I had assumed that Twitter was aware of the implications of its design for conversation and had decided that the controversy boost to engagement numbers was worth creating a toxic environment. For real, consider these two basic elements of Twitter's design. First, any given post has a low maximum length, so any time you want to say more than a sentence or two it needs to be spread over multiple posts (a "tweetstorm"). Second, Twitter has two separate features that let anyone pull any part of a series of posts out of its original context: retweeting and quote-tweeting.
I basically can't understand a thread on Twitter, so I've never signed up because who the hell wants to be part of that? I usually also don't go to Twitter to read stuff other people link to because I'm not going to be able to follow it. Forget boosting controversial stuff, I bet a lot of users post the way they do because they also don't understand what they're looking at.
I don’t think Twitter understands threads on Twitter, and they never have. They built something over a decade ago, it took off for reasons they never fully could fathom, and they’ve been afraid ever since to futz with what for them has been a good thing.
Unfortunately the Twitter username (handle?) I chose happened to be the same as the name of a somewhat well-known RnB/Hip Hop video producer (who I had no knowledge of before I created the account).
I signed in a year or two later and found that I had a couple of hundred follow requests from various aspiring and up-and-coming rap artists. At that point I realised in all honesty that I probably had no real use for Twitter.
I built a Twitter client just for that, because I find Twitter threads hard to read (https://threader.app).
It turns threads into a single page so it’s easier to read, like an article. We are also working on a way to compile conversations with multiple users: https://threader.app/conversation/1123033196642201600/vpw88S...
I'm afraid the reality is probably that you just don't have the motivation to figure it out, for whatever reason. No mass-market product like Twitter could succeed if it was as confusing as you say it is.
There's also the fact that a subset of computer programmer types have low tolerance for all sorts of "noisy" things that the average person doesn't have a problem with.
In general, it's a good way for people to share thoughts and links to a diverse audience. Liking Twitter isn't a sign of foolishness. Among the social networks, it's not as gross and corporate as FB, or as superficial as Instagram.
Your dismissal of the reasons why people might like Twitter, the implicit claim that it's useless for sophisticated people like yourself, and the apparent desire to impose black and white dichotomies on the world risks making you into a candidate for the category of "just wanting to rant at somebody".
We know that HN has its own serious cultural problems, after all.
This is very different from threaded models, but it's something that can be adapted to easily enough, same as how most people can talk within a group in a noisy bar, where there are multiple surrounding intelligible conversations. Like in a bar, it's easy to jump into another adjacent conversation spontaneously.
Meanwhile tweet can persist enabling asynchronous conversation, so it’s more like a very lightweight forum than IRC.
Edit: But the tree structure for reply is actually more similar to a HN thread with a less visible structure.
If you wanted to chat in a channel with 1000s of people (like twitter), the IRC model would be untenable.
I think it just takes a while for new people to get Twitter. Probably most people don't even know why Twitter is confusing initially because they are so used to it.
Chaos is a Ladder 
More generally, discourage large conversations and encourage fragmentation.
 https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&q=filter%3Afollows -filter%3Areplies&src=typd
There's already a way to do this: use any third-party client. You even get the added bonus of a reverse-chronological timeline!
its been relaxing, carefully curating people that complain/add negativity to my feed out and adding more interesting accounts as time goes on
To me, both these features reduce the frustration inherent in Twitter's over-abundant timeline where you know you're missing out on 95% of stuff because there's no time to scroll through the whole thing. I know I'm still missing out on 95%, but it feels more prioritized.
Sounds like Facebook.
Doesn't that encourage bubbles?
From its tiny size limits to its byzantine threading and inability to follow all of one person without creating an account (which they often instantly ban, even if it does nothing but read)... Twitter is a communications medium constructed in a way that maximizes the ability ferment outrage and minimizes the ability to inform. Twitter is a platform for twits to be twits as an amusement to other twits.
