Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
How hard is it to have a conversation on Twitter? So hard even the CEO can’t (recode.net)
293 points by longdefeat on Feb 13, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 236 comments

A lot to unpack recently with Twitter and Jack. A few thoughts.

1. Jack doesn’t seem passionate about product, especially Twitter.

2. Kara seems to lack the vocabulary to talk about product which is both surprising and confusing, given her niche and time spent in it. She also doesn’t understand that Twitter has evolved way beyond Jack. “Why don’t you know, it’s your product!” she kept asking. The fact he doesn’t know says a lot. It’s out of any one persons control. Maybe the AI has already taken over ...

3. The most interesting thing Kara said was when she suggested Twitter be a public utility. More and more I think we need the National Public Internet. She almost asked a great question about needing fire, police and garbage. Then she mixed metaphors and started discussing those things literally, and Jack went off about doxing.

4. The most important take away for me was how unaligned Jack and Kara were. Never did they find common ground. Never were they speaking the same language. Twitter could not facilitate meaningful dialogue between two willing people motivated to be good actors. This isn’t about how bad threaded replies are. It’s about human connection and conversation in the medium of real time public text. It doesn’t work.

Edit: I've tried to clean these thoughts up a bit if you care to read more: https://www.nicholasjrobinson.com/blog/quick-take/karajack-q...

I don't think Twitter is a conversational medium, essentially. It certainly isn't a good one, for complex conversations.

It's hard to find the horse-and-boogie analogy for something that's essentially new, but bumper sticker, or billboard is more apt.

On the public utility front... email exists, RSS exists, the www exists... all open platforms, public by some (the right) definitions.

The problem is that an open field (especially when there're multi-$bn opportunities) is innovative, resourceful and will often outcompete the public utility.

How are you going to stop the next twitter from winning the get users game, ban texting apps?

> I don't think Twitter is a conversational medium, essentially.

As a very early Twitter adopter, I keep thinking this may be a fundamental breakdown in any consideration of what Twitter actually is as a product. Early Twitter was a conversation facilitator for pushing people to bump up in person (at for instance conferences, tracking a general zeitgeist of where interesting people were), or into more conversive media such as blogs / forums / IM / IRC. Early Twitter staff even knew this as this is partly the very motivating use cases the platform was built to enable. (The old 140 character limit to make sure that SMS notifications, and sending/responding to Tweets via SMS, were always an option, partly because of that push to in-person meetups in the era of dumb phones. Having mostly dropped out of Twitter in 2018, it's not a surprise to me that most of my remaining interactions with it are old SMS notifications I intentionally left on over the years, as that was the product I originally signed on for.)

A lot of the "we need to be our own conversational medium" standpoint from "modern" Twitter stems almost directly from "we need to monetize as many ads as possible". It's a bad fit for what Twitter was as a product originally, and it's creating so many of these gulfs where people forget that "let's take this conversation off Twitter" is a valid option, much less the best way to handle things more complex than bite-size soundbites. (It's working out for now for Twitter's investors, but how long until they burn out their reputation by being a toxic "conversation medium", because they are bad at being a "conversation medium" yet they need to be a "conversation medium" to sell ads?)

NPR and PBS didn't invent anything, they used an established technology to be a not-for-profit public good. The National Public Internet wouldn't be breaking ground, it would be using social media for the public good.

That is all fine. You could have public (state owned) websites, apps, social networks and such.

I'd argue that wikipedia, lichess and such are public services already. I personally have more confidence in that sort of a model (os, community run, etc) than a traditional public service model, but there's room in the bed for three.

The problem is the same though. These services need to do more than just exist. They need popularity.

It's very well to say "twitter should be a public service." I have no doubt that it could be. But, it'd still need to outcompete commercial competition.

Oh fuck no.

the last thing we want is state owned and operated social networks and apps. whats next, swipe left to report hate speech? swipe right to report suspicious activity. a site where every picture is subject to scrutiny by government agencies because they were submitted to same?

the idea that twitter should be a public utility vastly over exaggerates its impact in the life of the average person, American or not. If anything that message is tailor made to boost the value of the company. there is nothing twitter is doing that cannot be replicated, you just need time, good marketing, and money. Three needs of every successful business.

> RSS exists

Which Twitter dropped support for in 2012.

> How are you going to stop the next twitter from winning the get users game, ban texting apps?

Hopefully the next Twitter will be the ActivityPub-powered Fediverse.

But say something wins big on the Fediverse, becoming bigger than everything else, and pivots to make itself a walled garden, with all the drawbacks of Facebook/Twitter? How could we stop that? Maybe one possibility would to put all content on the Fediverse under a copyright license similar in principle to the GPL, where any website that copies its content has to allow its own user-generated content to be accessed under the same terms.

We already have Twitter as a utility, its called ActivityPub and dozens of products and thousands of independent instances are now using it.

If Twitters higher ups were serious about "being a utility' they would federate on what is on track to become the browser social protocol from the W3C.

A public utility that very few people have even heard of outside of tech circles. I feel that more or less takes the “public” out of the “utility” and doesn’t give Twitter a pass.

Few people compared to Twitter, sure, but not as much as you muggy think. When I ask around in my circles, which is a typical mic of tech and non-tech people, very few have ever used Twitter. The ones who did are all tech people.

Sure, a lot of people have heard of it, but that seems to be mainly through reporting on other media.

I believe that Twitter is mostly a way for media people to get word out.

As for Mastodon, there is definitely a lot of tech people there, but there is a very large group of users who are not. A lot of them comes from other social media platforms to get away from the negative climate there.

This was true of every protocol. It's still true of every protocol. How many people use HTTP every day without ever hearing about it? Most people couldn't even tell you what a web browser is. They use it all the same. The ActivityPub standard is barely a year old.

I didn’t say it’s doomed, or dead, I said that the reality of it being a little known and used protocol is at odds with the claim that it represents a public utility. I think that’s especially true when comparing it to a claim that Twitter, with many hundreds of millions active users, should be a public utility.

ActivityPub seems like an interesting protocol waiting for a killer app. Mastodon is a reasonable start, but too much like Twitter.

> ActivityPub seems like an interesting protocol waiting for a killer app

You may well be right.

If someone builds a new and innovative social network, it will start with 0 users and probably won't be able to compete with existing networks, due to network effects.

But if someone builds a new and innovative social network using ActivityPub, it can piggyback on all ActivityPub's existing users, so network effects help it (and help existing ActivityPub systems).

ActivityPub means that innovation in the social networking space can now succeed, and is thus a game changer.

The ultimate secret sauce of ActivityPub is that its killer app is every app that uses it. Its about having the same fundamental building blocks - because really, youtube, instagram, snap, tiktok, facebook, twitter, etc are all doing the same thing, you post content, aggregate it, share it, and comment on it - and having those portable across all the implementers so you can subscribe to someone whos on peertube via Mastodon and get their uploaded videos there, in the UI you like the most.

It was interesting to see a small force of people pushing ActivityPub in the Twitter comments last night.

Do you think the rate of improvements that have happened to the internet would be sustained if it were run by the government? I sure don't. Moving decision-making capabilities away from the public and into the hands of bureaucrats sounds like a good way to increase surveillance, decrease innovation, and lord knows what else. I really hope that idea does not take off.

Funnily enough the internet was run by governments from when it started in 1969 through 1992 or 1993.

Specifically, The US government paid for most of it with most of the rest being paid for Great Britain, the Scandinavian countries and maybe Finland. Unless they happened to be next door to an organization that already had a connection, US organizations had to lease a dedicated circuit from a phone company to connect to the internet, but generally did not have to compensate the US government or the organization owning the router they connected to.

The US government tried to transfer ownership of the internet to AT&T in 1977 and again in 1987, at a token price, but AT&T didn't want it because they couldn't see how to make money from it and worried about the potential for disruption of their existing businesses.

Those dedicated circuits I mentioned earlier were not a service that AT&T offered voluntarily: AT&T was required by the US Federal Court to sell one to anyone who wanted one as part of the outcome of an anti-trust case brought by the US government against AT&T. At the time that the requirement was first imposed, most wide-area computer networks in the US were "proprietary" rather than "public", meaning that the network was used to connect the offices of a single (large, wealthy) organization, mostly running protocols developed by IBM. Although the intent of the court ruling was to protect IBM's business in wide-area networks from AT&T's monopoly power, the young internet benefitted greatly from the ruling, too.

Starting in the late 1980s most large US tech companies were connected to the internet, but management's intent in paying whatever costs were involved in getting connected to the internet were to make it easier for the company's scientists and engineers to communicate with their counterparts in other large tech companies or in university science and engineering departments or various research labs. No large tech company at that time saw the internet as a way to generate revenue or sell products or services.

I do not advocate returning to a government-run public network, but I spent a lot of time on the internet in 1992 and I can tell you that there would be lots of intense conversation and lots of publishing on the internet even if we were to remove all the profit-motivated entities.

Would you argue that the internet changed and improved more from 1969 to 1992 or 1992 to present day?

The experience of using the internet to teach or learn about computers has not improved since 1992, but that is because there was a robust population of people using the internet of 1992 to teach and learn about computers.

If you wanted to teach or learn about a particular chronic health condition on the other hand you would struggle to find others on the internet of 1992 who shared your interest.

In 1992 the web existed, but it played a minor role. What was then called Netnews, but would be renamed a few years later (by Time, Newsweek and other news organization who took offense at the name "Netnews") to Usenet was definitely the front page of the internet, and if a particular document was available on the internet, it was more likely to be available on an ftp server (that had been configured to allow anyone to sign in) than on a web server.

The web was the first significant internet service to offer a GUI. before the web you had to use terminal-based interfaces to access any internet service.

The web (and to a lesser extent the discovery of the internet by mainstream journalists) caused a massive democratization of the internet, which had good and bad effects.

The good effects are obvious, so let me give an example of a bad effect.

I recently had the need to learn more about a mental disorder called dissociative identity disorder, which is trickier for humans to think rationally about than most mental disorders are. i.e., it is quite tricky to think rationally about, so tricky that most humans and even many trained psychotherapists fail. I used Google Search and was successful in learning what I wanted to learn. Even though the vast majority of web pages (on this particular subject and in general) have been written since 2000, the 2 most useful documents for my learning were written in the 1990s. One appears to have started life as a web page in 1996 or 1997. The other was a FAQ regularly posted in the 1990s to the newgroups alt.support.dissociation, alt.abuse.recovery, etc.

The point is that most of the person-hours spent on the internet have been spent since 2000, and I would have expected and would have hoped to see more signs that all those person-hours haven't just gone to waste than I have actually seen during my searching and browsing of the web.

I've kind of switched the focus from 1992 to 2000 here. 2000 represents in my mind a kind of high water mark for the internet. I know we cannot go back again to the internet without commercial activity, so I cannot get too excited about the internet of 1992.

There are classes of Google Searches I performed often in 2000 that I have learned to refrain from now because they no longer constitute a productive use of my time. For example in 2000 I spent hours in Google Search trying to learn whether AI research might cause the end of the world -- and I was able to drastically improve my understanding of the issue. These days I still do a lot of Google Searches, but they are mostly about "settled science", e.g., what is a thiol?, e.g., whether any iphone model has an OLED display, e.g., what is a bounding box in computer graphics?

I also continue to search often for information that is easy for me to verify. e.g., if I search for recommendations for a browser extension to block ads, it is relatively easy for me to verify the recommendation by installing the extension, then watching to see how well it blocks ads.

> The experience of using the internet to teach or learn about computers has not improved since 1992

I disagree.

> The web was the first significant internet service to offer a GUI.

No, it wasn't.

> before the web you had to use terminal-based interfaces to access any internet service.

No, you didn't. Most significant internet service had GUI clients before the web; this is certainly the case for all of news, mail, gopher and ftp.

In many cases, there was no compelling reason to use a GUI client, but they certainly existed.

I was using a terminal to access the internet till 1997. Not a terminal-emulation app on a computer, but an actual terminal. So I didn't have the relevant experience to support my claim that "before the web you had to use terminal-based interfaces to access any internet service" and I retract the statement.

The web however was the first internet service that the majority of its users used a GUI to connect to.

Actually a large number of internet users became internet users simply because they were issued a Sun workstation by their employers, and Sun workstations came with internet clients pre-installed. I believe that a large fraction of the users of internet email in the 1980s were of such a nature, so allow me to qualify my previous paragraph to exclude those users because I don't know enough about their usage habits.

In what ways do you prefer the experience of teaching or learning about computers on the internet of today to the internet of 1992? Do you prefer the web to netnews? (I do, too, but not enough to cancel out the effect of all the web pages containing false information about computers or low-quality exposition thereby making it harder to find the high-quality exposition.)

> In what ways do you prefer the experience of teaching or learning about computers on the internet of today to the internet of 1992?

Personally, I value the ability to watch videos of conference talks while I'm doing dishes or similar, which wasn't nearly so available in 1992 (principally for bandwidth reasons).

Also 1992 had nothing like wikipedia (and 2000 had it only in its most embryonic form) though 1992 did have the Free Online Dictionary of Computing.

Do you think the rate of improvements in TV from 1930 to 2018 have been unacceptable? I'm not suggesting all of the social web become government controlled, I am saying there should be a national public social channel. The public web would still innovative, but sometimes you just want NPR.

Government-controlled is only a positive if it means the government can control the thing better than private organizations, and this simply isn't the case.

NPR and PBS have certainly done a lot of good stuff, stuff that at least at one time might not have been possible on commercial TV, but these media also suffer from the same kinds of bias that privately-run media suffer from, except it's on our dime. They are paid for, in part, by the public, but the public has no say in what they do.

I simply can't imagine a government-controlled social channel being any better. There would be constant fights and protests over what is or is not allowed. Having to police such a channel for truly objectionable content (e.g., everyone reasonable would agree that racist hate speech shouldn't be allowed) will quickly become censorship (e.g., "MAGA" or "Feel the Bern" aren't allowed). It sounds like a slow-motion trainwreck coming from miles off.

Twitter and other social media platforms have major problems by trying to reserve their rights to the benefits of being a publisher and the benefits of being carrier, but trying to dodge the disadvantages and responsibilities of either. There is absolutely no way a government-run version would be better, and many reasons why it would be worse. For one thing, by being a public "utility" everyone would (rightly) feel they should have a say in how it's run.

Twitter sucks (and I don't use it), but it may be the best we can get right now. Anything better can probably only come from the market.

> Government-controlled is only a positive if it means the government can control the thing better than private organizations

I don't agree with that. There are a lot of reason why government-controlled things can be a positive, even if they aren't better than private versions of those things. Sometimes simply having access for all, even if the access isn't as high quality as private access is useful. Having access for people with disabilities when it's not in the financial interest of private companies to serve those people is useful, for example.

Decision making is in the hands of bureaucrats. A large multi-national corporation is essentially the definition of bureacracy.

If you look at healthcare IT, American government used existing technologies but also adopted fledgling technologies as they developed (FHIR). What has been crated and adopted in the last 10 years has opened communication greatly.

"National Public Internet": of which nation?

I don't think that works, but a nongovernmental entity devoted to public service might work.

>It’s about human connection and conversation in the medium of real time public text. It doesn’t work.

Your conclusion is too broad. It doesn't work on twitter, but I've seen it work just fine on other mediums. In fact I've seen people reconcile and resolve their differences on IRC when they couldn't/wouldn't do it face to face.

Can you expand on that? I have a weird case of internet nostalgia where IRC, niche forums and a little Usenet were perfect. But I think they were perfect because they were small and most people had a common ground based in tech. Lots of diverse people together in the same space, I don’t think, has ever worked in the history of man.

