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I finally got Twitter after years of not getting it (martinboss.com)
157 points by affectsk on May 17, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 215 comments

I've been using Twitter since it was invite only. I'm not a Twitter personality, I don't have impressive follow counts or viral tweets. I do tweet but mostly only so I can interact with my feed.

I've left every other social network. No longer on Facebook. No interest in Instagram or TikTok. But Twitter I've continued to get value from. This is entirely because I'm able to curate my feed. My rules for twitter engagement are:

1. Never look at the algorithmic feed. Switch to most recent or use https://tweetdeck.twitter.com for list consumption.

2. Unfollow anyone who consistently pulls you into Twitter cesspools.

3. Follow the people who you find interesting and who doesn't break rule #2

4. Use the mute and block buttons as frequently as you need to.

5. Block retweets which aren't quotes.

Everyonce in a while someone will link to a tweet in a different forum and I'll take a look. 90% of the time I'm shocked at what the author of that Tweet's experience of Twitter is like. My experience is 180 degrees different.

I settled on a similar approach. I used to liberally follow all sorts of accounts that seemed even remotely relevant, but signal to noise was abysmal and there was way too much drama. Several times I was on the verge of quitting, even though Twitter was quite useful for promoting my own work and that of my students. But recently I decided to try a new approach and systematically unfollowed a lot of accounts. Now I stick to the following diet and it produces a much more healthy and interesting feed:

  1. No politicians  
  2. No journalists
  3. No institutions
  4. No companies
  5. No entertainment
  6. No anonymous accounts
  7. Some notable exceptions in all the categories above
  8. Mute words to taste
What's left is mostly genuinely interesting people who post about things they understand and truly care about.

I primarily browse the chronological timeline without retweets courtesy of a nice search function hack (you must be logged in for this to work):


The algorithmic timeline has a bad reputation but it's actually useful for stuff you missed. But I only check it after looking at the chronological feed.

I also like and mostly follow these suggestions for using Twitter effectively: https://twitter.com/AlanLevinovitz/status/151946437478365184...

I don't understand the anonymous accounts rule. Some of the most interesting and insightful people on Twitter are anonymous. And we could say the same about Hacker News. Do you think this website would be better if we all had to use our real names?

i’m frequently confused by people referring to “anonymous” accounts on Twitter. every Twitter user needs a handle, so it’s not really possible to use it anything less than pseudonymously AIUI.

by “anonymous”, do most people mean pseudonymous users who haven’t established an identity (i.e. few to no posts, or no bio, or egg avatar)? or do most people mean to capture all pseudonymous users under that “anonymous” label? (in which case, how does one evaluate if the user is pseudonymous or using their legal name? even blue-checks can be pseudonymous).

According to the dictionary [0], the usage is fine. You seem to use the following definition:

> 3 : lacking individuality, distinction, or recognizability

Which is clearly not true for Twitter users due to their handle and public profile. However, it's also defined as:

> 2 : not named or identified

The example is even a book author, which you'd classify as pseudonymous. I think in this case it makes sense to make the distinction, since there are anonymous social networks, but it's not technically wrong.

[0] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anonymous

Yes, most people use "anonymous" in this context to mean "not directly associated with a real name, or real identity."

Arguing about pseudonymous vs. anonymous seems overly pedantic, and not particularly helpful.

In this case, I'd argue it is. Twitter is anonymous in the sense that you don't need a real name for an account, but the Twitter handle and picture is clearly presented on every Tweet and the user profile is not only very visible, it's actually pretty essential due to the follow-mechanic.

This is very different compared to more anonymous forums like 4chan, (former) YikYak and it's successor Jodel. User profiles exist in all of these, but are not presented or publicly visible and postings are not linked to the same account, excluding direct replies.

It clearly isn't because in this case the context is the OP said their rule was not to follow _anonymous accounts_. It really is just painful pedantry to do the WELL AKSHUALLY thing when the intended meaning is abundantly clear to everybody including those who have never have seen or used twitter before.

sorry to come off as pedantic: it's not my intent. everyone has different experiences on Twitter, and this relates to an experience i don't have much of.

a _lot_ of people complain about "anonymous Twitter users", and i want to understand what they mean by that. i think it's the sort of "[anonymous] asshole slides into my timeline and then leaves" behavior. and if so, i suspect it's not actually identity or its form but _reputation_ that matters in these interactions: "non-reputable asshole slides into my timeline" (and so considering reputation becomes important in your interactions). but they could equally mean "this person could have multiple identities on this site and that doesn't work for me" (e.g. some person could be playing both a left-leaning and a right-leaning account and using those multiple identities to drive a wedge into some community), so maybe they really do want to avoid interacting with people who don't have a verifiably singular identity (this isn't easy).

i should have distilled it to that point: when a person says they don't deal with anonymous users, do they actually care about identity, or are they using identity as a proxy for reputation -- and reputation is the more direct concern?

It’s true that some of best accounts are anonymous (that’s why I have rule 7), but also 90%+ of the most toxic accounts are anonymous. Hacker news is a different population, and heavily moderated. Can’t usefully compare IMO.

I'm a little confused about the blocking of RTs. Finding interesting technical content in my timeline and retweeting it to my followers is the activity I feel best about on Twitter. The algorithmic timeline (which I don't use, but others do) has made this less useful, but I think this retweet capability is a huge part of the value of the platform. I certainly don't have time to quote-tweet all of those interesting tweets, and I think sometimes it feels like "taking credit for someone else's work" when I do.

I don't block all retweets but there are too many abusive retweeters who retweet every retweet of their own post. If you don't block their retweets the whole timeline is nothing but the same post retweeted 100 times.

Some retweets are useful, true, but I’m more interested in people’s original thoughts. Retweets also used to be 90% of my feed which means that the vast majority of tweets in my feed were by people who I wasn’t following. Original content by people I was following got drowned out. Some accounts also retweet a lot and Twitter didn’t deemphasize these, which allowed some people to basically take over my feed. Having said that, the search function hack that I mentioned does include quote-tweets which tend to be higher quality.

some people spend all day retweeting hot takes, you just have to whittle it down to people who are sharing what you like (since there's a difference between following someone whose tweets I like, and wanting to know every tweet they think is worth boosting)

This begs the question to me, is there a way to "fix" Twitter, without greatly reducing its impact? It seems to me some people talk about making Twitter "the" public forum, but most of the fixes to Twitter seem to be about how to make it work for your niche. Which is great! Things shouldn't have to be big or making billions of dollars to be good. But "No politicians, no journalists, no institutions" doesn't sound like a public forum to me, and I can't imagine some people would buy Twitter in order to dramatically shrink it.

The only talk of "public forum" comes from people who are desperate to force others to listen to them. I don't need TERFs and neo-Nazis in my feed, but they want to be there.

There's plenty of non "public forums" out there. Hop onto a Matrix room, Discord guild, Subreddit, IRC room, Fediverse instance, whatever. The whole point of "social media" is that it's socializing "in the large". You might not like this, I don't either, but some people do derive value from socializing "in the large". The fact that so many people in this post go into the necessary contortions necessary to make Twitter work for them _shows_ how much latent demand there is for socializing in the large.

> The only talk of "public forum" comes from people who are desperate to force others to listen to them.

Occasionally, it's used by other people properly to refer to a space used by government for official purposes; I suspect much of the other use is dual purpose, that is, it intends to discredit the proper use as much as to advance a more overt purpose.

Twitter is of course completely unsuitable as means of official communication - just the word limit makes it terrible for the purpose.

What it is good for is sending sound bites at each other.

(For emergency communications SMS is better and sufficient.)

Not to mention that you can no longer view more than a couple tweets of a given user without having the experience blocked with a "sign in!" modal covering the screen, preventing further use of the platform. This change alone has made the platform less accessible than ever.

[self-promotion] My browser extension for iOS and macOS can stop this and allow you to browse Twitter while logged out: https://underpassapp.com/tweaks/

Sweeet. I am a frequent favorite-r of your rants on Twitter about related subjects, haha :)

> Twitter is of course completely unsuitable as means of official communication

Whether or not you believe it is unsuitable for such purposes has no bearing on the fact that government has indeed used it for such purposes, and that this imposes legal requirements on the use of those government accounts as public fora that do not apply to Twitter generally.