Fortunately, you don't have to use it and a great majority of people largely don't. For some reason it gets fetishized by the media -- probably because twittishness is good for business -- and spun as if it were important.
I've always assumed this is simply because a lot of journalists happen to be on Twitter.
I much prefer getting a text from a select few people when they tweet. And if you're not a fan of twitter there's the bonus of it costing them money without giving ad revenue.
The medium is the message.
But then I realized I had it backwards. There have always been people who find it fun to vent outrage, moral indignity, and condescension. They just got it from TV blowhards before.
Today, we have created tech that makes it easy and convenient. If you look at practically all social networks, they're essentially optimized for outrage gossip. The human part of that equation is much more difficult to change - as social primates, we have this moral outrage thing hardwired to some extent. But why do we deliberately encourage it?
(For profit, of course.)
Threading management only gets you so far…
But now enter companies wanting to make a buck. And that's where all the stupidity comes into play. Because now you need to people to disproportionately be exposed to e.g. advertisers, and to keep the advertisers around you also probably need to stop people from really speaking their mind about them: 'This movie sucks.' 'Yeah, drink this fizzy corn fructose laden crap and get fat. Woot!' So you end up with shilling, 'moderation', and other mechanisms to try to help ease monetization. This, in turn, rapidly drives division, antagonism, and trolling. And so the corporate site needs to push even harder to maintain their advertising venue. Which results in an ever downward spiral.
And on top of all of this now you don't just need people to chat. You need for them to stay actively 'engaged' with your 'platform.' Those big buck advertisers aren't going to pay you to advertise to your 500 users. So now enter things like voting systems. Opaque manipulation means you can help drive discussion however you want, and you can simultaneously help addict users by giving them that tiny little dopamine bump each time they see 'oh wow, i got more imaginary internet points! herpa derp!' Hey what do you know, these voting systems are somehow driving the creation of increasingly radicalized little echo chambers. Yeah man, but look how engaged they are! It's all quite idiotic, but this derives from the fact that the problem is not enabling chat, the problem is enabling chat while making money off of it.
Want to build a better Twitter alternative? Train the moderation AI: No memes, no reposts, no shitposts.
EDIT: It's "angry orange website", not "evil orange website". Not so bad after all.
These are all consequences of HN's fundamental structure. It's a public, optionally-anonymous forum, so we can't control what shit gets posted. All we or the community can do is react after it has been posted. That takes time. Even if we ban someone, they can just create a new account in 30 seconds, and plenty do.
Most importantly, HN doesn't have silos, where users follow what they like and block what they dislike. Rather, everybody sees the same material. That means every one of us is more likely to see stuff that we dislike. This leads to negative impressions, often painfully strong ones. The odd thing is, fundamentally, a non-siloed site is arguably objectively healthier: at least we are all in the same room. But it doesn't feel that way. It can be extremely painful to be in the same room with people saying horrible things one doesn't normally come near. In fact, I wonder whether for some users there may actually be no place other than HN where that regularly happens. Inevitably, the negative impressions get attached to HN itself, since none of these dynamics are at all obvious. That explains why people have such contradictory views of HN—see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19927454 in this very thread. They are drawing conclusions from different sets of painful impressions.
I'd love to find new ways to mitigate these downsides. We've worked on that for years already, yet I feel like the most we've managed to do is scratch a couple of crude gouges into a boulder. But let's remember that HN's structure has upside consequences too. There's no barrier to entry, so literally anyone can jump in. Wonderful things come from that. The absence of silos means people are talking and relating to people they would not otherwise come into contact with. These are precious things which are easy to forget amid the pressure we all feel. The upsides and downsides come from the same root: deep tradeoffs in the original choices of how to set up a place like this. As it grows and as the energy becomes more intense, the tradeoffs show up in ways that are increasingly difficult to bridge.
I find it incredibly frustrating. It's a lot of energy spent on my part and I get no actual debate. No matter how civil I try to be about the whole thing.
Your co-workers must be very different to the people I come across in my work.
