Alright. Here's my thoughts on this article, written over two days and via phone a bit in the cab drunk last night.
Shouting out flagamuffin bc you asked my thoughts. 8bit and cgod and kleinbl00 - you might find this interesting but I won't waste your notification space on it.
I joined Twitter for the first time in 2008, right after arriving at NYU, right before Obama was elected, right after sitting through orientation after orientation, listening to this liberal ass liberal arts school preach to me (this is a direct quote), "We won't tell you who to vote for but VOTE CHAAAAANGE!!!!!" MASSIVE CHEER FROM 1000 INCOMING FRESHMAN OVERWHELMS EVERYTHING Yeah. I was oriented. I was surprised that there were so many people who were so easily and enthusiastically for VOTE CHANGE when I was fully aware that I had no real idea what to expect from either candidate due to my ignorance about them and due to my ignorance of politics in general.
I grew up with parents that didn't talk much about politics because they didn't care much for it nor did they agree with each other. They always voted though and always respected each other's opinion, when the subject was broached. My mom was a teacher at a LAUSD continuation school (definition: " small campuses with low student-to-teacher ratios offering instruction to students between the ages of 16 and 18 who are deemed as risk of not completing their education." - basically a mixture of fuck ups, ESL kids, bad homes, etc.) My dad is an engineer, tinkerer extraordinaire, self-made (unknown sums of money)-aire.
In high school, I spent all of my time in video class - video prod and broadcast journalism. I read the LATimes every morning with my breakfast (by choice) but was required (for class) to do a write up of the minutes of NewsHour and a primetime cable news show each week: break down the minutes/seconds spent on commercials, ins & outs, human interest stories, investigative journalism, interviews, etc. Any interesting notes about b-roll, sound effects, on site anchors, etc. Compare and contrast the angles of any related stories. Basically, I was always up to date and analyzing.
In college, I found myself not reading the paper, not staying up to date, and feeling out of touch with the world. I rejected the mass following of Obama simply because he's Obama. I wanted to know what was going on and what people thought - all people thought - so I could try to figure out what I thought.
It wasn't full of brands and it wasn't full of promotion. It was new. Oprah had yet to mention it. No one had a million subscribers. You talked with other people with similar interests. There was an "all tweets" feed and I would browse it a lot. Everyone did. Twitter started as a way for me to get news, see a variety of opinions on anything at any given time (man, watching the election and the VMAs with tweetdeck open was the best), and connect with random people who may or may not share interests with you. A quick follow of random people from the all feed and a couple news sites ensured you knew what was happening at any given time - all in 140 character snippets. That's all I had time for. Click a tag and figure out if it's popular or not by how many new tweets showed up on refresh. There was no auto refresh - you were limited to like 120 API requests / minute and a larger number but not 120x60 / hour.
I got into debates with movie bloggers (we used use twitlonger for debates without shame) , made random friends in the LA and NYC areas via apps that showed tweets posted within 5 miles of you, read stories, and mostly tweeted about movies, ranted about college, bragged getting drunk and my super awesome videos and scripts, and made vague and not-so-vague sexual comments that a typical 19 year old, sexually charged, liberal arts college girl would make. I am glad twitpic is going to die because there were no images in twitter and so all mine are there. If you feel like being nauseated by the shallowness of my early college years, here you go. I wouldn't recommend it. cringe
It was awesome. I've met probably 10 people from twitter over the years. 2 remain extremely close friends of mine and I value and respect their opinions and input on decisions I make in my life. A few still like and comment on my instagram. There were two people that I was really close with and we probably tweeted with each other every day. We'd always @ each other and bring each other into the conversation. The conversations weren't deep or intellectual or about anything besides day-to-day life, drama, parents, etc. But it was nice. Kind of like the pubski threads.
The biggest thing was your @username tweets showed by default. If I tweeted @username, everyone who followed me would see that tweet. This had a huge effect on how you found people to follow and what kind of conversations were started. I would see random tweet about a movie at another person, and follow him. Now you have a group of three, sort of. I would see a inflammatory tweet at a person, scroll both feeds forever trying to piece together the debate (there were services that did it automatically, but twitter had yet to implement any sort of 'this tweet was a reply to this tweet' feature. Then I would jump into the debate between two people who I had never talked to. We'd all follow each other and soon, there was a group of maybe 30-40 of us who were all either really into movies, small time movie bloggers, or even some of the "big guys" with legit sites and numerous authors. Those accounts - the ones with the name of the website - were not automatic. They were not just posts from the blog. They were real people, having real conversations, saying real things. That was the only way to get people to follow you. And twitter wasn't big enough that any off-color remarks would damage your brand.
The first change that sucked the community aspect out of twitter was removing the @ posts from the feed. Now someone had to choose to type .@username or some other hacky way if they wanted others to see it. But that eliminated the spontaneous nature of interactions that was occurring before. Plus, people didn't do it much because it was blatantly asking for attention.
The next big thing was Oprah. When she mentioned it, it suddenly became a thing that mattered. While this obviously was the start of "every brand, every blog, every promotion, etc" being on twitter, it had more subtle implications at first. Remember the random guy who ran of Big Time Movie Blog and tweeted from that account? He used to say things like "aw naw fuck j-Depp and the horse he rode in on. hes fuckin terrible in this. get a new fricken character dude." (I just made that up) . But no one fucking cared. It wasn't big enough to matter and no one would see it, no one was watching, tweets didn't make the news - even TMZ. Once Oprah got on that shit, it mattered and people had to watch what they said, especially from brand accounts. Everything became about promotion and branding and you have campaigns and teams of people dedicated to running the twitter accounts. Fucking up on Twitter is cause a front page story in the news now.
