2013-09-09

Co.Labs

How To Set Up Twitter As Your News Reader

If your news reading has suffered since the shuttering of Google Reader and none of the alternatives are a good fit, you may want to try using Twitter. Here’s a guide to creating lists in Twitter and using them as your news feeds.



It seemed inevitable, with enough backlash, that Google could be persuaded to reverse its decision to shut down its RSS reader. However painful it may have been, Google stuck to its guns and we now live in a (two-month-old) world with no default RSS client/backend. Like many, I exported my data ahead of the shutdown and tried Feedly, Feed Wrangler, and Feed Bin, but none of the alternatives were a good fit. So I turned to Twitter as a solution, mostly out of desperation.

There’s not an automated process to transition from RSS to Twitter lists, but the benefits of getting updates quicker (than RSS feeds got updated) do make up for the the initial effort. You also get the convenience on mobile devices of not having to jump in and out of multiple apps.

The Basics

I set up a private list in Twitter called, appropriately enough, "RSS."

I looked at my RSS feeds and tracked down the corresponding Twitter account for the different sites. I was able to duplicate my feeds about 95%.

It’s incredibly useful to be able to group people or companies into different lists, but Twitter doesn’t make it easy to use in its own apps and website.

Setting up a list on Twitter’s website, once you log in:

  • Clicking the gear icon in the top right corner of the site, next to search, gets you a dropdown that contains "lists."
  • From there you’ll see the lists you’ve made or ones other people have put you in.
  • If you don’t have any yet, click “Create list” under the “Edit profile” button.

To get around (slightly) quicker, you can also use the keyboard shortcut “GL” to switch to your available lists.

  • To add a user to a list, you either search for them or find them in your main timeline, and click on their icon.
  • From there, click on the silhouette of a person to the left of the follow/following button and select “Add/remove from lists.”


Setting up a list on Twitter’s mobile app (iOS reference) is just as difficult, if not more so to even find the lists section.

  • Click the bottom right button labeled “Me.”
  • Scroll down past your own tweets and you’ll see lists in between favorites and drafts.
  • After selecting lists, in the top right-hand corner, tap the “+” button and enter the info.
  • To add a user to a list, you either search for them or find them in your main timeline, and click on their icon.
  • From there, click on the silhouette of a person to the left of the follow/following button and select “Add/remove from lists.”

Third-Party Apps

My preferred method and the reason lists caught on as an RSS reader alternative in the first place is because Tweetbot made it easy. Since Twitter’s official apps work for the average user, third-party apps need to feature and promote hidden functionality, so most handle lists pretty well.

Using lists on Tweetbot’s mobile app makes switching back and forth between your timeline and managed lists simple. After getting your account set up with the app:

  • The top bar, which says “Timeline” and has your avatar, is the toggle to get to lists.
  • Tapping the bar reveals your lists, and once one is selected, it appears as your main feed in place of your timeline. Tap it again to go back.
  • You can’t create new lists in Tweetbot’s mobile app, but you can add users to them.
  • To add a user to a list, tap on a user’s icon, then tap on the gear to the right of their name.
  • The first option will be “Manage List Memberships.”
  • Select the list you’d like that person to be a part of.

Using lists on Tweetbot’s Mac app is one of the more powerful ways to intertwine your news and social media. Setting up a command center-type situation takes a few steps once you log in with your Twitter account:

  • On the left-hand side of the app, click on the icon with four lines, two paces up from the bottom.
  • This will show you your lists where you can select the one you want.
  • In Tweetbot’s top bar, click the gear next to “Edit” and select “View list tweets.”
  • After that, click the small gear in the column’s bottom bar and select “Open in new column.”
[image: iPad.AppStorm]

TweetDeck is owned by Twitter, but it still feels like a third-party app, or like a black sheep. The thing TweetDeck users have always loved about the program is how customizable and powerful it can be. Using lists on TweetDeck’s website can be set up like this once you log in:

  • On the left-hand side of the screen, click the “+” button and select “lists.”
  • Select the specific list you want and confirm the choice with the button at the bottom of the window.

TweetDeck also has a Chrome app that works similarly.

Connecting The Pieces

After making a list, adding companies and sites you’d like to keep tabs on, there are a few other tools that can help connect all the pieces and make Twitter’s unintentional solution for Google Reader’s demise a little easier to swallow.

Using a mobile Twitter app for lists and the purpose of replacing RSS makes it quicker to scroll through the news, but it doesn’t make for the best reading experience. The solution for this is to connect your preferred read-later service such as Pocket or Instapaper.

Most Twitter apps support adding read-later accounts, even Twitter’s official app, so saving a few stories to read later is as simple as long-pressing on the link and selecting “Save” or “Send to.”

Tweetbot also supports Pinboard, my preferred place to save links for further review later.

Digging deeper, you can set up an IFTTT action, which sends any tweet (and link) you favorite to your preferred service such as Delicious, Evernote, Instapaper, Pocket, and so on.

If you don’t use Twitter, heaven forbid you got this far, you can set up an account strictly to use the service as an RSS-type reader and would not need to create any lists.

Conclusion

Most people, upon getting familiar using Twitter, declared it RSS’s replacement years ago. And in practice, it does function similarly for a lot of people. Making dedicated lists for tech, or sports, or other interests, however, may be the final convincing straw someone unhappy with Google Reader alternatives was looking for.

Sure, the obvious downside to using Twitter instead of RSS is that not every site also cross-posts to Twitter, but this is Twitter’s peak--enjoy its wide-reaching, all-encompassing benefits.

[Image: Flickr user Vassil Tzvetanov]


Article Tags: googlehow toRSStwitter