Twitter initially evoked public scrutiny, and boisterous media inanity, as a supposedly trivial, narcissistic and whimsical Web oddity. Last spring, however, the site announced its membership had eclipsed 100 million users, with an astonishing 300,000 new arrivals every day
. That success can largely be attributed to the creation of a variety of features -- particularly the monumental and overdue 'List' function
-- that make the site more accessible, navigable and informative. Creating lists
markedly transforms Twitter feeds from chaotic, digital narratives of nonsense (since all it takes is one self-important blowhard) to manageable and instantly sortable sources of news, entertainment and family happenings. Since many new Twitter members rapidly lose interest, or completely fail to ever actually use the site, a step-by-step guide to organizing followed accounts should alleviate the frustration that inevitably arises from an immediate inundation of microblogging bedlam.
Create and Classify
After creating an account, new users can construct initial, empty lists directly from the vertical bar on the right side of the member home screen. Under the primary 'Lists' heading, select "New list." A pop-up window subsequently appears with a space for "List name," as well as one for a 100-word "Description" -- just in case 'News,' 'Tech' or 'Music' titles provide insufficient details. The window also automatically allows users to choose whether to keep the list private or to make it available to the public. After clicking "Create list," Twitter immediately diverts the user to a search page to help "Find people to add."
The next, obvious step toward Twitter clarity (if you haven't done it already) is to add some tweeters of interest. If a search is performed from the previously mentioned "Find people to add" function, a vertical assortment of matching names appears. To the right side of those account names, Twitter provides three selectable categories: a "Follow" box, a drop-down "Manage lists" menu and a tab that features various actions, including "Mention" and "Block."
If a person of interest is spotted, click on the corresponding "Manage lists" tab, and then simply check the box to select your newly minted category.
In July, Twitter also considerably streamlined the friend-finding process by installing a search bar at the right side
of the member home screen, or the "main tweet stream." After entering an organization or person, a horizontal list of matching titles appears, as does a real-time vertical feed of user messages that mention the search subject. If you're searching for a celebrity or political personality, a verified, legitimate account (another late, great upgrade) should represent one of the primary results. Thank you, Sarah Palin
Users can also perform a search from the original 'Find People' page, which is accessible from a tab located at the upper right portion of the member home page. This option allows users to search for specific names, find e-mail contacts who may also be Twitter members, and scroll through various genres (basically, default Twitter lists) through the 'Browse Interests' tab. In August, the site augmented its July search bar upgrade with a new 'Find People' feature, dubbed 'Suggestions for You.' Based on an algorithm that analyzes the members you already follow
, the new service "suggests" related accounts that may also be of interest.
Squelch the Streaming Insanity
If you already follow various accounts, but never feel like scrolling through pages of tripe to find hidden, worthwhile posts, you can also create and aggrandize lists by clicking on "following." From the member home screen, select the "following" option under your profile information. A vertical bar will display your followed lists, with a "Manage lists" tab provided to the right. If an appropriate grouping doesn't already exist, just select "New list" at the bottom of the pop-up. The "Create a new list" window will appear. If a corresponding list has been created, though, just check the box for the appropriate selection.
Privacy and Mobility
With the immediate pop-up window, Twitter makes setting your lists as private instant and effortless. But, if your tweets aren't protected, and you don't want them to appear in some random stranger's group, then you need to actively "Block" that user. You can locate the lists in which you appear from two home areas. Simply click the "Listed" tab under your profile name for direct access, or select "View all" under 'Lists' on the right side, and then click "Lists Following You." If some crazy stalker has included you on their twisted Twitter list, just choose that particular selection and then click "Block [user]" on the right side of the following screen. [Ed. Note: We have this article's writer in our "Favorite Last Names EVER!" list, which may not be fun for some.]
To further simplify and specialize the following process, Twitter allows mobile users to set notifications for, and find the latest tweets from, specific members. But, not every mobile Twitter app enables 'Lists' access, so choose the right offering based on individual preferences. Since multiple apps exist for various mobiles, prospective users can consult comprehensive Twitter guides for both BlackBerry
devices. If you've created an account, downloaded apps, constructed lists and found friends and family members, then it's time to move on to the Twitter pros. We can certainly help you get started with that as well: