Make Twitter Useable Again

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.56.14

Yesterday I was infected with the #NewTwitter virus meaning that I’d been upgraded to Twitter’s latest changes. I’m pretty grumpy about unnecessary change, particularly as all my carefully tweaked settings were no longer working and I was exposed to the full horrors of what Twitter’s like on desktop (web browser) without these settings. Scrolling through I could see that “So and so follows X, who sent this tweet” (who cares?) or “So and so liked this tweet” (just show me their RTs). Grim 😉

I’ve thrown everything at it to reverse this and so far it’s holding fast.

  1. Try and go back to Old Twitter
  2. See latest tweets first (chronological Twitter)
  3. Unsuggest the suggested tweets (X follows Y, X liked Z)
  4. Hiding side panels (“Who to follow” & “Trends”) and promoted tweets
  5. Troubleshooting
  6. Not yet solved (1): Proper Length Tweets
  7. Not yet solved (2): Blimey the images take up a lot of space in comment RTs
  8. Things I like about New Twitter

1. See if you can restore “Legacy Twitter” aka OldTwitter

1a. Simple link
To get back to legacy Twitter I’ve found that this works but perhaps it won’t after a while. It’s lost if you refresh the page, but new tweets show up in a panel at the top (‘See XX new tweets’, example below) as before so it’s fine.

You must RIGHT-CLICK and open in new tab to make this work. Don’t click on the link.

No need to refresh the page to view new tweets as Twitter provides this auto-updating feature, clicking on it shows the latest tweets.Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.42.49

1b. “Good Twitter” extension / add on
This works by convincing your browser that it’s unable to support new Twitter, forcing it to display Old Twitter. I’ve seen good things about it on Twitter but use Firefox so haven’t tested it myself.

For Chrome users

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/goodtwitter/jbanhionoclikdjnjlcmefiofgjimgca

Screenshot 2019-07-26 22.52.10

If you find afterwards that videos seem to be mucked up have a look on that page in the Reviews section, it seems to be more due to Chrome than to the add on. You might need to log out and in again to get it to work and there’s an explanation on the main page as to why it says it wants access to your browser history (apparently it doesn’t, it just needs permission to clear the cache).

Other Chrome extensions: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions

For Firefox users

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/addon/goodtwitter/

Screenshot 2019-07-26 22.53.48

Other FireFox add-ons: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/

1c. A bit more tinkering involved
There are also add-ons that might affect more than just Twitter, and a technique for typing in a string to override something. This might be getting a bit technical for me (and 1a worked for me so I’ve not tested further). The aim with all is to fool Twitter into thinking that your browser cannot support its latest version.

User-agent switcher for Firefox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/uaswitcher/
User-agent switcher for Chrome: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/user-agent-switcher-for-c/djflhoibgkdhkhhcedjiklpkjnoahfmg

and

For those who just want to make the best of the new Twitter there are options to show latest tweets first, hide Who to follow suggestions, Trends and the in-timeline suggested tweets.

2. Show latest tweets first not ‘top tweets’ (chronological Twitter)

Once your Twitter home page looks like this at the top you should just see tweets in the order in which they’re sent…
Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.01.51

…to get there click on the blue stars icon and choose ‘Latest Tweets’ over ‘Home’. The bad news is that it will spontaneously revert so this is probably not a permanent solution. I’ve already tweaked my settings so the picture below gives me the option to return to the ‘wrong’ one.

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.03.40

3. Removing the suggested tweets from timeline

This seems to be very effective though it takes quite a long time to manually paste all of the individual phrases into the ‘mute this word’ section. If anyone knows of a way to speed this up?

You can leap to your Muted Words setting on desktop here https://twitter.com/settings/muted_keywords on mobile it will be via the gear icon. See also Twitter’s help page on Muting stuff, which curiously doesn’t mention this.

For copying and pasting purposes the text types are: RankedOrganicTweet, ActivityTweet, suggested_rank_organic_tweet, suggest_sc_tweet, suggest_ranked_timeline_tweet, suggested_grouped_tweet_hashtag, suggest_pyle_tweet, suggested_recycled_tweet_inline, suggest_activity_tweet, suggest_recycled_tweet, suggest_activity, suggest_recap, suggest_who_to_follow, generic_activity_Highlights

I set these so that they were muted for everyone, forever.

