want, but this allows you to add random accounts to this List and see if they stick. If they do, it is worth taking the time to categorize them.

Not all accounts fit into a category. People, for instance, tweet about all sorts of things. So I find that my relationship with them ends up becoming the name of the List. And for everything else, I have a List called “Lump of People”. I have no idea where I get these names.

I cannot imagine using Twitter without Lists. So I’m glad they are investing in the feature rather than removing or ignoring it.

If you haven’t tried Lists on Twitter I recommend you give them a spin.

Now, if only Instagram would give me some way do to this same thing I’d use it a lot more.

My interpretations of announcements by Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter

Apple pre-announcing something: “We’re excited to get this in customer’s hands late next year”. My interpretation: “We never pre-announce things. Why are we doing this? We’re terrible at it. In fact, we make fun of other companies for doing it! Steve Jobs would never allow this! (mostly) We must be doing this because some group of people is really angry with us. Oh, and this product will likely never ship and we’ll tell you about it after the market closes on a Friday”

Apple reassuring their customer base of an upcoming update (read: late in whatever next year is) to a beloved product by a small set of people: “We love the Mac”. My interpretation: “Crickts.” (E key didn’t work)

Apple announcing something that is available today: “We think our customers will love it. Available today. $PremiumPrice”. My interpretation: “Yes, other companies have tried to build this. Yes, our’s is much better in nearly every way. We’ve perfected it. And it is made of diamond and leather and unobtainium. Hence the price. Enjoy.”

Facebook, calling a mea culpa: “We didn’t intend for this to happen. And it happened only to # of users.” My interpretation: “We totally intended for this to happen. We just didn’t intend to get caught. But I don’t know why because we ALWAYS get caught. Oh, and it actually happened to many multiples of # of users. You’ll find that out in a few days.”

Facebook announcing something: “We are connecting people all over the world.” My interpretation: “Our massive drones are really to collect even more information about people than we already collect and sell to that information to people we say we won’t sell information to. Oh, and to misinform people about just about every topic possible.”

Google announcing something: “Here is our brand new cloud-based service that is free to use” My interpretation: “Here is our thing. We consider it beta but it is actually pretty good. Go ahead and use it. Fall in love with it. The moment you come to depend on it we’ll shut it down because we only make money on Google Ads. But you knew that and you fell for it anyway!”

Bonus: Microsoft, announcing a new cloud-based service. “Containers! Buzzword acronym, buzzword seamless integration acronym, buzzword, Kubernetes Docker.” My interpretation: “There are organizations in the world that pay Microsoft incredible amounts of money to license Windows on sub-par hardware, to use Windows Server to manage web applications and services that use far too much RAM, and to use Azure (which is actually quite amazing) to do literally anything they ask it to do.”

Bonus: Twitter announcing a much needed feature. Wait, Twitter hasn’t built any much needed features since 2008.

Twitter isn’t going anywhere

Stephen Hackett, at 512 Pixels:

Regardless of all of that, I think it’s clear the leadership at Twitter has no idea what they are doing, and I think the network’s time is ticking away faster than ever.

Not to be contrarian but I disagree.

Update January 24, 2019: I must have misread Hackett’s post. I thought he was writing that Twitter wasn’t long for this world as a result of their leadership. But, based on this comment thread, it seems more that he meant that he wasn’t long for Twitter. My bad.

Taken cumulatively, Twitter’s leadership has always been objectively bad. The product decisions have been objectively bad. The policies and the enforcement of them have been objectively bad. In a way, Twitter’s leadership has tried everything they possibly can to kill the platform and the business. And yet it still exists.

Somehow Twitter has embedded itself into the world in such a way that I do not think it will go away. It is nearly an internet utility.

It is unlike the other social networks. Facebook has diversified itself enough (Instagram, Oculus, WhatsApp, Messenger, and so much more) that it can survive based on its breadth rather than its depth. But Twitter’s depth is what will save it. I think as of today it is an indispensable tool for politicians, journalists, organizations, and even celebrities to share their message.

So while individual users may get sick of the leadership, the product, the hate — as a whole it is only becoming more important. I don’t know exactly how it will stick around but I think it will.

