Good news and bad news; but mostly bad. It’s a playground for abusers and management’s pointing the wrong way.

Good news · Kathy Sierra, one of the good smart people who make Life Online interesting, was chased off the Net by shitheads in 2007, then came back strong via Twitter, offering a refined mix of words and pictures. But then, earlier this year, it happened again.

Because she’s a woman with opinions. Which draws abuse. In her case, including from Weev (now there’s an asswipe’s asswipe). To make it worse, the Twitter account she folded was insta-grabbed by an abuser and used as a club to beat her.

Did I say there was good news? Yeah, the abuser’s account is gone; word is, that name will never be recycled.

Did I say there was bad news? Yeah, I poked around and got a narrative of what happened; along the lines of “Someone powerful pressured CEO Dick Costolo and poof!” For a variety of reasons, I suspect that narrative is accurate.

So, it’s OK to slime and abuse someone for being a woman with opinions, unless they have a powerful defender who knows Dick Costolo. Let me see, this has problems with (a) humanity, (b) ethics, and (c) scalability. I’m only an expert on (c) but it feels like a (a) (b)ig problem to me.

Disclosures · It’s not like I’m not invested in this one. Literally; Twitter helped me make a nice little chunk of money by acqui-hiring an angel investment, plus I was an early adopter, plus I have followers, plus I’ve had face time, in a variety of contexts, with senior people there. Look, Twitter is one of my favorite things on the Internet, and that’s saying a lot; I value the personal enrichment it’s offered me more than the money it made me.

More bad news · I can’t say it any better than John Gruber did: Twitter seems run by people who just don’t get Twitter. Maybe it would help if I explained it. What makes Twitter so great is:

  • You get to read short, pithy, carefully-composed messages about the world (getting down to 140 characters requires careful composition),

  • from people you choose to read,

  • which hang together to tell a larger story,

  • and others can chime in, forming a delicate chain of conversation,

  • and if you’re in the conversation you can influence what parts of it other people see,

  • and you find out about the interesting things that are going on in the world really damn fast.

That’s what I think, anyhow. Here’s what their leadership seems to think.

Twitter mission statement

To implement that strategic vision, they’ve fought with client builders, screwed with the timeline, emphasized pictures then emphasized them some more, made it hard to follow conversations (unless you’re using one of those clients they’re trying to stamp out), promoted vapid celebrities, and vied with 4chan as a breeding ground for pustulent bully culture.

I can’t not like Twitter. I wonder what it could accomplish if its leadership just got out of the damn way.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Matěj Cepl (Dec 15 2014, at 22:00)

https://xkcd.com/743/ in this case we collectively ignored the wise man Evan Prodromou for our peril.

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From: Jake Munson (Dec 16 2014, at 11:48)

"...made it hard to fol­low con­ver­sa­tions (un­less you’re us­ing one of those clients they’re try­ing to stamp out­)..."

That is the #1 reason why I have never used Twitter. I can't tell you how many times I've followed a twitter link to find out what's going on (because the linker did not tell give background), only to learn that I can't find the context. Super annoying turn off. #FindABetterSocialNetwork

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From: Michael Norrish (Dec 19 2014, at 03:09)

People (preferably the movers and shakers of the sphere, at least initially) just have to stop using the damn thing.

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From: Steve Champagne (Dec 21 2014, at 20:08)

"Let me see, this has prob­lems with (a) hu­man­i­ty, (b) ethic­s, and (c) scal­a­bil­i­ty. I’m on­ly an ex­pert on (c) but it feels like a (a) (b)ig prob­lem to me."

Exactly.

"I can’t not like Twit­ter. I won­der what it could ac­com­plish if its lead­er­ship just got out of the damn way."

If they don't, look to IBM for how it turns out.

(Hint: it's not a "smarter planet")

I was an early Twitter adopter too. But at the time friends couldn't comprehend the point, and to me it eventually had it's own Eternal September (see also: the (a)(b) problem). I cancelled my account around the same time I cancelled my Facebook account and so many others, and the ignorance of all that has been immeasurable bliss.

Lesson: No amount of technology or murmuring that it's making anything (if not everything!) better corrects the (a)(b) problem.

But I will say I've always enjoyed writing code that creates my own blog (glad to finally not feel alone in that Tim, thanks!), which I've done and redone too many times to remember without blushing. But there's something about having to promote it (Hello Twitter!) that feels profanely "oldest profession" to me, and I don't know whether to blame (a)(b) or (g)oogle for that, but somehow or another this new boss of pagerank being all about money is same as the old boss, and I have little to no to less than no interest.

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From: peter woodman (Dec 29 2014, at 00:37)

to be fair, at my time at le goog that was basically the only way to get a bug fixed- to know an employee. everything else you're spot on about.

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author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

December 14, 2014
· The World (115 fragments)
· · Life Online (267 more)

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I am an employee of Amazon.com, but the opinions expressed here are my own, and no other party necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my professional interests is on the author page.