The Case That Twitter is for (Nearly) Everyone, From an Anti-Twitter Convert

I joined Twitter in February of 2009, and it seemed like I was late to the party – a party I wasn't just skipping, it was something I was actively avoiding. If you are against joining Twitter, I ask that you consider what this article has to say with an open mind and we'll go from there.

Twitter isn't for everyone, but it probably isn't what you think it is either. In short, Twitter is for you if you have a hobby, interest, friends who share content, or a topic you follow or share about. Sound hyperbolic? It really isn't.

What Twitter Isn't 

The things that Twitter is not are, in my opinion and that of many of the people I have converted, perhaps more important than what Twitter is. So let's outline some key items that Twitter is not.

  • Twitter isn't a stream (or firehose) of stuff you don't care about.
  • Twitter doesn't have to be time consuming, many enjoy it so much they choose to use it a lot though.
  • Twitter isn't Facebook or glorified group SMS (it technically can be the latter, but relatively few use it in that way).
  • Twitter doesn't require you to post anything. Ever.
  • Twitter doesn't require a real life identity, it can be as anonymous as you want.
  • Twitter isn't public unless you want it to be.
  • Twitter isn't a two-way sharing of information unless you explicitly want it to be. You can anonymously exist on Twitter and follow topics that interest you with no one ever knowing who you are.

What Twitter Is

The shortest description is that Twitter can be anything you want it to be. 

  • A stream of headlines you care about on any topic or group of topics you're interested in. There's a Twitter feed for everything imaginable. Cute cats, gardening tips, and monster trucks? Follow @emergencykittens, @Gardening_Ideas, and @theallmonster. Done – easy.
  • Private. If you want to post to only people following you, it's easy to do. Or you can never post at all. Your call.
  • Following is one way. If someone follows you, you don't have to follow them. You'll never see their updates if you don't follow them, and they'll never see yours if they don't follow you. This is one of the biggest differentiators from many social networks.
  • An extraordinary source for breaking news in any particular region or all regions. News outlets were way behind and embarrassingly inaccurate during the tragic Boston Marathon Bombings, but the right Twitter sources were timely and accurate.
  • Real time local news. I have learned about school lock downs, break ins, and road closures with up to the minute accuracy by following local sources, local police, etc.
  • One-way flow of information - either in or out. You don't have to follow anyone and you don't have to let anyone follow you. If you want to broadcast, you can broadcast. If you want only to receive information from your curated list, you can do that too. I know several people that only use Twitter to gather information.
  • At-a-glance and in-depth information. You can opt to glean information at a glance reading headlines and 1 sentence blurbs or you can use it to dive into detail on a topic, perform research, or read endlessly. When I'm getting gas I read headlines for 45 seconds, when I'm at the DMV I read interesting things for hours.
  • No one has to know you joined Twitter. You don't have to use your real name. You can disable being discovered by your email address. You can exist on Twitter without anyone ever knowing it is you.
  • Multiple account support. If you want one account to follow friends and one to follow news, you can easily do that all within a single app.
  • Amazing apps. Twitter, unlike Facebook, can be accessed through the official Twitter apps or countless third party apps. You can find an app that is designed the way you like, with features that you like, with customizations that you like. More on this below.

When to Twitter

One of the remarks against Twitter is the lack of a need for more streams of information. Another counter point is that there is little time for yet another social network. Mix these with the misconception that you don't have control over how much content you see in Twitter, and there's a pretty strong case against it. I believe that is misguided though. I (and my convert friends) went from believing these things to genuinely loving Twitter.

You have absolute control over how much is in your Twitter feed. You chose who to follow and you don't see anything else. You can disable one person's retweets (when they re-post someone else, you can disable that to only see their own content). You can also mute people; for example I have instituted a 24 hour mute on @gmail because of their overzealous April Fool's Day posting – it was getting old, but I know I still want to follow them long term.

Since following is one way, there's no obligation to "Like" posts, no social pressure to comment, no two-way pressures at all. If you never read a Tweet, no one cares. This makes Twitter perfect for waiting in line, sitting on the bus, filling your car with gas, etc; whether you have 4 seconds or 45 minutes, it doesn't matter. Check it once per month, or every 5 minutes, your choice.

If you have any amount of time to follow or share information on any friend, family, hobby, or interest, then Twitter is for you in some capacity.

Mobile Twitter Clients

There are countless apps to access Twitter, though some of the most prolific should suffice for just about any Twitter user (not to put down the small developers, if you have a Twitter app you'd like me to review, please contact me). There are also desktop clients and tablet clients (some below are hybrid phone/tablet). My focus here is smartphone since I find that's the best way to interact with Twitter.

iOS Clients

  • Tweetbot ($4.99) - My absolute favorite app for the iPhone – period. That easily makes it my favorite Twitter client. The iOS 7 redesign has only made it to the iPhone version, but that's alright. This app is worth 5x the asking price.
  • Twitter (Free) - The official Twitter app is capable enough if you don't want to spend the money. It supports things like two factor authentication where any desktop login request has to get verified via this app.
  • Twitterific (Freemium) - A great Twitter app that is free with in-app purchases to turn off ads, enable push notifications, etc.
  • More - There are countless Twitter apps, so I encourage you to explore. I highlight these key players to give you a good first experience with Twitter to figure out if Twitter is for you before diving into the world of finding the right client (if these aren't quite right).

Android Clients

I asked for some feedback from some faithful Twitter users and Android device owners since my experience on the platform has been more limiting than I wish. Any of these people that once had an iOS device first remarked strongly wished Tweetbot existed for Android. It doesn't, so here are the top choices.

  • Twitter (Free) - The official Twitter app seems to be a top choice. It supports things like two factor authentication where any desktop login request has to get verified via this app.
  • Tweedle (Freemium) - Clean interface, simple to use, solid set of features.
  • Talon ($1.99) - Feature rich, nice design.
  • Fynch (Freemium) - Twitter client that offers summary views to get a higher level idea of the content of your Twitter feed.


There is some Twitter lingo that helps to be aware of. Thankfully if you Google just about any weird thing you see and surround your search query with "what is" and "on Twitter", you'll probably find the answer.

  • RT - retweet. You're re-sharing a tweet that someone else posted. You used to have to manually do this, but now there is a retweet button.
  • MT - modified retweet. Same as a retweet but modified slightly. Often used to truncate someone else's tweet to append your own thoughts.
  • .@<handle> - A leading period before the @ is used to disable Twitter's conversation threading. Without the period, a reply is only seen by those that follow you and whomever you reply to. More details here.
  • HT - hat tip and/or heard through. Used to indicate that the information was heard through the mentioned source.
  • More - Check out the complete guide to Twitter lingo.

Contemplating Facebook's Strategy Based on Acquisitions

Facebook has been making waves lately, tidal waves in fact. After $19 billion for WhatsApp and $2 billion for Oculus, some are left scratching their head and asking some very good questions. Why? How are these related?

I think the answer is simpler than many have offered. I believe it boils down to Facebook wanting to stay relevant long term, no matter what technology or platform enables it.


Messaging is a (or the?) primary means of communicating for billions of people, and Facebook Messenger was largely a flop. In a sense, messaging is the simplest highly private social network; you share very specific things with very specific people. I firmly believe that messaging with reign supreme as a top, if not the top, use of mobile phones for the foreseeable future.


Virtual reality (VR) has been attempted repeatedly for decades. The idea is usually focused on gaming, but I suspect it will eventually grow beyond that. Technology is finally getting to a point where it is nearly ready for the masses, previously it has been more of a cool demo. There is little doubt that VR will play a role in technology for many years to come, and many believe it'll be a common household technology in the not-to-distant future.

Facebook isn't Your Regular Tech Company

Facebook is run by a forward looking CEO that has zero interest in becoming a "normal" technology company. Legacy tech companies move surprisingly slowly when growing, expanding into new markets, or acquiring companies. Zuckerberg is running a new type of technology company. Move faster, innovate more quickly, and skate to where the puck is going rather than where it has been before anyone else does. 

Parts of this remind me of Apple, but even Apple seems to have more of a sluggish corporate feel. Facebook was happy to cannibalize Messenger because it knows WhatsApp was better. Facebook isn't operating with the baggage of a bunch of executives that have been in the industry for long careers and are applying that knowledge to each decision. They move quickly and with a sense of how vastly different the technology landscape is today compared to just a few years ago, and how fast it is changing.

Keep Up

This isn't to say that Facebook's methods will yield the results they hope, but it is a very fast-paced and aggressive approach. It sends the message "I dare you to keep up" to the other major tech companies out there. Only time will tell if they can keep up, if they even want to keep up, or if Facebook's fast-paced trajectory is even headed in the right direction.

Dropbox is Giving You A Chance To Not Let Them F#%k You

If you use Dropbox, this matters. I'm shocked that they added this arbitration clause to the Terms of Service, but they did. Here's the short version:

No matter what they do (delete your data, privacy breach, overcharging, whatever), you don’t get to sue. Instead, THEY get to choose the arbitrator according to whatever criteria they want, and thus any dispute is decided by someone they’re paying.

Also, you can’t join a class-action suit against them.

LogMeIn Discontinuing Free Service Tier

It pains me to see the free tier getting discontinued, but I understand it. I have used LogMeIn for many years to manage my always-on PC server at home, to remote into my laptop if a security camera appears offline, and more. I paid $20 for the app before they offered a free one and never regretted it.

Thankfully in today's market, there are free options to replace it.

Stratechery: The Best Analogy For Chromebooks Are iPads

An excellent follow up piece (to his original post) on where Chromebooks fit into the tech world. Also read his link to Vance McAlister's response, both are very insightful.

From Vance:

The true value in ChromeOS is what it DOESN’T have. Critics say “a Macbook or Windows laptop will give you the same Chrome browser, plus a lot more as well!”, but that misses the point entirely. Those laptops don’t come with the killer feature of ChromeOS: the LACK of a traditional OS.

The lack of a traditional OS means you do not have to deal with the myriad frustrations of Windows, Mac or even Linux. You get instant on, constant updates, no registry corruption, no accumulated accretions and eventual slowdowns, no viruses and conflicts. In theory, as long as the hardware holds up, a ChromeOS device will be as slick and responsive in five years as it is out of the box.