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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.

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