Twitter fixes their timeline

YES!!!!!! The Verge:

Twitter has made a surprise change to how it shows tweets to its users, following a viral thread earlier today that discussed ways to reverse the platform’s algorithmic timeline. Now, when you uncheck the settings box reading “Show the best tweets first,” Twitter will completely revert your timeline to a non-algorithmic, reverse-chronological order, which is how Twitter was originally designed and operated for years until the company introduced a default algorithmic model in early 2016.

I saw this tweet last night and immediately turned this on. Now with this new setting I don’t need it. Please keep this Twitter. Please!

Leo Laporte leaves Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook

Leo Laporte:

Yesterday I deactivated my Twitter account and kicked Tumblr to the curb. A couple of weeks ago I did the same with Instagram. A month or so before that I killed Facebook. And I survived. No, thrived!

I had deleted my Twitter account in the past and lived. And while I haven’t deleted my account again I am on Twitter far less than ever. I spend much more time in my RSS reader (like in 2003 era), dabble on Micro.blog, and now on Mastodon a bit. It feels so much better even if decentralized.

Real Twitter

Over the weekend Andy Baio tweeted a URL to a search result that shows Twitter the way it used to be:

This magical link shows your Twitter timeline in true chronological order—without retweets, liked tweets, or any algorithm nonsense. (On mobile? Click “Latest.”) Enjoy!

Erin Sparling owned realtwitter.com and pointed it to that URL now.

Repost: Jonnie Hallman on Twitter re: spreadsheets

👉 Jonnie Hallman:

I’m certain 90% of web apps could be replaced by spreadsheets.

Threads now officially supported on Twitter

Sasank Reddy, on the Twitter blog:

Now, hundreds of thousands of threads are Tweeted every day! But this method of Tweeting, while effective and popular, can be tricky for some to create and it’s often tough to read or discover all the Tweets in a thread. That’s why we’re thrilled to share that we’re making it simpler to thread Tweets together, and to find threads, so it’s easier to express yourself on Twitter and stay informed.

I am not a fan of threads. They are ungainly, hard to follow, and a terrible reading experience.

That said, you cannot control how people will use a platform that you create. You can try to stop things you don’t like. You can attempt to ban a behavior. But that usually doesn’t work. Or you can make adjustments to make it a better experience. Like when Instagram introduced Stories to cut down on people making second accounts. Twitter has chosen to try to make threads on Twitter a little easier to do and hopefully a little easier to follow.

Before I pass judgement on how they’ve done this, I’ll let them iterate on these new features a few times to see if they can get it right. But, overall, I’m not a big fan of threads so even if they build an incredible UI for them I still do not believe I’d like them. But, again, (I can’t write this strongly enough) people are going to write threads on Twitter whether or not Twitter supports them.

As Manton Reece mentioned, I do not think threads are good for the web. But I don’t think they can be eradicated. I like how Micro.blog chooses to turn longer posts into “blog posts” (whatever that means these days) but that wouldn’t be right for Twitter. It is very right for Micro.blog.

I wonder? If I didn’t have a blog – and also didn’t really know how to set one up or had no desire to do so – would I appreciate this feature? I’m thinking I would. Or, I would write longer posts on Facebook and link from Twitter to those posts. Shiver.

Twitter’s new character UI

Josh Wilburne, Designer at Twitter:

With this in mind, we designed a system that defines two types of written languages, dense and non-dense, and expands the character limit for non-dense languages. By grouping languages this way, we can give people writing in non-dense languages like English and Spanish the same space to express themselves as people writing in information-dense languages like Japanese. This will make sharing thoughts and ideas on Twitter a lot less frustrating for many more people, while maintaining brevity on Twitter overall.

Twitter’s recent character count increase isn’t as simple as 140+140 (even though Jack tweeted thus). They seem to have done this thoughtfully. I think once the #280characters meme dies down a little things will settle in nicely for Twitter. I’ve already seen some great cases where it was used.

I also very much like the UI they’ve designed for showing you your progress which Wilburne covers in his post.

Repost: Daman Rangoola on Twitter

👉 Daman Rangoola:

Random iOS 11 bug: type 1+2+3 quickly in the stock calculator app, see what happens. Bet it won’t say “6”.

