Posted by: judyweightman | April 11, 2013

Twitter How-To Part VIII: Creating and using lists

Once the number of people you follow hits the triple digits — let alone quadruple digits or more — it becomes impossible to read every single tweet in your feed. There are a couple of strategies for making sure you see the ones you really want to read.

One of these is to create lists, which is a way of organizing your followees. Typical categories include:

  • topics (politics, local news, funny feeds, shared hobby — anything of interest to you)
  • profession
  • geographic location (people who live in your city or region)
  • relationship to you (friends, family, coworkers)

but you can divvy people up in any way that helps (or amuses) you.

To create a list, go to your “Me” page, which has the tab to get to your lists.

01 me lists

and click on “Create a new list.”

02 create list

You’ll get a pop-up in which you can name, describe, and set the privacy settings for your list. (You may want to keep your lists of personal friends private, but most of mine are public.)

After you’ve created your lists, go to the profile of the account you want to add a list or lists.

Click on the icon next to the “follow/following” button and on the dropdown, click on “add or remove from lists,”

03 add to list

then click on the list or lists you want to add the person to.

04 which list

(“Real-life tweeps” are, oddly enough, people I know in real life.) Once you’ve clicked however many lists you want to add the person to, all you have to do is close the pop-up — there’s no “save” on it. Note that most people tweet on multiple topics, so you may want to put them on more than one of your lists — for instance, a fellow editor I know in real life who lives in Philly would be on three.

Obviously, this is kind of a pain in the butt — the earlier in your Twitter career you start creating and maintaining lists, the better off you are.

If you click on the name of one of the lists, the recent tweets by members of that list appear.

05 list tweets

To see all the members of that list, click on “List members.”

06 list members

The other tab in the Lists list is labeled “Member of.” These are lists that other people have placed you on.

07 list membership

If you find one of these intriguing, you can subscribe to it yourself — just click on the list and then click on “subscribe.”

Why go through this rigamarole? Once you’ve got the lists, you can use them to see portions of your Twitter feed, enabling you to check on just the topics or tweeters you’re most interested in when you don’t have time to read through your entire feed.

Posted by: judyweightman | March 19, 2013

Twitter How-To Part VII: Favorites

Note: Despite my self-proclaimed status as an expert in all things Twitter, there are certain functions I don’t use much, making me ill qualified to tell you what they’re good for. One of those is the “favorite” button.

The “favorite” button lets you keep track of tweets that will otherwise disappear into the ether — despite new archiving functions, Twitter is an ephemeral medium. I personally use it to bookmark a story idea or other link I want to find later, or scrapbook an exchange with a celeb I admire, or (frankly) to keep track of a particularly nice compliment.

My Twitter pal @Mededitor, though, uses it all the time — and was kind enough to write a guest post about the “favorite” button. His thoughts are below.

All about Twitter: The “favorite” button

By Mededitor

Twitter is a highly social forum for interacting with other people. Those whom you choose to follow become part of your “following” list, and those following you are your “followers.”

You have many ways to interact with your followers. The simplest form of interaction is to post a Tweet. All of your followers will see it.

You use the “@” symbol to direct a Tweet at someone. When you do that, only that person and people following both you and that person will see the Tweet. Another option is to add a period and a space before the “@” symbol so that the person and all your followers see the tweet.

You use the “retweet” button to duplicate another person’s Tweet to all your followers. This is considered the highest form of compliment on Twitter — a virtual “high-five.” The problem is that, while you’ve indicated your approval of the person’s Tweet, you’ve also broadcasted it to all your followers. Only do this when you think the Tweet would be of exceptional interest to everyone who follows you.

standard RT

Note the green arrow at top right in this retweet, and the green “retweeted” button. That’s your confirmation that all those who follow you saw it. Too-frequent use of the RT (retweet) function will likely cost you followers because you’re adding content to other people’s Twitter streams, and they may decide that you’re spamming them.

The “favorite” button offers you a way around this problem. When you “favorite” a Tweet, a gold star appears on it in your window, and the person whose Tweet you’ve favorite is notified that you’ve favorite their Tweet. This is also a virtual “high-five,” but it is only visible to you and the other person.


Note the gold star at top right and the gold “favorited” button. That’s your confirmation that the person you favorited saw it. If you’re exceptionally fond of someone and enamored of his or her work, you can click on the person’s name, then view their Tweets, and “favorite” their last 10 or so posts.

