For a week now, I’ve been exploring the open source social media network #Mastodon1. Elon Musk is destroying the usefulness of #Twitter, firing staff, whining, and seemingly proceeding without a thought-out plan. I haven’t deleted my Twitter accounts, yet, but I’ve started deleting DMs, downloaded my Twitter archive, deleted the official Twitter client from my iOS devices2, unfollowing accounts, blocking accounts more quickly, yada yada.
I’ve had a Twitter account since 2007, and have been a heavy user of it ever since, for good or bad, I’m not sure. I learned a lot, but also wasted some moments that could have been more productively spent.
Anyway, Mastodon seems like a viable replacement, at least so far. It isn’t the same as Twitter, and there are some things that I wish worked differently, but all in all, worth continuing to use. I’ve had more actual conversations at Mastodon than I have had recently at Twitter, perhaps because there are less people using Mastodon. Or because it is set up differently than Twitter.
Mastodon stats from yesterday:
+5,384 in the last hour
+96,257 in the last day
+593,606 in the last week
If you want to follow me over there, use this link.
Yesterday Twitter Inc. sued Elon Musk in Delaware to hold him to his agreement to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share. Twitter’s lawyers are hoping for a quick trial in September, so that the deal can close on schedule in October. You can read Twitter’s complaint here. Here’s the gist of it:
Having mounted a public spectacle to put Twitter in play, and having proposed and then signed a seller-friendly merger agreement, Musk apparently believes that he — unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law — is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away. This repudiation follows a long list of material contractual breaches by Musk that have cast a pall over Twitter and its business. Twitter brings this action to enjoin Musk from further breaches, to compel Musk to fulfill his legal obligations, and to compel consummation of the merger upon satisfaction of the few outstanding conditions.
…The basic narrative beats will be familiar. Musk secretly bought a 9.1% stake in Twitter, violating securities laws in the process, then announced that stake and agitated to join Twitter’s board
…Musk announced that he wanted to buy Twitter because he thought there were too many spam bots. He sent in an unsolicited offer to buy Twitter, did no due diligence at all about spam bots, and asked Twitter for no representations about spam bots. He imagined that there were lots of spam bots, and he was eager to “defeat” them. And then the stock market went down, so now he is pretending that he was tricked into buying Twitter because they went around lying to him about how few spam bots there were. This pretext is bad
Brent Simmons writes about something I’ve been thinking about for the last few months:
My problem with Twitter remains the same: centralized social networking concentrates way too much power in one place.
Twitter is awful in other ways, sure, not just for that reason. (The issues with Nazis and harassment and abuse. The way it treats third-party Twitter developers.)
And Facebook, too, is awful in its own ways.
But, even if it were well-run, centralized social networking is still a deeply bad and unhealthy idea. Josh Marshall writes that we should be concerned about
…ceding so much of the public square to private platforms which really aren’t about free speech in any way and don’t have free speech in any way. They’re all ordered by algorithms designed to maintain time on site and service ad sales. In no sense are they open or free.
Twitter is not the public square. It just wants you to think it is. The web itself is the public square.
Ghosting all of my social media accounts is very, very tempting. Especially Facebook and Instagram which I care less about. I’ve already started the process of culling my interactions with both of those platforms. I only log in to Facebook using my Mac’s alternative browser, and since I have two-factor authentication turned on, it is even more time consuming to log on, thus I log on once or twice a month. I am considering removing most of the ephemeral contacts there as I have already done on Instagram. I deleted the Instagram app from my phone, and don’t miss it yet, and maybe never will.
Twitter is slightly different, as I mostly use my Twitter account as a microblog. I’d guess that 90% of my posts contain URLs linking to a news story, or to my own photographs. If there was a quick, painless way to delete every Twitter post that didn’t contain a URL, I’d do that right away, but I’m not sure if that is possible, or tbh, even really worth it. I’m low profile enough that I don’t interact much with strangers on Twitter, nor do I seek out heated political arguments with the mouth breathers; so I’ve yet to encounter that toxic part of Twitter.