> So you are for peaceful/voluntary online segregation of people who don't share your values. Does this translate to the real world?

Of course it does. It's called having friends.

If you're having a conversation in a restaurant, and a stranger at another table overhears you and decides to interrupt with their contrary opinion, do you "owe" them an argument, or do you tell them to mind their own business and go away?

And then will the interrupter whine, "A restaurant is a public place! If you wanted to have a private conversation, you should have had dinner at home."

There's almost no situation IRL where you're arguing with strangers. That only happens online.

Nobody is trying to force you to engage with anyone on Twitter.

> Nobody is trying to force you to engage with anyone on Twitter.

Have you ever... been on Twitter?

Seriously, Twitter randos often consider it a badge of honor to get blocked by someone after they tweet unsolicited hostile replies. "Ha, they blocked me, what a snowflake! Can't handle any criticism."

Weird take, we have all sorts of mores around “you don’t talk politics at work”. People go to different churches, some people choose private schools. Online seems to be the only place that we have this idea that people have to listen to each other.

It's wrong to exclude people from your twitter feed -- you have to be inclusive. Just like you don't get to pick your neighbor (you have to accept anyone that moves in next door). Well same online! Don't exclude others, but rather be inclusive.

Regarding 1, I actually go much further and have blocked many of the major politicians (on every side of the spectrum), and muted their names.

I see very little partisan politics on my timeline now.

Yes, this is necessary to avoid seeing quote tweets of them.

You can turn off retweets for accounts that you follow, btw. I use lists in a third party app for a chronological feed.

with 6 you miss some good accounts, anonymity is not always a bad thing

This is covered by rule 7.

Ah, somehow I missed that.

People shit on the algorithmic feed, but I love it. I’m too busy to wade through bad/boring tweets, and don’t want to spend all day scrolling. I can check it once or day or less and the algorithmic sorting surfaces the best content right at the top.

That said, I don’t really need a smarter algorithm than “show my tweets with a lot of favorites”.

Just like a prefer to have Reddit sort by best vs new.

My experience is that the algorithmic feed just wants to firehose 99.9% sensationalist trending muck I don't want from people and topics I don't want to follow or read about on twitter.

For me the absolute worst of the worst is the "More Tweets" list under certain tweets. It's basically designed to be the most sensationalist, polarizing, "hot take"ist bullshit imaginable. I'm not sure I've ever read a single thing worth reading in that section.

A rather meta example: scroll down to the "More Tweets" section under this recent Elon Musk tweet - https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1525738556102164480

I don't know what it might curate for each person reading this, but I'll bet you'll see what I'm talking about.

I think this is a difference between the desktop and web experience because I don't see any "more tweets" section. If I scroll, I just get autoloading of more replies to the tweet.

Not sure whether you’re on desktop or mobile, but I only get “More Tweets” on the mobile website if I’m not signed in. Otherwise it’s as you describe, only replies.

That's funny because it's the exact opposite for me. I'm on desktop and I see it only when logged in. When not logged in, I only see replies.

I have made more observations and it seems to have to do with how you arrived at the post. If I click on it from browsing my timeline, it does not show “more tweets“. If I click through to it from a link somewhere external, such as a link in an article, it does. I’m sure that somewhere there is a thorough analysis of this.

1 use case of the The More Tweets feature being useful is for following E-Sports.

I don't follow every player, coach, or organization and it's common for me to see 1 tweet from one of my follows and the More Tweets to contain content I want to consume from the 1000's of others talking about this specific scene.

I'd also recommend not using the More Tweets feature for anything too popular as it's like reading a youtube comments section.

These are tweets Twitter wants to hide because they are deemed toxic.

Sorry, to be clear I'm talking about the "More Tweets" list at the bottom. What you're referring to is the "Show more replies" link which requires a click to unroll.

I also really like the algorithmic feed. Though it's interesting that you like it because you check it infrequently - for me, it works because I check it often, so it's "close to chronological but with extra surprises" which I like.

I think the algorithmic feed actually does a good job of promoting the things Twitter does well and I wonder how many people who hate it actually just disagree with the Twitter devs about how the service should work.

Twitter has a function for identifying content you'd like others to see in your own timeline: it's called retweet. It also has a function for identifying content that is noteworthy but failed to meet the higher bar, and that's called "favorite" (I still prefer "like", but whatever.) At some point Twitter's algorithm began using favorites to serve the purpose previously served by retweets, and the quality of the timeline has been in free-fall since then.

I've been a long-time Twitter user and I recently switched to "See latest Tweets instead" and I had the same conclusion, the "algorithm" was actually doing a decent job of surfacing new stuff for me that I liked. I missed it pretty quick and switched back. I think doing the manual curation to tell the algo what you _don't_ want to see helps immensely.

I'm actually with you on this one!

In my case, the algo is pretty good at surfacing useful tweets and people: both new stuff that I find relevant, and tweets from the people I'm following that I missed.

So I generally use lists to interact with different groups of people I'm already interested (including the ones I'm following) and the homepage is great for discovery.

The algorithmic feed would keep showing things I had already seen and bury interesting tweets from people I actually follow in favor of outrage-of-the-day type stuff.

There was a period of time when Twitter was testing an interface that had the two feeds on tabs and it kept reverting back to the algorithmic tab. I almost quit.

People like to trash on algorithmic feeds, but they secretly love them. YouTube for instance compared to Odysee.

People like to trash on heroin, but they secretly love it. But people quit heroin too, because of the harms.

> I've left every other social network. No longer on Facebook. No interest in Instagram or TikTok. But Twitter I've continued to get value from. This is entirely because I'm able to curate my feed. My rules for twitter engagement are:

This also worked for Facebook back when I still had an account. All the posts I saw were ones directly related to my interests and local events that I was interested in. We have a lot of control over how social media presents us with information, just most people don't bother trying to make it work for them.

> We have a lot of control over how social media presents us with information, just most people don't bother trying to make it work for them.

It's just not worth it. I can hop into a Matrix room or a Subreddit and make posts about a topic I'm interested in and receive immediate interaction without seeing a firehose of emotional or inflammatory content. On those platforms you need to post/read a lot or come with a controversial mindset before you start dealing with the problems of the platform, so your initial start can be gentle and you still derive value from the interactions.

This crazy amount of stewardship for Twitter is pretty nuts. I guess some people really want to be part of The Conversation and they'll do anything to do it, but I'm not that person myself. I can get a lot of value talking on Matrix right now.

> without seeing a firehose of emotional or inflammatory content

I didn't see any of this when I started using Twitter a few months ago.

> This crazy amount of stewardship for Twitter is pretty nuts

What are you talking about? People shared their negative impressions of Twitter. I recently tried Twitter and found that it could be useful, so I decided to share my experience.

> I guess some people really want to be part of The Conversation and they'll do anything to do it

I don't talk to anybody on Twitter and this is an extremely uncharitable take that isn't okay on HN.

> just most people don't bother trying to make it work for them

Could one say that that's why TikTok is so popular? It works although people don't spend time configuring it?

To some degree, probably. I think the video format is just very popular because it allows people to express themselves in more ways.

I think the fact that you got in early and are now a pro at using it is why you don't hate it. twitter seems like such a simple platform that should be great, but as someone who has tried it out a few times over the years, it just seems horrible. As soon as you create your account, you are bombarded with whatever outrage-inducing topics are popular that day, and the recommendation system on who to follow seems pretty biased.

All of the things you listed seem like they should be the default. But they aren't, which means 99% of people do not even know they are options, and so the site is dumpster fire for most people.

I started using it when the Ukraine war began. All I see is news out of the war. Nothing sensationalized or toxic or anything. You can avoid a lot of the cesspool if you put in a tiny bit of effort.

Yeah but you can hop onto a few Telegram news channels and get the same thing? And no cesspool this time either. That's how I've been getting news from Ukranian and Russian news sources.

You can also use Facebook or Reddit for it. What's your point?

This is fair. Most of my rules amount to working to keep twitter looking like it looked when it first started. Which sort of leads you to question what value all the features twitter has introduced since really give me as a user.

