The other day, another moderator and I were tossing around the idea of having an unofficial site Twitter account. Stack Exchange stopped making them a few years ago for various reasons, but we could still have an independent, community-run account, which would tweet out particularly interesting questions from the main site, as well as blog posts, special events (like the holiday Bountapalooza), and anything else worldbuilders might find interesting. It would be a great way to increase our site's visibility (and it turns out we might be more visible than anyone expected!).

Mi Yodeya (@mi_yodeya) and Literature (@StackLiterature) already have this sort of unofficial account. As I understand it, while a few users have explicit access to the account, they also use a service called dlvr.it, which treats starred messages (one-boxed questions) in a chat room as an RSS feed, and tweets those, in addition to manual tweets (I hope people will correct me if I'm wrong about the details).

I see us having a similar setup: maybe 3-4 people having access to the login credentials (ideally including at least one mod), as well as some sort of chat room for folks to submit possible questions to be tweeted. We could either enable the RSS feed model or allow those 3-4 users to choose from submissions. Perhaps we could also add an RSS feed from Universe Factory.

Some notes:

  • As with the blog, we'd have to make it clear that the account is not operated by Stack Exchange; it's an independent venture. This impacts things like the name and handle, as we shouldn't use something like @stackWorldbuilding or @WorldbuildingStackExchange.
  • I'd want to keep the tweets pretty narrow in scope, and I'd maybe even consider asking that we not reply to other tweets, to reduce the chances of . . . potential problems. In other words, I'd prefer that, at least for now, it act like an RSS feed, but awesomer.
  • We do need to ensure that we put a filter on what we tweet. We need to be mindful that, like the Hot Network Questions list, question titles will be appearing largely without context, and we do, from time to time, get titles that seem not great without context. This makes me want to ensure some manual oversight of tweets, to prevent problems - at least in the early stages.
  • We get a lot of our traffic from inside the Stack Exchange network, as expected. It's a phenomenon we've been noticing for years and years. This could help us reach the larger world building community out there.

Finally, as I write this, I notice that we had this same discussion almost three years ago. It had pretty strong support, but it never went anywhere. I'm curious if people feel the same way now.

Thoughts? Ideas? Concerns?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not using Twitter, so I hope it will not become "mandatory" read to stay informed about initiatives here. If it will really stay independent, I honestly don't care $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 18 '18 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot It will absolutely be required, we are mainly doing this to make your life more difficult. /sarcasm $\endgroup$ – James Dec 18 '18 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot I see it as more a way to engage with the broader off-site community, rather than a tool for communicating news to on-site users. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 18 '18 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ @James maybe I shouldn't have used a first person, singular, in what I wrote. The problem with new channels of communication being expected to be followed by all users happens. Not here, I hope, but it happens. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 19 '18 at 9:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot Just messing with you dude. As I read HDE's post this would just be an avenue to share content outside the walls of SE and would be limited to reposts of existing content so nothing you couldn't see on the site. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 19 '18 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ I should mention that I have a spare twitter account set up already, I created it for the second podcast but we never used it. I can change the profile name if we want to use it. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 19 '18 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ Some general thoughts. I'd like to have sth like a question of the week month or actually interesting questions. A bot couldn't meet these requirements and one human wouldn't have so much time. I'd like to have the trusted Moderators run the account. They share the password among them and make cool things. $\endgroup$ – user55267 Dec 20 '18 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ We're clearly not visible enough to be mentioned by name. No mention of Worldbuilding itself, not even "a discussion on a Stack Exchange site". We need to get the word out! $\endgroup$ – John Locke Mar 5 at 16:29

I supported the idea when it came up (see my answer there for more reasoning) and I still do. A few considerations specifically in response to the points you raised:

  • Actually, responding to other tweets can be a good thing. The Mi Yodeya Twitter account responds to other people's tweets if we can tweet a relevant question, and if people respond to our tweets (constructively) we engage. The key is to avoid getting into (or starting) anything heated. Isaac, who does about 99% of our tweeting, is really good at managing this. I think we can do so too, but we do need to be careful.

  • A feed from the blog is good, but even better is to have manually-written tweets that promote the blog post somehow (and link to it). Medium will provide a preview anyway, so we get better reach if we use the remaining 250 characters or so to entice people to read it.

  • Retweeting others' worldbuilding content is a good way to build some engagement with our Twitter account (and maybe gain followers). We should be selective; most of the content should be ours, but mixing in other content is useful.

  • We'll need a way for people to suggest questions to tweet, but I agree that curation should be manual.

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    $\begingroup$ Would a meta thread with a community wiki answer be sufficient for the last bullet? We could drop the links then mark them posted after we send them out via the twitter. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 18 '18 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ @James if we don't mind the idea of that post being almost perma-bumped, that should work fine. I don't think I mind that so long as we don't have too many such posts; it and the sandbox are the only ones, I think, and two questions don't take over the front page. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 18 '18 at 18:46

I'd support this idea, with a couple things to mention.

  • A feed from the Blog seems perfectly fine to me. That content is already curated by one of the admins on the blog having to intentionally publish.
  • I wouldn't recommend tweeting ANYTHING from our chatroom. That place gets super weird. :D and discussions of genocide or the apocalypse (or snorting coke) with no context is probably a really bad idea.
  • I agree we need to keep an eye on the topics we send out...its one thing for us to be strange in our home...so to speak, but pushing that out to the world should be a controlled explosion.

Otherwise yeah, I like the idea.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, we would definitely need a separate and, uh, more normal chat room for this. If we're even capable of that. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 18 '18 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Honestly I'd say we just leave chat out...if something truly remarkable happens in chat we can always post it manually...but again, most of the awesome stuff in chat requires a whole lotta context...and even then :) $\endgroup$ – James Dec 18 '18 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, and I think the meta post suggestion you made might be a nice workaround. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 18 '18 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ I completely agree with not automatically tweeting anything from posts - but thought "what if there is an optional way for room owners, maybe regulars, to recommend chat messages to tweet?" - could be just a list of links and don't have to put anything in there - in case the discussions are particularly ...**odd** that week. Would allow our tweeters to look at the "gold star" messages without having to shift through all of chat $\endgroup$ – JGreenwell Dec 20 '18 at 12:59

I'm not opposed in theory.

But in practice, I think it's wise to be careful who we target in the Twitterverse. Obviously you can't (easily) control who would follow this account, but you can control to some extent who you connect with.

I would recommend connecting with other groups that are more or less aligned with our interests: worldbuilding, fantasy / sci-fi writer, invented language, invented culture groups and the like.

Same basic advice for any other social media accounts you all might think about in future.


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