Or so it would seem.
Some time ago I created ephemeral, an AWS Lambda function that deletes tweets past a certain age from my timeline. I wrote this article about it and spent less and less time on Twitter.
Meanwhile, I ran another Lambda function that posts links from my blogs to my timeline, hoping I could drive some engagement and not look dead. I generally get good results from this (no one thinks I'm dead yet), with new and interesting people finding and following me, commenting, and giving me a chance to follow them in return.
Recently I received some feedback that, well, a timeline consisting solely of links to my blog posts was getting a bit boring. Of course, due to the finite nature of my time and number of posts thus far, there was beginning to be some repetition. Frankly, I agree with the assessment - I'm just not sure what to do about it.
I continue to attract new and interesting comments and followers, so I didn't want to kill the function completely. Of course, I don't want to bore the nice people who are already following me for updates, either.
So I started hanging out more on Twitter, collectively spending about 3 hours more on it over the week, which is normal for some but a lot for me.
I wondered if there was a programmatic way I could make my tweets more useful, interesting, or otherwise less boring, while still sharing my links. I thought of including useful information like the weather or how many socks are in my laundry hamper so far, or even experimenting with a language generator that tried to sound like me.
I don't have a good answer yet.
As a jumping off point, here is the Lambda function that I use to post RSS links to my Twitter feed. Maybe opening it up to the creative and funny people on dev.to and open source GitHub 'verse can help to generate some ideas.
If you're reading this because you're one of my followers, thanks for sticking around! You guys say such interesting things.
If you're not yet one of my followers, you're welcome to jump on board. The fun is about to begin! I think.
And in any case, as always, contributions welcome.
Top comments (27)
So the main thing going on right now is that you want to have a Twitter presence for personal and professional reasons, but you don't necessarily want to spend much time on Twitter yourself?
You want to have a more authentic Twitter presence but still want to systemize it in a way so it's not a big mental burden?
I feel like I can be helpful here and more details about your motivations in this moment would help us get there. 🙂
Yes, you nailed it. I think you’re on to something bigger with your second supposition...
Automation is inherently fairly inauthentic. You could probably pull of "interesting content" in a somewhat automated way, but that could be kind of disingenuous by nature.
One interesting type of content would be if you wrote an algorithm to fetch interesting stuff that might be relevant to your audience and made that clear in the tweet. Turning the "automated" part from a bug into a feature.
In terms of further systematization, you could plan to pop into Twitter a few times a week to look up interesting accounts and quote tweet some of their stuff with an interesting take. A bit more than re-tweeting, this would be adding a thought to the conversation in a very Twitter-friendly way. You could even harvest "interesting tweets" and then generate the quote tweet outside of Twitter to really streamline the whole thing.
When I was at my peak of running @thepracticaldev Twitter, I thought a lot about authenticity and the best way to be authentic is to dive in and be a part of the conversation. But that is a rabbit hole that does not "bring me joy". That was a big part of shifting my focus to building and running dev.to in the first place.
For max authenticity, you have to hang around and interact right through the native app and really "get" it. You could timebox deliberately doing this a few times a week.
Personally I don't think it's all worth it. Do the parts of this that are truly interesting to you and be okay with some inauthenticity online order to live a more authentic real life.
Hope this was helpful.
Thanks Ben. I think you nailed it and your sentiment echoes offline discussions I’ve been having lately (with others who don’t spend much time on Twitter, go figure). I think my timeline will remain a place for neat experiments in the foreseeable future, and I like your idea for automation.
Maybe looking for authenticity on Twitter and fast media is too much investment, and not worth it besides. I can still play with interesting programs that interact with it though!
Thanks for stirring up some thoughts :)
You could make a recommender system that you would feed interesting posts. This would then search RSS feeds or other sources for similar links and tweet them. This could be built on an ML platform or a search platform like SOLR. Many examples of such recommender systems are available.
Maybe Twizzy twizzy.app can make your Twitter feed feel personal while not causing you to spend more than time on Twitter itself?
It’s an app to post tweets without logging into Twitter and losing yourself browsing the timeline.
Personally I’m mostly interested in howtos and what a person is up to in tech land, like work in progress things. The bot tweet is super interesting.
I mostly post animated gifs of what I’m building (screen captures), it’s super quick to make and people love to see things in motion.
Maybe this helps you find your mojo!
Thanks for the lead! I'm always shy to post things in-progress, but you've inspired some interesting thoughts on that topic. What's the biggest benefit you get from posting your gifs?
The benefit is twofold
Most of the times it is likes/retweets, which I hope put the tweet in other people's timelines which in turn might trigger them to follow me and get interested in my work. Or at least make them aware of the existence of my products / my activities. People like seeing these animations of work in progress things so it makes their feeds better.
Other times people give excellent feedback on what's happening in the animation and I can then bring that back into my work.
Is it possible to add meta-data to your blog posts that can be used as more personal twitter content when your post is automated?
It wouldn't prevent you from having to write the content, but you could at least do it in one location without having to go back and forth. You would also still retain the personal feel.
That's not a bad idea, but I think the personal touch would be lost unless I updated them often enough to not repeat.
I was thinking you would create a unique message for twitter for every post at the time the post is created.
