It’s been over a decade that Twitter has been an active part of the developer community. It’s grown in popularity from day one, and now holds the uneasy crown as the place for hot takes, trash from politicians, and the general tire fire that is the news. In many ways, that’s what they’ve aimed for. But then there’s us developers, people who make software, who make Twitter, who build all of this technology internet stuff right? We’re here using Twitter still, even amid the backstabbing and Twitter UI’s API’s being yanked from under us. They’ve of course in the past also banned UI’s and somehow here we are still using the service. However, I digress, Twitter’s wrongs against developers are numerous after we effectively built the service. In spite of all this we developers are a large contingent of people on Twitter. It’s still an amazingly useful medium for software developers, and especially new software developers, to get involved with. It’s a very effective tool to strengthen our careers and continue conversations within the developer communities themselves. One just has to avoid the cruft, and that’s what I intent to tackle some of in this article.
This list I’ve put together is of things that I personally have learned, often by stumbling through and discovering myself. These activities on Twitter do have a net positive effect on your career and ability to communicate with the world and local developer communities. First I’ll cover positive use cases of Twitter that are immensely useful as a software developer. These are even compounded if you’re an advocate of open source, cool technologies and libraries, and other miscellaneous things.
1. Twitter as a Communication Tool
First and foremost, Twitter has been and does – mostly – continue to be a communication tool. I make use of Twitter to connect with people for conference organizing, code projects, open source work, to have geek lunch, nerd brunch, and many other things that come up. It can and ought to be one of your primary communication mediums in that it connects many of the key active people within our overall communities. More so than email and other mediums by a large percent. If you intend to have a long term net effect and grow your presence and activities (conferences, meetups, coding groups, etc) you want to foster Twitter has become the de facto medium to be active on.
2. Twitter as a Collector of People
Twitter, even though it does seem to attract some of the most villainous scum (literally, not a figure of speech or hyperbole) and have some pretty horrifying problems (people calling in SWAT’s on people (extremely illegal), death threats, harassment) the net benefit within the community to bring people together has far outclassed pretty much any other system out there. Hacker News doesn’t, Facebook doesn’t, Google+ is cancelled, and about every other social media platform has failed to bring together the develop community in an effective and useful way.
3. Twitter for Answers
Even though I don’t often go to Twitter to find answers, sometimes I do. Often it is a last resort. After all, Twitter is most efficient at providing a place for links, quick blurbs, bumbling and babbling threads from people, and of course cat pictures and hot takes.
The combination powers of Twitter with other services however exponentially increases the ability of Twitter to help with answers. For example, write up a solidly written question on Stackoverflow or one of the branched out services and then post the question on Twitter, maybe inquiring for some retweets and boom, doubling, tripling, and greater multiplier of people looking at the question that can provide a prospective answer!
4. Twitter, Firestarter
One of the things I’ve also found Twitter good for is an outlet for pushing and often straightening out bad behavior in the community. Ever done something racist? Ever known someone to pull some misogynistic action? Yeah, unfortunately I know of these things happening too, and Twitter forces apologies and better behavior among people. But it also is a place people can wreck themselves and be just as destructive as they can learn to better themselves, especially those humans of us that have poor behavior and disrespectful tendencies.
But just as much as individual behaviors among us, Twitter has been used to straighten out some pretty trash behaviors from corporations. Sure, they’re not really people, but the conflagrations of this notion – true or not – make for pressure to be applied to corporations through other means besides the products and services they sell us individual humans, which to often are things we have to buy regardless, and this medium provides us an avenue to induce better behaviors in spite of purchases.
There of course is the positive and negative of this forced societal behavior and in many ways, improving corporate behavior throughout the world, but it’s here. Pressure of the people, often organized and started through Twitter, including against Twitter itself sometimes, is heavily rooted in activity right there on ole’ Twitter itself.
GSD Tactical Twitter
Alright, now to the meat of things. Twitter is great at all these things but how does one make the best use of it without it turning into an outright tire fire trash dump of distraction and stress? Well, it’s moderately easy, but one has to be careful.
