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Zach Leatherman

You Should Follow Fewer People on Twitter

06 Jun 2013 Zach Leatherman

After a good four year run, BUSYNESS is now offline. You can still see a sample of the output. Thanks Heroku for hosting!

In high school, one of the most important lessons I learned was to choose your friends wisely. The people you spend time with can influence your mood and even your behavior. While this may seem extreme, I treat my virtual friends in much the same way.

It probably goes without saying that Twitter is my favorite social network. The status update length constraint and bi-directional follower/friend relationships have created a tool that allows for really interesting self policing networks and communities to form.

(In the Twitter lexicon, a follower is someone whom has subscribed to your updates and a friend is someone you have subscribed to.)

It’s fascinating to see the different ways that people use Twitter. When I first joined and had only a few friends, I would read all of the updates in my stream. While I sincerely doubt that any Twitter user reads every single tweet that floats down their stream, as time goes on and your network grows using Twitter in this way quickly becomes unsustainable.

When you hit this upper limit, you’re left with a few options:

  1. Stop reading most of your stream. When you get into the 400+ friend region, this likely means that you’re missing a lot of content.
  2. Stick with a specific brand of client and use that client’s mute or filter functionality. I use a variety of clients on different platforms, so this doesn’t really work for me.
  3. Instead of following, use Twitter’s list functionality. I attempted to use lists in this way for awhile, but largely my lists have gone unmaintained and ignored.
  4. Use Twitter’s built in feature to hide retweets from certain users.
  5. Unfollow people to reduce your stream down to a more manageable pace (especially celebrities, companies, and brands using twitter purely for marketing).

While a combination of the above methods (especially the last two) is probably wise, I started to notice that I had a few friends that were really noisy tweeters. They were venturing into massive tweet count totals and hadn’t been on Twitter more than a year or two.

An extreme example of this is Twitter user YOUGAKUDAN_00. This particular user has over 32 million tweets and averages over 26,000 per day. While you’d easily notice this amount of pollution in your stream, you may not notice someone continually averaging 50-100 daily tweets.

I decided to build a tool to solve this problem. It would find the noisiest twitter friends in my stream so I could make a better informed decision whether or not their volume was worth following. Thus, with the help of my brother Dan Leatherman (a talented designer and web developer), BUSYNESS was born.

You can use BUSYNESS to find your noisiest twitter friends.

If you have any feedback (comments or suggestions), please feel free to send a tweet to @zachleat. I’d love to hear it.

BUSYNESS is hosted on Heroku and uses Express with EJS templates. Source code available on GitHub.


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Cool tool! It reminds me of (the now defunct, I just learned) FollowCost[1], which was valuable in seeing how annoying somebody will be *before* you follow them.

I keep pretty tight reigns on my Twitter stream for some of the same reasons that you do, and Busyness can definitely help with that.

The one criticism I have of the tool is that my results didn't surprise me at all. Perhaps it's because I pay close attention to Twitter and I know which of the people I follow tweet the most. Regardless, it served to reenforce my intuition.

Oh, and that brogrammer joke is almost *too* good. Well played.


Yeah, something like FollowCost would have been much easier to build and scale! Much fewer API calls there. I might steal their last 100 tweets idea.

(At least 20% of the reason I wanted to build this was a desire to use that joke.)

This is super cool, thanks guys! It actually helped me find some accounts that I forgot I was following--because they haven't tweeted in years (e.g.,, my 2nd busiest result... heh).