Quick example: I said not vaccinating is risking death, and someone else said I shouldn't drive because that risk of death is higher. That's all it takes!
This a rant, but I hate this trend of taking what a couple/few people say and calling it "Twitter" or "everyone is saying" or "people are calling for" or "the Internet hates". Reference the actual person who said the comment and don't lump millions of users in with the comments of a few. Whenever I dig into an issue like this, I find maybe a handful of comments when the topic itself is seen by thousands/millions.
When the internet came in and destroyed print subscriptions and tech giants like FB/Google started controlling online advertising, getting clicks became the way to make money. We really only have ourselves to blame for choosing ad-driven media content at the expense of new dark patterns that help to prop the system up.
I hate clickbait headlines too, but they work. A/B testing shows publishers that they work.
What should a publisher do to create less sensational content without sacrificing revenue?
Don't forget people rejecting subscriptions and demanding the journalism for free.
But it wasn't the internet and Google alone. It was greed, and the elevation of media properties as shareholder golden geese. They saw exponential returns in the late 90's. When revenue slowed, they lost favour with their new corporate owners and were alike choked that way.
Not the first, but the first that came to my mind...
It's a valid proxy for sentiment (in the majority of cases).
The result is that on reddit you get isolated communities - some of which are thoroughly toxic and churn out some of the worst of humanity. Twitter doesn't create that isolated groupthink environment but instead it is just a constant warfare between communities.
What I don't understand thouhg, is why twitter thinks its a good idea to give away the one thing that makes their platform differentiated.
They've been doing this for a while in fairness, cut-by-cut:
- algorithmic timeline (that can't be disabled!)
- 240 character messages
- "verified" users (that get different treatment)
All in a vain effort to take what was a beautifully simple peer-to-peer microblogging platform and create something more like snapfacestergrameddit.
And still no "edit" button.
This isn't meant as a dig at Twitter, but humans simply have limits to how many active participants a conversation can have at any one time. If people start talking on twitter instead of yelling, engagement metrics are going to drop through the floor.
In your experience, how many people can be in a room and all participate in one conversation before they split into more than one group, or an audience/panel dynamic forms? Twitter's design is such that there are so many silent participants to every interaction, that any conversation is stressed to the breaking point if even a tiny percent of them choose to say anything.
I don't understand what jornos think twitter is and/or could be. As far as I can tell, they want themselves and celebrities to post self-promotion and overton-window-approved nonsense care-free, and then have the crowd act as a mass of sycophantic yes-men.
This sub-network seems to have a lot of overlap with the set of people who use their Twitter handle as a substitute for an email address—i.e. the people who want you to tweet at them if you want to collaborate with them on something. Which itself is vaguely overlapping the set of people who are "famous", but not celebrities—i.e. people who are well-known names in their own industries or hobbies.
Mastodon seems fixated on emulating Twitter without questioning if there's anything worth keeping.
It’s really easy to bet that something is impossible. It sounds smart, because all of history confirms your theory.
But history is also chock full of people doing things that didn’t seem possible, so personally I think you’re making a very bad bet.
And I wonder why you are even doing it? What’s gained by trying to convince people that there are zero viable interventions in a specific corner of the solution space? Especially such a big corner as “all technical interventions”?
People are on Twitter for the inane arguing, same as the people in the comment sections of political sites.
Then Gamergate happened and people started yelling about it, and then that grew into the alt-right and that got more yelling, and then Trump got elected and it’s just been so much yelling.
And now here I am mostly on Mastodon, where there’s next to no celebrities, brands, or other things to yell at, and it’s pretty nice.
Make like counts invisible.
These will mitigate but not totally solve the problem. I don't think anything more can be done.
Seriously, people have been pretty good at this before. Build a bot that autoblocks anyone engaging me if they have <N followers or the account is less than N days old. And so on.
