August 6, 2018

Twitter just ain’t like it used to be.

When the social media platform launched 12 years ago, it was more of a mundane check-in service. Think: “Eating pizza and wings at Duff’s. Yum!” or “Anyone else got that new song ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’ stuck in your head?”

It quickly morphed into a place where snark was king and off-color was the language du jour. Rolling through the mean tweets of 2008 through 2015 or so was an invitation to criticize and be criticized, often in the starkest terms possible.

Tone and topics have moved somewhat toward the professional over the years since, but for many of us, those old tweets remain. Some of them can be jarring in a modern context. Just ask journalist Sarah Jeong, who was attacked for wry tweets about race, or filmmaker James Gunn, who was fired from an upcoming superhero flick after some crude tweets surfaced.

We’ve all tweeted dumb stuff. My very first tweet was, “Trying to figure out a way to utilize twitter…,” a sentence that no doubt caused Strunk and White to red-pen the tops of their graves. That tweet remains, but others are long gone. Here’s how to do the same.

The Tactical Option
If you’d like to keep your Twitter history and only remove your most offensive tweets, turn to Twitter Advanced Search. It allows you to search for specific words or phrases.

I modified a list similar to this one (warning: loads of vulgarity) to also include terms that have become politicized over the past decade. Then I pasted it into the “Any of these words” section of advanced search (I had to cut the list into three searches because it seems like there’s a word limit), added my username to the “From these accounts” section and went on a deleting spree (to delete a tweet, click the downward-facing arrow on the top right corner of a tweet and select “Delete Tweet” on the dropdown).

Presto. A cleaner history. And it only feels slightly Orwellian.

The Nuclear Option
If your Twitter history is a bit messier, it might make sense to blast the whole thing to oblivion and start fresh. Turn to a tool like TweetDelete for that. The Verge has a great roundup that includes how to use TweetDelete and some other tools worth trying. They note that you may want to save a copy of your archives if you go this route, and I couldn’t agree more.

But I can only recommend deleting all of your tweets if your timeline is extremely dire. For better or worse, a user’s tweet count lends a bit of authority on Twitter. It’s usually worth the time to go through and pluck out the weeds rather than tilling the whole garden.

Whether you’re deleting a handful of unwise tweets or smashing the lot of them, note that you’re not entirely in the clear. Your tweets might live on in archive tools, screengrabs or even just the minds of the people who saw them. It’s a good reminder that you are what you tweet.

Digital News to Know

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: I know I said last week that I’m rarely wowed by tools anymore, but it happened again. First, some background. Have you ever watched prestige TV about law and order or followed a convoluted court case and wondered how lawyers could possibly piece all of that information together? I’d always assumed it was impossible without an army of paralegals and interns working in concert overnights and on weekends. Then I got a demo of a discovery tool called LogikCull. Think DocumentCloud, but built for Jack McCoy (and not free). Its search tools are potent, its optical character recognition is strong and its ordering abilities are pristine. Check out the demo and let me know what you think.

  • MORE DATA: Did you know that the 100 largest landowning families own an area of the United States. that’s larger than the state of Florida? Or that 41 percent of land in the contiguous states revolves around livestock? Bloomberg’s scrolly infographic on how America uses its land is flush with informative wows.

PERSONALIZED NEWS: The New York Times publishes a mess of news every day. But even if you’re interested in the most obscure culture or technology news they publish, you have to wade through Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman to get to it. Or at least you used to. The Times app just got a big update that allows users to personalize their feeds based on topics and specific journalists. It also pulls interesting information straight from the Times’ Slack. It’s out with the Krugman, in with the Deb. (USA Today released a similar feature earlier this year.)

PROTOTYPES: The BBC built 12 news prototypes over eight weeks in an sprint to find better formats for news than 500- to 800-word articles. Nieman Lab summarized some of the winners:

  • The Expander: Pop-out information boxes that provide more information or context about a name or topic. A major benefit: They’re reusable.
  • The Incremental: Storytelling inspired by those choose-your-own-adventure books from a couple decades ago (younger readers, look it up). They’re a heavier lift, but might encourage audiences with short attention spans to stick around longer. (If you’re into video, Verse is a great out-of-the-box tool for this.)
  • Viewpoints: Users vote on how they feel about an issue after reading an article.

GETTING BIZZY: The Financial Times is beefing up its advertising with a new tool that helps advertisers reach audiences across print, online and the Financial Times’ app. The tool has already yielded some interesting results: It “showed less audience crossover on FT platforms than expected. While print and digital audiences overlap, there’s an audience distinction across time and day,” Digiday reported.  


  • When it comes to tab management, I’m still as enamored with Toby as I was last week. But it’s not so great for those who don’t use Chrome. Start.Me might be a good alternative. Besides bookmark organization, Start.Me includes RSS functionality, widgets that can show things like weather and analytics and online keyword alerts. (h/t Melissa Runnels)
  • Want your Facebook to show more news and fewer vacation pics? Or maybe less politics and more of friends’ babies? PopSci explains how to train your newsfeed. From earlier this year but still relevant.
  • Or maybe you’re wistful for the days before Facebook, when Myspace ruled the world (or at least your Top 8). In that case, The New York Times has advice on how to go back to a flip phone.

AUDIO STAR: To launch a successful podcast, especially without a team, you need the skills of an on-air talent, a producer, a technician and a marketer. It’s a lot to master. When I’ve worked on podcasts in the past, I got up to speed with YouTube tutorials, online courses, advice from friends and by just freaking winging it. But none of that was as fun as this Podcasting from Scratch zine from the wonderful Alex Laughlin.

Try This! is supported by the American Press Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
Ren LaForme

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