Also, in your personal profile page, you can select your own “favorites” button and see all the Tweets you’ve favorited. There is normally no reason to do this, but when you favorite a Tweet you are creating a kind of bread-crumb trail that makes it easy to find a favorite item again should you wish to do so.

There is no “correct” way to Twitter. It’s what you make of it. Personally, I am very sparing with retweets. I may use the command only once or twice a day. But with favorites, I’m extremely liberal and hand them out like candy at a carnival.

Many people on Twitter use the Favstar tool ( to manage their Tweets. When a Tweet gets five or more “favorites” or retweets, the person is notified of this in a special message. Favoriting a Tweet increases the likelihood of this happening.


Favstar here shows me that this Tweet garnered 19 favorites and 14 retweets — an indication that it was appreciated.

Be careful with the “retweet” button as it can cause people to stop following you. Only use it when you think 100 percent of your followers will appreciate the content. Use the “favorite” button as much as you like to thank those you follow for adding value to your Twitter life.

Mededitor is a medical editor with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Follow him on Twitter for thoughts on language, editing, publishing, culture, technology, and futurism: @mededitor.

Posted by: judyweightman | March 9, 2013

Refrain from the refrain

Usually I start wondering about a word’s etymology after encountering the word somewhere — today, though, it was not seeing the word that got me cogitating.

A poster on a message board was grousing about people who can’t restrain themselves from doing [whatever]. My always-active editor mind automatically wanted to change that to refrain from doing [whatever] — one fewer word, and it avoids the clunky reflexive pronoun. Restrain, refrain, weird that those two words are so close — and hey, what’s the connection between the verb refrain and its apparently identical noun twin?

As we found with sconce/ensconce, despite the surface similarity, the two words have different etymological roots.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the verb refrain, meaning to hold oneself back from doing something, dates back to the early 14th century. It comes (via Old French) from the Latin refrenare “bridle, hold in with a bit,” from re– “back” + frenare “restrain, furnish with a bridle,” from frenum “a bridle.”

The "frenulum" tag is at center right. (From "Gray's Anatomy")

The “frenulum” tag is at center right. (From “Gray’s Anatomy”)

Frenum, by the way, hasn’t disappeared without a trace — the strip of tissue between your tongue and the floor of your mouth is the lingual frenulum, with frenulum being the diminutive of frenum. (And, to further digress, the original meaning of “tongue-tied” is to have an abnormally short lingual frenulum.)

The noun refrain, meaning a recurring part of a song or poem, especially one that appears between verses, dates to the late 14th century — though, per the Online Etymology Dictionary, it’s uncommon until the 19th century. Like the verb, it comes from the Latin via the French, but both the route and the root are different. It comes from the Provençal refranhar “singing of birds, refrain,” which comes from the Vulgar Latin refrangere “break off.” As OED says, “The notion is of something that causes a song to ‘break off’ then resume.” This sense of “refrain” may be the source of “riff,” a recurring phrase in jazz.

Posted by: judyweightman | March 7, 2013

Twitter How-To Part VI: One-on-one tweets

Although most tweets are sent out to your entire feed, sometimes you want to respond directly to a particular person. Twitter is set up for that — all you have to do is hit “reply” — but you need to understand how it works. Otherwise, you risk sending tweets to either more or fewer people than you intend.

If you start a tweet with an @username, the tweet doesn’t go to everyone following you, but it will appear in the feed of anyone who follows both you and that person. For instance, this tweetone on oneappeared in the feeds of not only my pal @miscellaneaarts, but our mutual friends @MetaCookbook, @GingyNorth, and @antigenic. It also appears on the list of everything I’ve tweeted. If you want to communicate something that you don’t want publicly visible (like a phone number or an email address, for instance), send a direct message (DM).

The flip side of that is remembering that a tweet that starts with an @username doesn’t go out to everyone following you. If you’re referring to someone by username but the post is more about that person than to that person, put something, anything, before the username. A period is the standard way to do this, since it only uses one of your 140 characters:start with a period

Sometimes you want to write a general tweet, but make sure that one particular person sees it. In that case, being from Philly, I’ll often start with a “yo,” since it’s only three characters.yo

You can also add a “cc: @username” at the end of the tweey. (We’ll talk in a future post about how to make sure that you’re not missing tweets where someone else is mentioning you by username.)

