Brecht Savelkoul

April 8, 2021

Free Range Tweet Farming

I've been using Twitter for almost a decade now. At no point I have really felt at home on the site though. The short form writing style always felt inadequate for any subject more complicated than sports. All the while, Twitter is designed to be addictive, so I always felt it was sucking up time that could go to more fulfilling pursuits.

For this reason I recently started using the browser extension Tweak New Twitter. Its goal is to cut back on some of the things that make Twitter such a noisy and distracting place. You can set it up to hide trending topics, remove retweets, and generally declutter the interface. All good stuff that makes for a big improvement already. But using it for a couple of month made it clear that it didn't address the biggest time sink: the timeline.

So I decided to dive into to source code of the extension and just remove the timeline altogether. This has reduced the Twitter webapp to a place where I can update my profile, view other people's profile, write tweets, and check my notifications. Here's what that looks like:

IMG-20210408-WA0000.jpg


“If there is no timeline though,” I can hear you wonder, “then what is the point of following people on Twitter?” Does this mean my list of follows has become basically meaningless?

Quite the contrary, I've come up with a solution that gives equal airtime to every person I follow, regardless of their posting frequency. In the timeline most people you follow will get crowded out by a minority of highly active tweeters. My completely unresearched guess is that about 20% of your follows will take up 80% of your timeline. I don't want to just unfollow these people, because I still decided to follow them for a reason. So instead I've written a small program that randomly picks someone I follow and opens their Twitter profile. As it turns out, this is a much saner way to keep up with the things people have been posting recently.

I haven't polished any of this to the extent that it's actually usable for others yet. But if anyone's interested in trying something similar, feel free to send a message to @savelbr or brecht@hey.com, and maybe I can help out!