I had an incredible pleasure (and honor) to curate R-Ladies' Twitter account this week. To make it short: It’s been a blast and a fantastic experience that I can only recommend!

If you are interested, there are multiple posts that I all read beforehand about what it is like to be a curator (for instance by Nicola Rennie, Shannon Pileggi or Divya Seernani). They are great blog posts with a depth of collected knowledge and perspectives in them.

How do I become a curator?

But let’s start from the beginning ⭐ It’s easy and everyone can become a curator who meets the requirements described here. You can either be nominated or sign up by yourself - just hop over to the R-Ladies RoCur Guide where you find all the information and the sign-up info.

How do I prepare?

Thinking about topics and preparing tweets

This definitely depends on your personality and your time flexibility. I knew that my work weeks would be probably really busy which leaves me with little time for other things (and preparing good tweets takes time for me) and I also like to have things sorted beforehand. Otherwise, I always feel like I am forgetting the cool things and only remember them when it’s too late.

So I sat down once I knew I was curating and started making a sketch. I roughly knew what I wanted to talk about (function programming, debugging, package development, and git because they are so helpful but often put people off) and also some other helpful add-ons such as Shiny and NLP. I allocated days for each topic and thought about a rough outline:


Alternative text

The image shows a table from Monday to Saturday noting the individual topics that I prepared for each day (Monday (Intro and Writing functions in R), Tuesday (Debugging), Wednesday (Writing packages in R), Thursday (Git and version control), Friday (Shiny), Saturday (NLP and goodbye).

Days Topic
Monday Intro Some info about me
Collection of inspiring communities, blogs, and podcasts
Writing functions in R How do you write a function in R
Best practices
Tuesday Debugging What is debugging?
How does debugging generally work
Helpful tools and guides
Wednesday Writing packages in R Typical package structure
How to set up your own package in R
Helpful tools and guides
Thursday Git What is Git and how does it work?
How do I use RStudio and Git?
What else can I do with Git(Hub)?
Friday Shiny What is Shiny? (UI and server)
How to set up your first ShinyApp?
What is reactivity?
Saturday NLP What is NLP?
Basic terms and concepts

I enjoy writing blog posts, so I also started writing my tweets like blog posts on my computer (it brings me into the writing mode. I used NotePlan but any other program works as well).


Alternative text The image shows a snapshot of how I prepared for my curation week at R-Ladies. I wrote all the text in verbose, added already images to it (to have an idea of where they should end up), and also prepared alternative text for each visualization beforehand.

I also used this time to already prepare all the alternative texts for the visualizations and verbose text for the GIFs.

Although I planned to keep last-minute changes to a minimum, it didn’t work out and I ended up tweaking and adding new things just before tweeting it because it felt was better this way - but I guess that’s normal. This way, we got to these shortcuts in RStudio:

Or me explaining why function writing is basically a flower that starts blooming 🌸

If you are curious about what ended up being my content, here’s an amazing summary by Pilar Elizalde:

Turning the text into tweets

Before tweeting a Twitter thread, you have to turn them into single tweets. I relied on Chirr App and it worked really well! Just copy-paste your tweet and if you want a forced tweet break add [...]. I then copy-pasted the tweets on the right side, added my images, GIFs, and alternative texts, and tweeted them πŸŽ‰


Alternative text The image shows a screenshot of the Chirr App where you paste your text in a text window (left-hand side) and it gets split up into single tweets that you can copy-paste from the right-hand side.

More interaction - polls and (interactive) illustrations

I didn’t actually plan it but I ended up having a poll for almost every day (I love answering them - that’s probably my social science background πŸ€“) and I think they are great to interact with others.

When thinking back to when I learned most, it almost always involves some kind of visual cue. That’s why I tried to add as many images or illustrations as possible and also used GIFs to show interactive behavior. To create the GIFs, I used the screen recording (that comes as a default program on a Mac and you can activate it using Cmd + Shift + 5) and converted the .mov files into .gif files using Convertio.

To visualize code, I relied on the code snippets output by carbon.now.sh where you copy-paste your code, choose a nice theme, and export it as a .png file.

