One-man Focus Group for Twitter’s Timeline Changes

Shows tweets with text saying 'follows,' 'favorited' (both with red X marks), and 'retweeted' (with a green check mark).

TL;DR: Twitter is showing tweets in your timeline that people you follow have favorited or just from those they follow. Way below I outline how I have been reacting.

Much has been said of Twitter’s recent change to start putting more than just promoted tweets into users’ timelines (such as this forewarning from Gigaom in July). Much of it was said from the “what if” perspective before it had been fully implemented. I’ve decided to share my experience as a user now that it’s up and running.


For a little context, I first saw this happen in March and quickly got annoyed when Huffington Post (which I consider the bottom feeders of regurgitated news bites) tweets started to appear in my timeline. Considering how much time I have spent cultivating my feed, I was worried this was a new trend.

Once Twitter formalized this, some savvy people felt compelled to post a disclaimer once it became clear what they favorite could become stuffed into someone else’s timeline alongside their name. Here’s one example that covers my feelings pretty well:

I could link to tweet after tweet expressing frustration with this change, but posts like this one from The Next Web have already done a nice job of cataloging the changes as well as the general response.

With all the Ferguson coverage lately Twitter has come out as the best source for news — moreso than traditional media and far better than Facebook. It’s been a PR boon, resulting in posts like the aptly-titled Why Facebook is for ice buckets, Twitter is for Ferguson.

Why would Twitter want to start adjusting the timeline that is garnering it so much praise, further risking a descent into being no more than an echo chamber or a marketing assault?

Observing Me

Once these changes started to appear in my timeline I mostly got annoyed and tried to ignore them. I swiped past them and mumbled. But this weekend I snapped. Saturday morning my timeline was regularly filled with cruft I have worked to avoid, from outlets such as Buzzfeed and TMZ. Since they always include photos in the tweets, it takes up half my screen with every unwanted tweet.

Knowing Twitter doesn’t care about me as a single user, and clearly doesn’t care about the rising voices who are against this change, I opted to do something about it for myself. I didn’t start these steps with the intent of writing this post, but perhaps someone at Twitter will see how the user is routing around the problem and reconsider its position.

Steps I’ve Taken (So Far)

Detail on each follows…


I enjoy the Twitter account Saved You a Click. It has become something of a news source for things I wouldn’t ever see anyway (sports, celebrities). Saved You a Click follows many accounts I would never follow, like Buzzfeed and TMZ. After tweets from those two sources appeared in my timeline, tweets that Save You a Click didn’t even favorite, I decided to simply block those accounts.

I then let Buzzfeed and TMZ know that I blocked them (probably falling on deaf ears). Perhaps, however, if enough people block the accounts that are shoehorned into their timelines, those account owners might raise a stink with Twitter on the other end.

The first screen shot shows a tweet from TMZ, the second shows another from TMZ, both taking up half of my visible timeline with content I do not want. So I blocked TMZ. You may click/tap/select each image for a larger version.


Yesterday after seeing a few tweets that folks I follow had favorited, or even just from accounts that they follow, I opted to prune my following list. I cut my list from 199 people to 183 people and immediately reduced some of the items in my timeline related to sports, celebrities, and other things that don’t interest me.

Having me as a follower isn’t exactly a badge of honor. I’m sure none of them care very much. But we as users should all consider that we might lose followers simply because of who we follow and what we favorite (regardless of why you favorited it).

The first screen shot shows a tweet from CNN that I had already seen three hours prior (since I follow CNN), the second shows one from Buzzfeed, which I then blocked. In this case I did not unfollow the accounts from which those tweets were “sourced” (?), but I did unfollow others. Note that the second image shows two tweets, of three, that were not re-tweets nor from accounts I follow. You may click/tap/select each image for a larger version.

Not Favoriting

Tweets that I favorite might appear in someone’s timeline now. I’ve already seen it happen to others, and just this morning I got verification that it happens for mine.

I don’t like that. I don’t want people seeing what I mark for later reading. I also don’t want it to appear to be a re-tweet (I am so opposed to the “ideal” re-tweet model that I have only ever done one, the rest are all manual). So I have a simple solution: I will no longer favorite tweets. I’ll simple send them to myself (there are tools that can do this for me, but I’ll probably just email them).

Each image shows a tweet that someone I follow favorited. The tweets don’t interest me, but I don’t want to unfollow them. The lesson here is that I shouldn’t favorite else I get unfollowed, not to mention I don’t want folks to see a favorite as an endorsement. You may click/tap/select each image for a larger version.

Other Actions

I’m now looking at the tops of tweets to see if the tweet was truly re-tweeted, or just favorited, or is just from an account that someone I follow follows in turn (see the opening image). That’s annoying.

I’ll probably refine this over time, either as Twitter adapts or as I find better ways to do it (like installing a third-party app that I don’t hate).


I’d prefer if Twitter stopped this or at least made it an option I can disable. In the absence of that happening, I am taking the Internet’s lead and routing around the problem.

In time I may simply check out of Twitter as I have already done with Facebook for doing the exact same thing.

If you are from Twitter and are reading this, I hope this post is useful as a one-person user study. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Update: September 4, 2014

Looks like this is just the first step in a larger change for Twitter to try to replicate the very feature that causes so many to make fun of Facebook: Twitter CFO says a Facebook-style filtered feed is coming, whether you like it or not

Since Saturday I have blocked the following Twitter accounts, solely because of Twitter’s change:

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