4. Hiding side panels and promoted tweets

I really struggled with this one as my normal settings didn’t help. I’ve got both AdBlock Plus and UBlock Origin on Firefox (possibly they conflict with each other!). When Twitter began showing us irrelevant stuff I activated these to clear the timeline of crud but noticed that doing so also missed out other tweets. I’d toggle between having the blockers ON or OFF during searching and eventually noticed that Twitter just stopped showing me the stuff I didn’t want to see, even without the blockers on. Hmm.

Stopped working yesterday though and it took a few goes of pressing buttons to return to normal.

I’m using Firefox, not sure if it will be the same for other browsers. In the left panel with the small red logo is AdBlock Plus and it’s the “Block element” bit that lets you hover over an offending panel (or liked tweet) to set up an exception to hide that bit when the page loads. I think you need to add Element Hiding Helper to activate this. In the right hand panel with the large blue ON/OFF switch is uBlock Origin and it’s the dropper tool that you use to select an element you want to block.

Another solution I’ve seen for removing the distraction of trends is to change your location to a country whose language is unintelligible to you. Then you’ll still see it but it won’t mean much.

Caveat 1: be a bit careful when blocking elements and move the mouse carefully to see what is picked up. You want to block only the thing you want to block and not all the bits around it. It’s fiddly to undo.

Caveat 2: This can also hide other tweets (including your own) especially those with Twitter cards (images etc). It seems to do this fairly randomly but you will be missing tweets. If you need to run a search it’s best to switch off any blockers to ensure the best results.

Note that this automatically hides all promoted / advertised tweets. I actually didn’t mind those so much and have no objection to Twitter making some money but alas they stuffed up the user experience.

5. Troubleshooting

Now that I’ve had a couple of days playing with the adaptations I’ve made to New Twitter I’ve spotted some things that you may want to be aware of. Your own experience would depend on how much of the stuff above you’ve tweaked and what method you’ve chosen.

Not every tweet shown
Using AdBlockers and Element Hider Helper or whatever it’s called has always caused the minor glitch of some tweets with images in not showing up. If you are running a search for someone’s tweets or a hashtag and want to be sure of seeing everything it’s worth switching off the Ad Blocker or uBlock Origin temporarily (toggling off/on), and pressing refresh.

Settings
I’ve also spotted that I can no longer interact with Settings while I’ve got the blocks in place, it just shows up as a blank page. Toggling fixes.

Reply threads
Also if you’re replying to people in a thread and want to select who gets the reply that doesn’t work with the Blocks on and you need to toggle them to see a list of names to put a tick by (or remove the tick from).

Saved searches
This no longer seems to work in New Twitter. Fine in Legacy Twitter but doesn’t transfer over.

6. Not yet solved (1): Proper Length Tweets

When Twitter brought in 240 character length tweets everything suddenly took up a lot of room but the Proper Length Tweets (PLT) add-on solved that nicely. Unfortunately it no longer seems to work so the search is on for a replacement. For comparison here are tweets of mine screenshot from New and Old Twitter. It’s a lot easier to scroll through many tweets with this add-on working, particularly where people have used the full number of characters.

My example doesn’t show this off to its best effect as I’ve picked a tweet of mine that isn’t that large to begin with but you can see the difference between PLT on (top pic) and PLT off (bottom pic). When tweets have more characters the difference is more pronounced and the add-on makes scrolling much quicker as the tweets take up less space.

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.35.53

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.37.13

7. Not yet solved (2): Blimey the images take up a lot of space in comment RTs

First image shows what a comment RT normally looks like on Legacy Twitter and below is the same tweet screenshotted from New Twitter. The second one is the only tweet I can see at the time on the screen in New Twitter so it’s just taking up more space than needed.