> National Public Internet

You want to put Ajit Pai (or someone like him) in charge of Twitter, Facebook, etc?

Being a utility hasn't stopped Comcast from being terrible either. In fact being considered a natural monopoly means I _have_ to use Comcast because they've entered a deal with the city to be the sole provider. I would hate to _have_ to use Twitter, Facebook, etc because the government only licenses them as social networks.

maybe offtopic, apologies

> she suggested Twitter be a public utility

Always interested to know how that could possibly work. Not just for twitter but for any other dominant site. The internet now has more users outside of the US [0] so who is the public, and who manages things?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of...

> She almost asked a great question about needing fire, police and garbage.

Twitter already provides a garbage fire service, that's why users are begging for police.

The last damn thing we need is a government run social network. We saw a preview of how that would be run when the current administration decided to manipulate/fake comments on the FCC site during the net neutrality debate.

The ideal balance for things like this is a properly regulated social network, where said regulation focuses on holding the social network responsible for spread of fake information and hate speech.

The last damn thing we need is a government determining what is and is not hate speech.

Regardless of what Twitter is or isn't, how in the world is the CEO surprised by how his product works? And we're not talking some obscure corner case, but basic use case?

Having a conversation was a learning experience for him and his team?

Such a basic level of unfamiliarity with their own product gives me a lot of pause that he can do anything to guide the company on fixing rampant automated accounts or making it less of a frequently hostile forum.

The one use case I’ve seen of Twitter is rapid fire updates about some developing situation, like an emergency. But it can’t be a back and forth discussion. It can be one person or many people adding to a combined discussion via that hashtag.

However, even when I see people do what is effectively a long form blog post on Twitter, I often give up on it before the end because it’s too frustrating.

Twitter was billed as a microblogging platform. Blog posts are 1-way communication.

Want a discussion? Allow comments and make them visually separate and less prominent just like blogs do.

Maybe that was the original billing, but Twitter has enabled conversation for a very, very long time with @replies, quoting and so on. Silly to pretend otherwise.

Twitter is a million soap boxes in the town square.

Perhaps what we really need is a million meeting rooms that people can enter or leave as they desire.

I don't use Twitter, but I do use Facebook to keep up with family and friends, but the primary value I get out of it is from the groups I belong to, often private, where people can have (moderated, if needed) discussions about topics of common interest.

Or reddit. The experience of participating in small subreddits is vastly different from frontpage lurking.

Huh? Then why does Twitter allow you to @reply someone? It is a feature. I mean, Jack Dorsey even doing this interview shows it's a feature, otherwise he should have said "Twitter was not made for this."

And not all blog posts are one-way communication, just like you said, that is why we have comment systems attached to blog posts.

afaik originally this was just a convention that people started using until it became a feature

Right, I think it was, but if they let users just do it on their own Twitter could wipe their hands of it (e.g. "you're not using it correctly.") But because they made it an official feature, they have embraced that functionality. So it's a moot point now.

I understand why they did it. They let the site kind of grow organically to see what it could become and embraced how people were using it. And I think they are likely super nervous from a financial perspective about any user loss if they start pulling features.

But I think Twitter has a similar problem as Facebook -- it connects a lot of random people into a conversation system that should likely not be connected. On HN, I'm connecting with people that care about the tech community. On a Reddit sub-reddit, it's specific to some topic. Twitter just seems to encourage too many outliers to get involved in conversations they should probably sit back and simply listen on.

>Twitter is rapid fire updates about some developing situation.

This is the only thing i've ever used Twitter for. It's the best place to find out about problems on my local transit system. Long before the company ever gives an alert, there'll dozens of people tweeting angrily about the problems.

Yep, anytime I see some larger than normal police/fire presence in my city, or a large cloud of smoke, I go on Twitter. It works great for breaking events and is usually always way ahead of any news organizations (which are usually just pulling things from Twitter, too).

My impression after following him on there for a while: he still uses, and sees the platform as if it's the original version of Twitter from ~2006. Most of his tweets are written in a way that sound like a person writing in a public diary, not someone expecting to have a conversation.

He's using Twitter for what it's good at, desperately hoping people somehow stop ruining the experience while still maintaining popularity and ad views.

It's not like the example in the article would be hard to reproduce. It's not like those insanely tricky bugs that only present themselves in rare circumstances.

They would easily test for this and fix it. They do not care.

It seems like lots of consumer products relying on advertising as a revenue model fall prey to the same problem.

They aggressively optimize for a panoply of metrics that make them appealing to advertisers. Often this means hacking the algorithms governing the interactions between users (viewership, timeline visibility, feed) until the outcome yields satisfying metrics, meaningful or not.

At this point a complex web of chaotic feedback loops has formed and it becomes hard to change anything. The system's stateful complexity far exceeds the engineering/product team's understanding of it. It's like trying to debug a neural network.

To be fair, this is a really atypical mode of using Twitter. Normally it's used for shouting at your audience/someone you disagree with. It's rarely used for true conversations, so I can somewhat see why the CEO is unfamiliar with its performance in that role.

But then why even try to have this conversation on Twitter? You'd think that after a decade he would have some idea of what Twitter is good and bad at. I can imagine having this kind of failed interview when the company was 3 years old, but after more than a decade, it's a bit bizarre.

Unless this was explicitly meant as a test, and not simply an online interview.

> But then why even try to have this conversation on Twitter?

Many people are knowingly doing a kabuki theatre version of a conversation where they are specifically trying to get attention and grab more followers and retweets. You can see it in how responses are framed. There's a lot of attempted "mic drop" moments.

Real people don't have conversations like that, because they're not playing to an audience. In real conversations, people also don't just walk away from each other at the first jab, but that happens on Twitter constantly.

It's similar to how 95% of Reddit's content is posted by 1% of its user base. Most Twitter users aren't tweeting, they're voyeurs to online meltdowns (real or orchestrated), celebrity gossip and slapfights between political commentators/media/trolls.

I have never understood how MySpace became unfashionable because it was "too gaudy/immature" while Twitter has been a wildfire of horrible UX, hate speech, bullying and user surveillance for over a decade now.

I think the MySpace narrative has always been a bit off- sure, most user pages were very much in the vein of Geocities, but that was only one problem. Very few of my friends were on MySpace, and the main reason they cited was it was too complicated. Even copy-pasting a pre-made layout was too much bother. I clearly remember multiple friends pushing me to get a FB account very hard, and often the main selling point was "easy".

Although for Twitter, I think they absolutely know the site has a problem with toxicity, but they 100% do not care. Angry people will spend longer on the site arguing, post more, and see more ads. They may say they care, but their actual business incentives push them towards maintaining the current state of discourse.

Well I think you answered your own question. Twitter is successful despite it's dumpster-fire UX because the conversation quality on twitter is also a dumpster-fire and people love to watch that kind of shit. It's like NASCAR fans rooting for crashes.

I suspect that they’re trying to educate on how the platform could be better used.

If so, it was evidently with a lot of unsupported overconfidence. Clearly turned into a major demonstration of how it can not be used for a good conversation.

I've found pretty much the same thing, just good for trading headlines & brief insights. Though, its constraints do cause me to improve the focus of some ideas to express them briefly and clearly, so that's a good exercise.

It was a massive experiment. Now they have qualitative feedback to sift through and act on.

I think he knew it was going to fail, just not the many ways how it would.

> But then why even try to have this conversation on Twitter?


Jack's been out and about lately... whatever the thinking is about Twitter and its ability to respond to the criticisms at play, I think it's worth noting that Jack is trying.

Just in the last couple of weeks, he's been making himself available for long form discussions. He was on Sam Harris and Joe Rogan and other podcasts. He participated in this Kara interview.

