The Decay of Twitter
November 3, 2015 5:39 AM   Subscribe

The Decay of Twitter. At some point early last year, the standard knock against Twitter—which had long ceased to be “I don’t want to know what someone’s eating for lunch”—became “I don’t want everyone to see what I have to say.”

No one promises growth forever. Communities and companies of all sizes fall apart. And some institutions that thrive on their tensions for many years can one day find them exhausted, worn out, limp, their continued use driven more by convenience and habit than by vibrancy and vigor.

Twitter lays off eight percent of their workforce

There's nothing essentially ideological about a mob. The people Chait writes about are on the left. But there are also right-wing digital mobs. Mobs are defined by no ideas at all beyond wanting to cause trouble, exclude, bully, ridicule, or hurt someone deemed worthy of suffering. What's distinctive about a mob is its character as a group of people whipped up into an irrational frenzy, sometimes by a single leader, and other times by members of the crowd itself.

Twitter stock.
posted by mecran01 (208 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Previously.
posted by listen, lady at 5:46 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a surprisingly thoughtful article about a subject that many many bad writers have written many many bad articles about. There's quite a bit to chew on here. Thanks for posting this!
posted by Greg Nog at 5:52 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Stewart calls the ability for marginalized groups to seize the mic “tactical Twitter.” (This is a way, way better term than “Twitter shaming,” which is what Jon Ronson and many others previously preferred to call the effect.)

This struck me as one of several strange lines in this piece. Ronson is not writing, except incidentally, about marginalized people seizing the stage from non-marginalized people, but about an organic effect of Twitter behavior in which we are all to some extent complicit.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:58 AM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Bonus points to the article for including a painting of a 'fail whale'.
posted by Fizz at 5:59 AM on November 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


Instagram, for instance, is the only social network that people actually still love to use.

*clicks link*

Title of linked article by same author: "I like Instagram"
posted by cnanderson at 6:05 AM on November 3, 2015 [32 favorites]


Even if Twitter (the company) can't make money from Twitter (the network), the userbase is still huge asset. I'm assuming that one of the usual suspects (Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc) will buy it out within a few years.
posted by octothorpe at 6:06 AM on November 3, 2015


I still love Twitter as my preferred social network, even though I am on it less and less these days. This is mostly because I have the kind of job where I can dick around on here but not on my ever changing and constantly productive Twitter feed, where I follow lots of lovely folks. It requires a certain amount of time set aside to keep up and from 9 to 4, I just don't have it.
posted by Kitteh at 6:16 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


“I don’t want everyone to see what I have to say.”

That pretty much sums up one of the main problems with the current concept of the internet - that everything is available to everyone, everywhere, instantly. That kind of compulsory transparency sounds like an Utopian ideal but, in practice, leads to a mob mentality. It doesn't help that Twitter et al depend on that user-generated content to make money which disincentivizes them from investing in features that allow for closed, private spaces. That and the fact that bad actors would flock to anything that hid them from the prying eyes of the law.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:22 AM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've linked to this before: Twitter Death Watch (last post, 2009)
posted by chavenet at 6:32 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


How many of your favorite people that you follow on Twitter would you have access to if Twitter had some kind of private circles thing like Facebook or Google? For me, Twitter is mostly listening in to strangers who are wittier and more interesting than my friends.
posted by straight at 6:40 AM on November 3, 2015 [62 favorites]


Twitter is at the sweet spot of dangerous and boring to many people.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:41 AM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


straight: " For me, Twitter is mostly listening in to strangers who are wittier and more interesting than my friends."

For me too. Almost no one I know IRL is on twitter, or if they are they never post, so mostly it's for seeing what famous or semi-famous people say.
posted by octothorpe at 6:45 AM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


Thinking about other popular services that no longer retain the popularity they once had: icq, msn, aim, orkut, myspace, etc. Twitter seems to be approaching that point where its pretty much plateaued. There will inevitably be some other thing that the digital denizens flock to. Will have to wait and see what the next thing is...
posted by Fizz at 6:47 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


famous people (for certain definitions of famous) don't use twitter. Their PR folks, however.

Or, on Twitter, there are brands, and people who think they are brands.
posted by k5.user at 6:51 AM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'll stick to my knock against Twitter: if you can say it in 140 characters or less, it's probably not worth saying.
posted by ocschwar at 6:52 AM on November 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


it's become obvious that the web needs real tools for dealing with online harassment. Not only has Twitter failed at this, but it has become one of the favorite tools of the mob -- it's just so easily weaponized. But it's also a great broadcast medium, and one of the places on the web where previously marginalized voices have a platform and audience.

Whatever comes next is going to have to thread the needle between being an effective, democratic broadcast tool and not being a mechanism for harassment. I am curious as to what this will look like.
posted by maxsparber at 6:52 AM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


if you can say it in 140 characters or less, it's probably not worth saying.

75 characters.
posted by maxsparber at 6:54 AM on November 3, 2015 [184 favorites]


I'll stick to my knock against Twitter: if you can say it in 140 characters or less, it's probably not worth saying.

That was 116, FYI.
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:55 AM on November 3, 2015 [65 favorites]


I'll stick to my knock against Twitter: if you can say it in 140 characters or less, it's probably not worth saying.

If you're a white cis het dude who is harassing women, yes. If you are one of the marginalized voices I would never get to hear otherwise, nope.
posted by Kitteh at 7:00 AM on November 3, 2015 [47 favorites]


These things get more boring as people feel the pressure to incorporate them into their jobs and the projected version of themselves rather than the unfiltered one. People I know who used to tweet random genius drivel now link to Wired magazine articles instead.
posted by colie at 7:00 AM on November 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


if you can say it in 140 characters or less, it's probably not worth saying.

This is a pretty shallow and, if seriously meant, hilariously un-self-aware summation of Twitter. You're right that Twitter is not ideally suited to deep discourse, and I generally don't follow people who try to force it to be by tweeting what should be a blog post a sentence at a time.

What it's fantastic at is as an index to the internet, and exactly what I want from an index is concision, so I can skim lots of entries to find the ones most relevant to me.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:04 AM on November 3, 2015 [18 favorites]




cnanderson: "Instagram, for instance, is the only social network that people actually still love to use."
Among all the interesting images on Instagram, I also see massive issues with comment spam, unmoderated commercial content, soft porn and peddling of sexual services. I like using it for myown purposes, but it feels a bit like riding the tiger to me since I feel I never quite know who's going to butt in. In that respect - not unlike Twitter.
posted by brokkr at 7:05 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


“I don’t want everyone to see what I have to say.”

grumpybear69: That pretty much sums up one of the main problems with the current concept of the internet - that everything is available to everyone, everywhere, instantly. That kind of compulsory transparency sounds like an Utopian ideal but, in practice, leads to a mob mentality.

I think there are two major problems with this utopia: the dicks and the dickwolves. The first are people who have fun being mean or snarky at other people's expense, knowing full and well they're being dicks. The second are people who do or say things that are awful, but they don't see it until other people point out why those things are terrible, and even then, those people may well double-down and say even more awful things.

The former are happy with the open internet, because their nastiness can have a broader audience. The latter want quiet corners where they can talk with like-minded people and enjoy their terrible ideas together, thinking that they're actually smart/ clever/ funny.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:05 AM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


they should have tried to be a message layer, not a product.
posted by andrewcooke at 7:11 AM on November 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


they should have tried to be a message layer, not a product.

RIP, app.net
posted by bonaldi at 7:14 AM on November 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


I stand by this tweet that I've forgotten who said:
Twitter makes me like people I've never met and Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:15 AM on November 3, 2015 [94 favorites]


The period of time between "This is FANTASTIC" and "This bores me" is becoming shorter and shorter.
posted by Mooski at 7:15 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


if you can say it in 140 characters or less, it's probably not worth saying.

There's a study here: what's the average word count of the posts in your Facebook feed? What's the average word count of the posts in your Facebook feed that you actually read?
posted by Going To Maine at 7:18 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


roomthreeseventeen: "Twitter Is Getting Rid Of Favorites And Replacing Them With Likes: Because you have seen a heart before, but are too stupid to recognize a star."

Yeah. It's becoming fairly obvious that they're thrashing right now, throwing a whole ton of stuff against the wall to see what sticks. I think this is the first time we're seeing fairly clear signs of panic and concern coming from the inside.

Also, IMO, Twitter would have totally been sustainable as a small business. They never had any business having 5,000 employees given the size of their user base. Twitter bats well above its own weight in terms of cultural cachet -- the userbase is very small, even though it's a highly visible service.
posted by schmod at 7:22 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


The heart thing is just embarassing. They could at least steal reactjis from Slack.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:25 AM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I find it surprising they can't make advertising work for their bottom line. I often read a few as I scroll. Do other people routinely block ads somehow when using Twitter?
posted by colie at 7:26 AM on November 3, 2015


Twitter is lots of things to lots of people, but to the actual people at Twitter it's about the Moments tab, which sadly shows they have no fucking clue what Twitter is for whatsoever.
posted by Artw at 7:27 AM on November 3, 2015 [30 favorites]


Replace faves with hearts!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:28 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


The 140 character limit is the main thing that stops me posting myself vs. just following others and replying to their tweets once every few weeks. I'm terse by nature, but a single thought never seems to fit into a single tweet, especially if you write actual words and punctuation instead of txt-speak. Basically I'd prefer if the granularity level was a paragraph instead of half a sentence.
posted by kersplunk at 7:31 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Twitters great for talking stuff with friends and friends of friends and making new friends that way. I much prefer it to bloody facebook which I've unfortunately had to go back to recently for reasons.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:31 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am just now getting into Twitter (very late!) and I actually like the character limit. It's a really good practice for writing more densely, plus it encourages me not to overuse adverbs or be repetitive.

But Science Twitter, in my field, seems to be where all the good networking is if you can't get to conferences. So I'm totally there primarily for that.
posted by sciatrix at 7:35 AM on November 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


Good riddance.
posted by jonmc at 7:35 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow, such hatred for Twitter. Incidentally, my most favorite tweeters are people I "know" tangentially from MetaFilter. It is more like a large, delayed-response chat room to me; I get to see what these folks are up to. I get to share little moments of my life with them. When I'm laid up in bed, I can find the support of other people with my condition who know exactly what I'm going through. When I'm proud of my eyeliner I can post a pic and show it off to the kind of girlfriends I don't have easily accessible in real life.

Hell, I am meeting tonight someone I've known on MeFi for years, but the only way we really connected was on Twitter. Without Twitter, we would never have made that connection.

It's just a tool, and as such, it's not going to work for everyone. But I love getting on Twitter when I get home from work and checking on someone I know had a bad day yesterday, or telling someone across the country that I've never met that their lipstick game is on point today.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:44 AM on November 3, 2015 [26 favorites]


If you can say something in 5 syllables, then 7 syllables, then 5 syllables, it's probably not worth saying.
posted by logicpunk at 7:45 AM on November 3, 2015 [63 favorites]


Another vote for big-time enjoyment of the character limit. It's one of the more democratizing features of Twitter--if someone wants to abuse the platform and write a multi-tweet rant, it's easier for me to nope that out than a similar-length Facebook post (which FB insists on circulating to the top of your newsfeed again and again until you tell it to shut up).

It's also really valuable for keeping up with conference doings. I love posting session notes when I'm attending a conference, I love reading other people's session notes, and I really enjoy keeping up from home when I can't get funding to travel to a conference. As a personal-professional tool, it's nearly ideal.
posted by witchen at 7:46 AM on November 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


Increasingly I'm thinking that limiting search and @ing of users that are not connected to the logged in user might be a solution to some of Twitters mob problems, and might be possible in a way that doesn't limit the random connections that are a big part of the Twitter experience for a lot of people - but i suspect they think it's all about search rather than organic connections and so are unlikely to go that way.
posted by Artw at 7:50 AM on November 3, 2015


I don't really get the "twitter is boring" comments. If you're bored by the content you read, you can change that by following different people! It takes a bit of work to maintain a good list and I'm sure I'm missing out on some great tweets, but still, Twitter feels like a portal to a different world and I'll miss it when the lifeblood has been drained.
posted by mantecol at 7:56 AM on November 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


The funniest thing is how many tweets (on my feed, anyway) are scanned images of text.
posted by Trochanter at 7:56 AM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Pfft. The Stars to Hearts thing is utterly irrelevant. If you want to understand Twitter's death throes, just look at their mobile experience in their own native app. What was once a handful of promoted tweets (ads) per month has ballooned to 4-6 promoted tweets per hour.

They're desperate and dying on the vine.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 7:57 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, IMO, Twitter would have totally been sustainable as a small business.

Maybe. Still a lot of hardware on the back end to deal with.

However, the thought that they're replacing the star with a heart means they can stop working on the interface, it's finished and people are just making up shit to do.

Twitters great for talking stuff with friends and friends of friends and making new friends that way. I much prefer it to bloody facebook which I've unfortunately had to go back to recently for reasons.

Twitter is where you learn complete strangers are hilarious.
Facebook is where you learn close relatives are racists.
posted by eriko at 7:58 AM on November 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


Replace faves with hearts!

I just combined faves with hearts. Now the posts I like just get farts.
posted by eriko at 7:59 AM on November 3, 2015 [16 favorites]


If you can say something in 5 syllables, then 7 syllables, then 5 syllables, it's probably not worth saying.

I could give a damn about Twitter's vast expanses of PR and navel-gazing, but I would read the everliving shit out of a Twitter than enforced strict verse and meter requirements.

Error 400: specified encoding iambic pentameter, but data is dactylic
posted by Mayor West at 8:00 AM on November 3, 2015 [33 favorites]


Error 302: orange doesn't rhyme with anything
posted by eriko at 8:01 AM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Error 07: limerick lines !=5
posted by eriko at 8:02 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Today on the blue
everyone is saying that
Twitter is dead
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:06 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


It looks like you're trying to write a sestina! Would you like some help with that?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:07 AM on November 3, 2015 [39 favorites]


It took me quite a while to dial in on Twitter, but I finally found what I was interested in: up-to-the-moment info about bus routes, traffic, train schedules, road closures and construction delays, police bulletins, notices from my daughter's high school, and other official and semi-official information. This alone is an immeasurably valuable service that I would miss greatly if Twitter disappears.

I could go the rest of my life and never read a tweet from any celebrity, Kardashian, wanna-be Internet star, former high-school pal, or goofy Markov-chain robot, as long as I can get useful information on a near-instantaneous basis.
posted by briank at 8:08 AM on November 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


Essentially the problem with Twitter is you have a company who really wants its product to be Facebook and user base who desperately want it not to be.
posted by Artw at 8:08 AM on November 3, 2015 [62 favorites]


Error 107: you are not Shakespeare
posted by eriko at 8:09 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Error 937: those were my plums, motherfucker
posted by eriko at 8:09 AM on November 3, 2015 [34 favorites]


Error 371: even Spock couldn't make that scan
posted by eriko at 8:10 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't really get the "twitter is boring" comments. If you're bored by the content you read, you can change that by following different people! It takes a bit of work to maintain a good list and I'm sure I'm missing out on some great tweets, but still, Twitter feels like a portal to a different world and I'll miss it when the lifeblood has been drained.

I mean, I guess? You're right, Twitter is one of those things that the more effort you put into curating it, the better your experience will be. Like Reddit. Or Facebook. Or Quora. Or any number of these types of sites.

After a certain point, those, it might feel like there's more work being put in than is worth it, which is why I stopped curating Quora and left, why I stopped curating Twitter and left, why I no longer add to Facebook and keep it steady state, and why I'm getting closer and closer to the point of giving up on Reddit.

Am I missing out on some things? Indubitably. Do I give a shit? Not really.
posted by qcubed at 8:10 AM on November 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Has Netcraft confirmed yet?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:11 AM on November 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


they should have tried to be a message layer, not a product.

I always wondered why they didn't do an SMS 2.0 (public/private tweets, etc...). Apple may be doing their own thing, but the 2/3 of phone users on Android still largely use texts as their primary messaging system. SMS sucks all kind of ass, but there are few things more reliable. Enhancing it and making it easier to use though...
posted by bonehead at 8:14 AM on November 3, 2015



There's a study here: what's the average word count of the posts in your Facebook feed? What's the average word count of the posts in your Facebook feed that you actually read?


Which is why I limit my Facebook posts to the set of people willing to put up with my company in person.
posted by ocschwar at 8:16 AM on November 3, 2015


This is a surprisingly thoughtful article about a subject that many many bad writers have written many many bad articles about.

As soon as I saw this comment I knew the piece was by Robinson Meyer.
posted by babelfish at 8:17 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I could give a damn about Twitter's vast expanses of PR and navel-gazing, but I would read the everliving shit out of a Twitter than enforced strict verse and meter requirements.

