Twitterversary

A day that will live in infamy: Twitter emailed me to make sure I knew I joined Twitter 11 years ago today (really?). And then put a banner in front of my notifications (which I still see even if I don't read my timeline), so I said fuck it and hit post, made the swamp a little shittier.

But. 11 years ago, Twitter was really fun. WWDC lunch & event planning, and other nerds finding our weird Objective-C hobby useful and profitable, and all the weird social events which even antisocial nerds would enjoy because it was software-mediated. The normals hadn't really found their way there yet.

At first there was just a little post form on a page, and you had to reload to get updates. Then nice clients came out, like Twitterrific (great for just reading the stream, invented "tweet" and the bird icon, his name is Ollie), Twittelator (great for lists and filtering), and Tweetie (neat UI design, invented pull-to-refresh). And favrd, which was like a leaderboard for funny Twitter.

Then everything started to go wrong. Normals and their predators got on, and humor took a nosedive as thieves stole jokes and reposted memes. Twitter started making their web app usable, and limiting their API, and telling the client devs to go away. Eventually they bought Tweetie and mangled it and then killed it, because everyone at Twitter is too stupid and tasteless to maintain good software.

I've told of the time around App.net and on in Mastodon. I'm still there, generally quite happy with it; there's a bunch of App.net refugees around. I'm kinda sad a bunch of people I like are still on Twitter, there's a hell of a good world out here away from all of that.

Kara Interviews Jack

But I can't read all the tweets in Safari, because the "moments" feature doesn't work: "403 Forbidden: The server understood the request, but is refusing to fulfill it." Reloading it in Chrome worked. Neither of them has me blocked.

As @ashleyfeinberg wrote: “press him for a clear, unambiguous example of nearly anything, and Dorsey shuts down.” That is not unfair characterization IMHO. Third, I will thread in questions from audience, but to keep this non chaotic, let’s stay in one reply thread.
—Kara Swisher
I grade you all an F on this and that's being kind. I'm not trying to be a jackass, but it's been a very slow roll by all of you in tech to pay attention to this. Why do you think that is? I think it is because many of the people who made Twitter never ever felt unsafe.
Got it. But do you think the fact that you all could not conceive of what it is to feel unsafe (women, POC, LGBTQ, other marginalized people) could be one of the issues? (new topic soon)
—Kara Swisher
Yeah, it's Chinatown, Jake.
—Kara Swisher

I would've quoted Jack, but he literally said nothing of substance in the entire thread, only "we tried". Tried and failed, Jack.

What a catastrophe, a giant horrible threshing machine of hate with a doofus asleep at the wheel.

The right solution is to shut Twitter down and switch to federated systems. Fediverse routinely "blocks" instances which allow abusers; those instances can remain their own little world, but not interact with the rest of us. And users can block or mute people and domains based on their own needs. I recently muted mastodon.social, the "flagship" instance, because it has many abusers and little moderation. The Federated timeline I see now is so much nicer without m.s. If I want to see what Eugen or their local timeline is doing, I still have an m.s account I can check in with, but I don't bother unless someone refers to current drama and I feel up to reading drama.

HuffPo interviews JackTwit

Not that picking on Twitter should be a steady activity for me, but it's just so noxious even from a distance these days, and just read this goddamned interview:

(Warning: HuffPo is like 90% ads by page volume, so have AdBlock/uBlock/Better/etc set to kill, not stun)

ashleyfeinberg: Those are certainly words, though none of them appeared to answer my question.

ashleyfeinberg: And is there any situation at all in which you would decide to delete the site?
jack: Now I remember why I unfollowed you! Because that’s all you DM me, “delete the site.”
ashleyfeinberg: Well, that’s ... Maybe half the time.
jack: But how is that going to help?

Seems like a damned good idea to me.

Using Twitter as a Bad RSS Feed

So, there's no individual RSS feed for The Macalope on the rotting corpse of MacWorld. The Macalope used to have its own blog with an RSS feed, but it hasn't posted regularly in months, maybe years. But, there is a Twitter feed @themacalope.

Back in the day, Twitter actually had RSS feeds for users, but then took them out along with closing down the API, because they want to be the Empire.

"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

Turns out, FeedBin will let you add a Twitter URL and treat it as an RSS feed!

So the happy ending is I can see important current events like this, without opening birbsite:

Now let us turn to the person we would naturally turn to for the definitive last word on Apple.

“It’s hard to be a two-trick pony,” former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told me Thursday.

The Macalope just raised his eyebrows so far they went halfway down his back. He wasn’t even aware he could do that.

Did You Know Twitter Still Exists?

I mostly forgot Twitter was a thing. Fediverse/Mastodon is more interesting, blogs more in-depth, Discord & Slack more immediate. Google+ is shutting down, MeWe is still small and kinda weird, reddit's poison, but they're all more fun. I guess Twitter was a big deal once? Kind of like that Facebook thing I deleted? It's been weeks since I've seen a link to Twitter, and my feeds used to have so much t.co junk in them.