I like spaces and find those useful but the algorithmic feed has close to 0 value for me. I'm not sure how twitter makes money and survives as a company without it though. Can twitter succeed as a pay to use platform? I don't know.

> 2. Unfollow anyone who consistently pulls you into Twitter cesspools.

There are certain cesspools I like checking out. For example Grady Booch dunking on cryptobros is still funny to me.

Create lists, but don't follow those folks. You'll probably miss timely rebuttals, but only click on "politics" or whatever when you want to waste (additional) time!

real pro tip here, when you follow they can block you if you're not their cup of tea, while lists allow you to continue sleuthing as a member of a public

> Grady Booch dunking on cryptobros is still funny to me.

Wait, what? Grady Booch, the UML guy? This, I need to the see.

He is constantly getting blocked after calling them out.


One rule I have found really useful.

Unfollow/nute any account that has more than 10k followers. Especially if they are social media famous.

Great tips, although I do like the algo - works great for discovery!

Other than that, it really is about how you curate it. Follow the people you're interested in, engage with the content you find useful, tell Twitter you don't like something by muting/blocking/notinterestedin-ing and you're good.

In that regard it's not unlike any other social media: if you don't tell it what you like, it'll show you what it things you want to see, which won't necessarily be something you'd want to see.

That's what I love about Twitter. It's designed for power users by giving you a lot of controls up front on how you want to interact with the platform. It's not that rewarding if you're not actively curating your feed. You can do it on a user level and even not show posts with specific words. Imagine if you could do that on other social platforms? You could follow your family and/or friends and only see family or trip updates and no political nonsense posts.

Re (2), I always soft-block (block and then unblock) rather than unfollow, mainly because I view my twitter feed as a collection of friends, and I'd rather "terminate the relationship" than make it one-sided. If I want to preserve the relationship but find them annoying, I'll mute them.

I do this two, but I have sort of two mental categories. The people who only occasionally pull me in. I just mute or block then unblock. Then there are the people who consistently try to pull me in and view it as their duty to do so. Those I just unfollow, it's not worth the effort to keep them in my feed.

> 5. Block retweets which aren't quotes.

What's the reason for this? I didn't even realize you could do that.

Just plain retweets tend to be viral tweets. And while some of them can be fun they also have a tendency to be low-content, high rage-factor tweets.

In tweetdeck the block retweets setting blocks them. Retweet with quote isn't counted as a retweet.

> Just plain retweets tend to be viral tweets. And while some of them can be fun they also have a tendency to be low-content, high rage-factor tweets.

All the retweets I see are high quality and interesting. This heavily depends on who you're following, tbh.

That's pretty much how I use any social media. Unfollow/block/mute. Works on reddit too.

Does TweetDeck still work? I mostly stopped using Twitter when TweetDeck was acquired by Twitter and they shut down the Android client.

Before that I had different curated lists and then it just became a mess.

Tweet deck works well though only in the browser now. I use it extensively for keeping a seperation between my messy feed and my lists

That's what social media should be. It should be a platform. Give more control to the users. Less control to journalists, moderators, political actors, etc.

Let users individually curate the content they want to see instead of trying to use every social media platform as a propaganda tool.

This process is basically what I’ve done for years. I don’t use tweetdeck though, I just manually curate my lists in twitter's own UI. Mostly works. Some stuff slips through the cracks but my expectations are just set such that nothing will ever be perfect.

>Block retweets which aren't quotes.

How do you do that? I only know you can disable all retweets from a particular person you follow. I didn't know you could disable non-quote retweets from all accounts you follow.

Tweetdeck which is basically a fancy interface to Twitters search functionality allows me to do that. I don't use the Twitter app or visit the twitter home page.

Many people say bad things about the algorithmic feed, but for me, the 'most recent' feed meant that often I missed tweets from people I'm actually interested in.

So I switched back.

What's your @ ?

In my case it's @simon, and one of my problems is that I get a TON of unwanted mentions. No idea how to solve it, after lots of thinking over the years.

You can see my @ in my HN profile.

> you into Twitter cesspools.

What % of the userbase is "Twitter cesspools" and how do you define that? What exactly is a "Twitter cesspool"? Viewpoints that don't align with yours? Radical politics?

Is Twitter the platform of giving the 10-20% most fringed members of both political parties a voice? Why does what they post get "upvoted/liked/retweeted" enough to the point where it gets visibility instead of being drowned out? What kind of content are they posting exactly that is "ok" to not be removed by moderation policies, but you define it as "cesspool" material?

> What exactly is a "Twitter cesspool"? Viewpoints that don't align with yours? Radical politics?

This is a very presumptuous response.

A more charitable interpretation might just be where discussions are happening that you're not interested in on twitter. For example, 'this person keeps getting embroiled in twitter arguments about covid', so I'm going to unfloow them because even though I agree with their opinions, I'm not interested in the inevitably heated and pointless discussions leaking into my timeline.

Threads that are full of flamewars, name calling, and outrage farming is my personal definition of cesspool. I follow many that hold opinions I don't agree with. As long as the conversation is civil I'm perfectly happy talking. But if it drags me into an internet flamewar where I am expected to pile onto someone else out of manufactured outrage then count me out.

>> you into Twitter cesspools. > how do you define that?

I'd imagine it's a personal definition and could be reasonably substituted with "you don't want to hear from." for the same effect.

Problem is that most people don't have the monumental willpower to not get dragged into a cesspool in a moment of weakness.

Completely agree, and I'm surprised more people aren't using Tweetdeck.

I feel like a lot of people complaining about Twitter only experience it through the twitter.com web interface. I'd hate it too if that was my only experience of it. Using Tweetdeck and/or just about any mobile client is worlds better. You don't get so much random dreck, which makes it much easier to see and engage with people you actually know or like.

As far as I can tell, using any social-media site other than with a friends-only reverse-chronological feed is just going to be a bad experience for anyone who values real engagement (i.e. not influencers or wannabes and not passive disinformation consumers). Also, any social-media site without a block button and a culture encouraging people to use it is broken too.

If that's really the only way to make twitter good, then it seems like a reasonable complaint that twitter is not that way. If twitter can't be bothered to make their own product tolerable, I don't feel any compulsion to do it for them.

I say this as someone who briefly attempted to dabble in twitter on a few occasions. I have an account. I've tweeted a few times. I now check it probably a few times a year.

Tweetdeck isn't anymore accessible than Twitter; It's for powerusers. It's better than vanilla twitter the same way an F1 car is better than a Toyota Camry. If you can't grok a Camry, then jumping into an F1 isn't going to make your experience better.

Twitter's strength and "problem" (to me), is that its just a firehose of senseless data and you have to manually figure out what you want. I only started enjoying Twitter, by accident, when in college I blacklisted Facebook, Instagram and Reddit on my computer. That said, over the years I've come to prefer it's arguably web-1.0 style of discovery to the curated feeds of today.

I don't think Twitter needs the instant gratification hooks that other platforms have. Sometimes you login, and there's nothing going on.

There are web browser extensions that are pretty good at improving the web site.

Such as?

I wrote one for iOS and macOS: https://underpassapp.com/tweaks/

There are some in the Chrome Web Store too, though I don't have links.

Looks opinionated and sketchy, sorry.

Heh, ok. I don't mind if you don't want to use it, but I'm puzzled by "sketchy" and even more puzzled by "opinionated".

Opinionated on UI changes, sketchy with the lack of details on how the click tracking removal works (the easier ways that come to mind on implementation are the same or worse for privacy)

> Opinionated on UI changes

There are more than 20 settings that can be individually enabled/disabled, so it's all up to the user how much they want.

> sketchy with the lack of details on how the click tracking removal works (the easier ways that come to mind on implementation are the same or worse for privacy)

Ah, ok. The word "sketchy" can be ambiguous. :-)

The real URL is actually already hidden in the DOM, so it's a simple matter of replacement.

this advice from twitter users is always the same and its always so bizarre. just invest thousands of hours into cultivating your own feed through the following process: every time you get insulted by some child/idiot/bot, just select the account of that individual person then block them or mute or unfollow. do this thousands (or millions?) of times for every individual person on twitter. jesus christ i cant think of something more unappealing.

the worst part of this is the more you invest into making it useable, the worse it is when big brother blocks/mutes you; the more enmeshed you are into this MCI tool for manufacturing consent. it sounds like the type of person who would be into twitter is the type of person who likes to spend a lot of time researching which credit card gives the best 2% cash back or whatever. genuinely just gross and boring to the point of being repulsive to most people on earth

How are bots insulting you? That's just impressive more than anything.

