Saying goodbye to Twitter

Liked It's time to say goodbye to Twitter | sonniesedge by Charlie OwenCharlie Owen (sonniesedge.co.uk)
It's time to say goodbye to Twitter

This is starting to feel like an apt description of so much social media these days:

Social media has become death by a thousand angry micro-posts. Maybe it’s time to get away.

Deleted tweets on Facebook are a reminder about controlling your content

I noticed this story on TechCrunch about how cross-posted tweets were removed from Facebook, along with the conversations that formed around them.

Facebook users are complaining the company has removed the cross-posted tweets they had published to their profiles as Facebook updates. The posts’ removal took place following the recent API change that prevented Twitter users from continuing to automatically publish their tweets to Facebook. According to the affected parties, both the Facebook posts themselves, as well as the conversation around those posts that had taken place directly on Facebook, are now gone. Reached for comment, Facebook says it’s aware of the issue and is looking into it.

Axios published a post clarifying what happened:

Here’s what happened, according to a source close to Twitter.: Twitter had initially asked Facebook for more time to see if there was a way for users to continue joint posting to both social networks, but Facebook said no.

As a result, the Twitter app for the Facebook platform was essentially made useless earlier this month once Facebook officially removed the ability to cross-post. With the app’s sole function eliminated, Twitter decided to delete it from the Facebook platform, having no reason to think that doing so would remove old tweets that were cross-posted. It’s not clear whether Facebook knew this would happen, either.

Those tweets have apparently since been restored to Facebook, so the harm was short-lived. At the same time, this incident serves as an important reminder that you rarely have effective control over your content on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

It’s also a big reason why I prefer the POSSE (Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere),  approach to publishing my content. That said, moves like Facebook’s changes to their API at the beginning of August 2018 have the effect of frustrating this to a degree.

It’s affected people’s ability to publish to their Facebook News Feeds automatically using external services (although you can still publish automatically to your Facebook Page). That said, this just reinforces the importance of having your own space on the Web where you have considerably more control over your content.

Should Tumblr be the next Twitter? I hope not.

I can’t help but think that Jeremy Gordon’s call for people to return to Tumblr after abandoning Twitter misses the point a bit.

But on Tumblr, people could go on for at long as they needed to, a valuable tool for posters who could actually justify it. (And I use the past tense here in the context of my own experience; if you’re still doing this, bless you and yours.) Posts could be as short as necessary, but you could also find a historical deep dive, an interesting think piece (and not the kind derisively referred to as “takes”), a photo essay, or simply just a nice blog about someone’s life. The whole impetus behind following people on social media is, “Hey, I like this person’s brain, and am open to spending more time with it.” Tumblrs delivered the full, unrestrained range of someone’s head — funny, serious, and everything else.

Sure, Tumblr is an appealing platform, with a lot of good things to say about it. At the same time, one of the arguments for moving off the likes of Twitter and Facebook, and returning to personal sites is to regain control over your space on the Web.

Tumblr is another centralised, social space that’s vulnerable to the same threats that face its larger competitors.

People seem to be fixated on constraints, whether they are Twitter’s character count, or Tumblr’s engagement models.

Just create a blog of your own, on your preferred platform. I’m a WordPress user (since 2004), and you can choose another if you don’t like WordPress for some reason.

Whatever you choose, make it your space, at your domain, and keep it yours. If you only want to type short missives, great. If you prefer long, photo essays, that’s awesome too.

If you’re going to leave Twitter/Facebook because of the issues you see there, why replicate those conditions in another, similar service?

As Chris Aldrich put it, “support the web we’d like to have instead of the web we’re given”.

Moving from Twitter to WordPress

I really like this post about how Matthew Haughey has switched to a WordPress blog from Twitter. Yes, this is partly because he chose WordPress.com. Mostly, though, it’s because of reasons like these:

On the second point, it killed my desire to ever blog about things or write more than a few sentences about complex subjects. I would go six months between writing something 1,000 words long to put online when that was something I’d do every few days pre-Twitter. When Twitter moved to 280 characters, all hope was lost, since there really was no reason to have a blog for anyone anymore. I didn’t like that everything I wrote ended up being hard to find or reference, and even hard for me to pull up myself when I wanted, where a blog makes it pretty dang easy to see everything you wrote about in the past.

Read Haughey’s full post “My own reasons for leaving Twitter” (and follow him, too!). Also read his thoughts about WordPress in 2018 (there’s room for improvement, for sure).

Featured image by Braden Hopkins on Unsplash

When Even Planetary Scientists Are Driven From Twitter

Not too long ago, I wrote about how I was seeing so much value in Twitter because of the people I choose to follow. One of the highlights of my Twitter feed has been Dr Sarah Hörst, a Planetary Scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

Sarah is an inspiration, and I enjoy her tweets tremendously. She tweeted recently that she briefly left Twitter, only to return to be faced with renewed abuse from repulsive examples of our species.

