I finally did it.
I followed one too many people and got to the point where browsing twitter became unmanageable. I prefer to familiarize myself with a few sources and tune into their messages regularly, but what I'd done over time was accumulate more subscriptions than I could handle.
Attention is a finite and precious resource
Just a few months ago I enjoyed browsing my twitter inbound, yet recently each time I scanned the timeline I observed a bunch of folks talking who I didn't recognize^. Worse yet, some of the folks I've come to rely on for novel news and information repeat the same messages regularly in hopes of connecting to an ever changing audience and overcoming noise*. I can't blame entrepreneurs and technologists working to rally a community by echoing their driving goals, I'm just as guilty of insular information sharing as those I follow. Something had to be done to remedy the circuitous knowledge feedback loop, and I was prepared to clean house.
An hour later I had completed the great pre-spring purge of my default twitter inbound and reduced my default twitter inbound to zero.
I can listen to all the folks I used to follow by visiting them on my inbound list, or by browsing other specific lists which they belong to. The biggest advantage to this organization is that it forces me to access twitter with intent. It's a bit of a psychological hack but the process of moving subscriptions from my default follow to a list gave me time to clean it up (from 207 to 184). Oddly enough Twitter still thinks I'm following 7 phantoms that don't show up on my follow page.
^= Being familiar with the source of a message is more important than the context for personal relevance. Interesting ideas straying from strict topics is the norm, not the exception.
*= noise being everyone else vying for limited attention. Frequent updates are the equivalent of shouting on reverse chronological update services (blogs, microblogs, and other social news sites)