Twitter Needs to Stop Trying To Crawl Up Facebook’s Ass
I know why the caged bird cries.
As a microblogging and social-networking service, Twitter is the best thing going. I started twittering back in 2008 for the election and never looked back. When I reached 400 followers, I wrote a post about how I got there. Now pushing 1,600—for which I’m eternally grateful—I’m proud to say that my reach to promote books, ideas, jokes and other goodies is the most robust of any of my networks.
My first tweet was super-exciting:
is getting ready for earth hour
— Will's Adam Schiff Dance Party 3 feat. Ester Dean (@bywillpollock) March 29, 2008
The tweeter machine has facilitated international movements, provided a platform for collective grieving, toppled foreign regimes—even inflated the egos of huge douchebags everywhere. Twitter is an original; a refreshingly dressed-down, real-time, straight-forward experience of what folks of all stripes are saying, in the moment.
— Will's Adam Schiff Dance Party 3 feat. Ester Dean (@bywillpollock) September 29, 2015
As a publicly traded company though? Not so much. The Guardian is out with a spot-on post that details the trials and tribulations of the tech company as it tries to emulate the meteoric rise of Google and Facebook, with a combined value of around $700B. (Twitter is hovering around $14B, down by around half from its IPO.) We’ll come back to the Guardian in just a few minutes.
The stock market is notoriously Drama Queen about even a hint of a public companies failing to grow to its satisfaction. And Twitter (CEO Jack Dorsey, specifically) is allowing itself to be sucked in to that vortex of misplaced profit priorities.
In spirit and practice, Twitter is not at all like Google or Facebook, despite its longing for their balance sheets. Both The Googs & FaceC*nt, as Rob and I call them, are stock-market behemoths, with tentacles reaching to many segments of Internet commerce. They’re in their lanes, and they do well. In one way or another, they’ve all tried to emulate each other, with Google+ trying to function like Facebook (and failing); and Twitter continually trying to emulate Facebook (and failing worse).
They all walk in to a helicopter propeller when they try to steal some of the sass that the other guy has. But here we are.
Us: Can we have an edit feature?
Twitter: Moments tab!
Us: Edit feature?
Us: EDIT. FEATURE.
Twitter: We're Facebook now.
— Emotional Support Timb (@BeeNasty_) February 6, 2016
Back to Twitter: Even some sharp cookies I know are confounded by it, and aren’t inclined to learn, either. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“What the hell is a hashtag, Will?”
“Well, think of it like a filing cabinet label. When someone wants to look up a specific topic to see what folks are saying, they click it and go.”
And then said person stares off in to space and changes the subject. This doesn’t bode well for growth, in my own anecdotal experience with the average person who glazes over at the mere mention of Twitter.
So what to do?
Twitter power users have been screaming in to the Jack Dorsey vacuum to not add longer Tweets, rearrange timelines, and do any other loosely collected Facebookish nonsense. All those changes would just make Twitter perpetually trying to be like Facebook, but never actually succeeding. What’s worse, Twitter is going to alienate its core user base who’ve been crying bloody murder about rumored changes (yours truly included).
To me, the Big Kahuna of changes would be expanding the tweet character limit to 1,000. It’s a bridge too far. All of these changes, both rumored and done, caused a hashtag to be born (#RIPTwitter) which Dorsey himself felt he had to address.
Hello Twitter! Regarding #RIPTwitter: I want you all to know we're always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week.
— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) February 6, 2016
The Guardian‘s John Naughton puts it better than I ever could (I’m excerpting a longer quote because it’s perfection):
If this is indeed an indicator of where Dorsey intends to take the company, the outlook is grim for several reasons. One: network effects mean that the social networking game is over: nobody is going to displace Facebook now, given its 1.45 billion users. Two: adopting the Facebook template essentially destroys the things about Twitter that made it unique and valuable to its users. And three: remember what happened to Yahoo, a company that tried and failed to ape a powerful adversary and is now accelerating towards zombie status?
There is an alternative, though. It involves bowing to reality, abandoning the quest for unattainable growth, taking the company private again – as Michael Dell did when his company needed radical reform – and changing the business model to one based on subscriptions or a mixture of advertising and subscriptions. This would reshape Twitter into a smaller, more focused operation that did a few things superbly well.
Reality bites sometimes, and Naughton is 1,000% correct. For Twitter, smaller really could be the new awesome. Like Meg Ryan and plastic surgery: you can keep trying and trying to be someone else, but you end up looking like you got beat up in a back alley.
Pretty soon, with all these social-media sites trying to be like each other, they’re just gonna merge into one giant tech Borg: TwitGramInstaLinkBook™.
The knee-jerk reaction to shootings in America? “We need to be looking at mental health.”
The pesky problem: we talk a big game, but when it comes down to it, funding much-needed mental-health programs is shamefully flat.
In order to understand something, the best answer is to study it. To study something, you need funding. And right now, the CDC and NIH have been repeatedly shafted during shutdowns and lack of will.
— Will's Adam Schiff Dance Party 3 feat. Ester Dean (@bywillpollock) February 16, 2016
Which is why I was distressed to learn about what’s called a “suicide cluster” in Palo Alto, Calif., which is an affluent enclave outside of San Francisco. The CDC took the unusual step to assign a task force to investigate and conduct an epidemiological study of that and similar clusters in Virginia. (Those studies are usually reserved for infectious disease.) Hopefully these situations won’t stay mysterious for much longer. From the post:
In “The Problem With Rich Kids,” published by Psychology Today in November 2013, former Yale psychologist Suniya Luthar noted that social, emotional and behavioral issues are as prevalent in the wealthy end of the socioeconomic spectrum as they are on the poor end.
