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The End of Twitter

30 January 2016

From The New Yorker:

It wasn’t that long ago that I—and many other people I know—would have argued that Twitter was more than just another social network. I would have told you that Twitter was more like a utility, a service so fundamental that I could imagine a scenario in which it was literally underwritten. Twitterneeded to exist. A stream of those hundred-and-forty-character tweets was how you found the most crucial, critical, and thought-provoking stories of the moment.

When bombs went off during the Boston Marathon, in April of 2013, users sat glued to the feed, suddenly privy to something visceral and real, somethinghappening. And Twitter provided the view, an unedited, unscripted look into the world as it changed, through police-scanner blasts, eyewitness reports, and grainy citizen-journalist photography. It was raw, but it was streamlined.

But cracks in Twitter’s façade had been showing already. Changes to the product made it hard to follow conversations or narratives. A lack of rigor in verifying reliable sources made information suspect or confusing. More troubling was the growing wave of harassment and abuse that users of the service were dealing with—a quagmire epitomized by the roving flocks of hateful, misogynistic, and well-organized “Gamergate” communities that flooded people’s feeds with hate speech and threats. The company seemed to bewholly unprepared to handle mob violence, with few tools at its disposal to moderate or quell uprisings. Even its beloved celebrity users couldn’t be protected. In August of 2014, Robin Williams’s daughter, Zelda, was driven off the service after a series of vicious attacks.

. . . .

In the yearlong stretch leading up to Dorsey’s return, the number of active users on Twitter only grew by eleven per cent. Even more troubling was the service’s penetration in the U.S.: it remained completely flat for the first three quarters of 2015. Facebook has surpassed the company by orders of magnitude, but it’s hardly Twitter’s only foe. Instagram, WhatsApp, and even WeChat all now have more individual users than Twitter does. Snapchat has almost caught Twitter, too.

In Facebook’s case, the company has demonstrated its mastery of product focus and long-term commitment to user experience. While Mark Zuckerberg’s empire sent users sloshing to and fro on the seas of privacy invasion in its early years, the past five years have seen the company come to dominate and define the concept of a social conversation.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Julia for the tip.

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17 Comments to “The End of Twitter”

  1. Twitter was doomed from the start. It never had a business plan that made sense; the more ads they pushed to users, the more users they pushed away. We went to Twitter to read posts from people we wanted to read posts from, not to read ads.

    Censoring posts–particularly those related to recent events in Europe–and letting SJWs ban anyone who disagreed with them and turn it into an SJW echo chamber just accelerated the inevitable decline.

  2. Son of a

    GamerGate isn’t killing Twitter. Twitter is killing Twitter by using a double-standard in the way it enforces its own rules. Conservative and Libertarian accounts are treated far more harshly than Progressives, SJWs, Feminists, or even ISIS-affiliated accounts.

    You can see this in the way Milo Yiannopolous was unverified without any clear rationale, even though no action was taken against the reporter who compared Ted Cruz to Hitler. Or how Adam Baldwin’s account was suspended after he called anti-GGers unattractive. Or how Twitter and the Canadian legal system enabled Steph Guthrie to steal three years of Gregory Alan Elliott’s life and completely destroy both his credit and his career for disagreeing with her. Meanwhile, ISIS and other terrorist groups continue to use Twitter as both a recruitment tool and a loudspeaker.

    Looks like the New Yorker is just another establishment bastion of the regressive left.

  3. Don’t use it, so I won’t miss it. TRIED to use it, and that was a bad idea. Too much… way way too much noise. If anything, it demonstrated that the handful of news sources I used did a pretty good job.

    I didn’t know anyone in Boston at the time of the attack. I didn’t know anyone in Paris at the time of the attack there. In both cases, as old curmudgeon as it sounds, I was content with catching up w/ the news the next day.

    A big reason for that is how unverified stuff gets out there in the heat of the event, gets everyone riled up and distracted, and then turns out to be either wrong or a lie.

    Nope. I’ll give the pros I trust the time to sort it out and then tell me.

  4. Good riddance.

  5. I use Twitter regularly. If you stick to certain hashtags it’s fine. I’ve only rarely gotten harassed, and once I blocked the jerks, they went away. I’ve met tons of great writers and bloggers on Twitter, and the poetry hashtags can have some gorgeous writing.

    Having said that, I think there’s a problem with Twitter’s constant ads, zombie/bot accounts, and lack of privacy. It’s not like Facebook where you decide who can view your posts–anyone can. I wouldn’t give up on them, but they need to address their issues.