A more informative title could be ”I finally got how to win on Twitter”, because that’s what this person wanted. They wanted to “win”.

That’s not what I want. I “got” Twitter from my first time using it. I wanted to follow a mix of diverse people around topics that interested me and be informed on new and old things about these topics. And I never minded reading personal stuff from those people. I actually enjoyed to learn about their other interests or funny remarks.

Low-key yeah, I do want to figure out how to win, but I haven't gotten there yet.

Your way of "getting" it is perfectly fine, too - if that's what you want out of it. Right now I do enjoy reading people's personal stuff, but they have to be the people I care about at least to some extent.

So what I wanted out of Twitter was the ability to be heard, not just to listen. That's the part that I kinda figured out. Winning is a different story.

No kidding - I wonder how many of those accounts he interacts with are just bots :p

I discovered that Twitter replaces having an email list for business. You aren't spamming people, they sign up to follow you. The idea is to keep your tweets interesting to people who are using your products and services.

A corollary is to not use it to post personal stuff or politics.

I wish the technical people I follow on Twitter would leave the politics out, I follow them for their technical insights.

That's the way to use it for disseminating the information, 100%.

Been doing it for a while for several projects and it's a fantastic broadcast tool to keep interested people updated on news they want to hear. The main trick is to never waver off topic.

This doesn't replace a mailing list though. Not even close. There are simply parts of the target audience that aren't on Twitter. So Twitter needs to be combined with the newsletter, the RSS feed, a dedicated sub on Reddit and what have you. Together these result in a lot of reach. They also cross-pollinate well.

> I wish the technical people I follow on Twitter would leave the politics out, I follow them for their technical insights.

You need a very large muted keywords list.

Seconded. I've tried to follow technical / subject folks, but the politics is constantly there. Maybe next try I'll block the folks who crap out the politics so I don't follow them again, which I've done multiple times.

It's not that I mind them tweeting their politics that much, it's that I don't want them annoying my followers.

It's a good supplement for an email list, but having it replace your email list would be a huge business risk. What if they implement some sort of algorithm change that dramatically reduces how often your tweets appear in timelines? You control your email list, but Twitter controls your twitter profile.

> I wish the technical people I follow on Twitter would leave the politics out, I follow them for their technical insights.

I think this is a significant flaw in the design of Twitter. You should be able to follow a subset of someone else's tweets rather than the binary all/nothing we have now.

Honestly, it's a significant flaw in the design of humans.

When interacting with a human, I did not sign up for them being a complete holistic personality with hopes, dreams, beliefs, history, etc. I just want direct access to some personally chosen subset of their brain. Why do I have to deal with their messy... ugh... peopleness?

> Honestly, it's a significant flaw in the design of humans.

Yes. And they do wonderful things with technology these days that can help us get around those flaws.

The addressable market of Twitter users is probably 1% that of email.

I don't know if you really "get" twitter until you've had a throw-away tweet from 7 years ago dredged up and used to try and destroy you.

I auto-delete my tweets after three months so shrug

+1 same here: https://tweetdelete.net/

I guess that's one benefit of not having started earlier!

The best I've had is being suspended for a 7 year old "kill all boomers" tweet :(

Ha! I got that too!

I tweeted the classic joke "old people should be killed at birth", which made sense in context. Got a few likes in the moment. 4 months later, account suspended, had to delete the tweet to get it back.

I'm still puzzled by what happened.

How old were you when you posted it?

Would you mind if someone was suspended for tweeting “kill all black people”?

Humourless people like you are why we can't have nice things :( Talk about taking things out of context to the extreme!

I'm all for humor, but you shouldn't be hypocritical. Personally I wouldn't be offended by either if it was funny, but being offended only if it's against a group you like is not cool.

I still don't get it. Nothing in this article makes sense to me, either. Not to denigrate the author - I'm sure what he posted makes a ton of sense, just not to me.

I made a twitter account shortly after it first started, made a few tweets, and then it languished and I think it's probably long deleted by now. Last year my wife made me another one because "you need it to promote your OSS stuff". Okay so I made a few tweets ... aaaaand it's been sitting dormant for months.

I just ... I dunno how to even describe it. Can't see the point, maybe? Can't build any enthusiasm to get involved? Find it about as interesting and engaging as cutting my toenails?

But it's been the same with facebook and ... I think it was instagram or one of those newer ones - the one with the icon that looks like a ghost. It's such a hassle to use them! HN is the only place I ever post anything, and even that's a few days of posting stuff and then weeks of nothing.

I mean, I do understand how it can be beneficial to work those social networks for your projects and passions and such, but yeeesh what a slog!

The thing with Twitter is you need a decent number of mutuals (i.e. they follow you and you follow them) to get a decent amount of high-quality interaction. On a new account with 0 followers, most people won't see you. Even if you reply to a popular tweet, most people will ignore your reply because of your low follower count.

I have two Twitter accounts: a pseudonymous one with a few hundred followers where I talk about my hobbies, and a professional one with a very low follower count where I talk about tech.

The first account is a lot of fun - I can post about something and 5-10 of my Twitter friends (people with shared interests who I only know via Twitter) will chat with me about it. The professional one is giving me the experience you're describing. A couple coworkers follow me and a few random people, but not enough of an audience for anyone to see my tweets. It feels like a waste of time.

I consider it a design flaw that Twitter makes it so hard to get your account off the ground. Sites like HN and Reddit allow you to jump in the conversation on a fresh account, but on Twitter you're just invisible. I got my first account up and running thanks to some real-life friends following me, and I can't imagine how to make my professional account stand out.

> The thing with Twitter is you need a decent number of mutuals (i.e. they follow you and you follow them) to get a decent amount of high-quality interaction.

I did that for an eletronics-related hobby of mine. Took a while, finally got it off the ground with some mutuals.

And then it felt... weird. Like I was compressing down my thoughts, for mostly performative purposes no less. I didn't like communicating with my peers that way instead of, say, per email or even chat (IRC, Discord, whatever). I felt I had to say "what was on my mind right now" instead of processing anything beforehand, but without the more direct conversational back and forth of chat.

Another problem I noticed: Almost every technical account with a minimum number of followers has this barrage of people that are doing quips, making dubious statements, or just asking simple or also dubious questions to almost every tweet, where even the questions seemed performative. Even the most kind and engaged originators seem to ignore them the overwhelming majority of the time, probably because it's too much to handle.

It was not for me. Unlike blogs, it did not add anything to my hobby.

Yup, getting it off the ground was the hard part!

My experience was exactly the same as what you've had with your professional account. LinkedIn just made more sense for professional stuff, so I stayed there.

In my case having a separate Twitter account for hobbies didn't make too much sense either since I didn't really have any, haha.

It wasn't until I figured out how to combine my personal and professional stuff that I really "got it". And even then, it's still quite a bit of work if you want to stay visible.

I honestly agree, I absolutely hate how twitter is used in the dev sphere too. There will be ample discussions about the future of a library only made on twitter never referenced elsewhere.

It's maddening. So maddening that I'm slowly becoming delusional about the web's future.

The problem might be - it sounds like you're using your twitter account for marketing, not interacting with people. Personal twitter accounts can actually be good places to do self marketing, but you need to put in the work to actually grow your network first, because you don't generally grow it from marketing itself.

Basically, first you need to follow a bunch of people that interest you, and interact with them in some manner. Do this enough and you will get followers back, and people will start interacting with you, and that will draw more people in, etc.

It's primarily about what you want out of it.

The first few times I tried using Twitter to promote my stuff and failed miserably. If you're there purely for promotion you won't get far, and it's definitely not the best channel for that purpose. (Especially if it feels like a slog to you).

If you're there to interact with like-minded people AND share something you're working on in the process, that's a different story. Still takes effort, though.