I never found a good method to integrate Twitter with my blog, perhaps I should look for a solution to that. My tweets1 are archived in a Google Doc spreadsheet; if I use Buffer, my tweets are also posted to my Tumblr, yet I’d rather there was a place on my own domain which hosted this running link history.
I don’t miss the amount of fiddling Moveable Type required, Twitter’s main attraction for me is the ease with which I can create a link to something interesting I’ve encountered, Twitter is integrated into iOS and MacOS in a way that self-hosted WordPress blogs are not.
To the bigger question, I miss the character of the web before Facebook et al existed. I doubt we can return to those days. It sort of reminds me of the back-to-the land movement of the last century: folks like my parents eschewing the technologies of the day to go to farms and communes and try to exist with one foot in the future and one foot in the past.
From the Department of Thoughts Slightly Too Long To Post on Twitter
In the context of my parenthetical aside in this post, Facebook Doesn’t Pay You Because That’s Not Their Model, I admitted I use Twitter much more than I ever used Facebook. For me, Twitter posts are links to go read ((or look at)) something posted somewhere else while Facebook posts are often, though not exclusively, self-contained. Twitter was initially only 144 characters, and despite this count being subsequently expanded, it retains that ethos. Facebook never had a length limit to what was posted.
This sucky blog has nearly always been more of a go read something ((or look at)) that is posted elsewhere, here’s a sample paragraph or two, here’s my reaction, but go read the source material kind of blog. A large percentage of the kind of posts that used to be created here are now created on my Twitter page.
Modestly useful change – there are certainly times when conversations are terse because of this.
A week after Bloomberg reported that Twitter was getting ready to relax its rules for what counts against your 140-character limit, the company is confirming the move today. Soon, photos and video won’t be included in that tally, freeing up more space for those witty quips. What’s more, usernames in replies won’t count against the limit either, and you’ll be able to retweet or quote your own posts. You know, just in case you need to remind everyone of that hot take you had a few months back.
When sending a tweet to someone you want all of your followers to see, you’ll no longer need to include a period or some other punctuation in front of their username. With the changes to the character limits, all tweets that begin with a Twitter handle will be seen by everyone who follows you by default. Despite the rumblings last week, regular ol’ links still count towards that 140-character allotment. CEO Jack Dorsey explained that these changes are the latest in an attempt to make the social network “simpler.”
Don’t know if it will “save” Twitter or not, but we’ll see.
I’m also glad Twitter didn’t go as far as first reported: that tweets could suddenly become novels…
The social media company will soon stop counting photos and links as part of its 140-character limit for messages, according to a person familiar with the matter. The change could happen in the next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Links currently take up 23 characters, even after Twitter automatically shortens them. The company declined to comment. It’s a step in a larger plan to give users more flexibility on the site. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said in January that the company was looking for new ways to display text on Twitter, and would experiment based on how people use the service. For example, some people tweet screenshots of longer text in articles, or send many tweets one after the other to tell a story. Twitter’s 140-character limit was originally adopted because it was a way to send Tweets while fitting all the information within a mobile text message — a common way for sending Tweets when the service debuted in 2006, before the proliferation of smartphones.
The company earlier this year considered raising the limit to as many as 10,000 characters. But the quick, concise nature of Tweets has helped set the site apart from the competition. Executives have spent the last few months emphasizing how Twitter is a destination for live events and discussion. Removing the character requirement for links and photos may encourage users to add more media to their posts.
I am no self-described expert in social media, just a sometime user of it, but from I sit, obsessing about follower counts is stupid, and a waste of everyone’s time. I guess certain digital agencies sold the concept to their clients, and then cut corners in building up follower counts by utilizing sleazy tactics and spam-bots. Follower counts are a nearly meaningless number to be used on a PowerPoint presentation to clueless executives. As the poet sang, numbers add up to nothing.
