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How To Configure TweetDeck To Save API Drain And Engage With Your Followers

TweetDeck is a popular Twitter client of which I am a big fan. The bulk of my interaction with the Twitter stream comes via TweetDeck (on the road I use Dabr) for one simple reason: it makes Twitter a lot better.

TweetDeck at the time of writing has a market share on Twitter of somewhere between 13 and 16 per cent, depending on who you believe. That’s a pretty decent slice (Twitter.com itself only accounts for around 30 per cent).

One of the few drawbacks with TweetDeck is the API limitations. This is imposed on all external clients by Twitter (i.e., Tweetie, Dabr etc), and it limits users to 100 requests from the Twitter API every sixty minutes, beginning at the time you make your first request. When you interact with TweetDeck in various ways you use API. Different events have a different impact on the amount of API you use. When you use up all of your API (and if you run multiple Twitter clients concurrently they’re all calling on that API), TweetDeck won’t update again until that hour is up and the API resets back to 100 again. (Twitter.com has no API limit, which is one of its few major advantages over external clients.)

You can monitor your API usage and the amount remaining within TweetDeck – it’s displayed in the top-right of the screen at all times. But unless you’re very careful with how you use it, it’s very easy to run that API down frustratingly quickly, and then you’ve effectively ‘locked out’ of TweetDeck until the API resets.

There are lots of tutorials on TweetDeck around the internet, but few, if any, touch upon saving API. By following the advice in this tutorial, you can cut your API drainage by as much as half, and you’ll likely never run out again.

Basic TweetDeck Configuration

When you first install TweetDeck it defaults to a few simple columns – All Friends, Replies and Direct Messages. This is quite limiting. This is how I set up my TweetDeck:

My TweetDeck

(click to enlarge)

Note that I’m use a Samsung NC10 netbook and my screen is only 10-inches across, so I see less on my screen (both in terms of width and height) than anybody using a 15-inch screen or bigger. It doesn’t make any difference to how I interact with my followers, simply because of how I set it up.

Within TweetDeck I have the following columns (from left-to-right):

  • A group called ‘Interesting People’
  • The All Friends pane
  • A search window
  • Twitscoop
  • Direct Messages (just off screen)

My ‘Interesting People’ group contains everybody whose tweets I really don’t want to miss. I’m not sure how many users I have in there – maybe a hundred – and I update it constantly, adding new folk who are both interesting and informative.

The All Friends pane is self-explanatory. This allows me to interact and keep up with my entire stream (which is currently well over 1000 people). Jesse Newhart has great advice on his blog about how you can use the filters on TweetDeck to both follow an enormous number of users and interact fully with them, and it’s a recommended read.

The search window is where it starts to get interesting. This is one way you can save an enormous amount of API calls you make to Twitter, and here’s how.

Swap Your Reply Column For A Username Search

Delete your reply column in TweetDeck – you don’t need that. It’s limited for the same reasons it’s limited on Twitter.com.

Instead, open a new search pane by clicking on the search icon (see image above). Within this box, enter your username, preceded by a backslash (\) and then the @ symbol. For example:

\@sheamus

TweetDeck Search

Hit enter. This will bring up a new pane showing all search results for your username. This is similar to replies, but includes all re-tweets and any mention within any tweet. (You can move columns to the left by clicking on the arrow icon beneath each one.)

If you have an unusual username like I do, you might want to omit the @ symbol from your search. The reason why I do this is because you’d be amazed how many people make a typo and mean to reply to you, but because they made a mistake you never receive it. This way, I always do, and it helps me to converse with these folk. (I also get to interact with other ‘Sheamus’ around the network.)

If you are having problems receiving search tweets to @username, and your username is unique enough, try removing the @, i.e., search for just ‘sheamus’ (replacing with your username). This fixes the problem.

Note that in my search I have a longer query. I actually search for

sheamus OR twittercism

This means that anytime this blog is mentioned within the Twittersphere, I know about it. Again, this helps me keep up with re-tweets and mentions, but also gives me very useful indication of how new posts and this blog are being received.

This is already far more powerful than the simple replies pane we had before, but we can make things even better.

Click on the settings button in TweetDeck (top-right, looks like a spanner). Hit the Twitter API tab. This is how I set up my TweetDeck:

TweetDeck API Settings

The All Friends is at 60%, which means that stream updates pretty fast. This is important because it also means my search updates really fast, too – every 60 seconds.

I can do this because you’ll note my Replies is set to zero per cent. Why? Because I deleted my replies pane within TweetDeck, and so don’t need to waste the API on this anymore. Because of this simple switch, I not only save lots of unnecessary API calls, but can focus entirely on my stream, too. My total API usage is just 65 per cent.

You could easily save more API by reducing the All Friends amount. If you like to have time to read over updates within TweetDeck you might want to experiment with lowering this to different amounts. On particularly busy or interesting days this is what I do. It gives you time to read through all the tweets.

Note: I have my Direct Messages set low because Twitter emails me every time I get a new DM, and 12-minutes is ample time to reply. I get quite a lot of DMs and this delay serves me well. Moreover, because of the email update from Twitter, if something is urgent, I can reply to it immediately (I use Gmail Notifier). Again, if receiving DMs immediately is important to you, tweak the API accordingly.

(Note: one small potential downside here is if Twitter search goes down, your search pane will stop receiving replies. This happens rarely, and is usually brief, but can happen. If so, it’ll be fairly obvious when your replies dry up in your search pane. If at all concerned, quickly visit Twitter.com to check if you have any new replies there.)

Further Tweaks

Still in settings, now click on the General tab. Here’s mine:

TweetDeck General Settings

The important tick here is the bottom one: open profiles in web page. As TweetDeck informs you, this saves on API calls. Quite a lot of people don’t know this, but when you click on a username in opens their Twitter profile within TweetDeck, like this:

TweetDeck Profile View

Each and every time you do this on the default settings in TweetDeck you lose a precious three API points. Three! Do this regularly and it’s no wonder your API runs out in double-time.

Click on the checkbox next to ‘open profiles in web page’, and it’s better for two reasons. One, it uses zero API. And two, the profile view within TweetDeck, while convenient, is a bit of a hack job. It’s better on Twitter.com.

A Word On Protected Updates

It’s important to note that if you have followers who protect their updates their replies will not show up in a search generated by TweetDeck (or, for that matter, on any service that searches Twitter, including Twitter’s own search function). This is perhaps another reason not to go private but if you have a lot of followers who choose this option this might not be the best method for you.

Conclusion

By making these simple but very effective changes to your TweetDeck, you can not only save a load of API – maybe more than fifty per cent of the default configuration – but significantly improve your interaction with the Twitter stream.

(Thanks to Matt Jacob for his tip regarding the use of the backslash to improve the search.)

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