How I'll use Twitter for World Domination (or just improving my life)

The Twitter Logo

Oh, and Mastodon too!

What Twitter was to me

When I first tried Twitter, is was an overwhelming number of vaguely interesting updates from a ton of people I only sort of cared about.

The onslaught of posts made it hard to follow friends, so I just gave up on that. Post from any person would be inconsistently compelling, so they often just became something to scroll past. And comments are well, unfiltered internet comments, lovely. If I wanted to connect with people, I just message them. If I wanted to read an interesting article or see a funny meme, I go to Reddit. So what was the point?

The one thing I remember people positively talking about was being able to connect with “influencers”. I conceptually understand why people would want to hear from their favorite influencers directly and why it feels cool to be able to reply to their posts. But that’s something that never interested me strongly. It felt like a sea of voices all shouting to be heard, with an occasional one being pulled from the water before being coldly dropped back in.

I also tried out Mastodon (an open source and federated micro-blogging network), which was a very similar experience to Twitter, just less populated. Despite really enjoying sharing similar principals, I didn’t stick with it.

What changed my mind

A few weeks ago, I attended a talk where someone discussed how they used social media to get a project off to a fantastic start. Before listening, I would of just assumed they meant they shared it with a bunch followers who then liked it. But no. It was actually a strategic operation that made me reevaluate my relationship with the network. To drastically simplify:

  1. They used Twitter as a place to gauge interest about the problem they were trying to solve. And get feedback on potential ideas for fixing it. Not only does did this give them insight on the problem, it connected them with folk who could be future users of a solution.

  2. The speaker connected to select commentators from their initial posts and privately began discussing and working on an actual fix. They would then periodically tweet about new ideas for more feedback and create opportunities to connect with other potential collaborators. Most open source projects I’ve worked on were only known to people in the same room (which was usually just me) before they get published. Potentially being able to get collaborators from across the world, with their diversity of ideas and experiences, to help lay the ground work of a project is an incredible boon.

  3. They did the expected thing where they shared the project with their followers. But it was amplified, as they coordinated with other collaborators to create a Twitter account, GitHub organization, and website that they could all point people to. This makes the algorithm happy, causing it to promote their posts more, and gives interested followers immediate actionable things to do.

This basic strategy leverages what Twitter is good at (connecting to your followers and random interested people). It’s focused. Which led me to reevaluate where else Twitter could be useful for.

  1. I am someone who likes to ideate. Software projects, book ideas, video games, etc. It’s fun and stretches my mental muscles. A lot of the ideas end up being kind of rubbish and die between my brain and pencil. But, there are others that stick around. Do they because they are genuinely good? I don’t know, but asking a network of people with similar interests for feedback is certainly one way to find out.
  2. Though I am not currently looking for a job, having a pre-existing network of folks who might want to work with me is some extra insurance I certainly wouldn’t complain about.
  3. I already write blog posts around my experiences and learnings. Most of them don’t receive any traffic. Now, this might be a reflection of my writing abilities or insights, but I suspect most of it’s because it’s posted on some random personal site that doesn’t have great SEO. If my posts could be at all useful to people, then I would like them to have a chance of finding them.

Aside: Most of my posts are actually photos I’ve taken. Unlike my blog posts, I don’t particularly care if anyone sees them. It’s a hobby that I find relaxing. That’s the point of it. If someone likes it too, that’s just extra icing for me.

The goal then, is to build up a mutually beneficial network that can fill these use cases.

What my plan is

To be effective with my Twitter (and Mastodon) use, I need to have some guidelines.

  1. Primarily be a producer of content. I don’t want to have yet another thing I mindless scroll through. So, I will keep my following count lean and spend more time doing something to write about or actually writing about it.
  2. Keep it semi-professional. Things I already blog about (self-hosting, programming projects, Star Wars thoughts, etc) are good. They are either useful or engaging to other people with common interests and show off my personality (which yes, includes talking about showing off my personality in a list on the internet). However, I will keep more personal things to a minimum. Not to say I won’t ever post anything personal, but it’s not useful for my intended goal and frankly, I don’t want to add to the noise Twitter already generates.
  3. Publish (on my) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere (POSSE). This is an idea from the IndieWeb movement. Basically, any substantive work will be posted on my site first. Then, I will link to that post when I talk about it elsewhere. This gives me more control of my content and drives people to my little slice of the internet instead of giving up more control to other entities. This can cause some friction and will probably mean some people don’t read my content. But I think that’s a compromise worth making.
  4. Replies and simple “tweet-length” messages are just normal posts. I could be pedantic and POSSE all my posts, but I think that hits diminishing returns pretty quickly and just puts up more roadblocks for people actually connecting with me.

Is this perfect? Of course not, I have no idea what I’m doing. But, I’m going to give it a shot and see what happens.

What’s next

Well, aside from following the plan above of course, I have some ideas I’d like to explore.

It’d be cool to be able to aggregate comments and reactions from Twitter and Mastodon onto my website. There is some danger here, which means I will need to have moderation control over any comments (I don’t want to give random internet people the ability to host any text on my website). But, aggregating that would be cool and might help me manage things better than jumping around to different sites. Fortunately, there is a technology called Webmentions that allows people to direct comments and reactions to a website in a decentralized way. In fact, there is a bridge some folk from the IndieWeb community run, that make using Webmentions easy for sites like Twitter and Mastodon. ssh c There are also potential ways to connect more directly to other social networks like the Fediverse (e.g. hosting my site as a Fediverse server, directly pulling Mastodon replies) or Matrix (e.g. comments).

I’d probably want to self-host any solution I use long term. I also like that my site is static, so any solution I implement will need to be careful to not compromise the advantages of that (which I’ve discussed a little in the past and plan to more in the future).

In any case, I expect to learn a lot from my new journey and plan to share that with anyone who wants to hit that follow button!

Till next time,
- Matthew Booe

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