Mike Monteiro on Twitter

Mike Monteiro on Medium on Twitter:

Twitter today is a cesspool of hate. A plague of frogs. Ten years ago, a group of white dudes baked the DNA of the platform without thought to harassment or abuse. They built the platform with the best of intentions. I still believe this. But they were ignorant to their own blind spots. As we all are. This is the value of diverse teams by the way. When you’re building a tool with a global reach (and who isn’t these days) your team needs to look like the world it’s trying to reach. And ten years later, the abuse has proven too much to fix.

We all miss the old Twitter. But it is gone and isn’t coming back. Many of us bloggers have covered this for the last few years. We all need to move on. But I’m glad Mike took the time to write about it. It is cathartic.

Jason Snell on Twitterrific for Mac

Jason Snell:

I started using Twitter because of Twitterrific for Mac. When the Iconfactory first released the app, I signed up for a Twitter account and started chatting with my friends. That was ten years ago.

Ditto. I actually started using Twitter via SMS in 2006 then saw it bloom at SXSW in 2007 but then when I saw Twitterrific in 2007-2008 it became a daily (heck, hour-by-hour) habit.

Twitterrific for Mac

Iconfactory:

The Twitter app for people who actually use Twitter. Now all-new for macOS.

Imagine if Twitter cared as much about their desktop and mobile apps (and the people who used them) as Iconfactory does.

Twitter is solving the wrong problem, again

Twitter:

We want every person around the world to easily express themselves on Twitter, so we’re doing something new: we’re going to try out a longer limit, 280 characters, in languages impacted by cramming (which is all except Japanese, Chinese, and Korean).

Twitter’s largest issue* is gaining and retaining active users. The platform hasn’t meaningfully grown in many consecutive quarters. While I think it is totally fine to expand the character limit on tweets I do not believe a single holdout will come to Twitter now because of this change.

As far as my opinion about going from 140 to 280 I’m with Fred Wilson:

I don’t like the constraint when I compose tweets, but I love it when I consume them.

I’m sure the current user base will be split on this but I sit here thinking if I were on the Board of Twitter I’d be asking “is this all there is?”

* This is their largest issue purely because they are a public company with revenue based solely on ads.

Repost: Ike on Twitter re: the iPhone X notch

👉 Ike:

So here’s a nice wallpaper for your iPhone X, OWNING the notch.

(be sure to follow the link)

/via Mike Rundle on Twitter.

Repost: Conan O’Brien on Twitter

👉 Conan O’Brien:

When in Tel-Aviv…

(be sure to follow the link)

Repost: Mike Rundle on Twitter re: the iPhone X notch

👉 Mike Rundle:

In landscape the notch literally chops out part of the video. Can’t believe they didn’t indent it a little bit.

Repost: Mike Rundle on Twitter

👉 Mike Rundle:

The new top-end iPhone will have a notch. New top-end Android phones (V30, S8) do not. Hard for Apple to spin that.

David Nield: “RSS still beats Facebook and Twitter”

David Nield on Gizmodo:

Whether you’ve never heard of it before or you’ve abandoned it for pastures new, here’s why you should be using RSS for your news instead of social media.

I’ve used RSS since it was released and feed readers began to appear and I don’t see a future of the web without RSS. So if you aren’t using it you’re missing an enormous amount of value that the web provides.

/via Dave Winer via Feedly via RSS.

Repost: Dan Kimbrough on Twitter

Dan Kimbrough:

Cool new step counter, created here in #nepa. http://cdevroe.com/summit

Repost: Phil Schiller on Twitter

Following Twitter accounts via RSS

I haven’t missed Twitter that much since deleting my account. The first week or two I missed Moments – but once that subsided I realized that Moments are generally a waste of time. Realtime reporting of most newsworthy events result in ill-informed, unsubstantiated tweets. I’m at a point now where I’d much prefer to get the real story after-the-fact rather than realtime.

There are instances where realtime reporting can be incredibly useful, such as when there is a fire, a traffic accident, or a natural disaster happening. Those tweets can save lives. But, in general, I’m perfectly OK with reading up on the news once or twice daily to see what really happened.

