Twitter Custom Timeline: useful with room to improve

12 Nov

It’s like a Twitter-only Storify for Twitter.

The microblogging service announced “custom timelines” Tuesday, allowing you to create a custom feed of handpicked tweets that are both embeddable and shareable. There are some flaws, but overall it’s a great step toward a useful, quick-and-dirty tool to gather a custom list of tweets.

Why would you use this? Some ideas.

  • Gathering reaction to a specific subject to embed in a post.
  • Compiling a list of tweets you want to share internally for sourcing. (Be aware that the custom timeline will be public and theoretically could be found by competitors.)
  • Gathering “top” (top being loosely defined) tweets from one user over a long period of time, for record-keeping and/or embedding.

Things To Know

Do it in TweetDeck.

Click the + sign on the left to add a new column, then select “Custom timeline” on the bottom right.

Custom 10

Adding

Click the crosshair arrows (bottom right of this screenshot — this is a new TweetDeck function) and drag the tweet(s) into the custom timeline column.

Custom 2

Sequence

When you drag a new tweet to your custom timeline, it’s added to the very top. Once it’s in there, I don’t see a way you can reorder the tweets.

So chronology doesn’t matter, and if you get something out of order, you have to delete all the tweets before it and re-add them in the order you want. (I would happily stand corrected if I’m overlooking a solution here.)

You can spot the difference in these two screenshots, where Nina’s and Daniel’s tweets are flipped.

Custom 1

Not in chronological order.

Custom 3

In chronological order.

Filtering

It works just like any other TweetDeck column.

Custom 4

Sharing

When ready, there are three ways to share.

Custom 5

1. View on Twitter

Custom 6

2. Tweet about it

Custom 7

3. Embed Widget

Custom 9

If you have more than one custom timeline, they’ll all appear in your dropdown menu:

Custom 8

DON’T DELETE!

If you delete your custom timeline column from TweetDeck, it will cease to exist and break your widget anywhere it exists. (Hopefully this gets fixed.)

Now, if you have some coding skills and know how to utilize the API properly, you can presumably do a lot more with the tool than what’s listed  above. Here’s the blurb on that from Twitter’s blog:

About the API

There’s something more to what we’re announcing today: the custom timelines API beta. This new API will open up interesting opportunities, such as programming your custom timelines based on the logic that you choose, or building tools that help people create their own custom timelines, as TweetDeck does. As noted above, POLITICO is using the custom timelines API to add Tweets to its Tweet Hub.

You can read more about custom timelines for developers and the API beta here. To begin, the API will be available to a small group of selected partners. We want to hear from you. If you have a great idea and you’re interested in testing out the API, please let us know by filling out this form.

We’re excited to see what you’ll do with custom timelines, and are just getting started.

Overall, I’m a fan, but the two biggest immediate improvements I would like to see made are:

  • Ability to reorder tweets once they’re in the custom timeline.
  • Not have to keep the column indefinitely in TweetDeck. I could continue stuffing the custom timelines in my far right columns, but I would much rather keep them off TweetDeck once I create them without having to worry about all the data disappearing, like it did when I deleted the timeline from the example above.
  • Ability to make custom timelines private, which is something Storify does, so it can be shared internally.

Have you tried a custom timeline yet? Let me know what you think.

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