Information Management 1 - Twitter Lists

Whether at work, or in social/professional networking situations, I frequently get asked about my sources of information for my various interests, and how I have time to effectively balance my life and keep on top of everything happening. Well the short answer is that I'm always struggling to find the right balance in my life, however my information sources and content/news management is an area I'm particularly proud of.

I am going to split the breakdown into a few posts to keep the length down, but generally my approach is threefold.

  1. Carefully curated private Twitter List, accessed through Tweetbot.
  2. Blogs - managed through an RSS feed reader (Feedly)
  3. Podcasts on my iPhone

Twitter Lists

Twitter lists are one of the best features that very few people are using. The basic premise is that you can add any Twitter account (whether you follow them or not) to a public or private list. Think of this as an alternate news feed.

When you have a public list, anyone visiting your profile can see who's on the list, who has subscribed, and can choose to subscribe to your list (so it appears in their own list feed). Additionally, irrespective of follow status, any time you "list" someone, they receive a notification. A good example of using a public list might be a list of influential thought leaders in an interest area that you want others to have access to, or a list of politicians for a specific mandate/term.

Private lists are the real power as no one knows it exists except you. There are no notifications, so you can add/remove any users you want, and you don't really have to worry about other users' perceptions of your list curation. This is important to me as I want to publicly follow certain accounts, and support friends and causes, but for time management reasons and separating interest areas, I don't want to blend everything into the one main newsfeed. Another thing that I've done in the past is create a private list of my company's competitors as it gives you insight into their social media strategy, without letting them know you are following them, and without driving up their follower (and therefore influencer) statistics.

I'm a big fan of Twitter, as nothing is more effective in understanding the play-by-play and intricate details in a timeline format. Many of the nuances get lost in news articles, and I prefer the stream of consciousness that emanates from the users I follow, who are more concerned about sharing information as it happens, then carefully crafting a story or message. This obviously can have issues because Twitter also allows for the rapid dissemination of bad information, so it's important to choose your sources carefully. It also means that you can quickly get into an echo chamber if you only follow/list people who share your views.

My primary list is a collation of Canadian, Ontario, and Toronto political news, urban and city building policy/economic/development issues, and transportation. While I tend to be a part of the mushy middle politically (and have voted across the spectrum over the years), I think it's important for my career and as a thought exercise to have a wide spectrum of voices. It's important to hear from people who may have differing views, opinions, and/or perspectives. This "urban-transportation news" list is a combination of key politicians at all levels of government from all major parties, bureaucrats and official departmental accounts, journalists from the Sun to the Post to the Globe to the Star, some non-profits/advocacy groups, economists, nerds like me, activists, membership organizations, professionals, etc. etc. etc. 

The problem with Twitter, is the timeline/stream nature means that you can miss things if you aren't online. My list is at 300 members right now, and many of them are prolific tweeters. Monitoring the feed would monopolize my day if not for how TweetBot handles lists.

Basically, TweetBot remembers your place in time for any list and your newsfeed. This is advantageous for me with a full-time job because from 8-5, I get a handle of short bursts to see what's happening in my interest area. By freezing my feed in time, and refreshing the "missed posts" as I scroll through, I don't miss anything if I don't want to. It allows me to do some Twitter reading in the morning before work, over lunch, on my commute home, and then after my daughter has gone to bed. The added advantage is that I'm not constantly plugged in, and reacting to everything that comes up.

If you have any comments or thoughts on Twitter Lists, or how you could help me be even more effective with the platform, then let me know!

Oh, and you can follow me at @Planginerd!