He's been a bit more behind the scenes before, and now he's more visible and active and participatory. He doesn't have all the answers yet, but maybe this effort will lead to improvements.

> It's rarely used for true conversations

Not a twitter user myself, but I've seen a lot of people use their twitter handles like they'd use an E-Mail address. They say "this is a twitter handle send me a DM if you want to talk with me" instead of "this is my E-Mail address please send me an E-Mail if you want to talk". So they do derive conversational value from twitter.

DMs are chats. It's a totally different medium than tweets. Separate UI and everything. I can understand how you would not know this, since you don't use the product (neither do I, any more), so this is just an FYI.

It’s worth noting that DMs have a much more generous length limit than tweets. You can actually type an entire paragraph into a single DM versus the formerly 140, now 280 characters a public tweet is limited to.

> Having a conversation was a learning experience for him and his team?

Of course not. It's boilerplate CEO speak. It's a way of "answering" the question without making any commitments and seems to terminate any further discussion.

Joe Rogan and Sam Harris discuss this on Joe Rogans podcast #1241

Actually I am pretty shocked at the amount of “incompetence” in the business world especially at high levels.

It seems people shmooze and make big deals happen. But they have no idea how their own product works, often.

There are notable exceptions: Elon Musk. Warren Buffett. Jobs and Gates and Bezos. That’s why their companies rock.

But like, Apple after Jobs, not so much. I am not convinced the higher-ups really are in touch with what’s the main user facing issue. Like how Apple repeatedly allowed the entire Mac app store certificates to just expire leaving all apps broken [1], or how they released an iOS where no one could click a link in safari!! [2]

But that’s actually still a very high level of competence of tons of people in the company. Just the executives and lack of processes to catch this surprise me.

Google doesn’t have such problems. It only has problems of product roadmap, shuttering Google Reader and Google Plus after making the entire userbase embrace it, or replacing Talk with three different products like Hangouts, Allo, Meet, etc.

But most of all I just realized how much successful B-level people are just... well, they make so many spelling mistakes in email, often paint by numbers and don’t really think out of the box on the most basic things the way someone would if they were constantly learning about their space and their problem. Like oh A and B don’t go together? I guess it won’t work out. Oh, just one tiny thing had to be tweaked in B and suddenly we have a huge revenue stream coming? Huh, would you look at that. And here I was about to focus on something else.

Has anyone else noticed this? I am not sure if it was always the case or think it’s a general sense of ADD that came over the business world. Hardly anyone reads books. Emails have to be 5-7 lines long. Spelling and grammar mistakes make you seem important. People - especially busy businesspeople - dont have time to read 2 lines of instructions when onboarding - they zip past them and then scratch their head what to do on next screen. I have seen it.

Is this the prequel to Idiocracy?

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2015/11/12/all-mac-store-apps-stopped... and teo years later it happens again https://appleinsider.com/articles/17/02/20/apple-issued-deve...

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2016/03/28/ios-9-3-opening-links-sa...

Twitter sucks as a discussion platform but it excels as an insult delivery system.

Which is how it became a unicorn because it turns out that humans get addicted to being angry

Especially when you can deliver insults without the threat of receiving a smack in the face back

In the UK you can get arrested for tweeting in opposition to the groupthink, not a smack in the face as such, ...

... but just as violent, only administered much more slowly.

Can you cite some examples of people being prosecuted for saying things on twitter that aren't, you know, bomb threats or holocaust denial etc.

"Section 127 [of the Communications Act 2003] has been used to prosecute a young man who tweeted his frustration about being unable to see his girlfriend due to airport closure. His tweets, which were made without intent to carry out their content or incite others to do so, resulted in his conviction for being a menace under the Act – thankfully that conviction has now been overturned;" https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/human-rights/free-spee...

"according to Miller on Wednesday this week, he found himself answering questions — for 34 minutes – from an officer from Humberside Police... On that account, Miller says things such as ‘trans women are not women’" https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/01/is-it-now-a-crime-to-l...

"In 2016, British police detained and questioned 3,300 people for making ‘offensive’ comments on social media " https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/11/will-making-jokes-abou...

1) I can't see a description of what he said, but if it's the case I remember he said something about blowing the airport up and someone reported it to police as a threat.

Twitter is a broadcasting service, and you're responsible for how it is read. You don't get a pass because you totally didn't mean it that way. I can't get upset about this one.

2) & 3) Doesn't sound like arrest/prosecution? I don't doubt a lot of things got reported to police, and they followed up by talking to the person.

The OP mentioned arrest. You then wanted example of prosecution. I cited 3,300 cases of being detained and questioned, but that clearly didn't satisfy.

There does not need to be 100s of successful prosecutions a year for there not to be consequences of police action (whether it be warnings, being detained, arrests, prosecutions, jail) and for there to be serious chilling effects.


> You don't get a pass because you totally didn't mean it that way

I'm no lawyer, but isn't intent a critical part of analysing someone's actions in prosecution (and perhaps why Liberty mentioned it)?

First off, if people are being arrested and not charged, that's a violation of their rights, and a huge hassle. If your law is written so that people are being unnecessarily arrested, that's a bad law.

Proving intention used to be the case, but I think a lot of speech laws being made aren't taking this into account, and this is incredibly dangerous. You used the words "gypped" or "scot-free"? Well, those terms are an implied racial (cultural really) slur.

"Hocus pocus" originally comes from Protestant mockery of the Latin words of Consecration from the Catholic Mass. Catholics could, in theory, be offended by that. (I'm Catholic, but I just see it as an interesting piece of historical linguistic trivia, although I know it wasn't always so).

You used the words or "niggardly" or "snigger"? Neither of which have any negative racial or cultural connotations. The first is of Scandanavian etymology, and the second is of Dutch etymology, but they sound a lot like a word that is insulting. If someone takes offense at your racial insult, when you were using a perfectly innocent word, can you use that as a defense? Will it matter when social media has already tried and executed you, and are marching for your punishment?

People are being arrested for using the wrong pronouns. There's no way it can matter whether that was intentional or not. Hate speech laws are defined based not on what someone does, but on how someone else reacts to it, and it's impossible to list all the ways it could be applied. For all we know, people can get into trouble for something that started out as a 4chan prank.

There's no way to prove it one way or another. Proving intention to murder or conspire can be made using physical evidence, but how can you prove you were doing it with or without malice aforethought?

Were you warned and then persisted in your behavior? OK, maybe that would count, but it could still be a slip of the tongue or a typo. This is about as Orwellian as it gets.

That's why hate speech laws, even the best intentioned, scare the crap out of me, not because I support hate-speech, or use it, but because I know that it's way to easy to turn them into a witchhunt, and to prosecute people for completely benign behavior.

This isn't quite Twitter, but I think Instagram is close enough: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-merseyside-43816921

Teenager was found guilty of "sending a grossly offensive message" because she cited lyrics of a song in memory of a dead friend.

And yet, Jay-Z, or whoever made the song quoted, was able to release this lyric in the public without causing a problem. (I'm not saying this is right or wrong, because I don't know what the lyric is, but the double standard should trouble everyone.)

Implicit in all this nonsense is a "right not to be offended" which is absolutely impossible to enforce and protect without Orwellian levels of tyranny, which a lot of people seem to think is perfectly fine. Language changes, slang changes even faster, people like 4chan like to stir up trouble by showing how easy it is to manipulate the public perception. There's literally no way to define "hate speech" in an objective way without having to constantly modify the definition. And just as it is possible to be inadvertently guilty of "hate speech" because of ignorance (e.g., I didn't know the word "gyp" was a slur against Romani.) it's even more possible to engage in hate speech without using any of the explicitly proscribed language.