I do not have a solution for you Vicky sorry, I'm just going to vent because you raised a very real question. What Ben said seems very reasonable to me though.
I joined the twitter "dev-sphere" a couple of weeks ago and I'm already thinking of "retiring" or at least seriously diminish the amount of time I spend on it.
One issue I have is that I live in a different timezone than most people I follow right now which means that when I wake up I have tons of conversations to scroll by which may or may not contain interesting info but already "have happened" so the most I can do is retweet something that catches my eye :D The good thing about this is that I can ponder instead of react but it takes time.
Right now (I've ignored Twitter all day, and now it's 11:41 pm here) I have 122 unread tweets and I've already gone through a lot this morning :D. I just joined, follow 39 accounts and had already to mute a specific developer because they retweet everything they find on the planet's surface :D.
I feel I already need to take a break, regroup and rethink my Twitter strategy because like this it's too much. I can't be a newcomer and already be desiring to pull the plug :D
Although my unease is rooted in a different issue, I can't help but wonder at your title and nod: I can't make up my mind either.
The dev-twitter-verse is a freaking firehose, which is amazing and scary :D
(yep, this is a rant :D)
I remember when I joined Twitter a long time ago, I felt exactly the same. It was very tiresome to read everything that went on and I just could not keep up. Then someone told me, "You don't have to read everything on Twitter, just take a quick peek now and then, accept that it's impossible to keep up". So that's what I've been doing since then, and this has only been made easier by Twitter hand picking popular tweets or things you might have missed.
Thanks Rik! That's comforting, I just need to find my rhythm and avoid FOMO ;-)
It sounds like the tool you are looking for is MeetEdgar You can have multiple schedules of tweets that go out in a cycle. For a blog post, you may schedule a few different tweets with different quotes/questions. You can also include other content to show up periodically.
And if you wanted to build something like it, maybe take a look at what they're doing and implement something similar? Sounds like a few syncopated twitter bots with hand-written content could accomplish what you're looking for.
However, if what you're looking for is a way to automate building relationships (not saying that you are), that is something I think is by definition impossible.
Kind of a different direction....but I recently added a section of my blog called Shorts.
The goal is to post tweet-sized bits of content (ideas, links to other sites, etc) without having to give all control/content to Twitter.
I like the idea because it allows me to be more active on Twitter (well, to be clear, I just started doing this), without spending as much time on Twitter and helping to ensure the content I find important has a longer shelf life than your common tweet.
I use Jekyll for my blog, so I went the route of creating a separate content feed and then built a custom hook to help ensure the content was formatted properly for twitter.
Thank you Scott, this is excellent. I had some unformed notions along this line, about finding a venue for micro-blogging with the same concerns you have. It’s what originally took me to Mastodon, though I can’t quite put a finger on why that isn’t the solution for me either. Your idea sounds promising!
I can create a separate RSS feed with Hugo as well. What are you using for the hook that formats your shorts for Twitter?
I generate a separate feed (scottw.com/shortfeed.xml) and use Zapier to send it to Twitter.
The code is very Jekyll/Ruby focused: github.com/scottwater/blog/blob/ma...
If the above is over 280 characters, I try to intelligently truncate it and include a link to my blog post. This gives me the flexibility to write more and then have post finished on my blog.
Thank you Scott! This is inspirational!
I am currently going back and forth about Twitter on an almost daily basis. Funnily enough, I deleted most of my tweets last week, inspired by your previous post.
I want to share my work and ideas (and, embarrassingly, to receive external validation), but it feels insincere to me because others are already doing what I do, but better.
I make some good jokes, but the jokes are a bit wasted if nobody is reading them.
Since I've more or less scorched-earth my Twitter presence, I am hoping to spend 2019 focusing on sharing only the more useful thoughts & content, engaging in conversations that are happening now, rather than just shouting my opinions into the void, and saving some of my hilarious witticisms as conversational openers to my friends, who I don't torture enough.
I don't really have any useful feedback, but thank you for this post and the last one, they've given me a bunch to think on.
You’re welcome James :) Thanks for your response as well, and for being open and honest. It’s given me something to think about too!
The war of bots. It rages on Instagram as well.
If your bot is intended to game the system and attract followers, then it ultimately does a disservice to the community.
If your bot is intended to collect the work you do and post in one place, then sure, it provides a central source of information.
On the topic of automation, development, and tweeting, i'm not sure if this hurts or helps, but I built a tool for tweeting every commit from a certain repository.
I could see it being partially maybe helpful because its just another source from which to pull tweetable content, but w/o the mental burden of being "engaging", it also might provide a bit of context around blog posts as you make them, if you happen to use git for snippets and things within your posts.
Again not sure if this helps or hurts the pain points you mentioned, but just another twitter+development tool to add to the think pot!
Queue up a ton of “authentic” tweets and write a serverless function to post them intermittently? (Perhaps at random times to further enhance the “authenticity”, or at peak reader hours based on your audience)
This is not a truly unique problem, social media teams for companies have entire strategies around these things.
Not for lack of room in a tweet, but because the overarching goal is to spend less time on Twitter. Manually tweeting is time-intensive, compared to a robot.