Twitter’s half-truth about its app settings

Bill Bennett, a local technology journalist I respect, tweeted a CNN Business article about Twitter’s overzealous algorithm.

That article quoted a Twitter spokesperson:

… We will continue to work to improve our efforts here, and people always have the option of turning off our curation if they just want to see content from the people they follow.

This quote is sketchy and only half-true.

The other half-truth, which this Twitter spokesperson did not say, is that although you can turn off curation, on the phone app Twitter turns it back on within a few days without your consent. The settings on my web app are untouched though, which is likely what this well-meaning spokesperson has quoted.

If you really want to improve your efforts here, Twitter, stop changing your users’ app settings and start respecting their preferences.

And definitely educate your spokesperson with your phone app’s hidden features as well, so they can share accurate information about your platform.

Twitter is changing my timeline preferences

Recently I wrote about how I reduced the noise on my Twitter timeline by changing the default timeline preference from top tweets to the latest tweets.

Since then I noticed that from time to time my timeline preference is falling back to top tweets without my intervention. But I wasn’t totally sure because I did not think Twitter may be overriding my preferences. Today I realized it is indeed the case!

As shown in the following screenshot of the iOS app on my phone, Twitter is overzealously overriding my timeline preference to what it wants me to see.

Twitter screenshot showing its overzealousness with changing my preferences.
Twitter is changing my preference 🙁

Every time Twitter does this to me, I have to tap the star icon at the top right and change the preference to latest tweets.

This is my first-hand experience of a social network’s aggressiveness towards its users. I still stand Twitter because I often find useful information on it via the cool people I follow. But when the time comes, I don’t think twice to leave the platform. Until then, I will put up with this nuisance.

How to declutter your Twitter timeline

I recently changed my Twitter iPhone app from Tweetbot 3 to the default Twitter iOS app.

Twitter for iOS app is largely good. But I noticed that my Twitter timeline both in the browser and iPhone app got noisy than they should be for the fifty people I follow. This is making me spend (not waste) more time than I would like to spend on Twitter. The clutter also means the actual tweets from the people I follow, the tweets I would love to see, are buried in the noise. This made me feel like I am missing important tweets.

I only ever wanted to see the tweets from the people I very carefully and deliberately choose to follow, in the order they are tweeted. Nothing more.

On a deeper look, I noticed that Twitter is not just showing me the tweets from the people I follow, but also the tweets liked (marked ♥️) by the people I follow as well as the conversations the people I follow are having with other people I don’t follow.

This has been a great revelation for me! This is my first-hand experience of Twitter’s aggressiveness and setting the defaults that work better for Twitter but cleverly wrapped as what I likely care about most.

For many weeks I thought there is no way around it and felt like I have to live with it. But having had enough, this week I decided to check if there is a way to declutter my timeline. I poked around the settings on my Twitter account and found this gem (in the red box) at https://twitter.com/settings/account:

Turn off best / top Tweets in Twitter web app.

Clicking the blue Learn more link took me to What’s in your Home timeline page on which I found this:

You can choose between viewing the top Tweets first or the latest Tweets first in your timeline (Twitter for iOS and Android only). Top Tweets are ones you are likely to care about most, and we choose them based on accounts you interact with most, Tweets you engage with, and much more. You can find instructions on how to toggle between the two timeline views below.


So instead of showing me what I want to see (latest Tweets), Twitter is showing what it wants me to see (top Tweets)!

At the end of the same help page, I also found the instructions to turn off Top Tweets in the iOS and Android apps.

Turn off best / top Tweets in Twitter mobile apps.

So changing the Twitter’s default settings by turning off Show the best Tweets first in the browser and toggling to latest Tweets in the iOS app made my twitter timeline much cleaner and calmer in both the places I check my tweets.

Barring these little annoyances, Twitter is the only social network I use and find really helpful by being deliberate about who I choose to follow, and override some of its default settings I mentioned in this post.

Hello Todoist. Goodbye Wunderlist!

I have been looking for Wunderlist replacement since last year. I can feel Wunderlist is staling. Wunderlist’s new incarnation, Microsoft To-Do, isn’t making good progress. It lacks basic features like sub-projects et al. Given how long it’s been since Microsoft’s acquisition of Wunderlist was announced and the development progress of the To-Do app, I have no hope that To-Do will be worth the wait.