As an example, for this conversation, I'm going to define "grot" to be a racial slur against someone I am hypothetically prejudiced against. Does me calling someone a "grot" count as hate speech, when no one knows what it means? What if the word catches on among my friends (who are also hypothetical bigots) enough so that a common acquaintance knows what we mean when we use it. Does that count? How many people need to recognize this meaning of "grot" before it becomes something you can't say on TV? How many people need to recognize this meaning before you can be arrested in the U.K.? What if I can incite a crowd to violence by chanting "Grot!" over and over? Yeah, we'd all probably agree that's problematic speech, but where's the dividing line?

If you ask me, people who make "hate speech" laws are a bunch of grots because it's impossible to enforce them objectively and consistently.

> And yet, Jay-Z, or whoever made the song quoted, was able to release this lyric in the public without causing a problem.

Context matters. Saying otherwise is either uninformed or dishonest. Performing a song containing "the roof is on fire" is different than just yelling the phrase. And yes, how others perceive your behavior is partially your responsibility. Just like people might kill you in self-defense if they perceive you as threat, even in case your gun was just a theater prop.

Regarding your "where is the line"... communication always requires interpretation and there will never be an "objective and consistent" line. I'm sure i could easily rewrite your example to fit a law of every country in existence. As for the US, I could go for "Defamation Per Se", in other words were implicit in all this nonsense is a "right not to be talked bad about" which is absolutely impossible to enforce and protect without Orwellian levels of blah blah blah

So yes, we will always argue about were line are drawn, just like others will try to overstep them without consequences. That's part of life.

Tommy Robinson got jailed for filing outside of a court room.

Contempt of court (attempt to unduly influence court proceedings); perhaps unduly strict in the UK but in no way Twitter or Internet-specific. And getting arrested was I suspect part of the protest.

Here it goes, from a few days ago (I'm not the OP): https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6687123/Mother-arre...

Sorry for the Daily Mail link but it looks like the mainstream press hasn't catch up on the subject. Afaik transphobia is not on the same level with "bomb threats or holocaust denial" but apparently people get arrested for it.

Daily Mail reporting will be grossly inaccurate on this subject. I suspect this was not for a single incident but as part of a campaign of harrasment. There's a lot of that going on against trans people at the moment, often enabled by twitter and the gutter press.

Boris Johnson has practically said the same thing in his latest editorial in The Telegraph [1], i.e. that that woman was transphobic and that the U.K. police should focus on other more stringent tasks (like knife crime). Transphobia is ugly but it’s not on the same level as Holocaust denial and people shouldn’t get arrested for it.

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02/10/police-wasting-t...

Boris Johnson is one of the men who lied about Europe so often the EU made the Euromyths page in an attempt to stem the tide. He's not a reliable source (in any case that's an opinion piece), and nor is the Telegraph.

There's a culture war going on, trans people are the current wedge issue, and people like Boris are absolutely part of it.

Again, we need the underlying facts, which I suspect include a longer history of targeted harassment rather than a driveby twitter insult.

Johnson himself said the woman was a transphobic, him lying should mean that the woman was in the right and not a transphobic at all. I know about his past records, I only mentioned him to show that the story was real and mainstream, not some journalistic hack (like some of the stuff published in the Daily Mail).

Yes. The arrest was for harassment and doxxing, not for misgendering.

paganel, when you say "Sorry for the Daily Mail link" it sounds like you know you're citing a source that will be extremely untrustworthy on this topic, and then did it anyway.

The Daily Mail is in the top three newspapers, by circulation, in the UK. And far far more read than the broadsheets. How is it not considered the "mainstream"?

"Mainstream" does not mean "reliable". After all, we have CNN in the States.

I didn't suggest reliable

Same happens in Turkey very regularly as well

I dunno about you, but most people don’t react to insults with physical injury, though in extreme cases that does happen.

Not that baseless insults should be encouraged.

most people don’t react to insults with physical injury

I'm not quite so sure about that. Most people don't hurl insults face-to-face. If people acted like their twitter personalities IRL, I would expect to see a massive uptick in fistfights.

It depends on what you consider “insult”.

From taking public transit, waiting in bus stops and walking through blue collar neighborhoods most insults are either ignored or get another insult in return.

Maybe we hang out in different circles, but I've never heard the level of insults IRL that I have read on Twitter. I have a feeling the large majority of those doing the insulting would be terrified to say those things to someones face because they know a physical altercation would end up being the common response.

HN User mc32 is being overly general in characterizing working class people. Lower working class people aren't out insulting each other and using expletives any more than "white collar" people. I live in both worlds, and that's just a stereotype with no basis in reality. In fact, I'd say that the average tech type speaks in a far more base fashion than most of the garbage men I know. (Certainly more base than any of the waitresses or cashiers I know.)

IRL, gobs of people are out insulting each other neither in the lower classes, nor in the upper classes. Yes, it happens MUCH more on a place like Twitter, but not at all IRL.

I’ve seen higher incidence of insults at working class bus stops, bus lines and workplaces. Sometimes it’s vagrants, sometimes it’s just people about their business who get fed up with something. On Caltrain I see fewer incidents than on the VTA or MUNI. I’ve taken them all. I’ve worked in working class neighborhoods and worked with them too. They tease each other a lot, sometimes they go over the line and then some get worked up, etc. They might throw epithets as a means of retaliation against perceived slights (as minor as asking to get by (passage)).

Now, I do hear indirect insults in white collar circles where they insult other people not present (for example berating working classes for the choices in life they make) but we’re not talking about indirect insults. We’re talking the ones where there is the potential for direct retaliation.

mc32 didn't say that working class people are constantly insulting each other, he described how they would likely react to insults.

Ok. Let’s put forth some baselines. In real life most people don’t grievously insult each other (discount passive aggressiveness, microagressions, bravado, boasting and other ultralight insults) Most people on Twitter don’t insult each other. A low percentage of people do in both cases. Does Twitter facilitate and provide a more lubricated vehicle for insult? Possibly?

> Most people on Twitter don’t insult each other. A low percentage of people do in both cases. Does Twitter facilitate and provide a more lubricated vehicle for insult? Possibly?

Possibly? Absolutely. The foundation of Twitter is the retweet. Without it, there is no sharing, and stuff can't 'go viral'. Most people don't insult each other, but they sure do like and retweet insults, false facts and other negative stuff ruining online communities.

Retweeting is the ultimate cop-out, because you didn't have the guts to say those things, but had no issue having it show up on your feed and those of your followers. You were just "sharing".

I think I get what you're saying. I've seen people call others "fat fucks" (heard that one yesterday) and shit like that in person in public, which is fairly extreme by face-to-face standards but very tame by twitter standards. I've never seen somebody accuse somebody else face-to-face of being a cannibalistic child rapist, but I've seen that on twitter! I think that's the kind of insult that would stand a decent chance of starting a physical altercation.

>Most people don't hurl insults face-to-face.

I think you're wrong. I think most people do hurl insults face-to-face. They just don't do it often. Most people, especially of the working class, can very easily get into these kinds of spats in the real world.

From what I've seen, at least in the sports arena, most of the physical fights start off with verbal insults. That could also be because sports already has an element of Us vs Them built into it. However, the speed with which things escalate from verbal insults is quite amazing.

That's like foreplay in those situations, the verbal abuse is as much about working the offender up - and sizing up their opposition - as it is about actually abusing anyone.

But even in those situations primed for antagonism fistfights and other are the exception. Ignorance and retorts are the most common reaction.

Sports arenas -- at least in the U.S. and several other Western countries -- also serve alcohol, which aids in escalating such situations.

Yes, but in person insults are less likely to happen because of the _implication_ of violence.

Perhaps not a "smack" from the /target/ of your insult, depending on your local laws...

In the UK we have the wonderful mix of various repressive speech offence laws [0] and an underfunded police force that like to scan Twitter

[0] https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/human-rights/free-spee...

It's mostly bots insulting each other, while we humans seat aside and laugh.

Will those Russians stop at nothing?


I saw this TED talk by Jon Ronson from 2015 titled "When online shaming goes too far", largely a teaser for his book on the topic, but nevertheless rather sobering. Basically how we're all one tweet away from disaster.