So, this beta app. The first and most obvious point, the color scheme and conversation UI. iMessage has set the standard of blue=secure Apple person, green=disreputable Android person (literally: no iMessage end-to-end encryption, could be anyone over insecure SMS). Here, it looks like (contrary to the text) white is randos, green is followees, blue is you. And it's upside-down, newest-bottom; this is a very common disorder, but I don't know why anyone does it. Oldest should always be at the bottom, newest at top, because that's how you blog/microblog, and you mostly want to see the newest posts in a conversation.

Tapping to display the star ("heart" as they call it now, well I'll tell you favstar was not favhearts) comes from the old Tweetie app they bought and killed to make their terrible apps. Removing it is typical flailing-around-without-ideas Twitter. Discord & Slack let you respond to any post with an emoji, which is clearly the coming thing. Micro.blog hasn't yet made this a silent interaction, but it's not uncommon to reply with just an emoji.

Pinned tweets, they already have that. Just checked, mine's still my favorite scotch review:

Mark @mdhughes
6 Apr 2011
Laphroaig Quarter Cask: Smells like ash & wet fields, tastes like the sweat off your girlfriend's boobs, feels like your first heartbreak.

Mastodon has pinned posts, but I don't use one, since the profile text and custom fields (just "Blog" for me) are long enough: @mdhughes@cybre.space

"a status update field (i.e. your availability, location, or what you are doing, as on IM).": Isn't that what Twitter is? The input field used to just say "What are you doing?" Admittedly, you can't spam your iTunes music to that, or you can but everyone will hate you. My AIM status was always an important but silent signal of what you could message me about. On Mastodon I often change my "real name" to show emoji of my current status, currently ☃️⌨️🖥, but it'd be even better as a custom field. Maybe I'll see about finding or writing a command-line utility for that this week.

Twitpocalypse Now

The big winners of this so far have been ActivityPub servers, especially Mastodon, and micro.blog, where I've seen a lot of people finally jump out of the boiling pot (I was gonna say "frogs" instead of "people", but the whole right-wing frog avatar thing…). My handles are in that About page above you, if you want to follow.

If you're picking an ActivityPub instance, be aware that mastodon.social is a giant possibly-hostile mess like Twitter, and not really a "community" like many other instances. Pick a smaller instance, read the timeline on their instance's front page, and make a more informed choice. You can communicate with almost everyone in the Fediverse and see a similar Federated timeline from almost any instance, but the Local timeline will be different.

You can ask me for a cybre.space invite, it's mostly populated by technical weirdos. Pleroma is also interesting, and might be more to your taste.

Anyway, welcome to the free world, ex-twitterers!

"I Really Hate Twitter"

"I really hate Twitter. It was once promising, and I feel like it still does some good, but on balance, it enables harassment and evil and cruelty at least as much if not more than it helps things change for the better. I feel like it has broken our society, and wrecked our social contract. I feel like the board at Twitter, and its CEO, Jack Dorsey, know this, but they’re too busy profiting from their inaction to care. May history judge them all the way they deserve."
Wil Wheaton

Yeah. Long dull biographical anecdote aside, his point about Twitter is dead on. I've "only" got a couple thousand people I like there, not Wil's millions, but it bugs me that anyone stays.

I feel like they're stuck in some Soviet gulag and I'm betraying them by not staying in the gulag with them, but that's fucking insane. They should be happy I got out, and I should be setting up fake passports and apartments in the Free World for them.

If you need help getting out, read my Post-Facebook Microblogging post, and email me if you need more help.

Twitpocalypse 2018

Woo-hoo! So you could write and try to get Jack to keep Twitter's 3rd-party ecosystem running, which relies on the benevolence of a company that has zero reason to support 3rd-party apps, and in fact has stated outright that they don't want them, because they don't make any ad money.

OR, you could take this as a good opportunity to abandon Twitter and join microblogging.

Twitter's Sweet Solution

Unshocking.

Acquiring Tweetie from Loren Brichter 8 years ago was one of the last user-centric moves Twitter ever made. They eventually let Loren go and immediately started a total rewrite, into a steaming pile of hot garbage that services the advertisers better. I tried the rewrite every so often and always went back to Twitterrific, both on iOS and Mac; even when the Twitterrific Mac app was years-stale abandonware, it was more usable. Killing the thing built on the corpse of Tweetie is a mercy.

The Mac has the CPU power & wattage to run web applications, mobile devices really don't, so you only truly need a native app on mobile; I waffle between writing new software for web or native, but practically the web has already won on the high-power platforms.

But that does leave everyone at the same point as 2006-8, when there was only the Twitter website and SMS, except now I'd be surprised if SMS worked. And the Twitter official mobile app is junk. And they're very obviously slowly edging towards revoking all API access, so only their mobile app works.

What I see from all the panicked screams is that these people delusionally believe that Twitter cares about user experience, that Jack runs a public charity for the good of all 4 billion people on the Internet.