  6. The author of the article is, well, facebook is a mess, unless you like having your reader numbers strangled for Zuck’s incessant gimme money to reach the very people an author/ business attracted.

    And Twitter? Out here, we have another name for it. That I cant say in polite company.

    on breaking news. As a journo, I would offer that OFTEN and almost like clockwork MSM gets it wrong, esp when there is violence and death. It often takes days to sort out the anecdotal, the ‘i think i saw but really didnt’, the ‘he said x and y, oh I guess I made that up,’ when pressed.. and all the rest. It used to be called the fog of war. It still exists. In the main media channels. Likely, always will as long as media is competitive.

  7. I love twitter because I only follow people who interst me. If they get boring, I unfollow. Anyone can follow me. I don’t have to see their tweets unless I decide to follow them. What is so hard about that?

  8. I’m on Twitter daily, and I never saw a single piece of Gamergate rubbish. GG was hardly a tsunami of hatred, and it only mattered to a few people anyway. Guess I’d have to follow a couple more SF authors than I do — at present the only one I follow is Scalzi, and that’s ’cause he’s fun and has kittens.

    I’m not sure what the main complaint is. That politically incorrect people tweet stuff?

    • StrongStyleFiction

      I’m sure some GG associated people have tweeted horrible things at someone. Wherever you find a collection of people, there are going to be bad eggs in there. People can be crappy to other people, especially online. Thing is, I’ve never seen these kinds of stories site a single, concrete example of it. Ever. Twitter has its priorities out of whack. The fact is, when you use a public forum, you are going to run into intolerant, sometimes racist and sometimes unreasonable people. It’s a public forum everyone has access to. Twitter has a block function. If you can’t handle the idea of potentially running into some unsavory people on a public forum, then perhaps that public forum is not for you.

  9. All the problems they list for Twitter are WAY WAY worse on facebook.

    The real problem with Twitter is that people don’t know how to use it. They get advice from spammers on how to use it, and that leads them to see nothing but spam.

    But if you don’t actually follow the advice of spammers, Twitter has the very best signal-to-noise ratio on the internet.

    The secret is to never ever “follow-back” — that is never follow someone because they followed you. Instead, follow people who fill your feed with interesting stuff. Don’t worry about getting people to follow you. Do that, and Twitter will quickly become useless to you.

    The second secret is to use “lists” so you can segregate certain kinds of info from you main feed. For instance, I have lists for news sites, and for political folks, and for entertainment folks. I also have a list for events I’m trying to follow live, which I temporarily fill with people who are live on the ground.

    Twitter is, by far, the very best way to watch political debates. (This requires that you fill your feed, or make a list, for the smartest and snarkiest wonks you can find.)

    I have completely replaced my TV with Twitter.

    • +1

      I found my cover artist through twitter. My formatter through twitter (Hi, Jaye!). My first-ever fans through twitter. I use the segmented lists Camille mentions. I use the “block” button liberally, and have never had a problem with harassment. Mostly what I use twitter for is to learn new things.

      And I found this blog through twitter.

    • I don’t use Twitter often, but I learned from experience to do exactly what you did.

      1. Don’t automatically follow. If their feed doesn’t interest you, don’t follow back.

      It’s amazing how many indie authors still use Twitter to spam their books. I don’t mind a ratio of ad:interesting tweets, but some simply repeat their ad posts over and over again.

      2. Lists are vital. I have a Personal list (locked) of people I know. A regional news list, a Sherlock-only list, and several others that I think I’ll pare back when I get a chance.

      It’s been fun to watch a tweet of mine blow up. When Paulo Coelho was quoted in a Mary Worth comic, I tweeted it to him. He retweeted it to his fans and it ended up being RTed again about a 1,000 times. Didn’t do me any good, but it felt nice to contribute something positive to the morass.

    • I like Twitter. I follow back, but I use LISTS. And they give me control over my feed. I curate those lists. I only read my general feed if I’m bored out of my mind.

      And I think I got a few sales through Twitter, even though I don’t spam my books.

  10. Twitter suffers from too many bots, and too many automated tweeter software users, I think. I bet half the users aren’t even people.

    • In complete agreement, Mark. A year ago, you could jump on Twitter and engage with people REAL TIME. Now? Everyone’s pushing tweets through Hoot Suit, etc. I got on this morning and 80% of the stream was made up of promoted tweets, “buy this” tweets from people I’m following, or a bunch of retweets of memes. It’s getting to where I’m actively looking for just one or two lines of text (with no pictures) because that might actually have been typed by someone on the fly.

      In the last year, Twitter has gone from “coffee shop hang out” to “automated flea market.” Sad, really.

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