As promised, a long post on tools to help manage your Twitter use, whether or not you have an account.
None of the below tools are as easy as Just Using Twitter, just to be clear. And, of course, Elon’s whims may make some of these go away at any moment.
Also, the Disclaimers:
- I make no money, directly or otherwise, off any of these services. I only currently use one (Threadreader), which I pay for.
- I cannot, sadly, provide support for your use of Twitter or any of these tools (a major reason I’ve delayed posting this).
- And, of course, if you don’t need these, feel free to ignore these tools and commentary. I myself have constrained in some ways over the years, and as noted before I no long have a Twitter account to begin with.
- Threadreader is one of many tools that can capture long threads without having to login to Twitter. I use this and talked briefly to the support team about their post-Elon plans, so I think it’ll be stable for now. Certainly the easiest to use of all these tools, if it fits your situation — again, it can be used without having a Twitter account, unlike the other tools here.
- If you still have a Twitter account, BLOCK LIBERALLY. You can use MegaBlock to block not only a Tweet, but everyone who likes it, at one go. I really liked this tool when I had a Twitter account.
- Another Blocking tool is BlockTogether; it depends on finding existing Block lists others have developed, but can then block up to 400K users at one go. (Sorry, I do not have any such lists anymore. Maybe people here can start working on ones to share?)
- Christopher Bouzy’s (mentioned earlier today) Bot Sentinel is a powerful tool that I’ve been using for years now. It has Browser plugins for Chrome and Firefox that will warn of trolls and bots on Twitter itself. I found it of immense use until I left Twitter proper.
- Bot Sentinel also has services for automatically “blocking toxic trolls and inauthentic accounts replying to your tweets based on your set parameters.” I have not used this service, mostly as I didn’t need it.
Which of the above to use depends on your situation. For me, most of the power I got out of Twitter was in finding useful information. That information usually came from someone doing a Thread, so Threadreader’s ability to create Threads and even allow you to subscribe to a user’s threaded posts from Twitter was so much of what I wanted from Twitter proper.
Finally, thoughts at length both on Christopher Bouzy’s efforts, and the larger concept of a Twitter replacement. (Open Thread, otherwise, so no need to talk Twitter yet again!):
I’ve seen some folx deride how Bouzy talks about his efforts to provide a new social network. And I think they don’t give him enough grace, nor fold into their analysis his experience.
Bot Sentinel has clearly been a labor of love for Bouzy for years, now. Of the people in the social media analysis/critique space, he’s had what few can claim — a front-row seat to all the shit we here, among others, keep deriding. Seeing first-hand the influx of bots and GamerGate and the Alt-Right and so much more gives him a lot of insight into our issues with social media.
Rather than just add to the griping, he did something about it, put in crowdfunded work to make Twitter a better place for everyone. That’s what Bot Sentinel represents, at its core.
That’s very different from what motivated, say, the team that developed Mastodon, or many other social media alternatives. They didn’t build these as one-to-one replacements for Twitter — or Facebook, Instagram, etc. Even Jack’s BlueSky isn’t really in that space, really meant to be “here’s the Founder of Twitter building Twitter 2.0”.
They were built (in part!) because other ways to do social media need to be developed and nurtured because that’s the only way to have healthy communications ecosystems. We cannot have just one Online Town Square, and for certain we need better ways to nurture discussion — be it debate, spouting, whatever — than we have today.
(Indeed, I know a lot of what I’ve written here is “spouting off,” including this part here!)
So no, I would label none of these services, to date, “Twitter Alternatives.” Twitter is (was) Twitter because it came up at a time where there was a hunger in many communities for Internet connections and communications. And Twitter was one of a very few services that, for years, supported posting over SMS. We forget that, for many people, actual Internet access was damn rare on the ground for a long time — but Twitter leaned into that, and built up a unique “graph” of users from providing that access, plus constraining posts to reduce data needs for readers.
Whatever comes next won’t be playing in that space. So I resist the dialogue of “replacement,” at least in a direct one-on-one context. I don’t lean into the “Twitter Killer” conversation in any actual way, at this point.
That said — if there is one, Spoutible I think aims for that replacement in some ways, even if I think even Bouzy would hesitate to call it such. But I’d argue that it’s a credible effort from someone with real awareness and experience of social media’s power and failings, and that’s not anything to laugh at.
Update: If you made it this far, and feel you need to push back on my “no Twitter Alt” opinion — you’re welcome to it, and I’m more apt to listen then press back, at this stage. Despite my length, it’s not an opinion I’ll fight to the death over, I promise!