You Are the Product Being Sold

"If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."
—Andrew Lewis

Also:

"The Product of Television, Commercial Television, is the Audience. Television delivers people to an advertiser."
Richard Serra's 1973 short film "Television Delivers People"

Seriously stop and watch Serra's film; I'd forgotten just how accurate this is. 45 years after Serra's film, it's exactly the same situation, with three "networks" consuming the consumers: Twitter, Facebook, and Google.

Twitter needs to deliver their audience to their advertisers, that's the only way they will ever make a profit. They aren't here to be your friends, they aren't creating a global consciousness to spread Peace, Love, and the American Way. They want your eyeballs attached to the ads, and if it makes you miserable, nobody cares.

The Max Headroom pilot was about this exact thing: Zik Zak buys advertising from Network 23, because they can run blipverts, which prevent channel flipping. Blipverts explode the most slovenly audience members. Nobody cares, because the customer, Zik Zak, is happy. Max Headroom is a fantasy, of course, where a reporter can expose the truth and this matters in any way; in reality, Network 23 would just keep showing blipverts and settling a few lawsuits for a tiny fraction of their profit margin.

Zik Zak Know Future

It's a lot less unpleasant to watch the frog boil from outside, but I still have to hear all you frogs screaming until you decide to jump out or mercifully fall silent, so I like it when Twitter turns up the heat under you.
🍲🐸

Bloggerating

I normally don't do the self-analysis, why are we here thing, and certainly no self-promotion or "personal braaaaaaand". The joke's only funny until you die, then you leave a stink-bomb corpse and it's really funny, and then they shovel dirt in your face. Until then, I mostly do things I find fun and maybe post them for others.

But what is blogging for?

Social media in the form that Twitter and Facebook have produced, is now clearly seen a mistake; it used to be fun, and is easily compulsive, and I'm the next-to-last guy who could say with a straight face "don't do things that are fun but possibly dangerous to your body or mind", but the toxic side-effects have gone from heroin, to a cocktail of PCP, bath salts, and krokodil. It has turned and is eating your face. Get out while you still can.

Reading blogs is quieter. It can happen when you want, a pull request from a bunch of servers instead of a constantly pushing firehose. I can pick thru categories, since I organize feeds into a score of folders. Not everyone has a useful feed anymore, and there are times when a blog or comic stops updating the RSS and I don't notice until an annual sweep of stale feeds. I don't read everything, I read what I want and clear the rest.

My current OPML export has something like 1200 feeds, which is ridiculous, but with my organization it's not that bad. If I want to read comics, SF blogs, Mac news, dev blogs, etc., it all adds up pretty quick. Many only update a few times a year, which is probably not enough; I only keep a few "Tech Bullshit" blogs that spam more than a couple posts a day.

I used NetNewsWire back when Brent Simmons made it, but switched to various others when iPad came out. The NNW iOS rewrite and the years-delayed Black Pixel re-rewrite were unacceptable, but the Google Reader-pocalypse forced me to finally do something, so ever since I've been using FeedBin; apparently not the most popular since it costs $5/month (paying for the things you use! What a bizarre idea!), but a near-desktop quality interface with great keyboard controls, that works well in Safari, is more useful to me.

In the Dark Ages, Before Computers, you'd read, hear, or think of something, and then spend the next week telling everyone you met a distorted version of it, jabber jabber jabber. Some would write letters and then copy them for different correspondents, and the real maniacs would write letters or columns for newspapers or magazines; the Dragon Magazine Waldorf letters are archetypical.

Now we have the unlimited reach to annoy everyone with the noise in our heads. Many people use Twitter as a stream of consciousness of their food 🍔 and bathroom 💩 habits. It's too easy to type in a box and hit send. And if you "like" that person, and want to see anything halfway smart they write while distracted by everyone else's firehose, you also have to take their bathroom posts. UGH. You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, that you didn't stop to think if you should..

Take my music posts (please!). On Twitter, I'd sometimes spam a music link every hour or more. Now, I typically have one song in mind, link the album, then use my amnesiac-encylopediac memory of the last 50 years of blues/rock/metal/electronica (a bit more for blues) to find a day's worth of similar albums. Then I keep the post open and hit links for iTunes. It reminds me of my teenage years, pulling a few vinyl or tape albums from my small library and spinning them in between bursts of radio; whole albums, every track unless something annoying was at the start or end of a side; I can't stand the random train-wreck of commercial radio. And my 20s DJing at http://kuoi.org/ with my playlist, I did a lot of deep cuts or half-albums. It's nice if someone else likes my music, but that's not why I post.

This post has been building for a day or two. I write a little, leave it in drafts, change the title, rewrite parts, find le mot juste, a few coherent thoughts, or Suck-like links to emphasize or subvert meanings. When I think it's worth reading, I'll hit Publish. Thinking and writing at any depth is simply impossible in the social media engines.