There has been a bit of writing in the past few weeks about the dynamic of the follow/unfollow relationships by Ben Brooks and Chris Bowler. As someone who has been called out for unfollowing someone quite a few times, it is certainly awkward. I usually ignore it or if its someone I personally know explain to them how I use lists.
Lists are a feature Twitter added a few years ago so users could curate groups of Twitter users into timelines separate from the one that shows up as your main stream. In popular Mac and iOS Twitter clients lists are usually relegated to a secondary tab. Tweetbot from Tapbots is the only client I’ve seen that makes lists a first class citizen.
I have gone through various phases with following people on Twitter before finally settling on this setup. I’ve had a following count well above 300 at a time and at its lowest around 75. At present writing it is at 87, which is about the threshold I can handle presently and not feel overwhelmed. There are certainly more than 87 accounts that I am interested in keeping track of on Twitter, but the 87 I have in my following timeline are those I’d prefer to not miss a tweet from on a normal day. For everyone else I make extensive use of lists. Lists are a great way to just take a dip into the pool of high volume accounts or those that just aren’t that important to me to keep up with on a daily basis. For everyone else, I unfollow or if I think the person is completely off their rocker I block them in hopes that one day Twitter will stop showing me retweets from these people. 1
When I first discover a Twitter account for a person or other entity I will follow them for a few days to to get a feel of what they have to offer. If I truly enjoy the content, I will continue following. If it’s decent content but not something I want to tell everyone about, I put them into one of my lists which I can then check in when I have some downtime or want to gauge what is going on in a certain mobile market.
For the longest time I have kept my lists private on my account as I was building them up. Now that I have what I consider a decent set of accounts attached to each one, I am opening them up to the rest of the world should someone else find them of interest and want to follow it.
- @justinw/webos – News related to Palm’s WebOS, apps and platform developers
- @justinw/android – All that involves little green robots
- @justinw/wp7 – Windows Phone 7 related accounts from Microsoft and various .Net developers
- @justinw/mac-ios – Mac & iOS developers
- @justinw/mac-press – Mac & iOS related members of the press or news entities in general
The lists solutions isn’t perfect as I can’t have a two-way direct message conversation with someone I have added to a list, but it’s a small sacrifice compared to being overwhelmed by hundreds of tweets a day. You should never have to apologize for how you use a service like Twitter or Facebook. Find a method that works well for you and embrace it.
I consider this Twitter’s most hideous bug. If I block your account, I expect that I should never see any of your tweets again unless I physically go to your page. Not so in Twitter’s eyes. If someone I follow retweets one of your tweets, I see it. A terrible bug indeed. ↩