Tweets and timezones

Hey all!

So, while the whole core team has access to the @rustlang twitter account, I'm usually the one who tweets from it. As I'm usually in the US, most tweets end up being on that timezone. I do travel a lot to Europe, and sometimes other places, so I've been thinking for a while about tweets and when they get seen.

So I tweeted this a few minutes ago:

Different people use twitter differently. Some people read every tweet, others only read at a given time.
This leads to a situation where some people may miss things, but if we change it for them, those that read every tweet get a bit spammed. There's also the option of retweeting as well, but that would work in the two-tweet case.

Do you all have any thoughts about this? I'd like to hear them!


I used to run conference twitter accounts, so I have a little bit of experience there. There's multiple angles:

  1. Setting up a team for the account and making that team global can help here. This is a whole can of worms in itself, but I'd like to name it.

  2. We have huge issues with people missing things. I regularly had people missing ticket sales and speaker announcements because of that. Case in point: people are regularly not aware of aspects of the website, of the nomicon, of the forge, of, etc. People regularly miss announcements. This pushes the problem downstream: at meetups, I regularly have to inform people of news. Which means I have to not miss any news... The full fix for this might not be the twitter account, but our social media accounts are part of this. A social media account fix for that could be to regularly remind people to subscribe to the newsletter(s), which has much more longevity.

  3. People interpret this question as "should we spam?" and often present consequences that rarely happen. Most people are not extremely heavy twitter users or use twitter at specific times and will miss many of the tweets. "In case you missed it" helps, but is hard to control.

  4. Tweets are of different quality and people are aware of that. Maybe not repeat everything all the time, but blog posts on the blog, larger version announcements and should be repeated. Reformulating, even with a "for the other timezones" eases the annoyance for those that follow often.

  5. Having a regular "for the newcomers"-section is also helpful. Maybe assign a hashtag for that that people can filter if they want. It depends on how many new people we get, but we shouldn't forget that many people caring a lot about the twitter account are following it for literal years, but everyone that hit "follow" in the past 6 months is already missing years of worthwhile context.

The art of the whole thing is finding a way to have more people see the message without being so aggressive that regular followers can't just skip it without being annoyed too much.

Finally, I'll be quite frank: if 100 people unfollow, but 1000 get the important messages that they previously missed, it's a net win.


That’s a good point. I tweeted that I would unfollow if that account started repeating everything but I meant it as a FYI, not as a demand. Maybe it’s fine if that happens. I’m not the main target, I’d still get important news in (multiple) other ways.

I also agree that there could be a different treatment treatment between important announcements and things that might be interesting. (Though it can be subjective which is which.)

The interesting question here is: if you subscribe to b.r-l.o, and you see a release announcment on the @rustlang account, you probably don't mind. If you see the b.r-l.o-link twice, will you mind more?

I would totally unsubscribe if the account suddenly triples in frequency without a good reason and any small article would repeated multiple times.

Sure, that's subjective, but at the accounts volume, it's a constant asking of the question: is the account still useful to you, even if you take all the stuff you don't need into the calculation? I could do away with a lot of the question-retweets, but I see how many people find them useful.

I personally dislike being spammed on Twitter, which is why I follow very few accounts directly, and push most accounts into a relevent list (that I don't look at often enough). Although Twitter bought Tweetdeck, it doesn't seem like they're interested in building tools for timezones. They do have their marketing subdomain at that might be of some use, but personally I would solve this problem in this way:

If you want to cater respectfully to a global audience, create audience/region specific accounts. We have the America's, Europe and the Far East. So create a Twitter account for Europe and one for the Far East too. This way you could even push event specific community news to the relevent region account (I realize some people do like to see foreign event news, because some people will travel to them).

Hootsuite is your friend. I'm not sure what their paid accounts will give you beyond the free offering, so you may be able to do better than my suggestion which is, for each Twitter account, you can OAuth with Hootsuite and set-up the sheduling window for publishing tweets from that Twitter account. They don't have timezone support directly, but you can configure it relative to your location.

Then configure each account to publish news from the same RSS feed that you update with Tweets you want published. Hootsuite will then ensure that each account only publishes the Tweet when the publishing window comes around.

