The USS Quad Damage

The waning of Twitter

I don't think Twitter has long to go, at least for keeping my interest

So, reading Twitter is like eating chips

If you noticed (and I won’t blame you if you didn’t) my blog has been down for
about a year now. Having a blog is a bit quaint today, with modern social
networking if you’re one of the plebs, or Medium if you’re a wannabe writer, or
whatever else the kids are using these days.

While I was redesigning this thing, one of my aims was to be able to put
“tweets”, images, and other things on this blog, the aim being to act like "my
end" of a social network. Just hook up an RSS reader, and it would (roughly)
look like a dodgy facebook. I’d feel much more at ease about it, because this
is on infrastructure that I control, there’s no strange analytics going on, and
I could be more responsible to anyone reading it, too.

But as the year has worn on, so has Twitter. The service is a shadow of its
former self, and the people on it are also falling into patterns of predictable
behaviour. If the medium is the message, then Twitter as a medium is proving to
be dull, and ageing poorly.

In part this is because only so many messages can fit into 140 characters. The
types of conversation that can be carried on in this manner is limiting, the
types of publishing that this can sustain is limiting, and it’s a medium which
has a use-by date built in; the timeliness of a tweet is everything. Most of
all, though, it’s those exemplary tweets, the ones you feel the service was
meant for, which are truly disappointing. These end up looking like those cute
pithy sayings which tend to go on bumper stickers, and have the same kind of
caloric content as chips.

So, reading Twitter is like eating chips. You want “just one more” and you use
that to consume many, but the effect of reading Twitter is also like eating
chips. You feel like you haven’t learned anything new, all conversations end up
being devoid of meaning, either total agreement or confusion and frustration
at not being able to express yourself within that brutal 140 character limit.
It doesn’t feel like the sort of thing you’d want to keep around for posterity.

If anything, the actual text is increasingly full of metadata, and the
“content” is something on other sites, in Twitter’s images, or in Vines. The
tweet is littered with links, hashtags, people’s names, and you can hardly read
it. Click the expand button, however, and there’s the actual content, some text
that someone wrote, some article on the New York Times, whatever. Ironically,
it even kills the “chips” feel. You’re not even reading a tweet any more,
you’re reading a reference to content far away.

And wow is that content truly disappointing. With RSS readers you can tweak and
curate what you read so that only interesting opinions show up, you can at
least contemplate filtering away opinions you don’t care about or data that’s
not of interest to you. On Twitter, it just all gets thrown your way. Things
“other people” read or care about. Things on god-awful news sites with great
writing and not much else. Opinions abound. Data is often lacking.

One of the more recent ideas hovering around in "reading things on the
internet" is that the world has a lot of data now, and really the value is in
being able to trim that data down. The “firehose” of information is worthless
to look at in-person. What is more important is in dividing that up into
chunks, throwing those chunks away when useless, having the rest join together
into a cohesive mass.

So that’s where my attention is going to go: Can I make this site one cohesive
mass, and can I take other data on the internet that I care about and turn that
into something that other people find valuable? Ideally, this place will
eventually look a lot more like Atistotle Pagaltzis' excellent
plasmaturm, and a lot less like Twitter. Wish me luck.