NOTE: NSFW due to using quotes of "normal" discourse on Twitter.

Which is strange because I see more targeted rage here on a VC forum.

The Twitter page I've cultivated has low/no rage and even interesting conversations. Sure, if I venture to gender, race, or politics, Ill be greeted by the rage machine. So volitionally choose to stay out of it.

Cultivate who you follow to a narrow tech field, and be very careful that whom you choose doesn't invest in hate and rage mechanics.

Facebook, for me, is the rage machine every few posts interspersed with cat/dog pics.

Ahh, but you have discovered the crux of the problem Twitter faces. I have done as you did, culling my Twitter to only include interesting people in my industry who I can learn from. What happened?

My Twitter use dropped off a cliff. The people I follow write interesting articles or give good talks, but are incredibly boring on Twitter, or retweet stuff that once more puts me face to face with the 'regular Twitter' dumpster fire.

"Microblogging" works for traffic or service updates, and commercials. Its use case narrows to almost nothing when it comes to human interactions, which require more substance than what a <textarea maxlength='280'> provides.

It worked flawlessly for Kara Swisher to berate Jack.

And to insult and attack innocent high school kids.


To her credit, at least she apologized.

It's funny how the people who claim twitter, social media, etc are toxic are the ones creating the toxicity.

Twitter, like anything else, is a tool. If it is toxic for you, then it's mostly likely because you yourself is a toxic person.

On Twitter any form of context is lost pretty quick. But it's a formidable machine for viral marketing, no matter who is the target and what is the message. It's the most efficient social media but also the most toxic. It also became the main source of news for online media, who spend their time making up stories based on Tweets.

The Covington Catholic School incident is a perfect example of made up news originating from Twitter.

so true. i would say insults or "clap-backs" are more likely to go viral than original idea/content/thoughts.

> Twitter’s 280 characters just don’t leave enough room for a nuanced conversation.

Well, yeah. And cars are a terrible way to travel across oceans. The world discovered this ages ago. Kids, back in my day we only had 140 ch

Twitter is like a town hall where everyone can heckle. Here’s a tree visualization I made of a portion of the #KaraJack thread, which demonstrates the problem (and only includes a fraction of the non-Jack/Kara tweets): https://treeverse.app/view/pX89745H

Twitter was founded as a micro-blogging service, not a forum. It evolved into the anonymous comment section for the entire internet somewhere along the way.

Seems like neither side were being self aware in this case.

I'm also not sure exactly what the product problem is with Twitter. The only exposure I have to a group of people upset about Twitter are the folks that Joe Rogan had on his podcast, and their complaints are just that it's toxic.

However Twitter unlike Google and Facebook is the least functional as a utility, so refraining from using it if you don't like it seems like a no brainer. You're not losing anything functional

That’s not entirely true. Twitter launched at SXSW, and people who were there can tell you that it was primarily used to build on the fly chat rooms during each session.

Speakers would define the hash tag at the start, and then many would project the post stream up front and respond to questions or comments from the feed on stage. The audience would also discuss what was being said amongst themselves.

It’s really just too big and too public for that to work anymore. It almost needs a feature where posting to a certain hashtag requires a password or being a certain user, then the 2 of them could’ve posted to that hashtag exclusively and been the only thing in the feed, and easily followed.

Obvious problem there is that hashtags don’t really scale like that, but it gives you some sense for strategies they might take to tackle the issue.

So, basically it's exactly like IRC! Only instead of your client sending PRIVMSG #channel-name :YOUR MESSAGE HERE, you have to type the channel name yourself every time... and there's only one server that doesn't federate... and there's an absurdly short message limit...

...this is better somehow?

Don’t you think the inherent design — “microblogging” — encourages a toxic environment? Most people aren’t poets or great writers, so I just frequently see people talking past each other or misreading what has been said because there is zero nuance.

I'm not sure the design is responsible for much of that. I see plenty of people on Reddit and this very site who talk past each other and skip straight over the nuance when it is presented. I also see favoritism shown to the "sound bite"-style comments over the thought out ones, particularly on contentious issues.

I agree it's present in any kind of dialogue where people assume the worst of others, but Reddit at least allows unlimited text. Same with this site -- I've seen many reactive comments, but then a thread resolves it and everyone reaches a good place. I've seen similar on Reddit, although less so compared to here.

I don't think I've ever seen the same on Twitter, ever. It usually devolves into something worse.

I do think there are parallels between Reddit and Twitter that encourage a level of snark that is just never appropriate when talking to a human in real life, unless you know them well.

I wrote a whole thing making that very argument: https://jasonlefkowitz.net/2013/02/i-kind-of-hate-twitter/

Great read, this perfectly expresses how I see it. I really like the "medium is the message" idea, haven't heard that before, but it definitely makes sense.

It's why the "happy birthday" messages in Facebook have always felt so hollow (especially because facebook is really nudging you to do it), but those same words sent via text message to the person are received differently (or even via Messenger within Facebook).

The criticism is something like Twitter enables the worst in humans, it's a platform that can unjustly destroy one's character and career. From a product perspective, its working. Yet it is still a net negative, at least that's the claim.

When someone is being doxxed, and mobs are forming, it's usually happening on that platform.

The whole reason Jack and Ev feuded was over what they thought Twitter should be. Jack thought it was a better version of status messages on AIM. Ev wanted it to be a blog platform like blogger.

This is like acting surprised that a skateboard is not a suitable vehicle for going on a long vacation with.

The newsworthy bit is that Jack seemed tripped up by it, too. Why agree to an interview in a format that will showcase the worst aspects of your product?

My theory is that Jack is trying to expose the flaws of twitter to the rest of the company. A way of bludgeoning the stubborn in the company by a blitz of bad press

You seem to be giving him too much credit.

His recent interviews and (lack of) leadership have shown that he bludgeons no one, and the stubborn person is him. He's just an unusual kind of stubborn: unwilling to make any decision at all.

That, too, is a form of visionary leadership. He is protecting a bubble of chaos in which creative ferment can occur, by refusing to let outside forces impose too much order on it. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on whether the bubble of chaos in question is working for you or not.

> by refusing to let outside forces impose too much order on it

He also refuses to let inside forces impose order on it. He doesn't do anything at all. I would call Twitter a camel -- a horse designed by committee -- but it seems it's not even that. He apparently just consults committees ad infinitum and then does nothing.

That seems like a remarkably bad strategy from a CEO. If your company is being stubborn, deal with it in-house, not in public.

More specifically: the skateboard manufacturer being surprised that a skateboard is not a suitable vehicle for a long trip.

^ nailed it

Still my favourite summary of Twitter:

> The following extract shows how a messaging client's text entry could be arbitrarily restricted to a fixed number of characters, thus forcing any conversation through this medium to be terse and discouraging intelligent discourse.

> <label>What are you doing? <input name=status maxlength=140></label>

-- Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, https://html.spec.whatwg.org/multipage/input.html#attr-input...

Not surprising though, we live in a world where developers seem continually surprised that a document format isn't ideal for application development.

XML can (be made to) do anything, man.

Twitter is basically broadcasting. Why would expect bidirectional communication?

Works just fine for CB radio.

Depends on where, I don't have CB because in my country it's as effective at delivering insults as twitter. I don't need insult radio when driving.

CB radio: for when you need to road rage to an audience.

Imagine CB radio where everyone has a transceiver with global reach though...

I feel like Kara Swisher just handled this in a bad way. You can easily have a conversation on Twitter: you make a tweet, someone else answers it. Rinse-repeat. Jack would've just needed to load Kara's twitter profile and reply to new tweets. What am I missing?

>I feel like Kara Swisher just handled this in a bad way.

Isn't it on Twitter, you know the ones running and presumably most familiar with the platform, to request how the interview be done rather than for the interviewer to know the nuances themselves?