Here's a snap of some convos from as far back as Twitter API will let me go. 1 2. It's cringeworthy. It's ridiculous. It's spastic. It's insanity. I half-named stuff because I don't want this indexed by google like that...but I've met gso he's awesome still & in LA. He took sick photos of me on the beach when I first got back to LA in 2012. He had just quit his job to freelance and was so happy - when I decided to quit my job, I thought a lot about what he said that day and how fucking happy he was. I still talk to Calilaksdjflaksdjfuy on pretty much every social network...zomlaksdjflaksdjfbot too. justlikelaksdjflaksdjfnovel - I miss her. WarLorlaksdjflaksdjfdWrites was awesome - into poetry - from minnesota always making me feel shitty for bitching about 20 degree NYC weather. keilaksdjflaksdjfhsssdavis was one of my professors - I would tweet him during class and make him blush for fun. His bff was da......lmo and we would say horrible things to each other. He was prof for a class after mine the next semester and we'd leave each other candy in the green room - that dude just made a sick ass movie and I couldn't be happier for him. Also, $20 bucks says no one gives a flying fuck or reads about this ridiculously long self-centered comment. Holy shit, it is long. That's what I get for writing over the course of two days. Or, rather, what you get. :P Anyways, Rich was at Marvel, moved to LA to be at Disney last year, reached out & my mom gave him advice on which areas of LA would be nice for a growing family.
The point of the above gibberish is that yeah...I think twitter used to provide some sort of weird awesome community. There were connections and circles that were created over time. No one really cared about anything they said and it was all gone (well obviously not gone gone) in a day or so. It was never a community of intellectuals around a set of topics though - these were spontaneously formed communities between me, a person in my class, someone from his home town, and a random twitter buddy of his all talking about a movie or getting drunk or something. It was never conducive to discussion but in 2009 and in college, everyone was just looking to connect without being totally anonymous, but being anonymous, with no expectations or implications or rules.
Today though? Yeah. It's been taken over by big brands. It's 90% bots, 90% automated tweets, accounts have been sold, been bought, SEO accounts are everywhere, auto follows, auto responds, auto DMS - it wasn't like that before. You could and did have conversations. You had conversations with professors and classmates and literally random people that found you on the all feed that you would never have on Facebook or in person. You made friends and everyone saw everything and everyone saw nothing. You didn't buy followers. You didn't proofread tweets. You didn't post links to your blog only - that would ensure a drop in followers. You didn't auto DM on follow - that was tacky and proof that you were a bot.
The tags were awesome too. They still are - I genuinely think watching tags of live events is the best thing about twitter still. But you used to find people in the same area as you from twitter tags...and then become internet buddies forever. You would know about things before other people did and get photos of it delivered live and refreshing up as much as the broken, ghetto API would let you. There were no trending tags either, unless you had an outside app like tweet deck. Even then, it wasn't accurate. So those feeds were real people, not automated bots cluttering up the tags feed because they know people are looking at it. You didn't have lists. You couldn't follow lists. You could only follow like 200 users a day. You would constantly get the fail whale and too many API requests.
And yet somehow, even with no functionality, even with a fail whale site, broken api, limited search, horrible discovery, and 140 character limit, you could connect with people, make friends, and learn all about their life and they would learn all about yours. And we did.
As for whether I agree or disagree with the article, it's pretty irrelevant. People don't fucking expect community from Twitter, never did, and if you expect that, then you're a massive retard. This guy is massively retarded in that sense. Seriously, you are looking for the wrong things in twitter and then getting upset that it doesn't cater to you. FYI - it's not trying to. You ain't special - 60% of the people I talk to have a ballsack too, dude.
I will say that his points about being a glorified link aggregator, harassment, and being all about brands promoting shit are spot on. But that's not original or insightful at all. It's not that I didn't find his thoughts interesting. I did. First, because I didn't know having those thoughts about Twitter was still relevant and then because what he says and doesn't say about communities:
Communities are, above all else, defined by membership, the ability for people to identify as a part of one, and to participate in activities, and share things and experiences with the group.
Every user floats by themselves, interacting with who they please. This denies us the ability to build communities, to set social norms, and to enforce them.
Twitter has absolutely no way for me to share with others that someone isn't a person I want in my communities
It's fundamentally impossible to create a safe space with a public account, at any time anyone can jump in, and no one is empowered to help moderate it.
This is what is truly interesting: the same things that this guy despises about Twitter are the same reasons I loved it and what allowed me to connect with people. It's what makes twitter special. It's also what makes it horrible for communities and great for brands. But hey, get in before Oprah, and times were good.
I also find it interesting that moderation is such a huge part of what defines community for so many people. Like you can't do anything if you don't have a team of moderators making sure everyone is happy and no one gets injured. His thoughts that communities should " the ability for people to identify as a part of one, and to participate in activities, and share things and experiences with the group." is so lame I can't even hear myself think. Seriously? Sure, I guess that is true technically. But that sounds like a quick trip to echo chamber land, zero users land, and boredom land. How do you learn, grow, and meet new people if you are confined to a private board with heavy moderation and no way to have spontaneous interactions or off topic interactions?
What he says he wants is similar to Hubski: "I want a product that enables me to build and participate in communities, that encourages discussions and expressing meaningful ideas." I just find it hysterically silly that he believes that membership, being able to (publicly) identify as part of a group, participate in activities (hey, ever heard of adult rec leagues?), ways to hide posts from all outsiders he chooses, has moderators who ban and kick everyone who doesn't follow the rules to a T, disallow anyone not included from jumping in, and a UI / functionality that allows you to follow threads easily.
Sounds like he wants Facebook Groups. Yet, somehow, those don't spawn anything remotely interesting. I wonder why that is? Oh right...because you are creating a stagnant "community" with a rigid, big-ass wall around it, ignoring the fact that everything that makes online interaction unique stems from tearing down that wall.