I really, really don’t like social networks. I managed to stay away from Facebook for all these years, but have to confess I really enjoy Twitter because it makes me better at my job. It brings instant updates about tech news, blogs, tips and tricks from the field and overall info that I’d never be able to know about otherwise. Leaving Twitter is hard and painful. So was ditching the Mac. But at the end of the day it’s all about values and consistency. When you wake up in the morning and you no longer feel good about something, then it’s time for a change.
So here we are, I’m leaving Twitter. Or put differently, I’ve managed to find a way to gracefully leave Twitter.
By design, Twitter cannot replace RSS feeds
First off, like many I fell into the trap of moving away from RSS syndication when possible. That was a bad move because I ended up subscribing to catch-all company Twitter accounts instead. Most often they would promote a blog post or an announcement (as expected), but some of them would keep on retweeting useless stuff, respond to customer inquiries (starting a tweet with
[email protected]) and even cross-link marketing BS.
We all need to keep in mind RSS feeds usually mean someone spent time writing something and the value is instantly expected to be higher than a 140 or 280 characters message. I certainly don’t want to dismiss some of the most valuable knowledge I’ve gathered over those years was via random tweets when someone shared a great tip to help others. I’m very grateful for that. What I’m saying is: since the dawn of the Internet, RSS worked incredibly well to keep you stay in touch with tech news, blog posts, PR announcements or software updates. Use it. For the rest, keep on reading.
On being aggressive with muting RTs and strings
The best Twitter experience I got was through using Tweetdeck on the desktop. Among the many good things it supports, you can mute retweets from specific user accounts, mute certain accounts completely (e.g. a boring account someone keeps on retweeting) and even filter out strings you don’t want to see at all. Doing so brings back a lot more sanity to your timeline.
To give you a concrete example, if the #apple, #keynote and #appleevent hashtags are trending because you follow accounts live streaming the Apple keynote, then you can mute them all and have a timeline that better suits your needs and interests, without unfollowing anybody or miss great (re)tweets they’d share the same day.
What being aggressive with mute filters doesn’t help with, though, is with people posting food pics or talking about politics or their pets. There’s no way around that, unfortunately. It’s quite hard to determine when it’s time to unfollow someone posting a meaningful tweet amongst 10 not-so-relevant messages polluting your timeline always.
I don’t have the time. I really don’t. I mistakenly convinced myself that Twitter - as I and my peers use it in the Tech world - was primarily to tweet about our industry. I can’t blame anybody for using Twitter for what it is before anything: another social network connecting people.
Reverse the thinking and syndicate Twitter accounts
One of the most evil things Twitter did over the past few years was to kill RSS feeds for Twitter accounts. This quote summarizes it well:
I think all of this is bad for the internet. Twitter isn’t an open protocol. It’s a private company with a profit motive […] Moreover, URL shorteners - a byproduct of Twitter - are effectively creating a second layer DNS service that is far less secure and reliable.
Fortunately, creative minds have decided to fight back and help with getting RSS back. The service I’ve decided to go with is TwitRSS.me. And it. just. works. Thanks Bytemark for sponsoring it! What TwitRSS.me does in a nutshell is it parses selected Twitter accounts and offers to create one RSS feed per account so that you can keep on following accounts that matter to you. Here’s an example with Inoreader.
With your RSS tool of choice, you can then tweak things such as you’d keep on muting strings you don’t want to see. I haven’t yet found a way to prevent the same retweet from showing up multiple times, though. The most complicated bit for me was to decide which account I’d keep on following, and to actually use TwitRSS.me to manually create RSS feeds out of hundreds of accounts I still wanted to follow. This is a very time-consuming thing to do, unfortunately.
It’s been 1 month and a half without being active on Twitter and life’s good. Since I’ve decided to leave, I’ve measured my time reading tech news and updates and so far I’ve spared 30 to 45mn each day not actively using Twitter and consuming content instead. After all, it’s not about 24 hours not being enough in a single business day. It’s about making the best use of that time.
Note: my Twitter archive is available here.