Back before I stopped posting in 2013, the vast majority of my tweets were either haikus or tankas.
posted by qcubed at 8:20 AM on November 3, 2015


I could give a damn about Twitter's vast expanses of PR and navel-gazing, but I would read the everliving shit out of a Twitter than enforced strict verse and meter requirements.

You mean the Pentametron?
My future holds alot including you
And online shopping sounds fantastic too

I won a chocolate bar in school today
Mistakes were clearly made along the way.

My sister thinks miami is a state
im gonna take her on a ice-cream date.. ::)

I'm getting back into the gym today
DELAY DELAY DELAY DELAY DELAY...

I'm cut and weeping like a rubber tree
your twitter drama doesn't interest me

My new obsession after ruby red
food, shower, cellphone search, assignment, bed.

Real music isn't on the radio.
Who doesn't like a ballerina though?

Our thoughts determine our reality.
The person you were kissing wasn't me.

I'm tired of pretending I'm okay
I wanna be a mermaid for a day
posted by straight at 8:21 AM on November 3, 2015 [16 favorites]


Clicking that heart where there previously was a star feels far more wrong than it should.
posted by Artw at 8:22 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Error 937: those were my plums, motherfucker

Error 418: I'm a (little) teapot

posted by nebulawindphone at 8:23 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I always thought the problem was not that Twitter is "decaying", but it's just hard to monetize. It's only recently, after all, that Facebook has been able to develop a robust advertising platform.

Twitter as I know it is far from decaying. The platform is wonderful for following news stories and connecting with peers in my industry.

It has never been about "microblogging" for me and sharing photos of my lunch.
posted by Nevin at 8:23 AM on November 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's difficult to monetize, and it's easy to hijack for bad ends, and I suspect some of the routes to monetization look close enough to means of hijacking it that its preventing a decent response to that.

(Also they have ml idea what they are doing and all their "improvements" are garbage like hearts and moments)

But the basic mode of communication and community around it remains strong. I don't think it's dying anytime soon.
posted by Artw at 8:29 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


IMHO, the reason for Twitter not growing is multi-faceted. Its base was/is made up of early adapter types and those whose age skews to the younger side. These folks tend to move on to the next thing fairly quickly (Vine, Instagram, Snapchat etc..) While initially they may use all of these mediums, users will begin to drift away from some. (EX: Myspace losing its base to Facebook.)

Also, what is attractive about Twitter is also its Achilles heel. Sure you get your information fast, but you also can get bombarded by a lot of junk. In addition, “the haters” and “have to be outraged by something” types turn off a lot of people and scare off celebrities who helped grow the passive user base.

Finally, there is also may be an underlying race factor. It seemed to me as Twitter became hotter in the black community, it started falling out favor with other groups. I recall a similar thing happening with Myspace, as more black users adapted, whites moved on to Facebook.
posted by remo at 8:36 AM on November 3, 2015


My twitter feed says if the hearts don't work out, they're gonna try yellow moons, green clovers, and purple horseshoes.
posted by straight at 8:46 AM on November 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


That Pentametron is the best thing. It's....it's like my favorite muppets sketch (the one where Skeeter is singing "At The Hop" and all the little frogs come out and start saying 'hop hop hop' and totally disrupt everything) combined with WH Auden. I think I like it as well as almost anything I've seen on the internet.
posted by Frowner at 8:52 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick: They're desperate and dying on the vine.

Please please tell me that was just serendipity at work there...
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:57 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you can say something in 5 syllables, then 7 syllables, then 5 syllables, it's probably not worth saying.

If you can say it,
In five, then seven, then five,
It's not worth saying.
posted by Ned G at 8:57 AM on November 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


as previously mentioned, twitter is great for conferences as a open back channel discussion forum that can include the people present as well as people who are highly motivated to follow along remotely all pulled together around a hashtag. I make my most heavy use of social media when I'm at events (especially it is something that has multiple tracks going on and I can't be in a talk or presentation I want to see.) One of the reasons I think these temporary communities work so well is that there is a large IRL component to balance out the internet mediated communication. Numerous times I've seen someone who is used to going on twitter to find things to be outraged by have to deal with the person they just accused of being worse than hitler( or whatever internet hyperbole forms their standard opening move) sitting ten feet away from them and engaging them in a conversation which usually defuses the mob mentality before it can really get rolling into the full on dehumanizing mutual hate fests that the internet does so well.
posted by Perfectibilist at 9:08 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Reading this piece last night, I was struck by
As the Internet took hold, secondary orality started to sound pretty inadequate. We don’t aurally orate to each other online, after all—we chat, we type, we text. One of the key attributes of orality is its instantaneousness: There’s no delay between utterances, as there would be in a conversation among letter writers or columnizing pundits. Yet online writing often assumes the same instantaneousness. As Ong put it in an interview late in life: Online, “textualized verbal exchange registers psychologically as having the temporal immediacy of oral exchange.” In other words, we process chatty words online (whether on Twitter or Slack or gchat) like we process someone saying them to us in front of us.
It melded with what was on my mind, a twitter saga:
Zola's Twitter Tale of Strippers in Florida Is Easily the Wildest Thing You'll Read All Week

I've heard stories like this before, in quiet bars, in crowded house parties. And to me they're just - a story, conversational fodder. But now, since it's written down, there's a sense of permanence (even on twitter), which gets fact-checked and pop-culture analyzed and treated as a text.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:08 AM on November 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


There is nothing like Twitter in breaking news events and it's one of the things I like best.

I get much of my news and good links on Twitter, it's sort of like an RSS feed, a cultivated firehose. I think whether you enjoy it or not depends on who you follow more than what you say or post. I've seen people here say they tried it and hated it and then note that they follow very few people. I would be bored to tears if it depended on just posting my wit and observations. I have an eclectic mix of fabulous and fun mefites, news sources, journals, scientists, artists, celebrities and random people I've stumbled upon. I also keep several topical lists, such as a list of meteorologists, which are very active, fun & informative feeds to follow in strange weather events.

It's become my go-to place when I have a few minutes here and there. Jump in the water or lurk, depending on the mood of the day.

Twitter contains multitudes, there many little twitter worlds out there. I know this because I also maintain about 5 industry-specific commercial Twitter feeds -- none of them advertise so they are not cluttering up your feeds. It's amazing how robust some of these communities are and how little they overlap. I find Twitter pretty useful for sharing information and news in industry niches (educators, insurers, health care people, HR people). Although I have trouble seeing how those B2B businesses could benefit by ads. Nevertheless, maintaining a twitter feed seems like a worthwhile marketing activity from a PR, industry-networking, and brand-building perspective.

I think Twitter should put less effort in ads and more in trying to provide services to some of these business users and industry communities.

I am willing to put up with some level of non-obnoxious ads in a free service, but there's a tipping point. I've clicked a few but most of the ads I am served are not particularly matched or relevant to my interests.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:12 AM on November 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


I really, really can't stand instagram, for reasons I have yet to define -- maybe it's the fact that no matter the resolution of your images, they appear teeny tiny on instagram & you can't zoom them? Maybe it's the preciousness that seems to pervade the Look At Meee! culture that blocks my view of stuff I might like to see? I dunno. Twitter is kind of okay. I hope they hang in there. But this is correct:
In other words, on Twitter, people say things that they think of as ephemeral and chatty. Their utterances are then treated as unequivocal political statements by people outside the conversation. Because there’s a kind of sensationalistic value in interpreting someone’s chattiness in partisan terms, tweets “are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers.”
If you have tons and tons of followers, be chatty and flippant at your peril, especially if you are female or a minority. If Twitter dies, it will be because they didn't address this core problem.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:15 AM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Setting yourself a poetic form to follow within Twitter's character limit can be quite a satisfying exercise. Bonus points are awarded if you can hit 140 on the nose.

Here's a few of my own efforts:

I say we all must tweet in iambs now
Pentameter as well just like the Bard
Do this & every single line you pen
Sits happily upon a human ear

OR

Why limerick tweets don't abound?
The reason is simple and sound
12 squared minus 4
Not one letter more
Is such a harsh mistress, I've found

OR

Clerihew tweeting,
Is quite self-defeating,
It's only in Heaven your,
Count will reach seven-score.

[I'll stop now.]
posted by Paul Slade at 9:15 AM on November 3, 2015 [11 favorites]




ocschwar: "I'll stick to my knock against Twitter: if you can say it in 140 characters or less, it's probably not worth saying."

