advertisement A Brilliant Data-Viz Idea That Solves Twitter’s Biggest Problem

Ever get the feeling that most of the folks you follow on Twitter are being drowned out by a particularly loud few? BERG Studio offers a solution. A Brilliant Data-Viz Idea That Solves Twitter’s Biggest Problem

Let’s not mince words: Twitter, like any and every social network that becomes hugely successful, can be a giant pain in the ass to use sometimes. Now that some of us follow hundreds of people for work and play, it’s all too easy to miss stuff in the firehose — especially when a handful of the folks you follow tweet so often that they push other, more infrequent (but just as valuable) tweets out of sight. Alice Bartlett, the latest addition to BERG’s team of design/tech innovators, created a fun solution called It analyzes your Twitter feed and visually re-formats it so that infrequent tweeters are displayed in huge type so you don’t miss them, while the blabbermouths are shrunk down to near-invisibility.


[With off]

[With On]

Why can’t Twitter have “volume knobs” for Lists or individuals?

The method isn’t complicated: Bartlett’s code simply assigns a “frequency value” to everyone you follow, from one to eleven. (Nice Spinal Tap nod, Alice.) The first time I used it, a tweet from indie darlings The Books was displayed in type so large I couldn’t have missed it with my glasses off — while the logorrheic river from some of my other journalism colleagues was visually muted. It’s nothing personal — I follow these megatweeters for a reason, after all — it’s just nice to have the visual volume recalibrated, to get a quick glimpse of what I was missing.


That said,’s utility is clearly limited — no one is going to use it as their main Twitter interface all the time. But it does make us wonder why more Twitter clients — or Twitter itself! — doesn’t offer similar tools to modulate the roaring 140-character cacophony. You wouldn’t buy a stereo system that only had two volume settings for “off” and “LOUD,” would you? Why can’t Twitter have “volume knobs” for Lists or individuals so that their output can be tuned into a more harmonic flow, based on an individual’s particular preferences or needs that day?

I use Twitter as a business tool (to find story ideas) and as a virtual watercooler (to avoid going feral while working alone in my home office). It’d be great if, when I’m in story-finding mode, I could activate a setting that optimizes those particular voices, like an equalizer on a stereo. And when I’m in the mood to kill time or casually socialize, I could activate a different “EQ” to make those voices more prominent. Maybe Bartlett could work this idea up for version 2.0…?

[Try at BERG]


About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets.