Roy Tang

roytang.net

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Why Twitter?

Alright so someone responded to my previous post on quitting facebook asking why I'm quitting facebook but keeping Twitter. This is a fair question; after all, Twitter also makes its money off targetted advertising, can also get you addicted to engagement (likes/RTs), the Twitter app can also be dumb, and there can also be a lot of toxic people on this platform.

So here are my reasons for keeping Twitter, and you may also get some tips for improving your twitter experience:

Twitter allows you to completely disable targetted advertising:

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IMG_0841.png (Click to view full-size)

With these settings disabled, they don't expose any of your data to advertisers, and they don't track you offsite. Twitter also by its design gathers less specific personal information about you. They don't have fields to store your educational background or religious preference or other such demographics. Such things can be inferred from your activity though, but if I don't enable targetted advertising, they really have no reason to do so.

Twitter provides more fine-tuned controls for you to filter who can interact with you.

You can disable notifications from low-quality accounts:

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IMG_0842.png (Click to view full-size)

This helps to filter out trolls and newly-created accounts.

You can also mute particular keywords to avoid seeing topics you dislike:

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IMG_0843.png (Click to view full-size)

(The ff7 one is there because I haven't played the remake yet and don't want spoilers lol.)

The "suggest_activity_tweet" and "suggest_recycled_tweet_inline" are hacks to prevent 'liked by' and 'followed by' tweets from appearing on your home timeline. (IMHO you should never be on your home timeline anyway and always on "Latest Tweets".)

Of course, you can also make your account completely private (only followers can interact with you), but that's not for me.

Tweetdeck exists

The default Twitter app sucks for a few reasons:

  • it occasionally shifts you back to "Home" when "Latest Tweets" i.e. chronological timeline is far superior
  • it shows you ads
  • lists, one of Twitters best features, aren't first-class

Twitter is a lot more tolerable if your main use of it is through the excellent Tweetdeck site. Tweetdeck lets you arrange your interface into columns, which means you can make lists front and center. Here's a sample of my Tweetdeck setup:

tweetdeck.png
tweetdeck.png (Click to view full-size)

The best part of Tweetdeck is that it never shows ads, and everything is always chronological!

Twitter is slightly harder to use than Facebook and doesn't benefit from free data policies in the Philippines

Okay, this is gonna be a bit elitist, but these "disadvantages" mean using Twitter has a higher barrier of entry than Facebook, which in theory means a higher quality of discourse. I have no data or analytics to back up this assertion.

Twitter has an open API.

This one is a more technical reason. Having an open API allows me to cross-post from my site to Twitter every time I write a blog post, and also archive all my tweets from that platform back into my own site. FB API used to be a lot more open as well, but as they continued to flub their personal data management, their API got more and more closed.

The open API also means services like RSS Bridge can exist, allowing Twitter feeds to be followed via open formats like RSS/Atom.

Twitter moderation is less evil than Facebook moderation

Both of them are actually fairly terrible and inconsistent (surely a consequence of operating at that scale without corresponding scaling up of moderation efforts), but at least Twitter is not afraid to at least fact-check Trump.

Twitter has better public content

Alright, this one might be totally subjective or anecdotal based on my own Twitter follows and setup, but I find that public discourse is generally better on Twitter compared to Facebook. It might be due to some of the factors above, and maybe some level of luck/privilege/good filtering on my part. I mean, you can find bad actors and low-quality discussions if you go looking for them, but why?

I'm not saying Twitter is perfect. There is certainly a lot of room for improvement, especially technically. But compared to Facebook, I think Twitter is much less of a garbage fire maybe because (a) I don't feel constrained to follow mainly family and friends; Twitter feels more like it can be a window to part of the larger world; and (b) the existence of Tweetdeck and better filtering tools means I don't have to suffer through ads or other such inanity every few posts.

Note: It seems a bit weird to be publishing this right now when the world seems to be on fire. I follow a lot of Americans so a lot of the racism and police brutality-inspired chaos dominates my Twitter timelines at the moment (as can be seen in the Tweetdeck screenshot above). But I think this is also a good illustration of how useful Twitter's filters and options are. If you chose to, (or needed to temporarily, for your sanity maybe?) you can probably block out these events from your timeline completely.

There is certainly a lot of room for improvement especially from the technical side; Mastodon comes to mind as a superior platform in this regard, but that platform doesn't have the scale of Twitter yet, which limits the interesting interactions that can come up. I find a lot of smart and interesting interactions still happen on Twitter, so it's not yet something I'm willing to give up.

Posted by under blog at #tech-life

Also on: mastodon twitter / 💬 1 1334 words

Last modified at: Oct. 23, 2020, 4:34 a.m.. Source file