I don't know. I used to enjoy doing near real time horror movie reviews/recaps.
posted by Samizdata at 9:38 AM on November 3, 2015


Of course, the other issue I have with Twitter is how you pretty much always have to be watching it constantly or you will totally lose track of what is going on.
posted by Samizdata at 9:42 AM on November 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh man that glorious Sunday evening only a few weeks back when UK twitter went absolutely crazy bananas re the Cameron / pig story.... that won't be written up in any official history of twitter but by god it should be
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:47 AM on November 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


The key to Twitter is either curating so you can read everything, or learning to accept you're going to miss something, and figure that if it's really important everyone will be retweeting it anyway.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:47 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the flip side, I got kisses from Madamjujujive on Twitter today, so there's that too.
posted by Samizdata at 9:48 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Welcome to Costco, I love you.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:49 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't have big feelings about the change from "favorites" to "likes" on Twitter, but I do have feelings about the super-transparent spin they're trying to put on it.

We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers.

Seriously? Let's just call a spade a spade (or a heart a heart): Facebook has marketed the shit out of the concept of 'likes' ('like us on Facebook!' is a constant refrain from content creators). Twitter is desperate to stay relevant, and they know that using different terminology is fighting against the tide. Thus, favorites become likes. They're not easier, they're just hoping to adopt the lingo and take away that brand notion from Facebook.
posted by tocts at 9:49 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Twitter was why we talked about Fergusson and it didn't just get buried. The same for a bunch of similar incidents. That's a pretty major success socially, but not a monetisable one.
posted by Artw at 9:50 AM on November 3, 2015 [29 favorites]


Forced Context Collapse or The Right to Hide in Plain Sight
There is a whole brand of (mostly digital) journalism that culls social media content for stories. We can argue about the extent to which that is reporting as opposed to search engine optimization but it is fairly safe to say that this is a set of activities happening in the media domain.

Almost from the start this practice has been problematic. When I tweet (and this debate is primarily happening around Twitter content) from an unlocked Twitter account I can assume that the content will be read beyond my immediate circle of followers. That is, after all, the implication of Twitter’s platform design. Twitter’s architecture is a mash-up of theories about weak ties and virality. I may not know that when I sign up for Twitter but it is a lesson quickly learned the first time you’re deluged with angry tweets about something you thought was benign.
Twitter and the Games of Truth
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:50 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


magnum opi

Mille LOLorum.
posted by RogerB at 9:53 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jeremy Corbyn might not have won without Twitter's immediate reactions (and general good sense of humour) to the nonsense the corporate media tried to fit him up with.
posted by colie at 9:54 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


the userbase is very small.

Whaaa? 320,000,000 people used Twitter last month. I don't think a user base that can described as "the entire population of the United States of America" can be considered anything but large.
posted by sideshow at 9:58 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Those hearts look pretty goofy on the commercial accounts I run, lemme tell ya. Now I worry that wrongly placed hearts might constitute harassment.

Finally get what bugs me about most of the new changes based on making Twitter supposedly easier to use and to understand. No-o-o-o - please don't actively recruit the clueless at the expense of the loyalists, that's a path to perdition.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:00 AM on November 3, 2015


Yeah. 320 million users. if they charged just $5 a year for twitter, they'd bring in $1.6 billion annually. And they could stop continually fucking up the user experience.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 10:01 AM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Regarding Corbyn, this visual comparison of him with Cameron is a great example of how Twitter crowdsources creative communications that blow away any ad agency or PR or whatever.
posted by colie at 10:07 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Twitter was why we talked about Fergusson and it didn't just get buried. The same for a bunch of similar incidents. That's a pretty major success socially, but not a monetisable one.

Yeah, I've learned an enormous amount about police brutality from twitter. I came to twitter late, but I love it. I follow a mix of feminists, progressive journalists, popular science types, smart pop culture writers, and funny people. I learn a lot in areas that interest me and am regularly amused by the funny people. I also made some IRL friends out of a fandom community. I'll be sad if it dies.
posted by Mavri at 10:07 AM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


The main reason I've dialed back on using Twitter is exactly what's mentioned in the article, chatty conversations are analyzed as political writ, then you get dogpiled by one side or the other. I've had Gamergaters dogpile me because I made a mild observation in context with a conversation with two people I know well. I've had lefties dogpile me because I did the same thing. It's just not worth the hassle of winding up on Buzzfeed or having someone dig up an off-hand joke I made two years ago and send it to an employer to try and get me fired.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:08 AM on November 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yeah. 320 million users. if they charged just $5 a year for twitter, they'd bring in $1.6 billion annually

I assume you're paid up for the next year for Youtube Red?
posted by FJT at 10:08 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


For me, Twitter was (I left a few months ago) like a meal that started out nicely; lots of interesting, different flavours, served quickly and at my convenience. But after a while I realized I couldn't stop food from arriving at my table whether I wanted it or not and wound up feeling like this. It was just Too Much for me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:09 AM on November 3, 2015


That's a pretty major success socially, but not a monetisable one.

There's nothing monetizable about Dexter on Showtime except that it attracts eyeballs. Twitter just needs to lock in its ad sales strategy.

And for those who think that showing more ads is a sign of trouble - Twitter's product is selling ads. Why is selling more product a sign of failure? Let be clear here: you have it perfectly backwards. If you're seeing more ads on twitter that's because it's succeeding.
posted by GuyZero at 10:12 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, actually, seeing more ads on twitter doesn't mean it's succeeding; it means it's driving its userbase away. Twitter doesn't serve their own ads to third-party clients; so buying Tweetbot, Tweetdeck, etc. will remove the annoyance. Shouldn't Twitter get that client revenue, instead of a third party?
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 10:16 AM on November 3, 2015


It's a shame Twitter is tied to the grow or die mindset of tech companies.
They're kind of done and tinkering round the edges. Instead of mucking about with pointless, but enraging UI changes they need to start thinking of actual new functions, or just scale down to maintenance level and let people get on with it.

[4 Likes ♥][!]
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:24 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]




Also quit it with the "While you were away" nonsense. I always click no if they ask me if I liked it, why are they still doing that?!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:27 AM on November 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


wait a minute, there are people who still who access twitter using anything but a third-party app?
posted by entropicamericana at 10:33 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I only follow Olivia Wilde and Clifford Pickover, by far the two nicest and most intelligent people I will never meet.
posted by Chitownfats at 10:35 AM on November 3, 2015


I've been getting a Twitter for Business email about once a day lately. It was pretty funny when they were using my Halloween name.
posted by Artw at 10:40 AM on November 3, 2015


Also quit it with the "While you were away" nonsense. I always click no if they ask me if I liked it, why are they still doing that?!


I expect the move they'll pull to kill off the old userbase entirely is to reorder your entire feed like that, probably with the justification that Facebook does it.
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also quit it with the "While you were away" nonsense. I always click no if they ask me if I liked it, why are they still doing that?!

I find it mostly confusing from a usability perspective. “Did you like this?” just seems like a hyper vague question. Did I like seeing the update? Did I like the content of the update? How much extra data, exactly, is the client providing so that you can sort that out?
posted by Going To Maine at 10:44 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Likes aren't owned by Facebook: the symbolism of social media is still coalescing.

The Star/"favourite" symbol is used in browser bookmarks and other places to save something for access later, which is an entirely different thing from Twitter's "hey cool tweet" star button (still a star in my phone, at least)
posted by doiheartwentyone at 10:45 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I always click no if they ask me if I liked it, why are they still doing that?!

I found a way to make that stop, actually. You pseudo-randomly choose the one or the other depending on your mood, and especially make sure to select "No" if Twitter seems proud of itself that day. After a while of this, before you say yes, you grimace and turn your face away, and then when the dialog pops up with "Are you sure you're ok?" you select "I'm fine. Just forget about it."
posted by invitapriore at 10:55 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you can't phrase you thought as a limerick
Your followers ain't gonna get a kick
So why stop and say
words wasted away
on ephemeral platforms where nothing sticks
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:57 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


The "While you were away" crap drove me to buy Tweetbot, which it turns out is really great and has improved my experience, plus doesn't show ad tweets. Also still has the star!
posted by ghharr at 11:00 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


The "While you were away" crap drove me to buy Tweetbot, which it turns out is really great and has improved my experience, plus doesn't show ad tweets. Also still has the star!

