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About eight years ago my friend Duncan Hart tweeted:
@nm could you write & share a ‘how to’ best use @twitter #lists ?— Duncan Hart (@duncanhart)
Thanks for inspiring me to write about this Duncan! I’ll describe how and why I use Twitter lists, but my guess is that my way of using Twitter lists is not going to inspire many others to start using them.
In 2013 when I wrote this, Twitter let each user create 20 lists, each of which could follow 500 accounts. I have 2 private lists and 18 public lists. You might be able to see a list of my public lists at one or both of these URLs:
I say might because Twitter keeps changing these URLs and their viewability. At the moment, you need to be logged in to Twitter to view these pages, but they used to be viewable by everyone, whether they were logged in or not. If you know the URL of a public list, you can view it whether you’re logged in to Twitter or not. Here’s one of my public lists:
On the list’s page, you can see the rest of my public lists by looking in the sidebar in a section called More lists.
The main way that I use Twitter lists is by having a private list, which I check on many times a day. This list includes:
apps I use, such as the Opera web browser
services I use, such as DreamHost and FastMail.FM
people I have a crush on
people I know in real life, including family, friends, and kids
things I really care about, such as privacy and security
The reason I make this list private is because I don’t want to be profiled, I don’t want my crushes to know I have a crush on them, I don’t want the kids I know to be any more public than they already are, and I want to keep my private life private.
I’m not going to publish the real name of this private list, but in order to write about it more easily, I’ll call it Secret and have its URL be twitter.com/nm/lists/Secret. I have this URL set up as the "Home" page in my web browsers and whenever I’m bored I click the browser’s Home icon and see what’s up with the people, companies, and topics I care about most. Once I’m viewing my Secret list, I can easily get to another one of my lists from the More lists section of the sidebar. For example, during the Boston Marathon crisis, I regularly looked at:
And during the financial crisis, I regularly looked at:
And when I’m trying to get inspired to write, I look at:
There are a lot of reasons I like Twitter lists, including:
There are no ads in Twitter lists.
You can read public Twitter lists when you’re not logged in to Twitter, e.g. when you’re at an Internet café, and Twitter has no idea who you are and thus can’t track and profile you.
You can get around Twitter’s follow limits by following accounts in either your main timeline or in your — or other people’s — lists.
If you follow someone in a list, and not in your main timeline, they cannot direct message you.
Like I said at the beginning of this
article, I don’t think this will inspire many people to start using Twitter lists, but I hope it helps you understand why I use
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