Trello seemed to be a good replacement for a bit, but on looking deeper, Trello is a great project management tool, but not so much a to-do list. Sure, I can tweak Trello’s boards with checklists, but that’s taking one tool and making it work for something that it is not designed for. I prefer to avoid such hacks where possible. Sorry, Davor!

As luck would have it, I recently learned that Doist’s blog has moved to WordPress. While reading their beautiful and minimally designed blog, I came across this great post titled Why We Don’t Have an Exit Strategy. That post made me confident that Doist is going to be around for a long time if not forever. (By the way, that’s exactly how blogging helps spread your message and grow your business. So go blog!)

So that helped end my (re)search for the next to-do app. I look forward to use Todoist Premium for a long time.

Wunderlist — you have been great while you lasted. But it’s time for me to move on to greener pastures.

I imported my Wunderlist to-dos and projects to Todoist. I will soon upgrade to Premium. I also need to set up some zaps and other workflows that will take some time, but I should be done with Wunderlist by the end of this quarter.

Don’t fall for marketing emails

Earlier this month I signed up for Grammarly to improve my writing. I used it for a few weeks, and it seemed like a useful app to help me write better. So I thought of upgrading to Pro but haven’t opened my wallet.

Then an email appeared on 10 Nov suggesting me to upgrade for a 40% discount but only for the next 48-hours. It was tempting. But I am so used to email marketing. So I chose to wait. Then the Last chance: email came on the second day. I ignored it.

Grammarly promotional email
Grammarly promotional email

The upgrade went up to its full price. I was worried and even regretted not opting for the 40% discount. But I also hoped that if I pretend to ignore for a few more weeks, maybe the email marketing bot would send me the 40% discount email again. So I continued to wait.

Last week I received a Black Friday discount for 55%. This time I did not waste time to upgrade.

Could I have gotten more discount if I waited for more? Who knows? Have I fallen for marketing? Probably. But I felt 55% off is a right balance between the price I am paying and the value I think I am getting for my money.

It is another good reminder for me in this consumerist society to not fall for instant gratification. Good things generally come to those who wait.

Itsycal

I found this list of 25 free macOS apps every Mac user should have, which I found on my twitter feed, interesting.

I already use some apps like Wunderlist, Slack and VLC mentioned in that list. But one app that I felt I could use is Itsycal. It shows the calendar from the menu bar; something I wish the default time date / time app on Mac showed. Itsycal also connected to the calendar app on the Mac and synched all the events. I am no longer using the default time app on the menu bar. Now my calendar is just Ctrl + I away.

Try Itsycal!

1000 days of Elevate

Today is my 1000 th day playing Elevate.

Elevate Session Highlights           Elevate Milestones

I broke the streak once in June 2016, not because I slacked but because I was stuck on the dated iPhone 4 running on dated iOS 7 on which the Elevate app was slow and crashed repeatedly. I was also traveling and didn’t have reliable internet. I couldn’t let all this break my 610 day streak at that point. So once I am on the reliable phone and internet, I completed a handful of games retrospectively to fix the streak. And of course, playing Elevate is a fun way to improve vocabulary and math skills little bit everyday.

Here are the earlier milestones.

Elevate milestone

I reached 401 day long streak on Elevate today. I was at 101 last time when I wrote about  this cool educational app.

Elevate combines two of my passions: deliberate practice and building tiny habits. This is what makes me reach out to Elevate as soon as I wake up every morning.

It hurts to break a habit streak. Especially, when it only takes about five minutes a day to build it. It totally sucked when I broke the streak twice, once around 30 days and the other at 52 days. Luckily, I am yet to miss a day since. Until I break the streak again, I will say that it is easy to build streaks on tiny habits :). Touchwood!

Completing three games daily takes about five minutes. It is easy to do, it is also easy not to do, as I recall a note from the fourth chapter of The Slight Edge. It usually takes another five to seven minutes to score perfect games. So it only takes at most fifteen minutes to make the day count and score perfect games. Everyone has fifteen minutes. There are no excuses really. I think this is what has helped me get going.

Following are my stats and Elevate Proficiency Quotient (EPQ). I love how both the app’s design and my EPQ have evolved over time. I did not improve in listening because I always skipped listening games.

                                

EPQ    

Now that I celebrated the 400-day milestone by writing about it, 500, here I come.