So, uh, what other third party Twitter clients do people like? $5 or less, ideally…
posted by Going To Maine at 11:02 AM on November 3, 2015


Men who are worried that twitter heart will mean they're gay. #masculinitysofragile #homophobia
posted by larrybob at 11:04 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I actually kind of like both the While You Were Away Thing and the new Highlights feature because I like following a ton of people so there's always plenty of new chatter if I just want to burn an hour or two scrolling through my timeline but I also hate when I haven't checked it for a while and there's all this stuff going on that I have zero context for and no way to figure out how a given joke got started. I guess theoretically this is something I could have been handling with dedicated use of lists, but realistically I'm lazy and I'm not going to go back and divide a couple hundred accounts into tiered lists or whatever the hell. I would take way more functionality like this and way less of them trying to force hashtags on me.
posted by Copronymus at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2015


Error 690: Incompatible parameters
[$type] = "limerick"
[$dirty] = "no"

posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:20 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's a great comment on TFA which goes "I love Twitter. The only thing wrong with Twitter is what they're doing to make it more attractive to people who don't love it." Which is another way of saying that Twitter needs to be itself and be content with its niche.

The real challenge with that is that even as beaten up as it is, with a $20 billion market cap investors are betting that this niche is more than 20x more valuable than Yelp (market cap $1.8 billion) and 4-5x more valuable than Yahoo (excluding its stake in Alibaba), and, until recently, equally valuable as LinkedIn.
posted by MattD at 11:20 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Men who are worried that twitter heart will mean they're gay. #masculinitysofragile #homophobia

Heh. The psychology of why it seems more intimate and therefore makes me feel weirder about clicking it is probably interesting though.

Honestly it's not because I have anything against making out with ladies, dudes, robots or corporations per se.
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


"I love Twitter. The only thing wrong with Twitter is what they're doing to make it more attractive to people who don't love it."

It's the dog dropping the bone in its reflection.
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on November 3, 2015




Am I the only person who likes the "While You Were Away" functionality?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Like Momdnrs, I am mostly indifferent to it but fearful of what it portends.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on November 3, 2015


Where is this "While you were away" feature? I'm digging around the Twitter interface and not seeing anything like that.
posted by octothorpe at 11:49 AM on November 3, 2015


It's not so much the "While you were away" that I minded. What I disliked was that when twitter asked me if I liked it, and I said no, it kept showing it to me and I kept saying I didn't like it, for months. Don't ask if you won't accept the answer!
posted by ghharr at 11:51 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Octothorpe, maybe you're not spending enough time away from Twitter for it to miss you. Twitter blog on WYWA including illustration.
posted by larrybob at 11:54 AM on November 3, 2015


Funny, I'll go for weeks without looking at Twitter but I've never noticed that.
posted by octothorpe at 12:00 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hated Twitter until I discovered Tweetdeck. It turns the information firehose into a set of streams, and the ability to take my "people I actually give a damn about" list and separate that into its own priority feed is invaluable. I can create columns to watch trending topics without having to follow a bunch of random people, etc. Mainsite twitter is a jumbled chaotic mess by comparison. Most people have a hierarchy of data - they care more about what mom has to say than $random_celeb. Any interface that doesn't respect this will be frustrating for the end user.

Most people I meet don't know about Tweetdeck, and once they use it, are surprised they've never heard about it. Why does Twitter not do more to make people aware of this alternate, more useful interface, perhaps blending it into a separate tab on the main page? It'd be way better than "Moments" for damn sure...
posted by Feyala at 12:01 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Twitter's own UI has lists, they've just gone out of their way to make them less useful and hide them behind more and more clicks over time.

At least I think it still has them, I haven't checked for a bit...
posted by Artw at 12:05 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh yes, it's under profile and settings.
posted by Artw at 12:06 PM on November 3, 2015


Twitter lists are basically useless, because if you add someone to a list, Twitter notifies that person. That is insane.
posted by invitapriore at 12:13 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Columns are way more powerful than lists alone though, I can exclude keywords and shuffle all photo posts from a group into a separate column (I watch a lot of artists), set certain columns to chime when I get a notification, etc. It lets me organize things into what I find efficient instead of trying to force me to work around somebody else's idea of what they think I'd like.
posted by Feyala at 12:13 PM on November 3, 2015


I notice there's another new button. One that opens a little window inviting you to "promote your tweet." Some sort of pay to play thing they're running up the flagpole?
posted by Trochanter at 12:13 PM on November 3, 2015


I saw someone's review of the iOs Twitter app suggesting Twitter implement some way of just seeing tweets from a subset of accounts... apparently this person was unaware of lists.

I have a private twitter list called "coterie" which has my favorite tweeters so I can easily scan from time to time to see if any of them has anything interesting that I want to retweet or favorite like.

Also I use
Buffer as an iOS app which makes it pretty easy if I'm browsing Twitter late at night to defer my retweets to a time when more followers are awake.

I agree that Twitter should highlight Tweetdeck more (https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/) but I don't use it that often.
posted by larrybob at 12:15 PM on November 3, 2015


Most people I meet don't know about Tweetdeck, and once they use it, are surprised they've never heard about it. Why does Twitter not do more to make people aware of this alternate, more useful interface, perhaps blending it into a separate tab on the main page? It'd be way better than "Moments" for damn sure.

Twitter bought out Tweetdeck back in the day, and then made a pretty deliberate choice to kill it off on mobile. I'm mostly surprised that it still exists at all, though I’m quite glad it does.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:15 PM on November 3, 2015


I am pretty sure it wouldn't for a private list, but as I say it all seems a bit abandoned.
posted by Artw at 12:15 PM on November 3, 2015


Twitter is one of those things that the more effort you put into curating it, the better your experience will be.

I guess, but literally the extent of "curation" I do is "Oh, here's a new interesting person, let me add them to a list and see if they stay interesting" and "eh, I haven't been interested in what this person is tweeting lately, I think I'll drop them".

Twitter lists are basically useless, because if you add someone to a list, Twitter notifies that person. That is insane.

Not if you add somebody to a private list. (I just tested this with another MeFite who was kind enough to indulge me.)
posted by Lexica at 12:20 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


The list of people I follow on Twitter is more racially diverse than my group of Facebook friends, and far more diverse than the people hang out with in person. I've had some stereotypes busted that I didn't realize were clunking around in my head.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:21 PM on November 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


When I think about a Twitter interface that I'd actually want to use, it basically boils down to an RSS reader interface with a hierarchical list of feeds in a tree, a way to toggle Newest/Oldest and a Mark All Read button.
posted by octothorpe at 12:23 PM on November 3, 2015


I'd like MacSOUP, but for Twitter. That would be perfect.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:27 PM on November 3, 2015


Apple hasn't done anything to fuck up podcasts lately, so I'm pretty sure they've seconded that team to Twitter.
posted by Artw at 12:28 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Twitter could implement worse new buttons, including a "mansplain" one.
posted by larrybob at 12:37 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always wondered why they didn't do an SMS 2.0 (public/private tweets, etc...).

This is almost exactly how I use Twitter now.

As a SAHD, almost all of my tweets are about the kids or the house in some fashion*.
Basically the kind of thing I would text other SAHDs, if I knew any in real life.

Most of the people I follow are SAHD/SAHM types, whose tweets are quite similar, so basically to us, at least, Twitter is a giant, public group text.

From Twitter's point of view, I'm probably a leech on the system, because I'm not whichever demographic they're shooting for in order to sell ads.
I do not follow any Kardashians, politicians, or other public figures, in fact, I probably follow less than 100 people, and certainly have less than 100 followers**.
But Twitter works very well for my use case, and I'd be distressed if they make changes that make it more difficult.

* All incredibly witty, of course.
** Unless there is a hidden number of stay-at-home parents in this thread who all follow me at once.
posted by madajb at 12:37 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


That Pentametron is the best thing.

I forgot to mention it's by MeFi's own moonmilk.

Why limerick tweets don't abound?
The reason is simple and sound
12 squared minus 4
Not one letter more
Is such a harsh mistress, I've found
The character limit on Twitter,
Prevents limericks — if you're a quitter.
But with one little cheat,
You can quickly defeat
(see line 1)
posted by straight at 12:37 PM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Nice article. Reminds me of my favorite demonstration of this "context collapse." A year or two ago Patton Oswalt spent an evening writing a series of 2-part tweets, where one part was some horrific racist/misogynist/homophobic statement. So if all you saw was that half, divorced from the context of his Twitter stream as a whole, you'd think "OMG this guy is evil." And sure enough, a whole lot of people didn't get it and started hate-tweeting back at him.
posted by dnash at 12:41 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most people I meet don't know about Tweetdeck, and once they use it, are surprised they've never heard about it. Why does Twitter not do more to make people aware of this alternate, more useful interface, perhaps blending it into a separate tab on the main page?

