I signed up to Twitter on 10th December 2008. I’d been hearing about it for a while, and decided to jump on the bandwagon. Ever since I set up an account on SlashDot in 1999, I’ve always tried to use the account name “Tumbarumba” (the name of the town where I grew up, and my parents lived). This account was still free on Twitter, so I created my account, and posted my first tweet.
I didn’t touch it again for two years.
The next time I thought to look at it was the “Not Agile 2010” meetup. Looking at the tweets, I couldn’t work out what the conference actually was. Searching for the name turned up my own blog post: Not Agile 2010. That post was able to remind me what the conference actually was, but the thing that stayed with me all these years was the amazing innovation that changed everything: the hashtag. On this day, I finally saw the value of being able to go to a conference, and pick up a huge amount of background discussion. It was a whole extra layer of insight and information that I hadn’t experienced before. All you had to do was search for a shared conference hashtag (e.g. #NotAgile2010), and everything was revealed. I was finally hooked.
My use of Twitter changed considerably over the years. I’ve never been a prolific tweeter, but as I added more and more interesting people to follow, my feed became a rich source of insight into technical, political and cultural trends. I usually follow people I have met personally, along with some other public figures.
I really liked the format of seeing a live stream of latest tweets from the people I follow. In recent years I really had to fight the Twitter UI, as it kept on trying to switch me to the “Home” feed, an algorithmically curated feed of tweets that would help maximise engagement. I hated it. Every week or so I would be looking at a tweet, realise it was from someone I didn’t follow, and realise that Twitter had switched my feeds. I would change it back to the “Latest” feed, only for the whole thing to happen again a week later. I haven’t had problems with this for a year or two, but it was an annoying thing for a while.
The big thing for me was the community of software professionals that I followed. It’s what made Twitter a thing for me, and kept me coming back for updates. I realise that other, more marginalised (less white, less male) people had a very different experience on Twitter, but the community that I was part of was insightful, inclusive and always interesting.
My community is leaving Twitter, and I am too. Tim Bray said it best:
Today I’m leaving Twitter, because I don’t like making unpaid contributions to a for-profit publisher whose proprietor is an alt-right troll.Tim Bray, Ongoing
I’ve set up a new Mastodon account at @firstname.lastname@example.org. Many of my original community have already transferred. I really like the new community. The difference is a lack of commercial and algorithmic influence that drives Twitter. It feels more authentic. I hope I’ll see you there, too.