Dr Hörst tweeting about abuse

Reading tweets like this leaves me feeling a little more disgusted with Twitter (the company). Despite all of Jack Dorsey’s assurances, regret, and promises, incredible people like Sarah feel like they should leave the service because remaining on Twitter means exposing yourself to relentless attacks and abuse.

It's not like Twitter doesn't see this stuff

I keep hoping for alternatives. I still believe that something like Mastodon is an answer but, for that to work, it needs to have the sort of community that Twitter still delivers.

I have this sense that I still need to use Twitter because the people I admire and want to follow are there, even though using Twitter increasingly leaves me feeling like I’m giving up part of my humanity in the process.

Twitter feed balagan

Twitter probably thinks it’s doing us a favour algorithmically sorting tweets but what it’s really doing is creating a frustrating Twitter feed balagan.

Alice Coldfuss on the Twitter feed mess
Algorithmic Twitter feed balagan

One of the reasons I use Twitter so much more than Facebook (which I barely use, such that when I do open the Facebook app, I frequently see messages from Facebook trying to reassure me that it’s safe to return) is that Twitter has historically let me just see tweets in reverse chronological order.

Sure, Twitter also has a sort of “featured tweets” section at the top of my feed. For the most part, that’s ok, because I can scroll down to see everything else. That doesn’t happen anymore. If I look at a sampling of my Twitter feed (below*), it’s a mess. I have tweets presented in random time order and I’m not even sure if that is all of them.

Twitter may be doing this because they realise that users who follow a lot of people hardly ever see everything. Or something. At the same time, don’t mess with what I do get to see. This algorithmic approach to presenting my Twitter feed just kills the value for me.

At the moment, the only thing that keeps me returning to Twitter is because I haven’t worked out how to follow all the awesome people who make it worthwhile, outside Twitter (yet). As soon as I figure that out, the Twitter app will join Facebook in Phone Limbo.

*Here’s that Twitter feed sample, if you’re interested. Look at the timestamps:

A sample of my mess of a Twitter feed.
A sample of my mess of a Twitter feed.

An awesome thread about developers’ careers

Stephanie Hurlburt asked for stories from developers about their career paths on Twitter, and it quickly became one of the best threads I’ve read in a while. As you can imagine, I have a particular interest in stories about other developers’ careers given my journey this year. This thread didn’t disappoint.

I started reading the thread when I woke up this morning and, boy, what a great way to start a day.

The Mastodon in the room

I read Patrick Hogan’s post about Mastodon titled “Mastodon makes the internet feel like home again” last week. It prompted me to install a Mastodon app on my phone again, and take another look.

The Mastodon.social timeline
Find me on Mastodon, if you want

Like many people, I’m not exactly in love with Twitter lately (except when I am). I’ve been on the lookout for something better for years (remember Jaiku?). I really like the idea of a federated update/micro-blogging service, and Mastodon has all the features you’d want.

What about the network effect?

The one feature that’s missing is the one factor that either boosts or kills any social service (again, remember Jaiku?) is the all important network effect. As Richard MacManus put it in his post titled “How social media fits into the Open Web” in AltPlatform.org (I can’t seem to load the site and provide a link):

I dip into Mastodon from time to time, but it just hasn’t managed to become part of my daily Web routine. Perhaps it will in future, but the old ‘network effects’ rule applies here: the value of a tool is ultimately in the strength of the community it builds.

This probably isn’t the platform I’d expect to see my friends on (and I don’t expect to). Still, if Mastodon is to be a viable alternative to Twitter for me, I’d want to be able to join communities that feature the people who I follow on Twitter. At the moment, I’m not sure most of them are even aware of Mastodon.

More importantly, what about my blog?

As interested as I am in a federated alternative to Twitter, what I really want is to be able to use my blog as my starting point for everything. Why can’t my personal site be the focal point of my presence on the web (at least one of my primary expressions of my self online)?

This takes me back to the work the IndieWeb community is doing to link all these sites together into a federated identity, and content network. How about extending that work to the point where I can use this blog as my identity that reaches into these federated networks?

This may be wishful thinking but I’d really like to see a future version of WordPress introduce this social connectivity that allows me to extend a unified personal presence to non-blog platforms.

On Mastodon, my identity is linked to the instance I am a part of. There, I am @pauljacobson@mastodon.social. I can use that identity to participate in other Mastodon instances (I think), so I have the beginnings of a distributed, social identity here. The challenge is that my nascent social identity is distinct from this site.

Update: I wrote too soon. Ryan Barrett pointed me to Bridgy Fed that seems to do what I was hoping I’d be able to do (pretty much). Barrett launched Bridgy Fed in October and it looks terrific:

Ryan Barrett's Bridgy Fed launch announcement.
Ryan Barrett’s Bridgy Fed launch announcement.

This is going to take a little time to configure but I’m looking forward to working through the process and connecting my site to the fediverse.