Let me attempt to describe this mentality as a recipe (because I don't have a good name for it, but I'm sure you can recognize it): start by imagining clinical depression. Keep the "everything in the world sucks" part, but remove the part where you consider "everything" to include you. (This isn't narcissism; you don't think you're all that great. You just aren't down on yourself. You think of yourself in a normal, healthy way.) Then, take the parts of depression where you have no energy and don't experience any emotional affect, and replace those with a sliding scale from "neutral" to "panicked shouting." (Which isn't real panic, per se; it's just a very loud simulated fight-or-flight response, without any real fear or traumatic recall behind it.)
An increasing number of people are like this. Nobody notices these people as unusual at all. This used to be rare enough to caricature; it was the "I want to speak to your manager" mom. But everyone is like that now. Every age group has these people in equal numbers. What... happened?
That said, when everyone you know or follow is echoing the same thing, there's a sense of entitlement that builds. That you are entitled to outrage, and now with social media you have a platform to echo like minded opinions from the hilltop. It's easy to forget that you inhabit an echo chamber on the internet (1), and all too tempting to equate it into a worldwide crusade. You used to have to earn a platform through persuasive arguments or hard earned authority and expertise.
I see people voicing their opinions on the things they hate on blogs, social networks, dating sites—and successfully connecting with others who hate the same things! This was not a thing even ten years ago. Making your “about you” on any social system a list of things you hate would have been seen, as recently as 2010, as an uncouth mistake by someone who has no emotional intelligence. (Even if you’re also someone who hates the same things, you’d understand that doing this is a sign of a general willingness to violate social norms, and so feel vaguely put off by the person.) But, these days, it’s not a mistake to present yourself this way; there’s no penalty to doing it, only benefits.
I think what this might be, is the final death within Western “Christian-descended atheist/agnostic” culture of the social mores that were inherited from religion, e.g. the idea that wrath is a sin that you should feel bad for embodying, and at least shouldn’t advertise in public as a positive aspect of yourself. (I say this because I suspect—though I’m not sure—that this change isn’t nearly as pronounced in Western religious communities.)
Word of the day: "despisal", noun form of "despise".
This is actively encouraged and labeled in some groups by "being a good ally" for example.
Internet trashtalking is the biggest thing since beer muscles. It's an aggression-enabler.
Either Twitter will do this or the future decentralized apps will do this naturally through micropayments of having to pay for compute through the network.
I see a distributed p2p database that costs money to interact with and anyone can build a client for it. Go ahead, build a client - maybe it's free, maybe it costs money because it uses the protocol really well and people like it the UX. Hell, maybe even the client has advertisements in it. Either way interacting with the actual content costs money and that will naturally bring in a balance of information. Right now we have information asymmetry exploited by advertising.
The totally free ad-supported model is really the only one that has the potential to generate both the user growth and ARPU growth to create those 10x-1000x exits, and do so within a reasonable horizon for the fund that's investing in the company. If you start a service that costs money to the end user, you remove the addiction to engagement to drive ARPU, but you risk cratering your user growth, or at least set your growth on a scale that will be unimpressive at best for venture backers.
So platforms stay free and tolerate those community problems, because the user growth is attractive, and if you can make the ad dollars work, you can show good revenue potential and get that spicy multiple.
In modern times, people pay to use Slack. It'd be interesting to study the sociology of paid Slack groups (as compared to free Slack groups, or as compared to any other free-for-everyone group chat platform.)
I've always thought it'd be a cool idea to have a group chat platform where, rather than some admin owning the group and maybe paying, the group has a tip-jar and anyone/everyone in the group can contribute. (Twitch sort of works like this, but you're really donating to the channel owner, not to the group itself. In my hypothetical model, there is no channel owner; the group persists because at least some of the user-base want it to, and so pay for it to.)
There are plenty of forums and private servers (for video games) that are donation supported by the regulars. It's a struggle though.
Not sure what the atmosphere is like these days, but the admins were always so constantly mad for no reason you couldn't even post in a thread next to them or they'd ban you. They have real bad irony poisoning.