Not sure about the back story of this. But it certainly seems like they didn't coordinate at all. @jack seemed very confused throughout.

That wouldn't have made the news the way this did, now would it?

Sure, but now non-Twitter users will just think of Twitter as being bad for 2 way conversation due to this event/stunt.

But I guess all publicity is good publicity.

I assure you Kara Swisher cares not. Turning this into a shitfest is a big win for her.

Getting lost in all this noise is Jack's willingness to have a conversation and also admit his product's shortcomings. How many other CEOs subject themselves to a similar, unscripted experiment? Kudos to Jack for being transparent and accessible.

His responses sounded pretty scripted. To a question on what Twitter has specifically done to combat abuse on the platform (a question that's been asked over and over for years now):

1. We have evolved our polices.

2. We have prioritized proactive enforcement to remove burden from victims

3. We have given more control in product (like mute of accounts without profile pics or associated phone/emails)

4. Much more aggressive on coordinated behavior/gamingAlso this wasn't a real-time face to face conversation, so you can be sure

Aside from #3, all of these sounded like CEO-speak to me. No specifics, so nothing to attach personal responsibility to.

That was my first impression, but the guy has a history of saying the right things but no real action follows.

It begins to become a bit hollow, like Zuckerberg saying they’ve made mistakes and need to do better.

Being transparent comes naturally when there's nothing there.

I'm not sure what original goal Twitter had in mind. At the moment they appear to have 100+ millions of users and are valued in the billions of dollars. Even with the shortcomings and flaws people seem to use. Presumably people put up with the shortcomings and use it anyway. I found it funny that people went on Twitter to declare that they were deleting Facebook. I guess my main point is that whether intentionally or not Twitter has stumbled upon a formula that generally works. By that I mean people keep coming back to have their rant, to put someone else down, to share their joys, frustrations, sell their productions, etc

Interesting that he also just did a podcast with Joe Rogan where he had to field questions but this time by someone who isn't in tech or a journalist. Elon Musk also did the same. It provides far more value and something to take away than an awkward rapid fire back and forth on twitter

He's been saying he's gonna fix things for years and they are still a problem.

In this case, it's probably not twitter's fault that the conversation fails, but Jack's. I saw him on Joe Rogans Podcast, who tried to get some concrete answers out of him, and he was probably the most evasive guest I've ever seen there.

The way he evasively responds to these important questions (not just with Rogan, but Sam Harris too) makes a lot more sense paired with the supposition that Twitter is not "failing" as Jack says here, but executing according to plan.

Look at recent bans, across the technology sphere (and more recently the financial sphere with Chase), and a clear pattern emerges. Nobody denies what the pattern is. The only argument is whether or not you support banning certain ideas.

From where I'm sitting we're seeing the formation of a new form of exile (I write that without hyperbole). Why bother setting up prison camps or penal colonies when you can completely remove someone's ability to publicly communicate, find gainful employment, or even open a bank account? We are inching closer to a world where, if someone engages in public wrongthink, they can immediately be shamed into poverty and banned from the public square.

>We are inching closer to a world where, if someone engages in public wrongthink, they can immediately be shamed into poverty and banned from the public square.

And this is so different from the entirety of human history how...?

Tribalism and social ostracization of "deviants" is nothing new.

The difference being that the Overton window of “acceptable” opinion is rapidly shrinking.

Twitter was not made to have conversations. It is not a forum system. And that is not a bad thing. If you want to use a forum, why don't you sign up for one?

Are you saying jack should hav signed up for a forum?

The main problem I have with Twitter is that when you reply to your own tweets, the reply will appear as a new tweet on your timeline.

This way your timeline becomes total chaos. Unless you only tweet a single 280 chars text and never add anything to it.

Otherwise, I would use it to post topics I am interested in. Reply to those topics to add more text or when new information becomes available. And have a discussion with people interested in those topics. I wish there was such a platform. It would be like everybody can run their own mini HN.

How about Wordpress? What you're describing sounds to me like the standard structure of a blog with comments.

Twitter is a weird sort of blog platform.

It is chaotic by design: the chaos is consequence of its distinguishing features. Everyone does get their own 'mini HN', i.e. a forum. But they lack the tools to rule over that forum. It's idealistically anarchic. Everyone's expected to get along peacefully, totally in public. There's no ownership over threads.

Wordpress is a tool to make websites. Yes, you can put your content on a website and then link to that from Twitter.

But that puts a big barrier in front of your content and the Twitter users. Visiting a website is usually a horrible experience. So people are very hesitant to do so. Click through rates from social media to websites are abysmal.

Good point. Users are willing to browse around Twitter (and Facebook) where the experience is consistent, tolerable. And functional enough for many kinds of content creators. They've achieved a sort of balance.

User hesitation to follow links out to the open web is lamentable, but wholly understandable.

Perhaps some 3rd party service with a recognisable URL could establish itself as a non-horrible, useful supplement to add extra structure to one's posts.

(Although I was suggesting something to use instead of Twitter, not something to use with it.)

I assume people finally realise Jack isn't the next Steve Jobs as the media and supporters ( I now assume they are fake supporters?) likes to paint it.

And Travis Kalanick isn't either, I assume most have figure out by now.

And Evan Spiegel.

If you are a Product CEO, or Founder, which tends to be even more Product focus than any succession CEO, and you don't know the basics of your product, then the company has a problem. Even more so when these "products" are gazillion times simpler than everything Apple were doing.

> It’s almost impossible to have a smart, healthy argument on Twitter because no one has the space needed to share their thoughts.

The article gives an example of each user trying to discuss and reply 4x branches of a conversation in 280 characters. At best, this can be mitigated on Twitter by "one person replies with a sequence of tweets", and the other then replies to that sequence.

I don't think brevity is the main reason for a lack of healthy arguments, though. "smart, healthy arguing" is a hard game for people to play, so it's "almost impossible" to have anywhere. (Let alone on a site where replies are open to anyone who might have had a bad day and wants to vent, or whatever).

:-) Twitter's user-experience can also be quite different for users with different following / follower counts.

One of my motives for building meowcat2[1] is that Twitter doesn't do threading very well[2]. (Another motive is I don't want the web to be controlled by a few big corporations).

[1]: https://github.com/cabalamat/meowcat2

[2]: https://cabalamat.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/twitter-gets-mess...

Has it ever been the place to have an interview or 1:1 conversation? That it didn't work well seems like something that would be known in advance, and so the choice of doing it this way feels more like grandstanding on the part of KS.

Not saying Twitter doesn't have problems, just that this seems to be an interview constructed to support a narrative right from the start.

> I am going to start a NEW thread to make it easy for people to follow (@waltmossberg just texted me that it is a “chaotic hellpit”)

It is interesting that this discussion on Twitter about discussions on Twitter ended up being a disorganized mess. It illustrates the problem with Twitter so well.

I consider Twitter a major step back in online discussion and sharing of ideas. It not just made that worse but it changed it in a qualitative way and it infected how people interact in other online communities and maybe in real life as well.

I call this process "twitterification of discourse". Short phrases, sarcastic quips, thrown back and forth are terrible way to build consensus, digest information and participate in meaningful discussions. It can be entertaining and give the poster a false sense of "victory" in "beating" an opponent but mostly just leads to sowing resentment and dividing people rather than bringing them together. "Oh I am a stupid idiot, for thinking this way. Well thank you, I appreciate your thoughtful comment and I'll reconsider my position" said nobody ever. Heck people might be well meaning in posting their short retort but the medium itself brings a coldness and negativity to it by its very nature.

Before this process was mostly happening in the media with talking heads spewing their positions quickly between commercial breaks. But now that has spread and everyone can talk and interact that way. Isn't it great!

Another insidious aspect of "twitterification of discourse" is that it cements people's positions. Once they promote some cause or state some opinions for everyone to see, but then later find out they have been wrong or misled, it becomes much harder to change their position because well their posts were there for everyone to see and now they are judged as hypocrites for example.

