Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Chrome extension: Twitter 'likes' Hider

TL;DR: I made a Chrome extension to hide Twitter posts that are likely designed to waste my time.

Here it is: 

The source code is here:

The long story:

I wrote a Chrome extension that hides specific tweets from my Twitter newsfeed. Those tweets being headed with 'So-and-so liked this' or 'Thus-and-such follows So-and-so'.

Twitter, the company, really wants us to spend as much time as possible on its site, and so it deploys various tricks to bypass our rational time-management skills (this strategy of distracting folk to keep them spending is as old as casinos and suburban shopping malls). One of those tricks is to sprinkle throughout your newsfeed posts that someone else 'liked', or a post from someone that someone else 'follows'.  I would bet a lot that the Twitter 'time-suck' algorithm has somehow identified these as a particular time-suck for your specific demographic.

e.g. Are you a left-leaning, 20-something urban professional living on the East Coast of the US? Take a look at this tweet, that asserts in a spectacular smug and condescending tone that only the Republic party can save the country. And, oh look! Lots of interesting commentary...

 And, while you can mute people, or turn off their retweets, you cannot turn off these 'like' and 'follow' tweets. At least, not through Twitter's user interface.

So, I wrote a Chrome extension that does just that, and helps me separate the signal from the noise.

It does not always work reliably, and I think that's a timing issue: sometimes when the extension triggers, Twitter has not yet finished loading those tweets. So, sometimes it will take a whole minute for all 'like' and 'follow' tweets to hide.  However, you can push the extension button and trigger it manually. I'm not sure if I will ever spend the 80% time to grind down that 20% to make it shine. Perhaps, if I hear of literally anyone else in the world using it, I will make that effort.

The name that I used on the required screenshot is 'Alexander Stubb'. It was kind of a random choice, but this name is shared by a Finnish politician from the center-right party Kokoomus (who recently started a campaign to be EU President), and I think I should change that, because it's distracting. Those who know who Alexander Stubb is are likely to wonder if I'm making some kind of political statement, and what it could possibly be. But, alas, no, I'm not making a political statement.  I think I used the name because at the time it felt like an Easter egg.

I mean, I do vaguely disapprove of Kokoomus, because I hear they want to replicate some of the demonstrably failed policies that have been so divisive in my homeland. But I have not yet heard a steel-manned argument in favor of them, and until then I cannot bring myself to hold a strong opinion about them either way. Finnish politics is a bit beyond my ken, at the moment.

The only remaining question is "Why?"  Why, if Twitter is bound and determined to present you with click-baity nonsense, stay on the site?  Why not just quit?  Why spend the time to write an actual extension?  Well, there are some great gems in that garbage.  Here are a few!

Ruins: Ancient, Modern & Imaginary
A raid in the Baltic Sea
Finland is made of...
How to find stuff in git