I do miss certain Twitter accounts. Especially those that do not have a blog or web site counterpart that I can follow along through another medium. And since Twitter is still web and developer hostile (meaning their API is far too limited and they don’t support open web distribution technologies like RSS) I’ve missed out on a lot of great content from those Twitter accounts.

So today I went searching around for some RSS feed generators that would use what little access to Twitter they have (presumably the limited API or HTML scraping or both) to create an RSS feed from accounts or hashtags or lists. And there are a number of services out there, some of which you have to pay for, others that toss in some ads, or others that are severely limited.

Then I found Publicate. I’m using Publicate’s Twitter RSS Feed Generator to create a few feeds based on some Twitter accounts I miss the most. You simply type in the URL you want to create a feed from, give them your email address*, and they provide a feed URL. So far it seems to be working. I’ve created a new collection in Feedly to store these feeds. Hopefully I’ll get the tweets I wanted to see most and I won’t have to deal with the drivel and hate I’ve seen on Twitter over the last 18 months. Or even Twitter itself!

* I certainly don’t mind my email address being a form of payment to a company. So I gave it to them. But, if you’re a bit of a hacker it is quite easy to dismiss the overlay, read the page’s source, and grab the feed URL without giving Publicate your email address. I want this tool to stick around so if my email address helps them to keep it up-and-running so be it.

JSON Feed to Twitter using PHP

In 2009 I scrawled together a simple PHP script that tweeted links based on an RSS feed. I then updated it to support OAuth and open sourced it on GitHub.

I haven’t really touched it since (though I get about 3 emails a month about it). Just a small update here and there.

This morning, with all of the JSON Feed hubbub going on, I decided to recreate that same simple script to parse JSON Feed rather than RSS. I also updated to the latest release of the PHP Twitter OAuth class by Tijs Verkoyen.

You can download the latest release or clone the repository on GitHub.

This took me mere minutes thanks to JSON Feed being much easier to deal with.

Avoid being great at Twitter

Seth Godin:

You can be good at Twitter in about five minutes a day. Spending ten minutes doesn’t make you twice as good… in fact, there’s probably little measurable improvement. To be great at Twitter might take five hours of daily effort.

At over 48,000 tweets I do not need any more Twitter practice. Lately I’ve been spending just 30 minutes now-and-then to go through my Twitter Lists and retweet that which I find positive, interesting, creative. Twitter has become such a mire of hate and political bunk that I simply avoid it otherwise. So while Seth’s advice is to save time by being happy with being good at Twitter as opposed to being great at Twitter I’m limiting my exposure to it simply for my own well-being.

Side note: the above may lead some to believe I no longer find value in Twitter. I do. Twitter Moments and Trends and Searches are still incredibly valuable. I simply find no value in keeping Twitter open as I used to. Partially due to the fallout from the US political core but also from Twitter’s own product decisions to algorithmically castrate its timeline.

Manton Reece on Twitter at 10 years

Manton Reece, like me, recently passed his 10 year anniversary on Twitter. I like this point he makes about how to see Twitter going forward:

It used to be impossible to imagine that Twitter could fail. And today, it’s still unlikely to vanish or even change much overnight. But the web will be better if we assume that Twitter is a lost cause. From the 10-year view, it’s clear that Twitter has already changed.

Assume Twitter (or any other service) could disappear and make adjustments where needed. I like it.

E15: Bots, Windows 10 Surface Book review, Twitter Head of Product

Last weekend Danny and I sat down and discussed our current experience with bots, the progress I’ve made on my still forthcoming Windows 10 and Surface Book review and also Twitter’s new Head of Product hire.

Links:

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The Twitter grabbag

When I signed up to Twitter over 10 years ago the site was remarkably simple and easy to use. Back then using Twitter on mobile meant crafting SMS messages using particular syntaxes like “follow username” or “d username message”. It was a fantastically simple experience with huge implications on how we all communicate.

