May 18, 2022

Using Twitter at a Distance

Thanks to Melon Usk’s Twitter-buying antics, the last few weeks have once again been filled with discussions of whether to leave, why, for where, etc. Although I’ve kept my account, I kind of left. I’m not reading my main feed anymore and not really posting.

One of my measures for the use of Twitter has been how much ‘stuff’ I could find there for Sentiers and for client work. I used to think it was quite a bit. I was partially wrong. I started by simply flipping the order of things, I realised I found more things of interests than before and then re-found the same ones on Twitter. In other words, everything I wanted to catch I caught in newsletters and RSS feeds. I used to operate like this: Keep up with Twitter > Newsletters > RSS feeds if I had the time.

Then I switched to RSS feeds > Newsletters > Twitter. I found almost nothing new by the time I reached the third step. So now I’m doing RSS feeds > Feedly priorities (still feeds) > Newsletters. Feedly priorities looks like a river of feeds, but instead of seeing everything it’s been prioritized and filtered by Feedly’s “AI,” Leo.

And you know what? When I sit down to write Sentiers, I actually have more ‘candidate articles’ to consider, not fewer. I’m as confident as ever that I’ve covered the sources I want. No more self-induced pressure to keep up with the birdsite feed, no bs. Same quality signal with much less noise.

I named this post “using Twitter at a distance” because now, although I’m not reading the thing, I’m still benefitting from it. As always, I still have lists on Twitter and those lists are part of the sources used by Leo priorities, but now I only see the valuable tweets, as determined by the algorithm. Do I trust it completely? Not at all! But I trust it enough as a complement to my selection of feeds and newsletters.

In this piece Joshua Rothman cites Taylor Lorenz:

Twitter remains “the single most effective real time news platform and the one social media app about ideas rather than aesthetics. . . . It desperately needs to evolve, but whatever sanitized and undeniably better app replaces it will probably never be the same.”

I agree, which is why I’m still using it from a distance, and I also why I don’t feel bad (ah!!) about not contributing as much. It’s not a town square, it’s (mostly) not valuable for conversations. Globally, it’s an aggregator of news with a bunch of morons running around insulting people. Yes, one can still work at fashioning a nice group of people to listen to, one can still have some conversations and build connections. But it’s quite easy to step back, enjoy the fruits of your curation and just get enough of the good stuff bubbling up to you as a side dish to meatier ‘proteiner’ main courses, like a blog-heavy RSS selection and a healthy pick of newsletters.