Instagram in recent days has revealed “corrections” in the number of people following many users, after announcing last week it had removed a significant number of fake accounts from the Facebook owned photo-sharing service.
Celebrities including Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez each lost more than a million followers, according to Zach Allia, a Boston photographer and Web developer who tallied the losses in this chart. Each of those celebrities still counts more than 18 million followers. Allia estimated that the average Instagram user lost 7.7% of his followers from the purge.
The purge reflects a persistent problem for social networks: separating real users from computer-generated “bots.” Instagram conducted a similar purge in May. Twitter says fewer than 5% of its 284 million monthly active users are fake, though outside researchers think the number is higher.
In an interview last week, Instagram founder and CEO Kevin Systrom declined to say how many accounts the service deleted. Systrom said fake users are most often created “for commercial reasons.” Users are either “paying to buy followers” he said, or “trying to get attention for some product they’re selling or some email subscription.”
National Geographic, Nike, Adidas and Forever 21 were among the top 100 Instagram accounts that saw their follower counts pummeled after the spam hunt. The photo- and video-sharing app said last week that it would cull fake and inactive accounts, and it did its best to prepare brands and fans for the worst. Today, Instagram users were lamenting their fallen following with memes and jokes to cover the hurt. The shock of a diminished audience is just a short-term hit for marketers, who ultimately want to know if their fans are fake, said Eric Brown, head of communications for social influence measurement tool Klout and its parent company, Lithium.
For myself, I stopped caring long ago how many Twitter followers1 I have, how many people2 follow my Tumblr feed, or my Instagram account3. It means nothing, it isn’t as if I get a financial incentive to have more followers. Neither does Nike, or any other brand. It is nearly meaningless number to be used on a PowerPoint presentation to executives basically.
Adweek reports that these are the brands that should fire their digital agencies, or at least ask a few hard questions to their digital team at the next social media meeting.
National Geographic: 229,000 followers lost. New count: 9.75 million
Nike: 257,000 followers lost. New count: 8.75 million
9Gag: 120,000 followers lost. New count: 8.38 million
Victoria’s Secret: 215,000 followers lost. New count: 7.7 million
The Ellen Show: 270,000 followers lost. New count: 7.47 million
Forever 21: 245,000 followers lost. New count: 5.33 million
Real Madrid Club de Fútbol: 159,000 followers lost. New count: 5.36 million
FC Barcelona: 133,000 followers lost. New count: 5.33 million
NBA: 196,000 followers lost. New count: 4.15 million
GoPro: 94,000 followers lost. New count: 3.64 million
Adidas: 101,000 followers lost. New count: 3.6 million
Louis Vuitton: 107,000 followers lost. New count: 3.55 million
Amusingly, I noted the problem with Instagram followers being spammy right away:
As a side effect of this growth, there are a lot of spammers who take advantage of Instagram’s audience, and offer to sell you “likes” or other sleazy tactic
In the face of a barrage of attacks on his credibility, his publisher stood by him. But on Thursday it reversed course and said it was canceling the book.
The publisher, Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, did not provide a reason for the turnabout. It released a terse statement saying: “In light of information that has recently come to our attention since acquiring John Lefevre’s ‘Straight to Hell,’ Touchstone has decided to cancel its publication of this work.”
In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, Mr. Lefevre said that he and his agent demanded a conference call with Touchstone, and received one Thursday morning, but were not told why the deal had fallen through. “All they would say is our hands are tied,” he said.
Only Goldman Sachs seemed to be enjoying the moment. “Guess elevators go up and down,” @GoldmanSachs tweeted in response to the news.
Mr. Lefevre’s proposed book, titled “Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance and Excess in the World of Investment Banking,” had drawn widespread attention — for the window it promised to provide into Wall Street’s often raucous culture, and as the latest test case in whether social media postings, some resembling online performance art, could be transformed into successful books.
from John Lefevre, the banker behind Goldman Sachs Elevator, this defense:
For the avoidance of any doubt, any person who actually thought my Twitter feed was literally about verbatim conversations overhead in the elevators of Goldman Sachs is an idiot.