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.30.12

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.30.26

8. Things I like about New Twitter

  • It tells you what platform (“Twitter for iPhone” or “Twitter for Android” or “Twitter Web Client” or “Twitter Web App” for desktop users) someone’s used to send a tweet. This can be vaguely informative in a mildly forensic sense – you can generally tell if someone’s tweeting from a phone or a laptop. I suspect it will also show tweets that have been sent by clicking on a ‘tweet this’ button from another website, or automated / delayed tweets, but haven’t played around with this

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.33.50

  • It tells you if a tweeted image has had an image description added for visually impaired people [how to do that] – though I’ve not worked out how to read others people’s text. See ALT in the screenshot below, can’t interact with it though.

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.25.47

 

Image credit is spanner / wrench by me (using shapes in PowerPoint) applying pressure to the Twitter bird logo, shrunk to fit (from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/vectors/twitter-tweet-twitter-bird-312464/). Here’s a copy of the .pptx

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• How to do .@ replies on Twitter

How to open up a tweet or conversation thread to your public timeline without quote-tweeting it (which breaks any threading as that creates a new tweet).

Updated – whether or not your mobile phone app can or can’t do the .@ may depend on the version of your software (eg iOS) or whether or not you’ve updated the app.

Mobile phone users
Carry on as you were by clicking the start of the reply to position the cursor there and typing the . as normal (tested on Twitter for iPhone, Echofon for iPhone and Twitter for Android – I’m assuming other apps behave similarly but please let me know if not).

@Flatsquid tells me that he can’t do this on his version of Twitter for iPhone (whereas I can) so this may be a version issue. I don’t have an option to update my version so can’t confirm, though I am using an older iOS.

Tablet users
Twitter for iPad can’t do .@

Twitter on Safari doesn’t work either but it seems that using Dabr on a browser does (thanks @medtek for checking). Open browser app, go to http://dabr.co.uk/ and log in by authorising with Twitter credentials. Click reply and place the . at the front. Possibly Echofon for iPad would work too.

Web users
Twitter dot com and Tweetdeck can’t do .@

1a. On Twitter dot com or Tweetdeck reply within the confines of the new system
1b. Then retweet your own tweet – this makes it available to all your followers and maintains the thread so people can click and see the conversation.

OR

2. Dabr: Go to http://dabr.co.uk/ and log in by authorising with Twitter. Click reply and place the . at the front.


What’s this all about?
Twitter’s latest improvement meddling has removed the capacity to insert a . before the username of the person you’re replying to on the desktop / web browser version of Twitter (eg Twitter.com or Tweetdeck). The simple addition of the . before the @ did two things (a) it converted a reply (which has a more limited distribution to those involved in the conversation and people following both them and you) to a broadcast tweet (visible to anyone following you) so that more could see it while (b) maintaining the threading, letting people click and see the expanded tweet in context. [Note that any tweet sent is visible on your public timeline unless sent as a DM or you’ve locked your account.]

In the new format Twitter has removed the usernames from the text of the tweet (giving us more characters, a potential plus I suppose) but making all replies replies and not easily ‘surfaced’ to more people.

I think this ONLY affects people tweeting from Twitter dot com and Tweetdeck, phone apps appear to be unaffected (may depend on OS version or app version).

I have no idea why Twitter has done this. I’m assuming they want to make desktop Twitter as difficult as possible to use to force everyone onto mobile apps, though that doesn’t make sense since there are so many things you can’t do (in terms of settings) on mobile apps. People have suggested that it reduces the risk of people piling on in response to a more publicised tweet – that would only be true if .@ was also removed from mobile apps or you couldn’t retweet your own tweet (which serves the same purpose, but perhaps doesn’t cue people in the same way that seeing .@ does). Possibly this will change in future.

Removing / adding people in the conversation
The other annoyance with Twitter’s new replies is that it adds an extra hassle barrier in untagging people from the conversation. They have now added a ‘remove everyone other than the person I’m replying to from this conversation’ one-click option.

Clicking ‘reply’ has always meant ‘reply all’ but the previous system made it easy to select the usernames as a chunk of text and delete, now you have to go and look for them. To do this click reply, then click on the line above saying ‘Replying to @name, @name etc’ and choose the options to delete people. You can write the names of new additions within the tweet – so there’s one way to remove people but a different way to add them, which seems confusing.

Threads are now a mess and it’s not clear who’s replying to whom.

Further reading
The New Twitter @-Replies Are Giving Me an Ulcer (30 March 2017) by Sarah Jeong