I also tried to prepare an infographic for each day to briefly summarize what I tweeted about. I used Procreate to create them, added a bit of my flavor to them, and also colored them in R-Ladies' corporate design. If you want access to them, they are here for you to use (both as a PDF and PNG).


Alternative text The image shows a mole as a comparison for the debugging process (a mole digs in using debug(), stops when there is a browser(), and leaves the tunnel when calling undebug()). It also shows how the flow package works, reiterating the previous tweets.

How do I tweet aka how does TweetDeck work?

TweetDeck can be a challenge - and I heard many stories about what can go wrong. So I googled alternatives beforehand and someone in the R-Ladies community recommended the plugin BetterTweetDeck - and this worked quite well! So all my experience is based on the use of BetterTweetDeck. Things that are different from Twitter:

  • You cannot schedule posts
  • You cannot write Twitter threads (instead you have to reply to your previous tweet. I had the feeling that some of my threads were scattered and I’m sorry for this! I found annoying myself. After a week of curating, I believe that I found the reason why this happens: My observation was that it gets easily scattered and not “thread-like” if there is too much time in-between two posts. But if you post them just a few seconds apart (and not minutes), it works better. So it might be best to prepare tweets before, add them to something like Chirr App, and copy-paste the single tweets.)
  • You cannot create polls (create them on your personal account and link them in your post)
  • You cannot add alternative text to GIFs (that’s unfortunate but I saw it more like “it’s not a bug - it’s a feature” and added the text in another tweet and tried to make it as verbose as possible while still explaining what the GIF shows)
  • Some of the GIFs were too large (not storage-wise but shape-wise. So I ended up redoing them on the fly. Just don’t record the entire screen (or almost the entire screen) and you should be good to go)

But there are some cool things:

  • It has emojis (I believe TweetDeck doesn’t have them)
  • It works relatively reliably
  • You have “decks” - and that’s the best part! I opened a couple of decks to keep track of different things: posts with the #rladies and #debuggingflow hashtags so that I can retweet them, reactions to my posts only containing some kind of message (otherwise you don’t see them), general reactions, and my own posts. And that’s what it looks like:


Alternative text Screenshot of a TweetDeck showing different “decks”. Most important (for me) was the possibility to further disaggregate the notifications that I was following. I had one deck open with #rladies, one with #debuggingflow, another one where I de-selected “Retweets”, “Likes”, “Followers”, and “Lists” from the “Notifications”, and a standard “Notifications” deck including all types of notifications.

I also tried to engage with and actively retweet tweets by other R-Ladies to give everyone a broader audience πŸ’œ

So, if you want to get retweeted and future @WeAreRLadies curators have a similar setup as I had, it’s best to tag your tweet with #rladies because it’s difficult to find specific accounts on TweetDeck.

Prior to curating R-Ladies, I did some trial runs with the BetterTweetDeck and would also recommend doing it if you have never used it before. It definitely helps to understand how things work.

Things that I learned (and also hoped for)

  • People will ask questions and interact - and it is great! I was hoping so much for this to happen because it’s a great and unique opportunity to interact with so many people (there were more than 30,000 followers when I joined). I tried to embrace it as much as I can and learn from the input.
  • Zoom in when recording screen videos: I only tested them on my computer and the size looked good but it’s, of course, different if you look at them from a smaller screen
  • Take more time: I am working full time and tweet before work, during my breaks, and after work. There is no requirement that you tweet X times a day but for me, I realized that three content-based tweets and one summary per day is perfect. So it worked perfectly well for more and the time was more than sufficient (in case you worry that you won’t have enough time to join as a curator) but it would have always been better if I had more time ;)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions: What if you ask a question and no one replies? Well, that happens - so what? There’s nothing wrong with it. Sometimes the popularity of tweets and the share of interaction feels like it’s unpredictable - and social networks are in fact an interesting arena. Don’t be intimidated to ask - in the best case, someone replies and you get into a really inspiring discussion. In the worst case, this is not the case - but it won’t change your life :)
  • Do it again: I definitely enjoyed it and would do it again!

So if you’re considering curating the Twitter account, go ahead - it’s worth it!