1. Find Good and Entertaining People
My personal advice when starting on Twitter is to skip the companies. Don’t follow any of them. Same goes for organizations or any group account of sorts. The key to find good content, good common ground, and useful links, news, and related communities is to follow individuals that are involved in those things you want to be involved in already. The following are some specific examples, and for me, great people to follow.
- If you’re into coding and want to know what people are working on that have gotten them into the field and are working their way through interesting things like; @indykidd, @SheCanTech, @sofiasofiakim, @crisewing, @Afrotechnician, @BlairVee, @codehitchhiker, @sarah_edo, @calehoopes, @starbuxman, @kellabyte, @nnja, @7sharp9_exhumed, and @i_no_see_pound for a few.
- What to know what’s going on in the tech scene, small business and among startups, and the interplay, search for news crews, investors, entrepreneurs and follow them, here’s a few good ones; @benkepes, @LibbyMClark, @rikkiends, @alexwilliams, @moniguzman, and @IamStan to name a few.
- Into Go, follow people contributing on, using, or otherwise tweeting about Go; @francesc, @carlisia, @jbeda, @DaveCheney, @BrianKetelsen, @markBates, @erikstmartin, @krisnova, @rakyll, @matryer, @spf13, @ashleymcnamara, @rob_pike, @bradfitz, @_rsc, and others, which with a search on google for “golang people to follow on twitter” and you’ll get tons of links to great people like New Relic‘s blog post on people to follow.
- let’s say you want a little entertainment from the pissed off city of Seattle? Ya follow @AngrySeattle.
2. Lift Up Others, Tweet to Others, Get Involved
When on Twitter, one can just lurk. It’s a completely valid thing to do. However lurking isn’t super high value. You just won’t get that much out of it. Instead, get involved. Find a link with something interesting, write up a tweet and post it. See something interesting someone else just tweeted, respond! See something that isn’t right, maybe tweet why it isn’t.
Always a good idea, regardless of the trash that is often on Twitter to still stay courteous, kind, and friendly. Remember, not everyone is from the mold you’ve come from, or seen things the way you have, so tread lightly and friendly and things mostly work out real well. Overall, people are attuned to helping those that help themselves and helping those that we run in social circles with.
All in all, get involved, tweet at, with, and all around your fellow Twitterers. Your return will improve and in the process you’ll add more value for others too.
3. Follow & Prune the Firehose of Tweets
Alright, I’ve written to follow and lift up others. That’s groovy, but also you gotta bring the hammer down sometimes. When that firehose of tweets just gets a little overwhelming check out what tweets are helpful, rate them to yourself, and unfollow some people if it’s not the direction or the tweets you’re getting value from.
Even though it’s difficult when just starting to use Twitter, the ratio will be more followed than followers for you. But as time goes forward and you get past 50 followers, 100, 500, 1000 you’ll need to make sure to keep the list of people you’ve followed just equal to or less than how many people follow you. It’ll help keep your feed manageable and also help you to keep interactions beneficial for you, followers, and followed.
4. The Down-Low on Conferences
If you’re looking to attend a conference, Twitter via hashtags is a great way to get information on conferences. Dig in, dig deep. Talk to people about the conference in particular. If necessary get into direct messages and invoke the whisper net if need be. Sometimes conferences can be exponentially useful and sometimes they end up bothersome cash burning wastes of time. Figure out what you want from a prospective conference and dig in via Twitter, you’ll prevent wasting time and burning cash, and exponentially increase the positives you can get out of a conference.
5. Filter the Trash Fire
Ok, let’s get super serious. One way Twitter has become a trash fire for many or most people these days is because of the political trash dumped in. Much of Twitter for the general public is bot armies from Russia, crazies like the nutty Wohl kid, and other junk nut accounts. One way to notch this down to a minimal trash fire is to throw some filters (i.e. mute certain words) on your Twitter account. For example here’s my list:
Now as you’ve read that, remember that my goal has been to focus the stream on tech content with a little heavy metal, a few cats, and other entertainment here and there. For example I’m fine with sports events like baseball and football but really don’t want to get distracted by it in on my Twitter stream. On game day those events just overwhelm the tweets and things that are useful get drowned out.
Now a lot of the other stuff in the list is the horrifying reality of the United States today, reflected on Twitter, and part of something that I don’t want distracting me either. Overall this has made Twitter dramatically more useful for me again.