She said that, on average, rich offspring experience serious levels of depression and anxiety at twice the national rates.
In recent months, I’ve heard many on the progressive side talk about the scourge of Affulenza and how entitled people are trying to game the system. I’ve heard leading thinkers demonize people from wealth as do-nothings who just want whatever they want and everyone else be damned. That’s a bunch of nonsense, and given the statistics above, if we demonize once it’s one too many. And that counts for anyone, from any background.
Final point: If we continue to be unserious about helping people who need it, and funding outreach and research, we’ll continue to see distressing occurrences that disrupt a peaceful coexistence. Suicide clusters, violent disrupters and other bad stuff. “Funding” in this area should not be a four-letter word.
With huge ups and a major h/t to my rock-star tweep, Katharine Zaleski. Make sure to wish her a happy birthday! 😀
Last week I reported on “Morning Cozy,” the gross closeness of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and the subjects they’re supposed to be covering. In addition to MSNBC dismissing mine and other objections, new think pieces have surfaced that support my eyebrow-raise.
On CNN’s Reliable Sources, the Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurwik called it “damning” for MSNBC, which I definitely agree with. From the above segment (notice Brian Stelter’s use of the word, “cozy,” which was my exact point:
if I had any hair, it would be on fire. Even somebody like a morning show host plays a role in setting parameters of the national conversation around these candidates. You shouldn’t be so involved with them that you’re going down and giving them tips. It shows how unashamed Scarborough is, how proud he is of the fact that he’s in the tank for him.
Over at the Washington Post, Erik Wemple has been out front calling out the anchors for loosey-goosey ethics of their interview subjects. Joe Scarborough even mentioned Wemple by name (spoiler: whining):
‘I think it was Erik Wemple of the Washington Post [who] said. ‘How dare you have a town hall meeting where you don’t ask about his racist comments?’ . . . By the way, he didn’t write that article after CNN was asking what his favorite flavor of ice cream was and how he slept and what does he order when he goes through McDonald’s?’
Guilty as charged: The Erik Wemple Blog has most certainly failed to call out all the reporters and anchors and media organizations that haven’t adequately pursued Trump on his racism and bigotry. And we stand by every word of our review of the Scarborough-Brzezinski Trump town hall.
It’s true: our esteemed Morning Joe duo hosted a town hall with Donald Trump last night, with the three seated so close that it looked like they were about to braid each other’s hair. The event was a) ratings bait for the network; b) a reflection of just how ridiculously buddy-buddy these folks are; and finally c) parent company Comcast has been conspicuously mum on the issue.
From Charlie Pearce’s post, talking about the Trump Town Hall:
Many years hence, when historians write of the death of television news, the one-hour infomercial that Joe Scarborough ran on behalf of Donald Trump on Thursday night will have roughly the same impact on their conclusions that the Yucatan meteor has had on the study of paleontology.
The Trump Town Hall—taken together with all the other instances of coziness—is categoric heresy from a journalistic prospective. Joe & Mika can claim they’re not journalists, but that would only pass muster if they were on an entertainment program. Morning Joe is not “The View” or The Ellen Show, last time I checked. This is considered a news program, on a news network, and they should start acting like it.
This source coziness on Morning Joe has bothered me for 18+ months, and it caused me to stop watching the show altogether. They may feel comfortable hiding behind the “opinion people” label, but it’s a sheer veil to a track record of Joe and Mika becoming too close to political figures and then regretting it later.
Update: Jump over to my original ‘Morning’ Cozy post for a revealing audio clip, courtesy of Harry Shearer.
Animals have been in the news quite a bit recently—so much so that I decided to break this out into its own section. Can our dogs and cats have emotions? (My answer is “hell yes they can!”—but keep reading.)
Check out this video report that talks about a dog that’s saved more than 800 feral cats out of clear compassion:
The BBC has done a number of pieces about animal emotions, even putting cats and dogs to the test. Check out this piece:
Our furbabies can show empathy, read emotions and know our feelings, then we owe it to them to include them in our daily and weekly plans. Make sure to buy “Leaving Triscuit,” which gives you strategies to leave your dogs and cats in a more compassionate way. Your time away need not be a burden. (more)
At long last, here’s the first teaser trailer for “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.” This. Is. Happening… sweetie darling.
In honor of the passing of Earth Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, I give you Kirk Franklin’s *amazing cover of “September,” which is still one of the greatest songs ever written. I’m posting this version because sometimes a cover song improves upon greatness.
— Will's Adam Schiff Dance Party 3 feat. Ester Dean (@bywillpollock) February 11, 2016
Comcast begs Atlanta customers not to switch to Google Fiber; hilarity ensues… Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passes away and Twitter loses its shit… The United Kingdom is still mulling whether or not they still want to be European.
This week’s Calming Capsule is from Instagram: “Cotton Candy Sky (Life is Beautiful)”
That’s it from me Cranker Darlings. Apologies for the tardiness this week. Will work to get back on track next week.
Will Pollock is a crabby New York City escapee living in Atlanta. He’s a freelance multimedia journalist and author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.
Don’t forget to comment below. Cranky loves company.