Surely getting their own app on everyone's phone, where they can fully control the ad presentation and have complete access to everything you ever do with your phone, is key to Twitter's moneymaking schemes? There's a reason I use Facebook and Twitter through an adblocked browser on my phone instead of downloading their apps, even though the user interface sucks.
posted by straight at 12:45 PM on November 3, 2015


Surely getting their own app on everyone's phone, where they can fully control the ad presentation and have complete access to everything you ever do with your phone, is key to Twitter's moneymaking schemes?

But Twitter owns Tweetdeck. They can do anything with it that they please. That said, they seem to consider it more of a business tool than an "oh, of course people want this" tool, which I find surprising.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:57 PM on November 3, 2015


That doesn't matter unless they want to make Tweetdeck their default Twitter app. Surely they'd prefer all their users to be using the same app? I'm really surprised they allow third-party apps at all. I guess it's a legacy from before they turned evil?
posted by straight at 1:08 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you must write
In pithy lines
Keep it to
Yourself sometimes
Burma Shave
posted by stevis23 at 1:15 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, I'll amend my earlier comment to include that it was not possible for me to get to that point without the use of Tweetdeck to sort things into several streams. It annoys me no end that they killed the mobile version.
posted by briank at 1:25 PM on November 3, 2015


Given that my habit is three thousand word comments on mefi, Twitter is almost like oral bondage...but it's strangely compelling.

Facebook makes me wish I had access to nuclear weapons, but Twitter makes me wish I had a Chanel suit and a cocktail.
posted by sonascope at 1:53 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey guys, I made a Stylish script that turns the hearts into skulls that turn into piggies when you click on them, if you would like that better than hearts.
posted by rifflesby at 2:19 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm a little surprised to see a big comment thread here, with almost no one engaging with the bulk of the article! I thought it was quite thought-provoking and a fair treatment of a subject which hasn't been handled well.

I really think that phrase Tactical Twitter is quite fair and apt, and it's also a segment of Twitter I never want to consider myself part of. It's emerged relatively recently - there was very little "tactical" about the way we used Twitter back in 2010, when it was much more conversational, jokey, and based around smaller circles. The new Tactical Twitter is social media as strategic moves on a battlefield, with favs/likes and RTs being considered points in some large-scale victory. Bloodshed is frequent and encouraged, and there are feints and strikes and exploiting moments of vulnerability. And as a result everyone ends up less complex, flawed, human, honest, and interesting. More conforming for the sake of validity and acceptance. I've heard this called "playing a fake noble you in a fake show". I'm wary of the increasing strategization of conversations, the narrowing of language.

I think it will be useful to separate Tactical Twitter from general progressive thought on twitter - I don't have "tactics". I mostly have questions, and observations. They're not about seeking results and a victorious outcome. They're about the dialogue, and grappling with hard topics. When did we all become so sure of ourselves, and so ready to be soldiers on some imaginary frontline? Maybe it is necessary for the marginalized to make their points heard. But I'm seeing Tactics employed by more than just the marginalized who are doing important work. I'm seeing it everywhere, by everyone, for everything. There's just a general steamrollering of inconvenient nuance.

And there are no validation cookies for being silent - for listening quietly. You don't get the little twitter heart exploding when you express ambivalence or doubt. There's no special recognition when you have the moment to strike upon a vulnerability in an argument, but instead decide to be charitable and read with good faith.
posted by naju at 2:26 PM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Your Twitter is way different from my Twitter.
posted by rifflesby at 2:28 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Probably. I'm by no means off in an especially strange or obscure part of the service, though.
posted by naju at 2:30 PM on November 3, 2015


I found the article exhausting and I didn't finish it.

As for the conversation here: Twitter is a regular illustration of what goes wrong when you have investors who value "growth" above any sort of stable platform. It doesn't matter that there are millions of users (however happy), it only matters that the growth chart isn't enough of a hockey stick, so Something Must Be Done.

First they locked out third party developers (with exceptions for existing apps, but a constant looming threat of token exhaustion), then they embedded ads, then they focused more on brands than people, then they kept iterating the home page experience that power users don't really use, and now they're messing with a core sort of behavioral thing (I'm very much in the "you get a gold star" camp, not the "I love this" camp). From here it looks like they're flailing because they either don't know or don't care what works for the people who use the service and not just, y'know, passively consume the home page.

But whatever. The heart thing is annoying but not the end of the world. The "people used to use Twitter like this but now they use it like this" thing is … much ado about (almost) nothing. And props where they're due: I like the new quoted RT function quite a bit. I just don't like most of the rest of the changes (moments, while you were away, polls, hearts, whatever else).

I still think they need to split the API/Service business and the App/Web team completely apart, and let the people who've driven most of the innovation that's actually worked (i.e. the hardcore users) have their third party clients and a functional API, and then build all the home page consumption stuff for growth. I pay for every new version of Tweetbot already; I'd pay for a subscription to the API on top of it if I had to. Let twitter.com pay for itself with branded content and ads, and have the API work on a subscription model.
posted by fedward at 2:39 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm a little surprised to see a big comment thread here, with almost no one engaging with the bulk of the article!

People are miffed about the UI change and want to beef. By tomorrow everyone who pocketed the article will have read it and will have opinions.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:44 PM on November 3, 2015


they kept iterating the home page experience that power users don't really use

I'm pretty sure Twitter knows exactly who uses which interface and how often.
posted by GuyZero at 2:48 PM on November 3, 2015


I'm pretty sure Twitter knows exactly who uses which interface and how often.

Indeed. What I find fascinating is that they're spending so much effort on increasing the numbers of people who consume without creating, who create accounts but never tweet. I suppose it's possible their math tells them that they make more money showing ads to those people than they could make from active users who care enough to pay for a subscription. The whole flailing thing makes it seem like they don't really know, and they're just guessing.
posted by fedward at 2:59 PM on November 3, 2015


I'm by no means off in an especially strange or obscure part of the service, though.

Twitter has 300 million users. Every single one of us off in an obscure part of the service.
posted by straight at 3:16 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's good to keep in mind that when someone says, "Twitter is blowing up talking about X!" what they mean is that a statistically insignificant sliver of Twitter is paying attention to X.
posted by straight at 3:19 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


The most-tweeted hashtag in history was that time 12 million people tweeted #ALDUBMostAwaitedDate from the Philippine television show Eat Bulaga. Everyone remember that?
posted by straight at 3:22 PM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


posted by oceanjesse the sweet spot of dangerous and boring

That's the feeling I get when I lean way back in a chair and almost fall over but then I catch myself.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:25 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


The most-tweeted hashtag in history was that time 12 million people tweeted #ALDUBMostAwaitedDate from the Philippine television show Eat Bulaga. Everyone remember that?

I can take at least two points from this:
  • Every big hashtag on Twitter is ephemeral.
  • Our opinions of Twitter and its usage patterns have a strong Western bias.
… and so many other things, really, but I really shouldn’t go down that rabbit hole.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:26 PM on November 3, 2015


posted by ocschwar if you can say it in 140 characters or less, it's probably not worth saying.

.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:27 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's good to keep in mind that when someone says, "Twitter is blowing up talking about X!" what they mean is that a statistically insignificant sliver of Twitter is paying attention to X.

Why statistically insignificant (and why is global twitter necessarily your baseline)? I can see the United States Trends on the sidebar. It's telling me that a bunch of people are talking about the trailer for Spike Lee's Chiraq. And then I can dig in to see what the most popular tweets are on that topic. I don't think there's any algorithmic futzing, the way Facebook screws with algorithms to affect what you see. So - are you saying this info is meaningless?
posted by naju at 3:28 PM on November 3, 2015


error $$$ - two roads diverged in a wood and i sold the wood to walmart so now it's a supercenter with a huge fucking lot and all i have to choose is a parking space
posted by pyramid termite at 3:28 PM on November 3, 2015


I've also had the weird experience of having one of the most favorited tweets for a day or two, where my tweet was ranked between Beyonce's and Bieber's in popularity. I think to that extent even the most obscure and unknown of us occasionally can venture into broad popularity and exposure. So it goes. By saying the cultural trends we experience on Twitter are all parts of a tiny isolated island, you're basically saying that cultural trends aren't a thing at all.
posted by naju at 3:38 PM on November 3, 2015


I can see the United States Trends on the sidebar. It's telling me that a bunch of people are talking about the trailer for Spike Lee's Chiraq.

