Still on Twitter

We had another panic this past week when Elon Musk had API access turned off and nobody told him that their own app uses those very same APIs.  The whole Musk venture continues to be one fiasco after another.

Me, on Twitter

This is in parallel to Twitter threatening to charge for access to its API last week… which got pushed to next week.  Some companies have already pulled their Twitter integrations, like Blizzard, while others are sending warnings to their customers.  I received a message from WordPress warning me something might be up.

Hi there,

Twitter recently announced they would end free access to the Twitter API on February 9th. A recent update extended that date to February 13th.

As a result of these unexpected changes, it is possible that Jetpack Social may experience some temporary outages when automatically sharing your posts directly from WordPress to Twitter.

We’re working with Twitter to find the best solution for our mutual users, so your workflows are not disrupted. We will reach out again when we have more information on the path forward.

Please feel free to connect with support if you need any help.

The WordPress.​com team

I have, for about a decade, let auto-Tweet my posts as they have been published.  This might be the last post that goes there automatically.  Time will tell.

Then there is the threat to restrict how many posts you can make in a day unless you pay a subscription.  Don’t threaten me with a good time… though that would kill off a couple of accounts I stay on the service to follow.  But that trial balloon got such a negative reaction that I suspect it won’t come to pass.  We’ll see.

Despite all that has happened since Musk took over, Twitter is still running… most days… and I still log in there.  In fact, I spend more time there still than any other social media site.  Why?

Well, there is the whole drama aspect of it.  Netflix has funded 8 episode seasons of shows that aren’t as engaging as watching Elon Musk fuck around and find out in ways that would get a spec script rejected as being completely unrealistic.

Just this past week we had the tale of Elon being upset that his engagement numbers on Twitter were down and, when presented with data indicating that people just didn’t find his antics that interesting anymore, he fired the engineer who dared disturb is self-image like that.

This was a double pay off because various self-invested blow hards, including Scott Adams, have convinced themselves over the years that Twitter has been shadow banning based entirely on their unshakable belief that they’re more popular and engaging than they really are.

Yes, it sucks for the remaining employees of Twitter, and will continue to suck for them.  The operating theory here in the valley is that Musk is being egged on by VCs like Peter Thiel to keep driving his insane plans because they see it as a giant test case to find out if they too can fire a bunch of well paid staff and keep more of the money for themselves.  No obscene levels of wealth will ever be enough and the only good they want in the world is things that are good for them at the expense of everybody else.

So I hope the remaining employees are able to find better jobs and sponsorships for their H1B visas.

But even the Elon Musk drama gets tiring… as his engagement numbers show.  While I am committed to sticking around just to see the inevitable end as the Titanic sinks, that really isn’t the main reason.

More so I remain on Twitter because it delivers the content I want out of social media.

Here is a surprise: I like the For You content on Twitter.  It is not that I don’t like the people I follow… I am sticking around for them… but the algorithm has my number and rather consistently delivers content from people who I sometimes forget I am not actually following.

And there is a whole cadre of accounts that I do follow that have carried on as before.  Not everybody has stuck around, but a surprising number of people, including some who have sworn to leave, continue to post because Twitter remains a somehow magical mix of content and personalities and engagements and even the hated Elon shuts up now and then… or so I am told.

I actually have his account blocked.  The Elon era has seen me block a lot more accounts.  I now block both the performatively offensive seeking attention and those that give them that attention by calling out their offensiveness.  But that is what the feature is there for… for now.  Elon is threatening to take that away and his sycophants are going on about an imaginary right to be heard.  That might push more people off the service and actually reduce his engagement even more so.

So the main reason I remain is that, even in this era of the platform I get an experience on Twitter that I cannot get elsewhere, an experience that suits my needs.

I do look at other social media sites.  I made a new Mastodon account back when the Musk era began and I do keep an eye on it.  But Mastodon is like the Linux of social media sites.  At a glance it looks a bit like Twitter and it has a very loud group of tech people singing its praises and telling people it is absolutely going to be the replacement site they are looking for.

But it isn’t.

It has all the hallmarks that we in tech have been trained to admire.  It is open source, crowd funded, run as a distributed network servers so there is no single point of failure, and gives you a range of options for joining in.

However, it is also something of an exclusionary model, and proudly so.  The thing I most remember hearing about Mastodon over the years is how you don’t have to see all the garbage you see elsewhere.  So every server has a choice to include or block any other server and you, the user, never see anything you didn’t explicitly go looking for.

Which makes it all a pretty dull place, more of a slow motion Discord server rather than a Twitter alternative.  And I know, go explore the Fediverse is the response.  But I don’t want to.  I can’t be bothered to expend the effort on social media unless I am looking for something very specific at a given moment.

Add in the fact that half the people I follow on Mastodon still cross post everything to Twitter and I am not an enthusiastic user.

I’m not against Mastodon. (Though I won’t cross post this there.)  It is still the next best thing to Twitter, but that is also because everything else past that is complete shit.  There is, a ghost town, and the MAGA Twitter clones that I wouldn’t use unless you paid me… and you would have to pay me a lot.

Beyond that there is Facebook, which bores me, Instagram, where the algorithm seems intent on fighting tooth and nail to not show me things I want… I spent a month trying to train it to show me 70s French and Italian cars, then I liked one with a woman in the frame and it got all, “Oh, you like women, let me show you nothing but that!” for the next three days… and LinkedIn, which is the only thing more boring that Facebook, and probably a few others I am forgetting.

TikTok.  I won’t be using TikTok.  I’m too old for that.

So I sit and scroll through Twitter still when I have a quiet moment in the morning or evening.  And if it falls over and blows up tomorrow… or decides to charge people for the privilege of being content… then we’ll all move on and it will be another bit of internet history.


10 thoughts on “Still on Twitter

  1. Marathal

    I have to agree. I’ve taken so many social media sites for test drives over the years since the end of MuSpcace and the rise of Facebook and Twitter. They all have a niche, and in some respects are better at one thing or another, but they all lack that one aspect that will take them to the top.


  2. Bhagpuss

    The thing that’s puzzling me is, if Twitter is the best available option and very popular, which it clearly is/was, why isn’t someone else offering an almost exact equivalent? Decades of experience have taught me that if anything is successful, someone else will clone it and try to siphon off some of the cash. I appreciate that Twitter was famously not actually making any cash but presumably someone else could learn from what Twitter did wrong in that respect and makes some more financially appropriate design choices.

    In the past, you might have thought the argument against copying Twitter would be Twitter’s universality, although it doesn’t actually have that many users compared to some other social networks. With the coming of Elon, though, the door would seem to be wide open for a direct competitor. Maybe when Twitter actually does fall over?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – People have. There are a few Twitter clones, and Mastodon is arguably one of them.

    I think the reason there is no real Twitter alternative is that Twitter itself reached some level of sustainable critical mass with celebrities and organizations and the like. That is always the near-impossible dream for social media sites, the reason why every single gamer social media site has failed.

    I don’t go to Twitter because of any technical or UI reason. I go there because I know people there, the gaming companies I am interested are there, all the news services are there, and random celebrities are there. I follow William Gibson on Twitter and Daybreak and Blizzard and MOP and people I know from EVE Online and CCP and a host of people interested in weapons proliferation and space and free speech and whatever else strikes my mood.

    And Twitter got there more by the accident of being the right medium in the right place at the right time. That is something competitors always have a problem copying. To overcome that you can’t just be a little bit better, you have to be overwhelmingly better.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Emily

    I will say that one thing I don’t like about Mastodon is everyone that is migrating there, their bios are full of hashtags about their political views, gender identity, sexual orientation, neurological disorder, etc. which to me is a statement “this is who I am and that’s all I’ll ever be.” Ever wonder why I don’t say that I’m autistic and say I have autism instead? Because I’m more than my neurological condition that makes me think differently.

    I find absolutely nothing entertaining about watching Musk, crumble everything so I left and even though Twitter and Instagram had the content I liked to see the most, I can live without it at this point.


  5. zaphod6502

    This unholy reliance on social media will be the slow death of the human race and any remaining intelligence people have. As for Twitter I hope it permanently fades back into the hellhole it came from.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Shintar

    I’m still on Twitter too but have cut back on my usage somewhat. To me the Elon trainwreck has indeed got tiresome, and the whole situation made me re-evaluate how much content I want to put on social media vs. my blog. (In short, I feel I’ve probably been starving the blog a bit in favour of Twitter, and I want to turn that around.)

    I haven’t really found an alternative for sharing occasional slices of life though; I liked Twitter for that. My Facebook is full of people with whom I seem to have nothing in common anymore, Instagram is out because I have no interest in a platform that focuses on pictures over words, and yeah, let’s not even get started on TikTok.


  7. Anonymous

    I missed the social media train.
    Because of my age and location bracket, I suppose I was meant to get on board it somewhere between MySpace and Facebook, but I guess I was too busy going through the 5th full run of Baldur’s Gate 2, or something similarly important.
    Later on, not having a social media footprint became a bit of a bragging right, and I stubbornly refused to join in.
    And now… now I look around, and for the life of me I do not understand what kind of evolution is this. Is Teams really better than the YahooMessenger of old? Is everybody ok with having such a low limit to Twitter messages? Are Instagram unpausable videoclips acceptable? What year is this?
    I will not complain about social media in itself, since while I do not agree with it, I accept its attraction. However, I will never accept how extremely poor the quality of its platforms is. It is like sending people on the moon, with a computer a million times worse than an iPhone… oh, wait… I guess this is the best we can do, for now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Stormwaltz

    To me the most frustrating thing about Mastodon has been the inability to search *within* Mastodon for the specific people I want to follow.

    You can search for their likely username – assuming you know it – but only on your own instance. You can use @ to search for their username on another instance… one instance at a time… if you can think of instances they might be on. But you can’t search for someone’s actual name (assuming they post it).

    It’s cumbersome and tiring. So far, my best results to find the people I follow on Twitter has been checking their bios on Twitter to see if they link to Mastodon or Linktree. The second best has been hoping someone else I follow reblogs them, so I can find them (I’ve found 3 professional writers I followed on Twitter that way)

    Personally, I’ve found the local and federated feeds on my large, public instance to be firehoses of irrelevance. It would be a waste of time to search those haystacks for the needles I want.

    I’d love to make my own instance, but few providers are offering that, those that are swamped now, and I don’t have the technical knowledge to do it myself.

    I’m *trying* to make Mastodon work, because I know it’s just a matter of time before Twitter breaks permanently or Musk blunders his way into making my own user experience insufferable. Charging for Tweetdeck, as he’s been threatening, would do that.


  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Stormwaltz – The distributed server network does lead to some oddities. People will link you their profile but if you click on it, it takes you to their server. Usually that is enough for me to figure out how to find them, but you do spend a minute figuring out how to connect. I was reminded of this most recently when MOP announced their Mastodon account.

    Also, people hopping servers means I end up following/being followed by the same person multiple times.

    Neither of which is a deal breaker, just an aspect of the way it was designed.


  10. mrrx

    I can see where Twitter might send you interesting ideas and thoughts and neat things that people are “talking about”; I miss the freewheeling forums of old. Some pieces of the Blogosphere still have that, but very few.

    I don’t see actual discussion happening on Twitter; I got six weeks of engagement before I gave up in despair. Something very good has been lost – because the users have decided it would be so.


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