I guess that's the thing in the end. There isn't anything I can see in it that looks valuable. I just don't get the appeal, and so every post I make and every post I read feels like "why exactly am I doing this anyway?"

For awhile I figured it was about "breaking through" after a long slog, but that doesn't appear to be the case either. But I suppose it's the same with all of these post-your-random-thoughts platforms.

It's a resource to learn and follow smart and interesting people who know a lot about different subjects you're interested in (lists are good for this purpose). You tweeting is not necessary at all to get value out of twitter.

I've learned a ton about economics, geopolitics, history, Bitcoin, finance, health and nutrition and software development on Twitter (have lists for some of these, while much is just in my main feed).

The author himsel doesn't have any considerable following, the article is more like collection of thoughts and hypotheses. It's not that it's bad but IMHO shouldn't be considered authoritative.

There's this phrase "medium is the message" and I think it holds very well with Twitter. The message is outrage. The message is, be angry and be afraid and be insecure or no one cares.

If you're there to go viral then sure, outrage can work - just like it does anywhere else.

But I'd argue most people aren't there to go viral or cause a ruckus. And in that case you can have a great time on Twitter with a relatively small following.

(Not to say I would mind having more followers, of course - but it's not the goal)

I use it to follow people that share technical content about topics I'm interested in. If I see they use it to share political opinions or personal life stuff I just unfollow them

> "you need it to promote your OSS stuff"

I have found this to be the biggest myth of Twitter: it is nearly useless for content marketing.

A long time ago (so it's possible this isn't true any more) I did some analysis on a pretty large number of domains and found that Twitter had virtually no impact on traffic. There were brands that had a large twitter following, but in nearly every case I could find this was because a popular brand happened to have an audience that also was active on Twitter, not because Twitter activity helped to grow their brand.

I also had/have (much more recently) a Twitter account with > 5k follows, that was pretty active (i.e. I didn't just game Twitter to grow followers, something I have done in the past, which is a separate issue). I had a couple of Tweets with more than 1k likes, many with more than 500. First off, most really viral content is viral because it has nothing to do with your "brand", so that gets no traffic. However, even tweets that are relevant, linking to specific articles etc. only get a small blip in traffic and no visible long term improvement.

tl;dr in both my research and anecdotal experience Twitter is not a good marketing tool

Twitter can be good for communicating with your users/audience if they happen to already be there, but it won't grow your brand.

Twitter can be useful for meeting people. I have a small number of friends that I have met there.

But as a marketing tool it is a complete waste of time.

> I have found this to be the biggest myth of Twitter: it is nearly useless for content marketing.

I've found Twitter to be essential to my business. Perhaps you're looking at it too "directly", in terms of traffic analysis. What's important in my opinion is "worth of mouth" advertising. You have a circle of friends on Twitter, your friends recommend your product to their friends, and so on. If your Twitter content is interesting and valuable, you might even get members of the media to follow you. Or at least members of the media might be following one of your followers and happens to see your product that way.

I'm genuinely curious if you've measured this, and how you determined the impact of twitter on your business.

It's certainly possible that other people have different success with twitter.

In my case I was looking over thousands of websites traffic history primarily concerned with long term patterns of growth based on activity among different social channels, SEO, news aggregators etc. The vast majority of sites primarily saw permanent growth in traffic as a function of SEO success. One high ranking article can get you a increase in average traffic that can last as long as you're on top. The only sites that didn't benefit from SEO are buzzfeed-style sites that exist solely from a constant stream of traffic coming from new articles in news aggregators. But Twitter doesn't generate a substantial burst in traffic that reddit or other sites do. Plus if you're popular on reddit, you will be reposted to twitter without any effort.

I should add that when I discovered this I was unhappy about it, as I was currently spending a lot of time on Twitter promoting my own project. I really enjoyed twitter at the time, and it felt like I was succeeding. I wanted all my tweeting to be a valuable activity. After doing the numbers I periodically would just stop using twitter for months with zero impact on website traffic.

> I'm genuinely curious if you've measured this, and how you determined the impact of twitter on your business.

Well, Twitter is basically my only form of promotion. :-)

I've tried a number of forms of advertising, the results of which I can measure directly, but I've lost money every time, so I usually don't bother with that.

There are times when I can measure Twitter's impact directly. For example, I once had a very viral tweet that immediately resulted in a massive sales week. Admittedly, that's pretty rare though.

> I did some analysis on a pretty large number of domains and found that Twitter had virtually no impact on traffic. There were brands that had a large twitter following, but in nearly every case I could find this was because a popular brand happened to have an audience that also was active on Twitter, not because Twitter activity helped to grow their brand.

How did you perform this research?

Many years ago at a small private company that had access to thousands of Google analytics accounts ranging from recognizable name brands to people just trying to get started. You could actively watch small brands grow big over history and in all cases it was clear that twitter success (in terms of traffic from twitter and follower count) trailed brand development.

This was also not universally true of all social media. Facebook for example did precede growth in quite a few cases.

I also want to repeat the caveat that this was quite awhile back, so I wouldn't give it too much credence for today.

However my Twitter critique also grows out of several cycles of activity and inactivity over many years running a reasonably high traffic (for it's niche) blog and seeing these same observations. Twitter activity only caused minor bumps in traffic, and never correlated with a shift in the baseline readership.

Others here claim different experience, and it's quite possible they are correct. I have found personally that it's very easy to conflate the "feels good" of getting a lot of likes/follower/etc with the illusion that "this is working". Twitter is like a micro HN front page, only at least with HN you'll get a pretty ego inflating spike upon success (which is in practice is bad for marketing because it makes it easy to focus on the things that feel good over the things that work).

For better or worse the best source of consistent increases in traffic was (and from my experience still is) SEO. A high ranking post will have the highest probability of shifting your baseline traffic up.

Yeah, I wouldn't rely on it as a primary marketing channel in most cases, especially if I had to build it from the ground up.

Conflating "feels good" with "this is working" is right on point, too.

I'm sure it works better as a marketing channel for specific niches, though (just like Instagram works best for certain types of brands).

Other than that, it's just a good place for all kinds of organic engagement in general if that's where your audience is. Not necessarily marketing.

Twitter for me works nicely once I started to think of it as a sort of light/unstructured RSS replacement. I follow people who don't chat a lot and mostly post announcements. But also I follow people working in fairly niche topics.

Twitter is the only major social network that I actually 'get'.

Instagram is great, but it only works if you take good pictures. You have to be pretty, or a photographer. It's super great for that, but minimum effort needed per post is high, so engagement sort of has to be low.

Reddit is great, but it's not really 'social' so much as it's a generic-access to monopolized forums. It feels like a catalog of phpBB forums from the 2000's. It's great for general knowledge stuff (if you are like, 'fan of videogame series' or 'long-time active in trains' or such, Reddit's great). But it doesn't feel social, I don't know anyone from reddit, I've never met a person from Reddit.

Facebook is bad, and is also too "real" (pretend real, Zuck's definition of real). If your personal persona, professional persona, immediately-family persona, and extended-family persona are all exactly identical, then Facebook seems great for you. Personally, I hate it, everything I post gets sent to my parents and grandma, and like half of my company org chart, which means I can't write anything real on there, even though ostensibly they are all my "friends". (Am I going to unfriend my work friends or my extended family?). Sure, you can 'scope' your posts, but then people can eventually tell they're scoped poorly and complained. And the people who are on there, are predominantly people full of terrible political views that no sane person should ever hold -- I do not want to have to spend every waking moment telling folks, "yes, humans should have rights. People are not property." and so on.

Twitter is pretty good. It's techie enough that my parents and grandma can't "get it", and aren't tempted to make an account. It's techie enough that most of my professional contacts are on there, but there's a cultural assumption that (as a tiny account with few followers) I can be my authentic self and not get completely in trouble. (I can say something like, "attending a Pride parade" and have that sit next to "released a new version of my cool rubygem" and not get in trouble professionally over it, or have my parents yell at me -- both real things that would 100% happen if I posted that same blurb on Facebook). There's no assumption of Twitter implying friendship (I can follow people I've never met, who I'm not 'friends' with) but close relationships can still grow without having to label it (I can be 'mutuals' with someone, without trying to imply they are my friend).

