I just completed another major Twitter cleanup project. It involved simplification, purging, and streamlining, as one might expect. But it also involved a significant change in direction.
When given the choice, I tend to side with less information rather than more. Hopefully that’s good information, of course, but that’s one of the assumptions. The basic idea is that having too much good information is quite similar in effect to having bad information.
So the starting question, as it always should be, is:
What am I trying to get from Twitter?
Here’s what I’ve arrived at for an answer:
- Stay in contact with my friends who use Twitter to update the world on their writing, work, thoughts, musings, etc.
- Know what’s happening in the world, and get analysis of those happenings, in an up-to-the-moment fashion.
- Stay current with my industry (information security).
- Track key personalities who I value and respect.
- Get inspiration from creative and unique humor, art, and writing that challenges me to think or wonder.
Most people have similar goals even if they can’t articulate them, and most simply take everyone and follow them. They may use lists as well to carve things up, but their primary feed contains everyone they follow, so it tends to be noisy.
One thing I’ve noticed as I started to analyze my own Twitter usage was how few people the people I follow…follow. In other words, those who I tend to value as creators of some kind of value tend not to follow many people.
One might think this is because elitist or snobbish. I think it has more to do with the fact that people who value creating things themselves are very selective about what they consume.
Consumption to an artist of any kind is a perilous thing.
There are times when you want to wonder aimlessly through good content, enjoying the beauty of what others can create, but these periods seem limited compared to time spent honing one’s own ideas. And if you’re thinking about your own ideas you can’t be reading someone else’s.
So I feel like producers, i.e., those who think and write and create, tend to have relatively few input sources which they go to in limited amounts. It’s a choice based on the conscious prioritization of creation over consumption.
Consumption is used to learn, to challenge one’s own beliefs, and for some measure of enjoyment. But it’s done in measured doses with the goal always being to improve one’s own craft.
Tweaking Twitter for creation
With that in mind I decided to try something of an experiment.
I am going to severely limit who and what I follow directly on Twitter, i.e. who will reside in my main feed, while keeping my lists more open.
One thing that few people realize about Twitter is how the lists work. You can have many people in various lists, such as infosec, or inspiration, and you don’t need to follow them to do so.
So what I’m doing is pruning my main feed to have only certain types of content:
- Friends’ content
- High quality breaking news
- Select industry (infosec) news updates
- Smart people with a high signal/noise ratio
- A bit of humor / inspiration
So I’m talking about very little traffic here in my main feed. I’m currently only following around 300 people, and I will probably take that down significantly as I rework the system. But I’m still actually “following” way more people than that through my lists.
The idea is that my friends don’t post often, but when they do I want to see it. Breaking news will always be of interest to me when I open Twitter, as that’s one of its main strengths.
I will also want to see what kind of major news has happened in information security recently, so that’ll be there.
And then I’ll be seeing the streams of various smart people who don’t litter their feeds with mediocrity. Ideally it’d be new articles or blog posts they’ve written. Things they’ve retweeted that are interesting from elsewhere, etc.
But again, this should be a relatively small amount of content. The feeling of sipping the ocean is unrewarding to me. I want to know that I saw what I should have seen when I spend 5 minutes on Twitter.
To be seen
So we’ll see how this works. Hopefully it’ll magnify the value of my lists while simultaneously making my main feed significantly more useful.
- If I unfollowed you recently, please don’t be offended. As I said, there are many people who I want to still follow who are in my various lists but not in my primary feed. If you care enough to be bothered that I unfollowed, then I can almost assure you that I’m still watching you via one of my lists.