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How to Control the Twitter Stream

Recently I was asked about the methods I use to select the more informative tweets in my Twitter stream and so gain the links that are used in the Sunday Wash-Up. Well it is neither a great secret nor a difficult undertaking, so this post could be titled,

– How To Make Your Own Wash-Up –

or more appropriately,

– How To Mine Twitter For Unpredictable Information –


Currently my preferred Twitter application is TweetDeck. However, it only stores the last few hundred tweets in any column, and so any new tweet in the ‘All Friends’ column quickly drops off and is lost for ever. This becomes even more of a problem as the number of your followers grow and tweets come in faster than you can read them. It is simply not possible to read every tweet on Twitter, so a way of holding on to the important tweets is needed whilst allowing the noisy ones to flutter away.

The feature of TweetDeck that makes this and the Wash-Up possible is the ‘groups’ feature and since I use TweetDeck at the moment this post will deal exclusively with it. The same thing can be done with Seesmic or any Twitter application that has an equivalent feature. Users of other applications should gain the basic knowledge from this post to set up a similar system using their preferred software.

What is the groups feature?

Groups is the ability to select a few tweeps and make a new window which only shows the twitter stream coming from the tweets of those tweeps. In order to set this up you will first need to know a few identities, @name, of tweeps who are putting out interesting tweets. For the first group let’s focus on writing tweets, so the list should be of who is tweeting about writing. At this point we don’t need to know everyone destined for this group, just enough to get it started. Now select the “New Twitter Column” button,

09-11-06b Tweetdeck 1 

and then in the next pop up box click on “Group”.

09-11-06b Tweetdeck 2

The next popup box allows you to give the group a name. I use “Writers” on mine but you can use any name that works for you. Just for now we will only discuss using this one group, later you can make as many groups as you have interests.

Below the name box is a list of all your followers. Scroll down, find the tweeps from your list and click in their tick boxes.

09-11-06b Tweetdeck 3

Close the box by clicking on “Save Group” and a new column appears. The new column will initially be empty,

09-11-06b Tweetdeck 5

but as people in the group start to tweet, their tweets will appear in both the ‘All Friends’ and the ‘Writers’ columns.

09-11-06b Tweetdeck 6

You now have a filtered column where the best tweets are still visible long after they have left the ‘All Friends’ column. This then allows you some writing time between checking for tweets.

By default the columns contain 200 tweets, to change this click on the set-up icon, positioned top right, and increase the ‘max number of updates in a column’ to a higher number.

Maintenance Mode

Now the Writers column is set up we need to maintain it for optimum results. This is not hard and is done whilst scanning for interesting tweets.

Adding to the group; when a tweet catches your eye from a tweep in the ‘All Friends’ column, consider if that person’s tweets are consistently good enough that they should be in a group. To add them, hover over their avatar and select the ‘cog’ icon, scroll down and click on ‘Add to group’,

 09-11-06b Tweetdeck 7

next a box appears with all the available groups.

09-11-06b Tweetdeck 8

All you have to do is click on the appropriate tick box, close the window and they are added. In this way the content of the filtered column will be constantly improved.

Removing from a group; sometimes a tweep produces off topic tweets or they become over active and the extra tweets push content out. In this case repeat the steps above but unselect their tick box instead.

On certain days Twitter parties cause a flood of tweets from #writechat, #platformchat or other hashtags and unless you prepare for them, they will wash your information away. The thing to do here is set the filter at the bottom of the column to reject any tweet containing the hashtag term.

09-11-06b Tweetdeck 9

Select the filter button.

09-11-06b Tweetdeck 10

Select the negative box to block, positive box to only show tweets including filter term.

Time shifting

When monitoring Twitter the information is normally available at inappropriate times, i.e. when you should be writing/working, and so reading the pages at that time is either wrong or not possible. In order to get around this I use a time shifting technique. First I bring up the link, give it a quick scan for relevance and interest. If it appears appropriate, I bookmark it and close the page. If time is very tight, I skip the scan and just bookmark it.

Later I bring up the bookmarked pages and read them carefully; all the better ones get added to the Wash-Up. At present I use Google bookmark on the Google taskbar since it saves bookmarks on Google servers from any computer and subsequently can be recovered by the home computer. If you aren’t using multiple computers then Windows built-in favourites system would suffice.

Because of this, it is seldom that I have the original tweet available when I identify the value of a link and so I am unable to re-tweet it. Hopefully in future I will find a method to retain the tweet information and so be able to re-tweet them.


Next make groups for all your other interests, maybe family and close friends, genre specific, indy, marketing . . . whatever groups you require.

And really, that is all there is to it.

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4 comments to How to Control the Twitter Stream

  • To Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Dear Hillary

    A few weeks back you asked a simple question on this blog.

    “Your list – I am interested to learn the link with twitter and how you can co-ordinate all the information for us. One day I’ll get there.”

    Well the request was simple but the execution has taken some time. Sorry about the delay.

    This week’s post is just for you.
    (it may help some others, I hope you don’t mind?)

    Happy scribbling


  • Hi Andy ..thanks – I’m here and I ‘ve added you into my RSS settings .. so now I’ll be aware of posts etc. Glad you’ve only just done the post – life has been difficult here and after the sadness I am now freer .. and will keep an eye on your posts and learn from them. As I hope others will too.

    Many thanks for letting me know – Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  • Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Le_Shack: New post: How to mine the Twitter stream,

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