Now everything is so serious.
I never understood the people that always complain about nazis on twitter. Like seriously what are you clicking 'Like' on that your twitter is fully of nazis?
The like button exists for a reason. It's a simple interactive button to register my positive feeling towards a given statement. That exists unto it self. Why should a dislike button not exist as well? With no way of showing disagreement with a statement, people take to words and that's why they're yelling at each other. There's no other outlet.
The reason they're not putting in a dislike button is because negativity feeds tweet activity.
Also, if you want to get rid of posts people you follow liked, most (if not all) 3rd-party apps don't show them. Some apps like Tweetbot and Twitteriffic even allow you to remove tweets with specific words from your timeline, or filter retweets.
So basically, a bunch of tiny iterative UX changes that won't move the needle one bit. This is the company where moving from from 140 to 280 chars happened over the course of a decade.
I feel for the product people, they are working with one hand tied behind their backs. Twitter is tailor-made for drama and outrage; nobody would be on the platform if it wasn't primarily a promotional channel; otherwise it'd just be you sending your thoughts into the void.
The way Twitter currently is is because that's the balance they struck between a microblogging platform and something you can actually make money with/on. Lowest-common-denominator content is the only thing that can generate enough eyeballs to pique the interest of fly-by-night T-shirt companies and diet pill peddlers who buy ads on it.
Maybe so, but the numbers won't be hidden to the algorithm, which ultimately decides which retweets and "high-engagement" posts to show you on the timeline. I would think that has a much bigger influence on the conversation. You won't reply to something if it never makes it to your feed in the first place.
Seriously, we have nearly 20 years of evidence at this point showing that, if you associate something with users’ online identities that looks like a score, they will treat it as such and start looking for ways to outscore everyone else.
But what has he done to fix the problem, besides tiny UX tweaks that go nowhere, and the occasional ban of a highly visible jerk? Twitter is on fire, and he just plods along.
Dorsey, in this article, is about as believable as Mark Zuckerberg saying "we have to get serious about privacy."
The prototype that the article mentions exemplifies this attitude. Twitter needs to reinvent itself, but the prototype offers tiny fixes - threaded replies and helpful profile cards. These are needed, but does anyone really think they are going to solve outrage on twitter?
The outrage problem is the product of twitter's core design. It combines 2-way conversations with a context-free public soapbox and rewards comments that make people nod in agreement. Solving this would mean redefining what twitter is.
Dorsey won't do that, and so he's not serious about the problem. Maybe he can't be serious because it would hurt their profits. The best we can do is delete our accounts, disinvest, and hope twitter burns to the ground.
Which leads to an incredible amount of change aversion; if you have no idea what it is about your product that people like, you're naturally going to be terrified of changing anything, for fear that you might punch a hole in the wrong place and let all the magic leak out.
It's better if we don't make CEOs responsible for fixing our social problems. We have to do that ourselves. They will follow along ("give the people what they want")
CEOs are a subset of "we," and are in positions where their decisions have impact disproportional to their numbers.
"people say outrageous things!" okay so don't go ahead and read them. As an example, replies to Trump are always a shitfest. Don't read them.
"there are evil nazis!" okay so don't follow them.
"even if I don't do these two, other people I follow retweet those and I get to see them!" okay so mute, unfollow, or block that person.
"even if I don't do these two, other people I don't know say outrageous things or follow evil nazis" that's none of your business.
Twitter served me well for a long time, if you've tried to "figure it out" and couldn't (when it's the simplest shit ever) then just don't use it. Why should all services be catered to the lowest common denominator? The only thing I agree with is that they shouldn't show tweets other people liked in your timeline. But the rest is simply bullshit. It's like some people want Twitter to become something it's not and it's never been.
If Twitter had gotten people to stop yelling at each other earlier, there would be 2 more protestors outside soldier funerals chanting hateful and homophobic mantras. Keep that in mind while supporting an end to the yelling.