Today, there is no such thing as a unified Twitter experience. And all of the experiences are far from simple. Twitter on the web, or Twitter.com, feels pretty much the same across many desktop platforms. The issue I have with the web experience is that it is a pretty terrible way to use Twitter. The algorithmic main feed, the UI being shoved full of useless information, the confusing conversation layouts, all of these make Twitter.com not very fun to use. And the web experience on mobile is such a departure from the web site that I’d be surprised if anyone at all could use it. I’ve tried. A lot. And I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

On the Mac there are several excellent Twitter clients to get the most of our Twitter. I remember when Twitterrific debuted. It was amazing to have a running feed to bring all of my online friends right into my office. Today, on iOS, the Twitter applications are second-to-none. I’ve used nearly all Twitter clients for each platform and iOS is, hands down, the best way to experience Twitter both via the official apps and the best client of them all; Tweetbot.

Tweetbot is so far and away the best way to use Twitter it isn’t even funny. If you like Twitter at all and use Tweetbot  you know how much value it brings you. You’re able to keep up with what is going on, easily create and reply to tweets, and search for what people are saying about a given topic.

On Windows, which I’ve switched to using this weekend, the Twitter experience is so bad that I have no trouble figuring out why Twitter has a hard time growing. A few weeks ago I quipped that if anyone was forced to only use the official Twitter apps or web site that they’d likely not use Twitter at all. The same could definitely be said for people using Twitter on Windows 10.

When I’m in a group of people and I’m the only person that really uses Twitter – uses it every single day – I always used to wonder why. Why aren’t these people on Twitter? Why aren’t they getting as much value from it as I have? I don’t wonder that any longer. The experience is terrible. For anyone using Windows 10 or Android I’d bet they open Twitter from time-to-time (if they have an account at all) and then close it wondering why people use it at all.

Take this scenario as a for instance. Someone signs up to Twitter, they follow a few accounts like a celebrity or two, their favorite sports teams, a journalist or two, a politician or three, and maybe one or two friends that are using Twitter. All told they are at around 40 accounts. And I’d say this is likely the median for Twitter. They log into Twitter. The algorithm shows them 4 tweets they “missed while away”. And the rest of their main feed is a hodge podge of some recent tweets. They scroll down once or twice but not much else is interesting and they move on with their day.

If this was how I used Twitter then I could never get any value from it.

Contrast that with the Tweetbot experience. I open Tweetbot and I’m presented with my main feed from the point I left off from. I have 56 tweets that I missed since the last time I opened the app. And, just like my email, I quickly glance at each one – sometimes stopping to follow a link or look at a photo – before moving on. I won’t be “done” looking at Twitter until I’ve gotten through all of the tweets. Like being done with looking at my email. For some people this may seem overwhelming. They may ask “how can I keep up?” They hate having emails in their Inbox and so they hate having Unread Tweets. But for many this would produce a valuable use of Twitter. The more tweets people see the more chance they have of seeing something that interests them. Of course that is the purpose of Twitter’s main feed algorithm, but more is more in this context. Ask any user of Tweetbot and they will tell you that they get value from being on Twitter. Ask any user of the Twitter web site and I’d bet they only see 20% of the content shared on the site and could live without the service.

To make matters worse, using Twitter on different platforms results in having different features. On some platforms there are Moments. And Lists. On others, they simply aren’t there. Or they are so buried you would never use them. Some have video. Some do not. Some have GIFs. Some do not. And many of the experiences do not support Polls. And so you see tweets that seem out-of-place. On some clients there are keyboard shortcuts. On Windows 10, in the official app, there are none. This is baffling. These little inconsistencies means that different sets of users have wholly different experiences in using the platform. How in the world could Twitter craft that experience to make Twitter valuable to everyone that uses it when they have no idea what features are popular across all platforms? It is a mess. Honestly, I can’t think of a single service that is as popular as Twitter and is as much a mess. Pinterest, Facebook, Skype, Snapchat. All of these are fairly consistent across all platforms.

I still believe Twitter is on the ropes. I’m sad but I believe they have very little chance of survival unless something big happens. And my switching to Windows and realizing that I’d rather not use Twitter on Windows 10 (and, the recent exodus caused by the political fallout) really makes me think that Twitter’s end is closer than ever before.

E8: Tesla, Twitter, Blogging

Extra special, and most likely reoccurring, guest Danny Nicolas (@djloche) and I have a conversation about Tesla, Twitter, Blogging and a bunch of other things.

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