If you’ve not yet been bitten, Twitter is akin to public text messaging combined with a subscription service. You post 140-character ‘tweets’ and people can subscribe to your timeline; you can then subscribe to other people’s timelines to see their updates. (Note that your timeline can be made private so only your followers can see it, rather than anyone who visits your Twitter page online.)

Like any social networking service, Twitter is prone to ‘noise’. Some users give up because they can’t pick out the important stuff from a stream of tweets. This tutorial gives you tips on managing your Twitter feed, including how to create user-defined lists and saved searches, for a more streamlined experience. Twitter is largely platform-agnostic, but tips for specific Mac and iOS clients are provided.

1. Launch Twitter  This walk-through assumes you already have a Twitter account and are following a bunch of people. If not, sign up to Twitter at www.twitter.com. All management can be done in the browser, but we’ll also show how you can use Mac OS X and iOS apps to perform various functions relating to managing your feed.

2. Unfollow people  Be brutal. Think of Twitter as a place for getting information from people whose information interests you. Unfollow anyone whose updates aren’t interesting. On the web, the quickest way to do this is to click View All under Following and select Unfollow [name] in the Actions menu of relevant users.

3. Unfollow in an app  Most Twitter clients on the Mac and iOS work in a similar fashion when it comes to unfollowing. Instead of getting a list, you click on an individual’s icon to access actions, which include Unfollow. Depicted (left) is how this procedure looks in the official Twitter client for iPhone/iPod touch.

4. Block spammers  Don’t auto-follow in Twitter. If you find yourself getting spam replies, block the sender so they won’t send more messages to you. Access their page, click the Actions menu and select the Block option, or Report if the account is a spammer. (Reporting also blocks the account from your feed.)