It might be possible to republish the @rustlang tweets to the region accounts, as this would be ideal and eliminate the RSS feed (because there's the hassle of getting @account names correct), but I can't see that as a feature in Hootsuite Free. But you could probably find a Twitter to RSS tool out there. Plus Hootsuite has lots of plug-in apps.

You could advertize the new location/audience specific accounts initially on @rustlang, and I think Twitter would probably do a good job of suggesting the them beyond that.

These are all good suggestions, but would a) need a vastly bigger team, or b) totally wreck the interactivity that the current @rustlang account has. Also, if @rustlang became the US account, I'd have a very strong veto (our project already errs on making US implicitely the default far too often).

There are local community accounts, but they widely vary in quality.

If you want to cater respectfully to a global audience, create audience/region specific accounts.

This is very much in the eye of the beholder, I don't want to have an assigned local account.

There are already locale-specific accounts for events and such, but for general interaction, I don't think it makes sense to bucket. Also, people would start following many of those accounts, which recreates the problem.

I wonder if missed tweets are really the main issue with time zones? A good survey may tease that out.

I would guess that the main issue with focusing on a North American timezone is the responsiveness to at-mentions and replies. But I suppose that’s where having a global team would make the most sense.

Admittedly, it would dilute the conversation on @rustlang. Plus, the regional tweets would be tweets they'd actually read, as opposed to the existing concern that people unfollow due to percieved spamming. Someone in India would either not see the @rustlang tweets, have to scroll back to see them, or read the regional tweets.

I'm not sure it would need a vastly bigger team. An extra rep in each region. I don't think anyone expects lightning fast responses to @replys to a programming language account. The idea is that the regional accounts are there as an option for those who want a timezone relevant tweet schedule. They could state that it's a rebroadcast account, but that kind of kills the mood. I often don't follow regional accounts, because of FOMO. I want the canonical source.

Plus a group regularly checking whether the accounts are alive and make sure there's a structured handover when a maintainer becomes unresponsive. We already lost domains with the owner becoming unresponsive, accounts are no different.

I'm not saying this is impossible, I just want to say that a change in editorial behaviour is far easier then actively building a team. Especially in FOSS, people taking tasks and then figuring out they cannot sustain them is a huge issue.

This anecdotal, but the reason why people like our accounts is because we generally reply or at least retweet the question for others to reply.

I would precisely be up against that. It creates second class accounts for regions, treating these regions second class.

My suggestions were actually to try and ensure as little behaviourly change in editorial as possible. Tweet once and it's scheduled accordingly. I don't think regional reps are entirely necessary. There aren't any now, are there? So the service would be the same.

The only other thing I can think of is for @rustlang to tweet as close to (or during) the Americas/Europe working day overlap. And with the US West Coast, that's slim to none. And then retweet for the Far East while everyone else is tucked up in bed.

Keep up the tweets, please. Repeating a tweet / retweeting your own tweet once or twice a day is nowhere near what I would call spam, esp. if we're talking about announcements. It's not like you're pulling a @moonpie here.

This is precisely what I love about @rustlang. The replies / retweets are a great source of knowledge and conversation, and I like the centralization. No one needs another 4 regional accounts to manage! Get the word out however you can, don't worry about us!

(There's also a button on twitter called "turn off retweets," FYI, for the rare twitter addict who hates the information firehose.)


I replied on Twitter:

I’m in AEDT (a long way from US time zone) and would prefer only one tweet per link. I read all tweets in my timeline (via Tweetbot, which preserves position in timeline). So would end up seeing them twice.

Having read these replies and thought a little more. Another possibility comes to mind: If the tweet dupes were tagged with #icym (in case you missed it), or another consistent tag it would be trivial for me to mute that hash tag and never see the dupes, in which case I'd be fine with repeated tweets.


A few more thoughts: you could always get the regional accounts to retweet the @rustlang account tweets during their publishing window which might reduce the FOMO.

If you can’t find a solution like Hootsuite that works for you, you can always get creative with the Twitter API. At one stage I grew bored with manually rescheduling marketing tweets in Hootsuite so I created a text file on my hard drive with a tweet per line, and just ran a cron job to tweet a random line every so often. Free & easy.