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> It's like watching a goddamn movie with scenes shuffled randomly. It makes no sense.

Have you seen Memento?

Jokes aside I never understood why twitter does not allow the user to choose the sort order of the feed. This is a reoccuring theme for social networks (facebook feed, youtube subscriptions etc) so I guess there is some kind of motivation behind it.




These services want to show you cancer - sorry I mean ads - as much as possible, and for that they want you to stay on the app as long as possible.

With a sane chronological feed, once you scroll down to the last tweet you remember reading, you know you’re done and can leave the app and do productive things.

With a bullshit “algorithmic” feed, you never know when you’ve caught up, and the “fear of missing out” will make you stay there scrolling way longer just in case there’s one tweet somewhere down there you haven’t seen yet - this gives them the opportunity to show you more cancer.


Just curious, but do you think a paid service that served photos and no ads, and allowed the customization of feed order, would be able to compete? I've presumed the reason folks continue to flock to Instagram is that not only is such a service not available, but the problem that they would likely have to pay before seeing if there's anything to see there.


I’m not sure it would be able to compete now - displacing an established player is very hard; App.net tried that a few years ago with Twitter; but ultimately not many people cared (despite the free tier) and the few paying users weren’t enough to make it sustainable. The issue wasn’t really with it being paid, it was simply about network effects - everyone was on Twitter.

If a new free social network becomes mainstream, they could however introduce a paid tier as part of their monetisation strategy alongside ads. This would give users a choice, be exploited by ads and see cancer every day, or pay your way out of it.

If anything, Instagram would’ve been the perfect opportunity to offer such a paid plan, as a lot of professional photographers use it, and they wouldn’t mind paying for an improved experience and thus more productivity.


> but ultimately not many people cared (despite the free tier) and the few paying users weren’t enough to make it

My guess?

Twitter only exist because of network effects.

Everything else somebody else does better.

Oh, and most orinary people are more interested in one-to-one group chat than in many-to-many.

WhatsApp managed to break through even though they were announcing loud and clear that they were going to cost money. Why? I guess because they promised to provide something valuable: a versatile, reliable, trustworthy messaging solution for friends, families and small groups.

Telegram has managed to break through as well. AFAIK Signal is climbing steadily and Matrix is getting more and more mindshare.

Based my experience a lot people here will probably disagree with what I say about twitter. If you are one of those, feel free to tell me what technical detail twitter does better than everyone else.


Yep totally agree, Twitter only exists because of network effects.

> even though they were announcing loud and clear that they were going to cost money

On the other hand, WhatsApp announced this back when scammers aka mobile networks still charged a ton for texts, and WhatsApp was the only cheaper option.

Now the masses are trained to expect everything for free, so it's really hard to get them to pay for something. It's not even about social networks, even getting someone to buy a stand-alone app is hard enough - outside of the tech circle, most people consider it weird that I pay for apps. Even getting them to pay for the likes of Spotify is hard (most non-tech people I know are still on the free tier and get their music fix on Youtube, with ads and everything).

This is why I don't think a paid service is unlikely to succeed and become mainstream. A social network needs to be free, at least until it reaches a critical mass, at which point it can switch to a "freemium" model with a free (possibly ad-supported) base tier and a premium, ad-free tier.


I think I can kind of understand those users: I like paying for apps but a number of them will still try to abuse me by adding all kinds of monthly payments etc, start adding ads, remove the features I bought it for etc.

I also acknowledge there is a problem where authors should be able to secure an income to do security updates etc and I've no "one-size-fits-all solution" to it but I think between

- feature keys for new features

- optional extra services (support, server side ocr etc)

- reasonable fees for special cases (for example I loved to pay USD 1 a year for a user friendly, secure messaging service that promised not to spam me, datamine my data or leak it voluntarily.)

- etc

there should be room for better alternatives than many of the ones we have today.


> reasonable fees for special cases

Who'd like to pay for a stackoverflow clone without the most annoying stackoverflow rules?

I mean, - a site not focused on curating knowledge but on asking and answering questions?

That answer could of course be: have you looked at this <embed or link>?

But nobody should be punished for asking again and certainly nobody should be punished for answering a duplicate.


You nailed it. When a company lives or dies by advertising revenue, they are going to optimize for maximum advertising revenue.

The pattern with TV is a good case study. I wonder if there will eventually be guidelines about how many ads you can show users and now much screen real estate is allowed to be covered by ads.


> I wonder if there will eventually be guidelines about how many ads you can show users and now much screen real estate is allowed to be covered by ads.

Isn't that kind of what "acceptable ads" programs in adblocks are? (Or, at least, should be?) There are a lot of Adblock Plus users there that basically decided (or got tricked into thinking) that ads that are appropriate are okay to view.


The issue with "acceptable" ads is that 1) there is no such thing as "acceptable" shit, and 2) the "acceptable" ads are just as bad (if not worse) than everyone else as far as privacy & stalking are concerned.


Even if they limit to a reasonable 10% ads or whatever, they'll still manipulate ad sacrifice content quality to maximize total engagement time/content.


Not only that, but when they can insert other media from friends/people you follow, it can potentially start a new chain of exploration. Even if you know that you've caught up, now you want to see what those other threads are about.


It works until it doesn't, when people start unfollowing or leaving IG.


I imagine the motivation as

1. There's an inherent belief that they know what you want better than you do (this is inherit in any recommendation engine that gives limited ability to manipulate it)

2. Most users, given the option, won't bother changing it anyways

3. You'll use the service regardless of whether they offer it, because network effects


> There's an inherent belief that they know what you want better than you do

I think it's actually that they believe they can create an algorithm that will keep you coming back. It clearly works. People want to be entertained, often by their friends, often by things that interest then. This algorithm based on _your input_.

You can absolutely manipulate the feed. Search for 12 yoga based people, click on 12 yoga based hashtags, and then watch your feed become yoga-ified for the next few days as the algo adjusts to keep you coming back.


>This algorithm based on _your input_. You can absolutely manipulate the feed.

You can incidentally manipulate the feed. But its clearly not intentional behavior; the recommender system naturally operates on the belief that you're using the services without considering the recommender system. You can manipulate the system to something specific by breaking that assumption, but all you've done is essentially exploit a bug. Its clearly not a feature. And in a perfect world, the recommendation system would realize you're lying to it, and discard that behavior, and serve you what you really want.

your input is expected to be natural consumption of the service, with limited, abstracted forms of feedback, but otherwise without knowledge of the recommender system judging your every move. You don't edit the results, you don't play with ordering, you ideally don't even search too much out of your defined subject range (lest it skew horribly and fuck up all your recommendations, like your yoga example).

>I think it's actually that they believe they can create an algorithm that will keep you coming back. It clearly works.

But this I agree with; it's a better understanding of what I was trying to get at.


1 and maximizing time spend in the app (see sibling comment) seem like a good explaination for this. I'm not sure about 2 but it might be true aswell.

> 3. You'll use the service regardless of whether they offer it, because network effects

Actually I stopped using Facebook for that reason. The feed just didnt provide any value to me anymore. Also I never really got into Twitter because of it. I don't see the value in following people if I cannot see their posts without hours of scrolling through retweets.


Twitter does allow choosing this though. Untick "Show the best Tweets first" in settings and you will get reverse chronological order back.




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