This week, the man with the most billions shuffled some bits around, grabbed a sink, and strolled into the headquarters of Twitter Inc after months of speculation, dodging and hijynx. This self-styled meme-lord and grad-A shit-poster kicked out the stewards of our pre-eminent online toilet to the enthusiastic cries and wailings of his army of weirdos while the rest of us stared slack-jawed into the void, waiting for him to do something stupid.
We didn’t have to wait long. Friday, he asked the engineers to start printing out reams of all the source code they’d written in the last month in some kind of on-the-spot stack-ranking exercise, only to shut it down and send the output to the shredders. It wouldn’t do to lose a bunch of copyrighted IP, would it?
And so it begins.
For myself, I don’t have a big problem with cutting ties to #birdsite and am sitting by with my big tub of buttery popcorn to see how it plays out. I’ve been increasingly less active online for the past year or two and consider that a good thing. Pass the Old Bay.
Today, Twitter is a far-cry different from the earliest days back in 2008 (link via CNET) when it was a bunch of tech nerds talking about movies over #MFBT. It felt like a small community because it was. Working for Mozilla at the time, we were close to the source, and it felt like something different. The 150 character limit was tied to the limitations of cellular SMS, because of course you’d want to be able to tweet via text message. The iPhone was only a year old and ubiquitous cell data was still slow and spotty across much of the US and Canada.
And the Fail Whales. In the early days, Twitter was a mess. I’ll never forget the time myself and hundreds of other mozillians were trapped by a rockslide in the Chateau Whistler, with no power, trying to get on Twitter only to be greeted by that big dumb whale graphic. We were truly cut off from the world and worryingly, there were bears around!
Now that Twitter’s old enough to start sneaking drinks, it’s become a favorite tool of the media, content creators and politicians. If you have an interest, there are hashtags for it. The overall mood is… chaotic. I don’t know how best to describe it. Many of the early users are still in there, older and doing their thing, posting whatever’s on their mind. There are some hundreds of millions of users and bot farms, all pumping their randomness into it while news agencies, pundits and governments post their latest udpates. The “thread” has become ubiquitous, with Thought Leaders using the platform as a kind of timeline killing string of prose that is the natural outcome of years of resistance against the notion of self-publishing. Memes and embedded videos are the rich content of the day.
I honestly have no idea how this would look to a prospective new user. I have to assume anybody trying to figure it out would run away screaming.
Twitter is an internet dinosaur. As Facebook spirals into irrelevance and neglect, newer users are migrating to services like TikTok and WhatsApp and Telegram among others. The “alternative” twitter alikes for people who find Twitter too “woke” lack any uptake by mainstream users. The social graph is being broken by fragmentation.
And then there’s Mastodon, aka The Fediverse, currently seeing a mass of new users migrating to it from Twitter. This has been a common side-effect of the last 6 years since the Bad Orange Man started his campaign of misinformation and weaponized social media.
I posted a … “Toot” yesterday that got some nice feedback and actual human discussion and it felt like… well, it Felt a LOT like the Old Days of Twitter. Just people, responding to something they saw online from someone they didn’t know and talking to them like they were people! I’ve seen others saying that the current wave of activity felt like old twitter. Others, hoping that the current run of activity continued and the new users stick around.
I can’t guarantee I’ll post much or often, but I’ll keep my eye on it for sure. I’d like to post more here and I am seeing friends dusting off their own blogs. Maybe we can make RSS a thing again! I’m all for breaking up the way we use the web, moving away from centralized silos and back to various diverse ways of publishing. Twitter is just Not Good for having real discussions beyond surface level chit chat. But it (and services like it, e.g., Mastodon) are great for social connection and quick answers to questions.
Anyway, if you’re checking it out, I’m @firstname.lastname@example.org for general stuff. Pop over and say hi! Bring your friends.