So when is it appropriate to hit “reply” to respond to a tweet? Pretty much any time. You don’t need to know the person you’re responding to; in fact, responding and engaging on Twitter is how you make friends there. So if someone asks a question and you have an answer, go ahead and respond:


And if you think of a witty reply to a tweet — what the heck, hit “reply” and share it. The other person may or may not respond, but it’s no biggie either way. (And I must say, the highlight of my Twitter career so far was when Steve Martin responded appreciatively when I tweeted back a joke at something he wrote.)

You can also tweet directly at a celebrity in hopes that he or she will retweet and you can cash in on all those followers — both Margaret Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) and Colin Mochrie (@colinmochrie), to name a couple of Canadians who might well have never been mentioned in the same sentence before, will do so. Try it and see what happens — I have never done it myself, and I tend not to be particularly responsive to people who do it at me (or, more often, at an account I handle for a client), but not everyone reacts to these things the way I do.

Posted by: judyweightman | February 27, 2013

Why I haven’t seen this year’s Oscar-nominated films

I think of myself as a movie buff — as do my friends, who regularly ask what I’ve seen recently and what I thought — but I haven’t seen a single one of this year’s nine Academy Award nominees for Best Picture.


  • Amour: Looks grim. I don’t care for grim.
  • Argo: Jingoistic action film. Oddly enough, I’m not unwilling to see it, but will probably wait for the DVD.
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild: I’ve heard it’s good, but I’m unintrigued.
  • Django Unchained: I’ve never seen a Tarantino film (man, you think I don’t care for grim, I seriously don’t care for violent), and this wouldn’t be the place to start.
  • Les Miserables: I love musicals. I love virtually all musicals. I love some musicals that the faint of heart consider unwatchable. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in seeing this — and, frankly, the production number on Oscar night made it clear that I’m not even going to watch it when it comes out on DVD. (I learned my “how bad could it be” lesson with the DVD of Mamma Mia: Never means never.)
  • Life of Pi: Read the book, which I liked. I almost never see the movie when I’ve liked the book, and as much as I love Ang Lee — and I do love Ang Lee — ugh, 3D special effects magic realism, no thanks, I don’t need to make an exception to that policy for him.
  • Lincoln: Steven Spielberg doing earnest history about idealized father figures? Again, no thanks.
  • Silver Linings Playbook: This I do want to see — a quirky rom com set in Philly? oh yeah — but I have been unable to persuade anyone to go with, and haven’t made it a priority to go by myself.
  • Zero Dark Thirty: A film justifying torture in the name of combating terrorism? See above on “grim” and “violent” and multiply by ten.

So that’s why I haven’t seen these movies. Since these also include all five of the films whose directors were nominated — and, once you add in The Master (which I haven’t seen but want to), all but three of the 20 acting nominations — I just haven’t seen the most-praised (at least by the Academy) films of 2012.

Part of the reason is circumstantial: I’m not socializing with avid movie-goers as much as I have at other points in my life. Though I’m perfectly happy to go see a movie by myself, movie-going as a social activity means that I see not only more movies, period, but also more movies that I wouldn’t necessarily see if left to my own devices (because, alas, when you go with a friend it’s not always your turn to pick).

But a much larger part of it is that I’m just not that interested in most of the movies that are coming out these days — both mainstream and indie. Last year I’d seen three of nine Best Picture nominees (The Artist, The Descendants, and Hugo, and I caught Moneyball later on DVD) and the year before that, five of ten (Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, and True Grit, then The Kids Are All Right later on DVD). Add in the movies that get nominations in other categories — acting. directing, documentaries — and usually I’ve seen a fair proportion of the films being considered on Oscar Night. This year — well, I saw Hitchcock, which was nominated for makeup and hair.

Am I getting old and crotchety? I’ll cop to old (sigh), but, as always, we boomers are being pandered to. both at the Ritz, with films like Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet (neither of which I’ve seen) and at the multiplex, where there’s a new subgenre: films featuring superannuated action stars (which you know I haven’t seen).

Or is the Academy just getting more and more out of touch with my cinematic tastes? Given that their membership is also notoriously old and crotchety, that seems relatively unlikely.

I don’t know — but I do know that there’s not much on the horizon that I’m looking forward to this year, either.

Bummer. I like going to the movies.

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