But "a bunch" is 50,000 tweets (probably not 50,000 individual users, as I mistakenly said about the Philippine record). That's out of more than 50 million people tweeting in the USA. So that's less than a 10th of a percent of people who are talking about this thing that's "blowing up" on Twitter.
posted by straight at 3:42 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


By saying the cultural trends we experience on Twitter are all parts of a tiny isolated island, you're basically saying that cultural trends aren't a thing at all.

Actually, I think that one of the most important things the Internet teaches us is that most “cultural trends” are essentially meaningless, or at a minimum differ wildly from what people assume that they are. Or, perhaps more correctly: cultural trends are real, but people live in vastly different “cultures”.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:43 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't really buy this "everything is isolated and meaningless" stance as anything more than an exercise. It should be obvious there are people who act as cultural influencers, and dissemination of ideas through populaces, and when that happens an endless number of times each day for a long time, there are shifts in the way people think and what they think about. Hence, for example, the rise of a certain kind of social justice, a more tactical approach to twitter, and a hundred other trends that aren't just something I notice, but something many people in my milieu notice. That may be statistically insignificant from a numbers standpoint, but cultural relevance doesn't quite work on the level of numbers, but rather influential people being influenced and passing seeds on where they continue sprouting and having ramifications.
posted by naju at 3:57 PM on November 3, 2015


As an aside, it feels like my original comment was met with "eh, that's just you" and that feels weird? Like, if every time someone commented about anything w/r/t twitter it was met with "the universe is vast and your perspective is insignificant and culture is meaningless" that would be annoying, heh.
posted by naju at 4:02 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I appreciate the change to hearts from stars. As noted above, 'favoriting' something, to me, means saving it to revisit again later - just as it does here. But I never use it that way on Twitter, and always feels weird favoriting a friend 's funny tweet rather than liking it.

I use Twitter lists all the time, eg to easily follow the beat writers for my sports teams. The function is buried, which is a shame.
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:38 PM on November 3, 2015


I feel like Twitter being super fragmented and personalized may be its core strength that the company is in denial of. They want everybody lumped together in a mass they can sell to advertisers, but when you actually use it you just go zooming off in one of a thousand different directions.
posted by Artw at 4:41 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


It should be obvious there are people who act as cultural influencers, and dissemination of ideas through populaces, and when that happens an endless number of times each day for a long time, there are shifts in the way people think and what they think about.

Interesting - I find myself torn on this. Yes, obviously ideas evolve over time, but I’m fairly skeptical about tying that back to online influencers rather than to the populace itself; and I certainly don’t think that social media should be considered ground zero for witnessing such influence happening. For instance, Eytan Bakshy and Duncan Watts (“Everyone’s an Influencer”) have done work on how, while there are influencers on social media, they tend to also get influenced by what they see - making it really hard to predict when any one particular thing will blow up. Believing in the importance of particular influencers, as opposed to the broader historical context - especially if we’re talking about activism - feels a bit like a Great Man view of history. The underlying conditions are priming the pump, and it’s the medium that allows for the spark.

Hence, for example, the rise of a certain kind of social justice, a more tactical approach to twitter, and a hundred other trends that aren't just something I notice, but something many people in my milieu notice. That may be statistically insignificant from a numbers standpoint, but cultural relevance doesn't quite work on the level of numbers, but rather influential people being influenced and passing seeds on where they continue sprouting and having ramifications.

I mean, the key thing here, I think, is that Twitter is lagging indicator for most of this stuff. The Arab Spring was surely brought to us in part by the Internet, as was Black Lives Matter, but the things that mattered were the protests, not the PR. They succeeded because of viral videos, but what mattered was not a few influencers sharing a video but a bunch of people passing around a video. Tactical uses for Twitter are arising as we understand the systems better, but the mob -not influencers who seem to control them- are still the heart of it.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:46 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]




Less kindly: Why Does Twitter Hate Its Users?

...which is a bit hyperbolic, but I can't really deny they give that impression.
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on November 3, 2015


... those seem to be the same article?
posted by Going To Maine at 4:52 PM on November 3, 2015


Not now they're not. :-)
posted by Artw at 4:54 PM on November 3, 2015


I just noticed the hearts. They are weird.
posted by Nevin at 5:32 PM on November 3, 2015


As an aside, it feels like my original comment was met with "eh, that's just you" and that feels weird?

I don't think of Twitter as something that can be won, and therefore the bit about tactical Twitter just struck me as something so far outside my experience of it that I chose not to engage on the point. I guess that's part of why I couldn't even be bothered to finish the original article either.

And really, if tactical Twitter is a thing that's decaying and fading away, I can't say I mind. I'm just there for the cat photos.
posted by fedward at 5:42 PM on November 3, 2015


By saying the cultural trends we experience on Twitter are all parts of a tiny isolated island, you're basically saying that cultural trends aren't a thing at all.

Naju, although I quoted you, I didn't at all intend to be dismissive of your experience with Twitter. I was more responding to the idea that different people may have very different experiences with Twitter.

Yes we see trends, but I think it's important to be realistic about the scale of those trends. Some of the links here are trying to talk about Twitter in terms of the entire company and all of it's users. In that context some perspective is useful. For instance, it would be entirely possible that the Twitter feeds of everyone in this thread could be unanimously critical of the change from Favorites to Likes, and yet for Twitter's userbase as a whole to be overwhelmingly in favor of the change.
posted by straight at 5:51 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


These nests of popularity for it are very well hidden.
posted by Artw at 6:09 PM on November 3, 2015


Nests? Dude, 300 million people. There's got to be dozens of nests in there the size of New York City that you have absolutely no connection with. Who knows what they think about this or anything else?
posted by straight at 7:01 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Probably at least a million Sasquatch on there too. Statistically speaking. You can't prove otherwise.
posted by Artw at 7:07 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nests? Dude, 300 million people. There's got to be dozens of nests in there the size of New York City that you have absolutely no connection with. Who knows what they think about this or anything else?

So actually, this is where things like hashtags come in handy. The Twitter API can give you up to a 1% sample of the tweets on the service, filtered by a search term. Unless the total volume of tweets about the heart changeover is greater than 1% of the volume of tweets on the service -something that you’d really be needing to hit Arab Spring levels to encounter- and if you can find the right search terms for it, you can do a pretty good job of streaming peoples’ sentiments about a topic.

Of course, there are also millions and millions of people who aren’t saying anything, and who knows what they think.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:11 PM on November 3, 2015


I just clicked on the first 10 or so users the Pentametron retweeted, which I assume is pretty random. I skimmed through their last 24 hours (I skipped a couple who had no other tweets today). 9 out of 10 had no opinion about the favs/likes thing. The 10th seemed ambivalent (questioning why, but not explicitly saying they didn't like it).
posted by straight at 7:22 PM on November 3, 2015


Faves - People hated the heart. It’s a small thing to hate but that doesn’t mean hating it is small. The thing is, people had developed a theory of favoriting predicated on the elasticity of “stars” as a shape. A star can mean “good job” as this article argues. But, as anyone who coveted a star from a teacher in grade school can tell you, the more harried a teacher becomes the easier it is to get the teacher to give you a star. Star inflation is a little stupid but no less real. As star inflation runs amok, a star can become everything and anything. It can mean you showed up but failed at everything else. It can mean that you “participated” but did not win anything in a competition. It can mean present and accounted for, heard and seen, recognized and recorded. Stars became useful on Twitter because they mean something while simultaneously meaning nothing all the time.
posted by Artw at 7:23 PM on November 3, 2015


I wonder if Twitter strategists pushed the heart to try and discourage people from tweeting negative things on twitter. I already felt strange when favoriting tweets about another police shooting. I guess now it's +RT or nothing.
posted by anthill at 8:24 PM on November 3, 2015


I guess, but literally the extent of "curation" I do is "Oh, here's a new interesting person, let me add them to a list and see if they stay interesting" and "eh, I haven't been interested in what this person is tweeting lately, I think I'll drop them".


I dabble in Twitter but have never really become a fan, and I think this is part of it...in that the curation element, which seems so simple, requires you to be on it all the damn time already to work. Like you have to follow a bunch of people initially, and then i guess spend at least a little while checking in all the time and looking at trending things and following people other people retweet and so forth to even get a decent sample size to be like, "oh, okay, this person sucks, this person's cool."

It never really took, for me. If you follow a bunch of people you don't know well and then only check in every once in a while, the feed becomes a bunch of context-less in-jokes and self promotional stuff which isn't all that compelling. If you follow a small set of people you kind of know, which is what I'm doing now, then they tend to not post much, and when they do it's mostly pretty benign, mundane, bemusing/heartwarming stuff. I take a dip into that every once in a while but it's not like I'm checking the thing every hour.