Newsflash: GSElevator has never been about elevators. And, it’s never been specifically about Goldman Sachs; it’s about illuminating Wall Street culture in a fun and entertaining way. Without highlighting the obvious evolution of the tweets into more generally-appealing observations, let’s start with the simple fact that each of my tweets says “Sent from Twitter for Mac,” hardly the work of someone pretending to be hiding in the walls of 200 West.
Being called a “fake” or a “hoax” by the same people who embraced me as “satire” is simply laughable – and it really speaks to the silly and opportunistic attempts at cheap headlines.
In the three years since that interview – while breaking the news of @GSElevator‘s book proposal, among other things – I’ve learned a bit more about who is behind @GSElevator. I’ve come to suspect that the account is a group effort, the product of at least two individuals working collaboratively, one or more of whom may work at Goldman or may have worked there in the past. Part of this is a simple smell test – the sharp, concise writing contained in @GSElevator‘s tweets has always read like the work of a different author than the loose, elementary prose in the book proposal and the writing contained in some of the account’s articles on sites like Business Insider. But I’ve also seen credible proof of multiple authorship. Several months ago, I was contacted by a person who works in finance and is not named John Lefevre, who showed me convincing evidence that he had access to at least one of the accounts affiliated with @GSElevator.
“Who cares?” you might be asking. And you’re right – this mystery matters to a handful of reporters in New York, and perhaps some tiny fraction of @GSElevator’s 625,000 Twitter followers. But as someone who has spent the better part of three years corresponding with @GSElevator, reading @GSElevator tweets, and reviewing a book proposal and several other pieces of @GSElevator output, I’m invested (albeit extremely reluctantly, since – reminder – this is a parody Twitter account!) in the outcome. For now, I don’t have any other names to share, or a second-poster theory credible enough to print. But, if I were a betting man, I’d bet that we’re still not hearing the full story of who’s behind @GSElevator. Some of the tweets may have come from inside the building after all.
can’t forget to mention Katha Pollit’s defense of Sheryl Sandberg:
Who’s Afraid of Sheryl Sandberg?
With the publication of Lean In, a feminist-accented self-help book for college-educated young women with bright prospects, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg provoked such wrath among feminists that some of them couldn’t even wait to read the book before condemning it as a rich woman’s vanity project. Talk about leaning in! She’s been mocked as a Silicon Valley Marie Antoinette. She’s been equated with Marissa Mayer, the Yahoo CEO who scorns feminism and abolished working from home for her employees—never mind that Sandberg embraces feminism, the word and the movement, and devoted three whole chapters to combining work and family life in saner, fairer ways. The trouble is not that women are attacking women, but that they are using sexist tropes. Melissa Gira Grant, for example, chides Sandberg for having “staff to help keep house, raise her children and throw her women’s leadership dinners.” Grant means to contrast Sandberg’s privileges with the insecure lives of working-class women (not that she knows how much Sandberg and her husband pay their staff, or even that they are women). But the very fact that the morality of hiring nannies and cleaners and—no! not that!—caterers pops up only when a powerful woman is discussed shows how gendered the attack on Sandberg is. Message to Grant: these people work for Sandberg’s husband too.
That should give you something to read for a moment…
WordPress widgets are broken – cannot add, delete, or modify anything on my sidebar over there on the right. Probably a conflict with a plugin, or some other problem. Daylight savings has sapped my energy at the moment, so I really don’t feel like digging in and fixing it today, especially since I don’t yet know the solution [↩]
Well, thanks to the magic of IFTTT.com, I’ve started to use Delicious to seed information to my blog again.1
There is a limit of Feedburner that it will only post the last ten entries into the daily blog email – for Flickr photos, if I’ve had a busy photographic day, or for blog posts – and yesterday turned out to be an epic sitting-in-front-of-the-computer day2, so I posted more than ten entries to Delicious.