As Twitter rolls out its new Twitter Blue subscription service, some of us still long for the olden days when the timeline was nothing more than a bunch of tweets, one after the other, from people you had chosen to follow. There’s a mute list hack that supposedly will help you mimic that old-school experience, but does it really work?
The hack is here, and it’s just a list of keywords that you’re supposed to mute to clean up your timeline. If you’re not familiar with the mute feature, just go into your Twitter settings under “content preferences,” and you can mute any word or phrase you like for 24 hours, a week, a month, or forever. If you’re sick of a meme or don’t want to hear about a certain politician, you can throw them onto your mute list.
But back to this keyword hack: It’s based on the assumption that certain internal Twitter tags appear with the stuff you don’t want on your timeline. For example, when someone you follow replies to someone you don’t, both tweets show up on your timeline, and in theory there’s a special keyword that marks that. Or if someone you follow “likes” a tweet that wouldn’t otherwise turn up for you, Twitter may decide to show it to you anyway. Those little sections of things you may have missed, or suggestions for people to follow? They’re also supposedly included in this hack.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. The comments on the github page are mostly positive ones thanking the author for posting the list and suggesting that the one or two people who can’t get it to work are doing something wrong. But the naysayers are right. Twitter itself tweeted around the time this list went live that muting these keywords won’t take suggestions out of your timeline.
But I tried it, just in case. I went through the list, muting everything from
suggestrecycledtweet_inline. And the result — in my browser and on my phone app — was bupkis. I still got tweets marked “[your friend] and 3 others liked” and “[your friend] replied” despite the mutings.
One reason why it may be easy to believe that they do work? Twitter doesn’t insert its suggestions predictably, so after you mute the words you may go a little while without seeing any of them. I scrolled my Twitter feed endlessly while researching this piece, and even before I muted the keywords I didn’t see many of the suggested tweets. They only turn up when you least expect them, I suppose.
Is it possible that muting can make certain specific suggestions go away, ones that I didn’t notice when I tested? Perhaps, but it’s hard to confirm that. I tried searching the keywords from the list in the HTML page source for my Twitter timeline, and they didn’t appear (even when I was looking right at a suggested tweet, and even inspecting that element). If this feature ever worked, Twitter must have changed their code to dodge it. Or maybe it was wishful thinking all along.