If your net is too wide, you can set up a private "alt" account and lock it, so your closer friends/contacts can see stuff that might otherwise get you in trouble with the broader community -- and since it's a different account, there's no assumption every follower of the one should see all of the other too (it gets around the facebook/scoping problem that way)

Twitter gives you a really good pulse about what people want to care about publicly which is useful information (so much as you don't mistake it for what people actually care about, or for the sum total of all they're thinking).

Generally speaking, Twitter is the only major Social Network that still feels...well, social.

That's exactly how I feel about it! Couldn't have put it better myself.

Posting on Facebook, LinkedIn or even Instagram feels like making a statement. I can't just throw a random thought or a picture in there, it feels out of place.

On the other hand, Twitter is a lot more casual. It works perfectly for stuff you wouldn't think twice about. Thoughts, jokes, ideas, pictures. Doesn't matter.

And yes, it's perfect for socializing. Little difference between tweets and replies means you can easily spend most of your time not posting anything and just replying to other people's content and get value out of it.

While I find many things wrong with social media, I don't get the idea that for me to get value out of it, I need people to engage with my posts. Why? I'm more interested in seeing pictures and updates about people I care about -- or news/tech/politics on twitter. I don't feel a need for dopamine hits from engagement at all?

Others read what you post and you read what others post. What is there to get? I can understand not liking the format or similar concerns, but if you don’t get Twitter… did you not get irc also?

If I tell someone something in IRC (or any chatroom or forum) they will almost certainly see it an likely respond. On Twitter, it will likely be completely and utterly ignored if its at anyone with a remotely high follower count. Most people don't enjoy the feeling of being ignored.

Ugh... IRC was one of the most infuriating platforms to use. I was so happy when forums took off enough to replace it. Having to use IRC was one of the worst parts of working at canonical.

Ok, I'll let you in: you're either already famous, or you have a huge curated network of bidirectional followers from the early days. Then it works.

Which distills down to: either you’re famous or you’re famous.

I still don’t get it. Why would I want to talk to my friends in public? In a medium specifically designed to propagate out-of-context sound bites? Surrounded by trolls of all ideologies? I stopped posting anything on Twitter because there was nothing to say that’s worth the risk.

Because public is easy. You don't have to make coordinate plans of who to include where and when.

Twitter is like a pub that people are always at.

Twitter is sometimes the best way to reach customer service people who can actually help you with your problem. For me, that's my number one use case.

Yeah, I hear you. I do get Twitter but am still not interested in what it offers. To each their own, I say.

My first account was infosec twitter, I mostly would comment with positivity and was utterly ignored. So I let that account go away.

After Elon made the offer to buy twitter because of censorship I created a new account to test to see if I get censored. I never said anything at all. I was busy liking or following people at first but I connected to my country's politicians and that was enough for me to be shadowbanned.

>I stopped posting anything on Twitter because there was nothing to say that’s worth the risk.

To me it's not so much risk. If you're a platform who ideally wants to maximize activity on the platform. Censoring me because of world-view is really bad. Why would I waste my time commenting while shadowbanned? I just uninstall and stop.

Doesn't the term 'shadowbanned' mean that your posts are just invisible to other users, without them telling you that? How would you know if you never posted anything?

Open a private window against a tweet you responded to. You'll see if your post is visible or not.

There are also shadowban tester websites. https://shadowban.yuzurisa.com/

What is twitter? 1) Major-, mini-, and micro-celebrities making declarations in a quotable form, and 2) their fans and anti-fans either trying to figure out a witty way to compliment them, ridicule them, or become them by adding to or topping their declarations.

How to do twitter well? Specialize in a subject or two. Join defacto voting rings through popular hashtags within your subject's community and subtle hot-keyword-of-the-day stuffing. Steal jokes from nobodies. Reply to every tweet from a popular account. Bait popular accounts into fights.

This is accurate. Casual users will not ever acquire a following and may never tweet. It was advertised back in the day as "public text messaging" to send small updates to your circle. That died a long time ago and they never really updated the branding. Now, it is for celebrities big and small. Lady Gaga can reach a few million people, a charismatic geologist can reach a few thousand with earthquake facts. It's good for industry people discussing niche topics with an open audience. It's good for some businesses to reach customers. There's a modicum of interactivity. I setup a pretty solid feed of high-quality commenters and publications. I still quit in under a year.

This is... an almost obsessive level of thinking about Twitter. I don't know why you would force yourself to use something you clearly didn't need.

I do find it funny that he found a community of people focused on getting followers on twitter to tweet to about twitter.

This has reinforced my decision to avoid this website at all costs.

Some people really struggle with FOMO.

Gotta learn from the experts!

If someone has to create such a long justification for why they need to use twitter, i'm still not convinced it has any value. So far in my experience twitter is primarily an echo chamber for VC's to pat each other on the back. I even aggressively try to mute/unfollow them, but engaging with any tech topic just seems to force me into VC twitter. I don't really care for it.

I find it strange when people make broad declarative statements about a social media platform. There is no singular Twitter experience any more than there is a singular "America" experience or "web" experience. Twitter is a vast heterogeneous sea of semi-overlapping distinct communities. My Twitter is not your Twitter. I'm happy the author "got" their Twitter but they way they got it isn't how mine works.

My mental model for Twitter is basically like a giant cocktail party. Imagine you're hanging out and you want to find a couple of cool people to talk with. You've maybe got one or two people you know around but you want to meet some new ones. So you throw out a joke or tell a story to them, but maybe just a little bit louder in case it perks someone else's ear up because you have something in common.

Over time, you find yourself in a corner of the room surrounded by your tribe, having fun, telling anecdotes and connecting. Throughout the night, people come and go in the group, but it has a vaguely stable vibe of certain common interests. Every now and then someone totally random wanders by, joins the conversation, gets a little confused when they don't get the weird in-jokes, and wanders off.

It becomes a great evening because you discovered some new people you have a lot in common with.

That's Twitter for me.

Twitter is about writing a quick thought to get it out of your system and hoping some of your followers actually sees it, which statistically, they won't. I wrote an analysis 12 years ago about it (below). With the passage of time it's clear that without AI algorithms, Twitter (and other social networks) would be totally useless, instead of mostly useless, as it is today.

I didn't get how good AI was going to get back then so I assumed Twitter (which was only 4 years old at that point) was a fad that would eventually fade. Missed that call. Instead it became the greatest tool for spreading misinformation that humankind has ever created. Woops.

I stopped using Twitter on January 20th, 2016 and deleted all my previous tweets, likes and followers. I only have an account now as a placeholder. I encourage you to do the same.


Enjoyed the article!

Phased attention and transient information is exactly how I see Twitter myself. Trying to stay on top of everything is out of question.

I think of Twitter as an ongoing party that I can drop by, see what's up, chat with a few friends, make a few new friends, have a little fun, move on until next time.

This approach only makes sense when you have a "community" of people on Twitter that you "belong" to. That's the part I was missing back when I tried it originally.

So I had a Twitter account since 2009 but never really used it till a few months ago. I have some mixed feelings about it.

On one hand, I really love the consumption side (following people and reading their tweets): being able to follow interesting people and populate my feed with all kinds of great posts about topics I'm interested in. I've honestly been learning a lot and getting exposed to a lot more perspectives I'd never have been exposed to from just passively scrolling over the past few months. This alone makes it more than worthwhile in my books, and makes me wish I started using it sooner.

On the other hand, the production side (actually posting my own tweets) almost always feels like shouting into a void given my rather tiny follower count. I've done it enough times with the same outcome to the point that I've mostly given up on actually posting my own tweets, and have toned down my engagement on the platform to just replying to other people's tweets and retweeting things I find worth sharing.

I'm not saying this needs to change, it's the system working as intended. I imagine people with high follower counts probably get enough engagement on their tweets to make it a completely different experience, and it's totally fair. They've spent years building up an audience, I haven't, and the difference in reach/engagement is a natural consequence of that.

Though this is why HN still feels so special. Everything I write here stands on its own merits. Good comments rise to the top and bad ones get ignored/downvoted into oblivion. The algorithm doesn't care about who's writing it. Sure, it's not a perfect meritocracy. There's a ton of luck involved, famous people in the community will still get their usernames recognized and noticed/upvoted more often as a result, and the downvote-for-disagreement culture breeds a lot of groupthink. But I still love this place despite all of its warts.

> Finally, I felt irrelevant on Twitter.

This is like the first boss of tbe internet. Glad someone can at least confess to this, clarify this point. Understanding & welcoming this is a key pivot.

People will slowly trickle in & follow you if you contribute. The reward ks highly chaotic, statistical, makes little clear sense. But just showing up & saying reasonable things is a pretty lock long term win.

Yep, and the cool part is you don't need a lot to start feeling relevant.

At least I didn't. A few weeks of consistently showing up and interacting with the same people made them start recognizing me, and that was enough to stop feeling like I'm just tweeting into the void here.

Now a few months and a few hundred followers later I'm finally at a point where I can simply ask "my" Twitter for feedback or share a thought and actually get some engagement. That felt like going from 0 to 1, and it was the hardest part.

A few hundred followers is still nothing in the grand scheme of Twitter things, but it's enough not to feel irrelevant since they're genuine and actually engage with me.

> Yep, and the cool part is you don't need a lot to start feeling relevant.

"Being relevant" isn't really my goal on Twitter. Chatting to people is. Sometimes I get to learn stuff. It's supposed to be social.

That's pretty much what I mean by "being relevant", just my way of putting it.

Socializing and learning stuff, but in a way that doesn't feel like I'm shouting into the void.

Yes, I agree on this. I am writing machine learning topics on twitters and researchers flock to my blog and comments. Great to see collaboration

Yep, I've found that if you're really good at what you do and/or have a narrow enough niche you'll have a much easier time getting people to interact with you.

If you're just alright and/or don't have a narrow niche, you need to give them more reasons to follow/interact with you. This is my case. I don't consider myself an expert in anything, and being a generalist I'm interested in a lot of stuff.

So even if people don't find my tweets or articles unique or extraordinary, many of them tend to stick around because of my personality. At least I got that!


I _love_ Twitter. I think it's the only social media website that rewards "power users" (to a fault). It has a horrific onboarding experience that I imagine leaves many would-be regular users stuck in a "now what?" rut.

Its moderation is too lax (no, really, it is. Try posting some of the things * waves hands * "both sides" complain about on any other mainstream social media network – Facebook, Instagram, TikTok – and they'll be near-instantly removed there yet likely allowed to remain on Twitter. This goes for pornography, bots, extremist tweets, targeted harassment, slurs -- even with good account-following hygiene, you'll see these things at the top of tweet replies, possibly promoted into your feed as a "viral tweet", etc. This discussion about "censorship" wouldn't even be a discussion if Twitter just more strongly enforced its guidelines it already has established. As it is, my opinion is that every decision to remove something seems personal only because you'll see so many other tweets obviously breaking the rules, leading one to wonder "why me")

Yet still, despite it all, it's the only mainstream social media network where it actively feels like, to me, being part of the conversation. In the same people say reddit is about the communities you curate, so is Twitter -- but in my experience, even moreso, because the majority of people on it (or at least those in my circle) are real people, not hiding behind avatars or usernames.

    >Here are a few good reasons to be on Twitter:

    >>To stay informed about what's going on (in the world, in your country, in your industry, in your community, in the niche you're in).

    >>To meet and connect with like-minded people, find new Twitter friends with common interests, and expand your social circle.

    >>To promote your business or sell your products and services. Twitter is a great way to do it without being pushy.

    >>To share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with the world. Create serendipity around yourself!

    >>To help people who are currently at the stages of their lives that you've already gone through. Share your lessons!

    >See? This instantly makes Twitter more purposeful.


compare and contrast with another outlook on twitter i found recently:


    >I cannot believe I am about to explain Twitter, but for those of you who are not on the social media platform fondly referred to as “the hellsite” by its most committed users: the dumbest users and the smartest users post the exact same way. Sentence fragments, inconsistent punctuation, half-baked ideas, and a strong propensity for trolling are all among the power users’ most consistent traits.

    >Trolling is crucial, actually. See, one of Twitter’s major engagement mechanisms is the quote-tweet dunk, where you post someone else’s tweet to make fun of it. This means that Twitter heavily incentivizes bad behavior. Sure, a good own will drive engagement, but so will an obviously stupid take that provides other users with an opening to dunk, thus spreading your original tweet further. There is no incentive to be reasonable. I’m going to say it again, because this is a fundamental law of Twitter: there is no incentive to be reasonable.

Twitter is great for threads posting science-related curiosities, you just need to follow the right people. Here are two awesome accounts of general interest



It also makes sense to follow experts in one's field. Gabriel Peyré regularly posts computational math stuff of superb quality:


My rules for Twitter:

    * Maintain exactly one public tweet and one like
    * Delete all other tweets within 24..168 hours
    * Ensure that your # of followed == # of followers (this is for comedy, not metrics)
    * Never quote or re-tweet
    * Never reveal any personal or professional information
    * Have an entirely cryptic bio
    * Don't take it in the slightest bit seriously
    * Don't invest any mental energy whatsoever in ephemeral trash like social media
The only winning move is not to play.

If anyone's interested, I wrote a Chrome extension that hides Tweets that say "so-and-so liked" and other such tweets, imaginatively called Twitter 'likes' hider.

Open source.


I’ve enjoyed Twitter as a way to find experts on Ukraine. But it seems pretty niche. It only seems useful to me for extremely recent events on unfamiliar topics.

I have a public Twitter account where I barely tweet or browse Twitter. Gained 1000+ followers over the years and many of them are good friends. I grew my following by simply interacting with others and helping out with problems people were having. I try not to tweet something I would regret posting in the future, as this is my public persona and I'm committing to a permanent record so to speak. Even if I delete a tweet, anyone can screenshot it and circulate it online so I'm on my best behavior.

I have one other account which is private (where I don't tweet). I don't follow anyone, and if I get follow requests, I decline them. I browse Twitter using their Lists feature, which I've curated heavily over the years. All my lists are private so if I accidentally get a follower, they can't see the lists I've made. All my lists are high signal and I've blocked ~250 accounts that regularly piss me off. I mean, some people just always popup in my feed that are full of rage and bile, so blocking those accounts is great and I enjoy browsing Twitter because of this, since all the bad faith actors have been weeded out.

Damn this sure is a lot of thinking about how to Twitter. I just started following my friends after their Livejournal posts turned into incoherent auto posted collections of the day’s Twitter replies and that was basically it.

Well until the past few years when it suddenly became POLITICAL RAGE MATCH and I started running a Mastodon server for myself and some of my friends…

I've recently done the same. Had a dormant firstname+lastname twitter profile for years. But made a new one for a niche a few months ago. Only follow and interact related to that niche, and I get lots of engagement on the stuff I post. 900+ followers already.

What I think makes a difference is that the name of my account tells what you can expect. So if someone sees a comment from me, the chance of them following me is higher as they know I will only post related stuff, compared to following some random person making a single great comment, and then getting all their other stuff in your feed.

I now also chat regularly on DMs with other people in the niche, get recognized sometimes IRL and end up in conversations based on it etc. So actually been some interesting months.

Edit: I guess this also depends on the niche. For me that niche is just a hobby, which means that most of my interactions are pleasant. So pretty different experience compared to if one's following controversial topics/figures.

I rejoined Twitter earlier this year after a bit over a year off. This time around I focused on the stuff that I liked: interacting with other writers, so my college friend who teaches at the Naval War College and tweets a mix of politics and cats, I don’t follow this time around. And a lot of prominent Catholic figures that I used to follow, I don’t because a lot of Catholic Twitter is arguing about stuff that I don’t want to deal with in what is ostensibly my relaxation and socialization space. There are only a handful of people in my feed who I’ve met, but it is much better the way it is. I’m also liberal with my use of the mute and block buttons (I keep blocking ads for clickbait sites but the Twitter algorithm hasn't caught on to that yet).

I've tried it and I just have no desire to scroll, or contribute to, another endless feed. My inbox is bad enough. I'm ok missing out on it. I never once said, "dang, if only I was a daily twitter user I would have [insert any type of benefit to my life]".

