A Different Twitter Experience post

March 27th, 2017

It's no secret that I am on Twitter a lot. I mean, really a lot. Almost 100k worth of posts a lot. But as I use it more and more I find I was spending way more time treating Twitter as read-only, when what I wanted was to actually interact with people! Maybe that is a naive position to take, but it is what it is.

Then I stumbled upon this blog post where someone described an experiment they were trying out. The code for it was written in Node and I couldn't get it to work so like any pragmatic programmer I used the tools I am most comfortable with and wrote a version in PHP.

So every morning a cron job kicks off on a server and looks at the last 30 days of my Twitter timeline. It looks for users who I have "interacted" with during that time frame. What is "interaction"? It's defined as:

  • you replied to, favourited, or retweeted a tweet of mine
  • you favourited or retweeted a tweet I was mentioned in
  • I mentioned you in a tweet
  • I replied to or favourited a tweet of yours

The results so far have been interesting. I definitely see a different group of people on my feed than I have expected. Which is entirely the point! It has made me use Twitter differently...which again is the point. I'm far freer with my favourites and retweets than I was before. I'm also slowing down to actually read my timeline rather than just scroll through it super quickly like a trained monkey or something.

It's also making me be a lot less judgemental of the people who do end up on this list. While some of the people I follow are definitely blasting out stuff I am not all that interested in, I'm willing to take a chance and not just mute them as soon as I don't like the minutiae of their life. Diversity is a good thing and filter bubbles are not.

Another side effect of this has been some people proclaiming "I didn't know you were following me!" when I say something to them. Hate to burst your bubble but I'm not following you -- you are on my 'cycle' list and I can see your Tweets.

I know some folks follow accounts that send out emergency information and things like that -- I work from home so things like that are not of great use to me. YMMV etc etc.

If you're looking to have a different experience with Twitter, try my code out and see what kind of list it can generate for you. I'm going to keep using this for the near future because I feel like it's a worthy experiment. In fact, some Twitter accounts I felt were essential to follow have just slid off the list and I haven't missed them.