I dunno man, maybe it's me but I feel like getting to this stage people speak of where opening this feed is just sticking a tin cup into the neverending waterfall of fun and wonder every time would take so much fucking effort, and I'm not at all sure the waterfall exists.
posted by Diablevert at 9:18 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh.
posted by qcubed at 10:45 PM on November 3, 2015


The earnings press release supports the argument that the main problem Twitter has is trying to create tech bubble lotto winners:
Revenue – Revenue for the third quarter of 2015 totaled $569 million, an increase of 58% compared to $361 million in the same period in 2014.

Net loss – GAAP net loss was $132 million for the third quarter of 2015 compared to $175 million in the same period in 2014. GAAP net loss for the third quarter of 2015 included $166 million of stock-based compensation expense.
That's a significant profit-margin for a well-managed traditional company with half a billion dollars in quarterly-revenue. Unfortunately, they're instead going down the gold rush path and damaging the long-term future of the company to deliver a short-term win for anyone lucky enough to get a cut.
posted by adamsc at 8:30 AM on November 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


I guess I don't understand those corporate reports, adamsc. Aren't they reporting a net loss rather than a net profit? Or is it the non-GAAP numbers that really matter?
posted by straight at 9:31 AM on November 4, 2015


They'd have reported a $34M profit for the quarter if it hadn't been for those pesky stock-based compensation expenses. In other words, they're robbing all the new Peters to pay the old Pauls.

The fact that all the dot coms still get away with their non-GAAP reporting for investment purposes is a whole other problem.
posted by fedward at 9:53 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, like 30% of their revenue going to stock-based comp seems... high. Google's is like 7%.
posted by GuyZero at 10:17 AM on November 4, 2015


As an aside, it feels like my original comment was met with "eh, that's just you" and that feels weird?

Well, I barely use Twitter and totally get what you're saying. It's like "gotcha journalism" except real
posted by aydeejones at 1:57 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Twitter has been absolutely essential for the Black Lives Matter movement, and has very often been the only thing that has prevented local governments from successfully covering up police malfeasance.

A great deal of the contempt I see for Twitter seems to be coming from privileged whites. PoC, it seems to me, have a very, very different view of Twitter and its importance. I think it's worth considering from what demographics the loudest calls for the dismantling of Twitter are originating, and what the demographics are of the loudest voices against Twitter.

Black Lives Matter started on the streets of Ferguson, but was sustained and amplified by Twitter. Twitter continues to be one of the most effective tools of dissent by PoC against an authoritarian, white-supremacist state.

When I take that into consideration, the increasing volume of people screaming that Twitter is irrelevant and trivial starts to take on an entirely different aspect: that of white supremacy, yet again, reacting with fear, vitriol, and hatred against anything that even remotely threatens to give PoC a voice.
posted by scrump at 5:31 PM on November 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Advice for Twitter
posted by kliuless at 5:32 PM on November 4, 2015


"I don't really get the "twitter is boring" comments. If you're bored by the content you read, you can change that by following different people"

Well, I found that it's the format of Twitter that I don't like. Even if it's celebrities I like, I can't stay interested in each individual sentence they tweet read backwards and retweeted, period. I only ever read two Twitter feeds that worked for me and both of those people, to my knowledge, got bored with it and quit--I seem to recall one of them quit saying that it was hurting their ability to write anything else.

I still miss paragraphs.

In the meantime, things gonna change. I set my NaNo novel in 2026 and I just wrote that "so-and-so messaged me online" without saying whatever, if it was text or e-mail or some damn social media platform's name, because I figure in 2026, people will still get messages online SOMEHOW but we probably won't be using the same things ten years from now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:27 PM on November 4, 2015




From that link:
"Research suggests that at least ten percent of all Twitter accounts are automated or fake."

They continued, "and at least 10% of those were created by NoraReed"
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 1:46 AM on November 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Heh. Twitter bots created for artistic purposes can be delightful.

Automated or semi-automated Twitter accounts for advocacy or advertising purposes that randomly hassle people based on searches significantly less so.
posted by Artw at 6:00 AM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I take that into consideration, the increasing volume of people screaming that Twitter is irrelevant and trivial starts to take on an entirely different aspect: that of white supremacy, yet again, reacting with fear, vitriol, and hatred against anything that even remotely threatens to give PoC a voice.

ok, i've been round here long enough to realise what seems like gibberish might mean i need to learn something. so, honest question: what process does this work through? do you think white privileged males are looking around for how poc use technology and then trying to shut them down? i suspect for most "#blacklivesmatter" is barely a blip on their radar. so how is the fear and vitriol connected to the apparent exodus of "early adopters", and why isn't it simply "ooh new shiny thing"?
posted by andrewcooke at 6:38 AM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a woman on Twitter and a woman who follows a lot of POC on Twitter, there are white men who troll hashtags to spew out the most vile shit you can imagine at POC on Twitter. Directly. Feminists? Same. Feminists of colour? Also same. If they aren't insulting you/sending you rape threats/JAQing off instead. The #blacklivesmatter hashtag is NOT a blip on those people's radar. In fact, too many white people (always mostly dudes) tweeted awful awful stuff using that hashtag precisely they understand that POC will see it when searching for content under that hashtag.
posted by Kitteh at 7:41 AM on November 5, 2015


In fact, too many white people (always mostly dudes) tweeted awful awful stuff using that hashtag precisely they understand that POC will see it when searching for content under that hashtag.

But this is different from (white) people going to twitter casually, seeing nothing interesting on their home page and then dismissing it as dull, uninteresting and dying.

You have to know where to look to find the real action on twitter. Which I think can make it seem less useful than it really is to casual users.
posted by GuyZero at 9:30 AM on November 5, 2015


Fair play, GuyZero. I think I misread the comment as "please prove to me, a white dude, why Twitter is important to people who aren't." My apologies.
posted by Kitteh at 9:37 AM on November 5, 2015


How the Military Uses Twitter Sock Puppets to Control Debate and Suppress Dissent

From the article: As democratic participation moves more and more online, “being a voting citizen” increasingly means “having a Twitter account.” This is a HUGE claim.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:45 AM on November 5, 2015


Kitteh, you're not wrong, I just think there was a different point being made. I think both points need to be made and your point is probably the more important point. We can all hope for the day when Twitter's biggest problem is white people merely not seeing tweets from PoC as opposed to active harassment.

Ironically I often find links to really interesting twitter stuff elsewhere and then have to go dig it up on twitter to see the original tweets/discussion. So twitter as a discovery service for content on twitter is not that great. Twitter as twitter is fine if that makes any sense.
posted by GuyZero at 9:47 AM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everyone I know said that twitter is just the next round of IRC, but with one channel per user and you get joined to them until you say otherwise. So I use bitlbee to twitter from irssi.

I'd avoided twitter because I'm that obnoxious sort of free software vegan, and identi.ca filled that void for me in the early years. I'd rather use something set up by a community of friends than some giant venture-funded corporation.

But the thing that won me over was the demographics. Twitter is the place where I could find the cycling infrastructure advocates I wanted to speak with, sure, but the amazing thing was I could pick and mix from everyone on there, weeding out the MAMILs.

I am not yet good with "lists", so I have a giant feed full of local politicians (few of them white, due to the demographics of my borough), mothers who transport their children on Christiania trikes, and a core set of infrastructure boffins and activist leaders in the LCC. I want to see the demographics of cycling fixed a little in the public eye (the MAMILs have always been a noisy privileged minority), but I also want to listen to people I wouldn't normally hear around me. The most striking people I've seen are the women trying to normalise cycling in Australia. One in particular is in the process of being deported for the crime of not wearing a helmet while foreign.

But then I saw that the relationship between cycling advocates and advocates for the disabled has been rather strained. So I started following activists fighting for disabled access to transport, and looking for common ground. I picked transport boffins I'd learned could be respectful, and pulled them into conversations with the disability groups. I always did it in a "Wow, that cycle path does look like it could be dangerous for many people. Hey, @expert, are there better designs on the ground in Britain yet?" sort of way, rather than the puffed-up argumentative style Usenet taught me.

And I am an old white former Usenet tech-dude, so I do some Pontificatin' and some Arguin' and some Trollin' (I do love asking Tories angry about cyclists not paying "road tax" why they spit on Churchill's legacy like that), but I'm most proud of the easy moments of détente I've been a part of.

I wish it weren't all such a big corporate walled garden, but it's the forum where the people are so I'll get over myself and join in where I think I can do some good.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:06 AM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


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