Not sure he gets it now either. It's fairly easy to get on the order 1K followers just talking with people and having real conversations. I actually got into some interesting discussions relatively early on, even with people of radically opposed opinions.

But ... twitter is not (or no longer) great for conversations, as it is very hard to track down conversation threads or suss out context. It took a lot of effort to stay on the ball and keep track of all the variables in a multi-way conversation between very different kinds of people. In the end I felt I was getting less out of twitter than I was putting in, so I no longer have a twitter account.

I picked up Twitter in 2021 after a longer break.

Today I prefer lists over following and have several prioritized lists per interest, e.g. P0, P1, ..., Pn for programmers.

When I want to see what's going on, I start with level zero.

Very few people on my lists tweet every day. I enjoy reading people who tweet about new insights within their current area of interest - this rarely happens more than once per week. I aspire to have such account myself. I don't mind staying silent if I don't have something interesting to share.

twitter is a game. the main move is saying things that get a reaction. your score is the number of likes/responses/follows. getting follows let you get a bigger reaction.

I bet that, for most people, it's just a feed. Most Twitter users probably just follow what's interesting and doom-scroll without tweeting. It's only really a game for the minority that wants to call attention to themselves.

i think the varied way of how people using it speak volumes of the strength and weakness of the platform, it's not the same tool to all people and that's fine.

It's still got a little bit of that internet magic which is direct access to unfiltered opinion from domain experts from the early 90s. I remember being able to email authors of books I'd read instead of snail mail that got me very excited.

I "got" Twitter in 2007, which is why I stopped using it in 2007. Whenever I click a link to something someone has posted in Twitter, and I see what I view as a useful or insightful tweet, I momentarily think "maybe Twitter isn't so bad after all," then I scroll down to the replies, and see the other 99.9% of what Twitter is, and close the tab.

Twitter is the Great Banality Laser. Every evil genius needs a death ray. Elon just bought himself an informational one.

Bro, just do whatever you want, these places are for doing whatever you want. Engagement numbers are irrelevant, we're all just screaming into the void at all times

Also, to contradict myself immediately, Facebook is most definitely not for family, Facebook is for making friends with Bulgarian anarchists and for fucking busted e-girls

I never liked Twitter as a platform. We use it as a free instant news datasource for out investment platform (finclout). For that it works well.

IMO the benefits are : 1. Relevant traders are posting interesting insights. 2. Community engagement. 3. Up-to-date information.

Besides that I try to stay away.

Twitter is crazy and amazing. I stopped using it and a year ago I came back, its getting better!

I'm sorry to hear that.

This is basically blogspam.

i'd be really curious how the author approaches DMs. microblogging didn't make sense to me until i realized that the timeline can just be used as an approach to easily create surface-level connections, with the more fulfilling interactions happening in DMs (or more often, Matrix chatrooms, since i use ActivityPub instead of Twitter and in my corner Matrix is ubiquitous).

Twitter is simple, its purpose is to broadcast in short form. Like newspapers, magazines and radio and TV before it.

Twitter's power is its reach.

Yeah, it's a newsfeed timesink. It's just gotten better as the feed has improved.

It's an RSS feed for people.

It used to be literally this.

> If you'd like to keep up with Twitter updates without logging in, try subscribing to Twitter via rss feed. […] Find an rss feed for a Twitter page in the sidebar of any public profile page


I deleted my Twitter account in 2012 because they removed RSS support.

(I returned 4 years later, because unfortunately my leaving did not kill Twitter.)

twitter is like a pyramid scheme of popularity. no thanks


twitter is still hostile to noscript/basic (x)html browsers.

nitter for all?

A lot of people are familiar with the 90-9-1 rule regarding social networks. 90% is just lurking and never tweets, 9% might occasionally tweet, and 1% writes most tweets, or more accurately...writes the tweets that generate the most engagement.

What not everybody understands is that this rule pretty much also applies to every individual. If you have a 1000 followers, you should very much assume that 90% never even sees your tweets. 10% might see it, of which possibly 1% bothers to lift their finger and like it. An even smaller percentage might make the gigantic effort of typing a comment.

These numbers roughly play out on the author's twitter profile where the typical post has 0-1 likes with the occasional outlier of 3-5 likes, and in general...almost no comments at all. So the roughly 500 followers add up to this tiny amount of actual engagement that you can substantiate to about 5 people. It's a very rough guidance, but dividing followers by a 100 can't be far off in trying to come to a meaningful following.

If you think that's pessimistic, consider this extreme example:


The NYTimes has a stunning 53M followers. When you scroll through their feed, notice how the typical tweet struggles to even get 100 likes or comments. There's the occasional outlier regarding politically impactful tweets, but even those fail to impress.

If we are to take their "typical" tweet and round that up to 100 likes / comments, which is already optimistic, we're talking about an engagement percentage of 0.0002%, or 1 in 5,000 followers engaging.

When you do this same exercise for somebody that truly gets Twitter, Elon Musk (for better or worse), we're talking about roughly 1 in 1,000 followers engaging.

This doesn't even account for bots. And it also doesn't go into the issue of actual engagement typically being of a very low quality, hardly enriching.

In my view, both Instagram and Twitter are not great for community building or rich conversations. Good old forums, reddit, HN, Discord and even Facebook groups are vastly superior at it.

I wonder if Twitter wasn't better in the early days when there were no stats, and a "retweet" was just someone typing "RT" followed by copy and pasting the tweet.

There are two main things that put me off trying to use Twitter: the character limit, and the closed nature of the platform.

The character limit is a completely backwards concept to me. Yes, it encourages people to be succinct, and yes, it creates a space where short-form content feels like a valid contribution. But almost every tweet I get linked (through friends or other websites) that's interesting is either a pointer to another website, or a thread. In order to say anything useful on Twitter and actually have a conversation there, people have to butcher their prose into a thread of sometimes garbled sentences. For me, it's not pleasant to read and it's even less pleasant to write. People work around the limitation by creating images of long-form text (great for accessibility /s) or, like this piece, writing their contribution somewhere else and then just linking it on Twitter.

Being a closed platform isn't just a philosophical issue. It means I don't feel like I own my content. It means I am at the whim of the company's dark UX patterns aimed at driving 'engagement', like forcing visitors to log in to view a thread.

Why would I want to participate in a platform that is so hostile to allowing me to have meaningful conversations?

I have my own website/blog where I have complete control and ownership of what I write. My website is open, mobile friendly, and lightweight, so anyone can go and read it without waiting for a spinner or with a modal getting in the way. I have an email address on there so any visitor can contact me. Occasionally people email me and we have a chat.

I network through email. If I discover someone's work and it's interesting, I send them and email with more than 280 characters explaining what I got out of it, sharing my own thoughts, and pointing them at other resources and people they may find valuable. Friends and colleagues reciprocate and send me interesting stuff. Sometimes we have a video call and catch up and discuss opportunities to collaborate.

I sign up to people's newsletters, and subscribe to journal alerts and mailing lists. My inbox is a steady stream of interesting conversations and announcements.

I skim Hacker News, Tildes, and MetaFilter for new links. I read the comments because usually people are insightful and the interface is clean and lets me focus on the content.

I could probably get some use out of Twitter as a way to stay up to date with specific people, if I wasn't so turned off by the UX. A service that allowed me to follow people and then just emailed me a daily or weekly digest of tweets from people I follow (maybe ordered by some metric like retweet, which I also don't grok) could be cool.

TL;DR: Twitter is useful if you want to read stuff or write stuff (mostly short stuff), without any particular structure.

Not sure what the revelation is

Ah yes, figured out Twitter...

...although to express this, you need more than 140 characters...

I'm 40 and never "got" twitter either. I started to dip my toes in it very casually over the past year or two, but now the Elon Musk acquisition got me to bail.

I don't have much regard for people who consider themselves "extremely online" because they spend hours in the vast echo chamber of the twit-sphere - especially journalists. Everyone knows the superior option is posting to weird esoteric message boards with an orange bar at the top

Musk has said he wants to make Twitter a free speech hub once again. On Twitter, people are asking him if he would take down the video of the Buffalo supermarket gunman killing shoppers or leave it up and so far I don't think he's answered.

Musk wants to make changes, but it isn't clear exactly what changes he would make.

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