In honour of Home Opening Day for the Toronto Blue Jays (and in lieu of the writing I should be doing today), here's a post I've been meaning to write to explain exactly how my super-awesome-spoiler-proof Twitter system works.
"So, you mute keywords and hashtags?" Oh, if only it were that simple!
Here's the thing: Joe and I watch every Blue Jays game. Every. Game. We don't want to know what happens before we watch, but we DO want to participate in the Blue Jays Twittersphere. It's easy to do one or the other, but it's the doing both that presents the particular challenge.
We're not always home for every game. Between scheduled activities like bowling and choir, and larger issues like being on the road and in a different time zone, we rarely watch any games as they happen. Even when we are home, we routinely let the PVR record for an hour or so before watching so that we have the luxury of skipping commercials if we so choose. For the times when we're traveling without access to our PVR, or in the event anything should happen to our television's recording, we have a subscription to MLB.tv.
Depending on where in the world we are, and how crazy our schedule has been, it's not uncommon for us to be days behind watching games. Two, three or even four games can sneak up on you if you're at a conference in Europe with evening events, pub nights out and shaky hotel wifi. But, I'm not avoiding Twitter for a week until we're caught up.
Joe has decided to make a 2nd twitter account specifically for baseball. I have tried that and found that it didn't quite solve all my problems, so I opted for the infinitely more complicated route of keeping baseball within my normal Twitter account.
Here's how I do it:
Yoru Fukurou (Night Owl) Mac OS X twitter client. Fortunately, I stumbled upon this incredibly customizable client years ago, even before I knew I'd need it. As it turns out, this is the only twitter client I have found that supports FILTERING of tweets, in addition to simply MUTING tweets.
(Note: I prefer the "mini-view" (highly condensed text except for the tweet you've selected) because I'm a "wall of text" kinda gal, but the client is highly customizable for a variety of views. Don't let all the text put you off if it's not your thing! See Yoru Fukurou's web site for examples of more traditional appearance choices.)
Under the "Tools" menu, I can "configure custom tabs."
There are a variety of tabs one can create, but what makes Yoru Fukurou unique as a twitter client is its ability to create a "Filter Tab." A filter tab shows only tweets from your timeline that match particular keywords or phrases, hashtags and/or users. It is like a search tab, but it searches only your timeline, not all of Twitter.
Most importantly for me, Yoru Fukurou allows you the option of removing filtered tweets from your regular timeline. This means that any tweet that matches any of your filtering criteria is hidden away from view as you browse your timeline tab, and instead is only visible within your Filter Tab. This is how I can keep up with my Twitter timeline even when people I follow are tweeting about the Jays game currently underway.
Admittedly, when you peek under the hood of my Jays Filter Tab, it looks like a big mess. Over the years, I have fine-tuned my filter criteria (users, keywords, hashtags) so that there is as little chance as possible of a Jays-related tweet ending up in my main timeline instead of my filter tab. Often, non-Jays tweets will show up in the filter tab because of my agressive filtering, but better safe than sorry. Some entire users have been relegated to the Jays tab (or even unfollowed!) even when they only sometimes tweet about baseball simply because I cannot depend on their tweets containing enough context for their tweet to match my filtering rules. Obviously, any mention of "Jays" or "Blue Jays" causes a tweet to be filtered, as does the word "baseball." But, if a user that I follow tweets (and one has!) simply, "Damn, lost in the 14th!" then there's not much I can do about that. For a while, I had filtered any instance of the word "inning." However, my filter was catching tweets containing words like "beginning" and I decided that was too agressive. Given that the Jays have a catcher named "Thole" in the organization, still to this day any tweet about "potholes" ends up in my Jays tab.
SPOILER-PROOFING ALL OTHER TABS:
I have multiple filter tabs in Yoru Fukurou, not just my Jays tab. I primarily use tabs for tweets that I want to notice quickly, even if I'm not caught up with my timeline. One tab, for example, contains tweets from the bargain or deal hunting accounts I follow, in case there's a flash sale on something or a time-sensitive free sample offer. One thing I've discovered about Yoru Fukurou, however, is that tweets can be filtered out of your main timeline but into multiple filter tabs. So for example, if one of the shopping twitter accounts I follow tweets about a Blue Jays or baseball-related deal, this tweet would end up in both my "Deals" Filter Tab and my "Jays" Filter Tab. While this tweet might not contain a spoiler, it could: "Since the Jays have been on a tear, winning five games in a row, Jays Shop has announced free shipping today only!" So, many of the keywords I have filtered into my Jays tab, I also have filtered out of all other tabs as exclusions (using the minus sign in front of the word or phrase). This ensures that any baseball-related tweets meet only the criteria of my Jays Filter Tab, not any other filter or search tabs, and that's the only location where they all end up.
COUNT UNREAD TWEETS:
Yoru Fukurou allows me, on a tab-by-tab basis, to track and display the number of unread tweets. It also allows me to require that a tweet be "clicked on" in order to be marked read. (If I wanted, I could allow tweets to be marked read simply as I scroll past them, but I happen to prefer the setting where a tweet is only read if it's been selected.) At a glance, I can see unread tweets accumulating in my Jays tab. At any time, I can move up the list, tweet-by-tweet, and "catch up" to tweets that occur during the part of the game I'm currently watching. This allows me to still read all the tweets I would otherwise see from the people I follow, in "real alternate time" while viewing my regular timeline in "real actual time." Muting those tweets mean they would be lost forever to me. Filtering them and saving them to read when I'm ready for them is the key to my system.
Sadly, I have not yet found a twitter mobile client that offers this kind of filtering. Some may call what they do filtering, but it's really just muting, blocking, or silencing certain tweets based on keywords or users. (See the "tweets lost forever" point above.) Until such a twitter client arrives on the scene, one sacrifice I have made is to mute all baseball-related tweets from my phone and tablet. Fortunately, muting is now quite common in mobile clients. My Android twitter client of choice Twitpane even allows exporting and importing of settings, so fortunately I only had to set up my elaborate keyword/user mutes once on my phone, and then I simply imported all my settings into the app on my tablet. Since I am typically watching a Jays game somewhere in the presence of my laptop, I have decided that I'm OK with the constraint that I can only ever catch up on Jays tweets on my laptop. If my phone (or tablet) is the only twitter option I have, then I'm probably outside of the home or hotel room and not watching a game anyway. And in that case, I absolutely do want to be able to be current on Twitter, and have accepted that those are Jays-free devices.
For being such an avid Jays fan, you'll notice that I don't actually tweet a lot (all things considered) about the Jays, and almost never about actual game play. This is partly because whatever I'd be tempted to tweet about has already happened, so it's really old news to anyone following along. It's also partly because, being sensitive to spoilers myself, I wouldn't want to be the one to tweet a spoiler at someone else who may be even further behind than we are. But also, I've had the experience of tweeting that we are sitting down to start a game (on #PVRdelay, of course) only to have a random stranger tweet back, "You're not going to like what you see." Thanks, jerk. So, perhaps to the benefit of my non-baseball followers, you won't see much play-by-play from my twitter account. It means I don't get to fully participate in Blue Jays twitter, but I've at least found a way to not be shut out of it.
So go ahead, PLAY BALL!