The Twitter experiment has failed. Let’s go back.

I’m signed into Twitter right now. At a quick glance, the entire list of posts on the first screen are relevant to me. I’m willing to bet the same is not true for you though. You probably have to scroll through 30 posts to find 4 that you actually care about. I’m going to show you how you can make Twitter useful again.

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while now. What finally spurred me into action was this excellent post from @jeswin about the sheer amount of noise on Facebook. Similarities between the two posts are entirely deliberate, but while @jeswin reaches the sane conclusion that there is nothing that can be done about Facebook without a massive backpedal, Twitter is totally fixable by you.

I realised a long time ago that Facebook was broken beyond repair and deleted my account. There’s hope yet for Twitter though, because for the time being the quality of your Twitter stream is still in your own hands.

First things first, you’re going to need a Twitter client that supports muting. Muting of users, keywords, apps and hashtags. Personally I like Tweetbot as it works on my Macs and iOS devices and has all the muting functionality I need.

Disable Retweets

Some people can’t help hitting the retweet button every time they see it. Disable retweets for these people.

Mute some apps

Some apps are obvious candidates for muting. Paper.li for example –an app that collates links posted to your Twitter stream, and then posts them to your Twitter followers – as if your followers couldn’t just follow the same people as you.

Other apps are less obvious. I’ve spent the last year or two looking for patterns in the Tweets that I personally consider noise, and noting which apps they’re posted from. TweetDeck and Buffer come under this banner, I’ve never once seen a scheduled tweet that offers any value to me, they’re nearly always links designed to raise the tweeter’s Klout score.

A lot of apps are just plain annoying. Facebook, Pinterest, tweekly.fm all tend to be sources of zero value to me.

Obviously what I consider to be tweets of value is likely to be very different for you so you will need to start monitoring the source apps and creating your own mute list. The apps listed here are probably a good start though.

Mute some people

There’s probably a considerable number of people that you follow purely because unfollowing them might be politically tricky. These could be actual friends or family who happen to be annoying on social media, or they could be professional relationships that you don’t want to break with an unfollow. Mute these people.

Mute all hashtags

I spent a long time muting every hashtag that polluted my stream. #xfactor, #thevoice, #mufc etc. Eventually I realised that I don’t care about the content of any hashtagged tweet. So I muted all hashtags.

Go have a quick look through your Twitter stream right now and see if you can find a single tweet that contains both a hashtag and some value. If you can’t, mute all hashtags.


Enjoy Twitter again

The Twitter stream that I see now is about 20% of what is actually posted to it. I no longer need to scroll past spam, linkbait, tedious retweets, talent show commentaries or cycling statistics. The Twitter that I have now is like Twitter used to be – people that I know, care about or find interesting, who have taken the time to type their thoughts by hand into a Twitter client. And it’s glorious.