Twitter, will you fix my timeline?

There are thousands of brilliant, funny, and notable people on Twitter who help share some of the estimated half a billion tweets on Twitter every day. And it all started with a chain of simple invitations, the kind Twitter needs users to continue sending in order to keep growing.

And Twitter can’t grow if no one enjoys using it. I have had one key problem with using Twitter in the past few years, a problem that I don’t think I am alone in having.

The timeline, the most important feature on Twitter, has ballooned into a difficult-to-manage list, especially on mobile.

As Twitter has grown, so too did the number of accounts I followed, hovering around 3,000. This is admittedly the unique circumstance of a power user — one estimate puts the average following closer to 200). Since the day I started following people, I’ve had nothing but problems, no matter how big my total follow list was. Lists are impossible to use on mobile—including the following list, which has no basic sorting or even search functions. By 2012, I reached a plateau of accounts I could unfollow simply because there are a ton of great people I did not want to forget about.

My expanding timeline also reflected the growing value of the service, but was overwhelming, I recently mass unfollowed and used a third-party app to shift everyone to a private list.

I grew to despise reading my timeline. Adding video, gifs, and photos only made my ability to sort through it a more arduous process. With every product addition in my timeline, I liked my timeline less.

As my Twitter habit grew, my timeline turned into a fail whale situation.

I don’t think noise is a problem exclusive to power users because the more a person use Twitter, the more they discover and are prompted to follow new accounts. I’ve just been on Twitter for a really, really long time. My unsustainable timeline was created over that period of time, and represents a valuable opportunity to address new and existing user interests. Twitter realizes this; I can see it in the way they now offer a curated summary of tweets to help pull meaning out of chaos. But the curated summary is not a solution to scale over time; it only hides it by taking away the question of scale and focusing solely on addressing the timeline as a real-time feed.

Here’s what I suggest. Twitter could start by asking new and existing users questions about what they like or don’t like based on behavior, device, and preferences, and start auto-populating topical feeds, event feeds, and timelines for specific interests and needs. I would love to have a curated weather feed on mobile, for example. I also don’t want to see 100 of the same tweets during a live sports event; that doesn’t mean I want to unfollow a friend, either. Being able to mute on mobile would help filter timelines, too.

The current timeline experience is far too simplistic. But I don’t want to stop using Twitter. Twitter, let me pick who I follow by offering me many timelines I can shift through on different devices, in different times, and curate without losing touch.

This post was also published on here.

18 thoughts on “Twitter, will you fix my timeline?”

  1. I have a lot less people that I follow. I want the ability to choose a number of days, or hours and have my timeline populated with those tweets. I work long days without access to my phone or computer and I miss chunks of tweets. I am not going to pull up each individual person I follow to see what they have posted. I would like the option when I have free time to be able to pick and choose the duration, and the number of tweets I can see. It is all in a database, they just need to do SQL Queries to make that happen. It could be on the top navigation.

    Liked by 10 people

  2. I have not yet learned to use Twitter for fear of exactly what you are describing. I am a fairly tech savvy senior lady but I have similar frustrations with m Facebook timeline. I like the cute pages, news reports & other things my friends foforwardHowever, when the first 25+ posts are one share after another posted every 30 seconds from the same person with not even the slightest personal remark, I really do feel like unfollowing and/or unfriending about half of my list.I am happy to know I am not alone.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. I feel the same. I follow about 1000 people and have found that I am using twitter less and less. I post occasionally (and am trying to do so more) but now vary rarely read my timeline. As you say, even looking through who I am following and try to sort into lists or unfollow is not easy!

    Liked by 7 people

  4. I joined Twitter back in ’09 I think. Didn’t ‘get it’ so just left my account sat. Revisited it after a year or so I guess and fell helplessly in love with (which meant that my Faceboook account saw very little activity). Things were fine for quite sometime and the number of followers grew as did the number that I followed. The interactions were largely positive and I ‘met’ a lot of cool people. Then Twitter started to tinker with things, tweaks to timelines etc., and that’s when I grew a little cold towards it. Conversations became so fragmented that it became difficult to follow and keep up – confusing and sometimes embarrassing. I barely look at my profile now and I’m pretty certain that certain connections I made have been lost which seems such a shame. Ironically the ‘improvements’ that Twitter made actually weren’t universally wonderful and instead of organising and channeling threads they actually broke them. I, like a fickle soul, went back to Facebook, but it’s not the same and of late I have started to cut the level of interaction I have on there too. I’m actually bored if I’m honest. I agree that Twitter needs to look at itself and try somehow to reinvent itself as the vibrant, user-friendly place to be that it used to be in terms of social media.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. Unfortunately I gave up on Twitter a long time ago, for this exact reason. I went from reading posts daily to not even being able to sift through all of the posts that were completely unrelated to anything in my life. Perhaps if twitter does something like this, I will return. Only time will tell!

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I do not get Twitter. I use it now and again to tweet reviews or to RT for other authors. I joined because my Publisher told me it would be useful to promote my novel, but honestly, aside from following a few book bloggers and authors, most of my newsfeed is utter twaddle. I wondered if I had done something wrong, but it seems no, what you see is what you get.

    Liked by 7 people

  7. I know so many people who THINK they want to try twitter out, and then end up (like stated above) not ‘getting it’. For business purposes I absolutely understand having an account, however personally, my feed is simply too much for me to sift through!

    Liked by 7 people

  8. This is coincidentally the second post about Twitter that I have read today. As a book/ tea blogger, I love following authors, publishers, tea companies and other bloggers. It keeps me ‘in the loop’. However, the sheer amount of spam posts and auto-shares are making my timeline an increasingly less pleasant place to browse!


  9. I like twitter a lot. I dumped the singapore government controlled newspaper with twitter. I reckon 3000 subscribed sites are too much to handle. Timeline… I think I love to delete them and keep them short. Maybe discernment and maturity is a virtue that users have to pick up along the way to guide and teach us. Njoy twitter, I like the info that is reaching me.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Twitter takes awhile to learn all it’s components. Its more for constantly posting events and thoughts or anything you please in 140 word count. That is why people just tweet away because 140 word count isn’t enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I know the drill. I follow around 70 people on my personal account, and it’s still hard to keep up with everything. Most of them are my friends and I love them, but it’s REALLY unnecessary to document everything that happens to you during the day… and it’s not even that interesting. Pity, because you have to really dig for the good tweets.

    Liked by 1 person

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