Just look at bash.org

Short, terse comments are not new. The systemic factors that cause it are somewhat different for twitter. But it's not a new occurrence.

Every interview I've seen with jack lately (BS podcast, a couple written profiles + snippets of this conversation) mention a whole ton of changes and fixes and improvements, but twitter remains the cesspool it's been for years.

It would be nice if he gave a publicly accountable timeline with actual consequences for failure.

Am I the only one deeply surprised by how badly executed this thing was?

I mean, what was it?

Was it a test?

Then why make it so public and high profile?

I mean; what the heck was Jack thinking? The whole thing was a confusing mess that at best will be forgotten.

It's very strange to see a CEO of a 11 digit public company put something out there like that.

This whole conversation was the result of a cop out by Jack to avoid being interviewed by Kara on air. I'm a bit surprised because he's gone on her show / platforms before and even Zuckerberg interviewed with her after the 2016 and Cambridge scandals.

Twitter has this public utility value: a place where you can get updates on air quality during a wildfire, when the official agency websites are buckling under the traffic.

Some report having good experiences by following a very selective group of people with shared interests.

But it’s interesting that both Facebook and Twitter evolved into these negative, emotional, politically charged, environments when they moved from a chronological list of updates from your curated set of friends and followers, to an algorithmic one that shuffles in “popular” content.

It’s hard to have a nuanced conversation in a noisy stadium. Much easier to chant along with the crowd.

> But it’s interesting that both Facebook and Twitter evolved into these negative, emotional, politically charged, environments when they moved from a chronological list of updates from your curated set of friends and followers, to an algorithmic one that shuffles in “popular” content.

Because that's where the money is? fake outrage, drama, division and negativity. Reddit is no different. People love dirty laundry and scandals. These social media are the new tabloids, you know, the magazines nobody buys but everybody reads...

> It’s hard to have a nuanced conversation in a noisy stadium. Much easier to chant along with the crowd.

True. I wonder how many are actually looking for a conversation. I use it regularly. I occasionally reply to some tweets. Most of the time I just scroll, like and retweet :)

> Despite the public interview, and a dedicated hashtag (#karajack) for the event, it didn’t take long before the dozens of tweets between the two started to get confusing. They were listed out of order,

I would have liked to make a higher effort post about twitter's UX, but if you want a platform that lets conversations happen, is there anything more important than this? They've done work to privilege the OP's responses, but giving one party that ability would seem even worse for conversation.

Is there a Twitter client / UI that presents threads (with all their replies) on one page with indentation / nesting, i.e. like HN / Reddit?

I think this is what you are talking about:


I don't see any nesting or indentation there; or, for that matter, even replies from other people. It seems to convert ... something ... into a wall of text.

I've always found Twitter to be a bit of a mess. Spam bots everywhere, and not a single cohesive line of thought that I can tune into. It feels unstructured and utterly disjointed, and whenever I'm forced to go on there, I can't wait to leave.

I wonder if they just pay famous people to use it and others follow?!

Is analogous to trying to start conversations on YouTube using video. Twitter wasn’t meant for that, yet. Is more of a post-commenting system, with potential for response, see Elon Musks tweets. No way can have a conversation longer than 2-3 responses before people fall off

Twitter was never designed to be a conversation platform. It's like trying to make a boat fly.

I use Twitter a lot and I still don't understand how to view the damn comments to a tweet. The obvious button just prompts me with a form. I need to click on the date or something to see the thread. It's so obscure I don't even remember.

I was never under the impression that conversation was a thing Twitter was supposed to do. It is more like a blog than a chat client.

I don't think anyone would complain that making blog updates in Slack via pinned messages is difficult.

Twitter's whole experience is convoluted and it feels like either the developers didn't want to update the UI or were unable to, so features like DMs are handled through highly context sensitive means.

I've always considered Twitter an excellent platform for shouting into the void, but I can't imagine anyone would even consider having a conversation there.

I dislike Twitter but this article is pretty sensationalist. Too much emphasis on the petty complaints. The actual "conversation" was fine.

Why would you try to have a conversation on Twitter? Twitter is about commenting on someone else's stream of consciousness. That's it.

This seems like an A/B test to find out if there is enough demand to open up twitter or improve twitter for some specific purposes.

I had thought threaded discussions were solved, pre modern internet era, pre-slashdot even, by Usenet clients like rn...

I always found "wanting to have a conversation via twitter" a laughable concept, to be honest.

It's hard to watch videos over email, too...

Twitter needs a full time CEO.

The real question is why would anyone even try to have a conversation on twitter?

Journalism is broken.

Only because it largely sourced its news based on Tweets and Twitter trends. They went for cheap then they are surprised people don't want to pay for glorified tabloids?

Journalism is broken because journalism is overrun by highly biased and agenda driven ideologues like kara swisher.


She epitomizes everything wrong with journalism today. It's not about truth, facts or news. It's about ideology.

Hopefully it's a temporary phase and things will get better.

are they talking about private conversations in public?

funny, in the recent sam harris interview, jack just couldn‘t get enough of highlighting how twitter enables „conversations“.

> Swisher’s questions about Twitter’s complex abuse policies, and Dorsey’s subsequent responses, were floating around my timeline along with the regular tech news and opinions I always look at.

Ha! I need to see this episode of Silicon Valley

(Checks Twitter) (Finds bots arguing “a man is a man and a woman is a woman”) (Deletes Twitter)

Twitter is no more suitable to having conversations than SMS are.

This is a case of trying to force a use case on a platform that isn't designed for it.

Edit: It's getting very tiring to receive downvotes at every comment.

SMS can be chained seamlessly to form longer messages. SMS is frequently between two parties, twitter is the opposite. I'd say SMS is very good for (asynch electronic) conversations between two people, twitter for one-way short thoughts that are fire-and-forget.

But then, can we really call it a conversation when potentially twitter user base is included in the event? It's more like lotsa people on a town square, shouting. Including the town idiots.

Agreed, but showing messages in order? That's doable isn't it?

I'd be annoyed if my text messages started displaying out of order.

This still happens today - actually I get a lot of dropped and reordered messages in a very well covered area. People don't realize it because a lot of the time we unconsciously design our text messages to be disposable.

The only reason I know is because I'm going through a big project and the big stakeholders are frequently communicating via text messages as well as phone and email. I've considered moving us to WhatsApp but we're nearing the end so its not that annoying, we just know to use it less.

Used to happen to me all the time around 2007. And yes it was very annoying.

Mine do on a regular basis on my iPhone. And "annoyed" doesn't even begin to touch it.

I think only Reddit has mastered the large-scale discussion involving thousands or ten of thousands of people at the same time.

Eh, maybe for people who've been using it for years. When celebrities do AMAs without guidance by experienced users, they constantly reply to the wrong threads or even the thread itself. Formatting being hard (e.g. you have to press enter two times to do a single line break) also doesn't help.

Markdown is the worst kind of formatting except for all the others.

I literally don't know how to write a sentence with more than one asterisk in on HN, and I've been here several years. Formatting is hard but Reddit at least follows a known standard and has a "formatting help" link right under the comment box if you need it.

And yet something as basic as a preview is missing. Reddit's community-driven browser plugin ([0]) at least adds that, HN's counterpart [1] sorely needs it.


Come to think of it, is there a definitive guide to HN comment formatting? Implementing a preview feature in [1] would be doable if the markup is documented.

[0]: https://redditenhancementsuite.com/

[1]: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hacker-news-enhanc...


It's hidden behind the FAQ.

Or you could, you know, gasp, have a visual editor usable by 99% of the world's population, on Reddit.

This is a solved problem. Word solved it back in 1990.

When has there been a visual editor that wasn't awful?

Despite the widespread techie comments against it, I've always found Word to be perfectly usable. I could always do my job with it, with minimal fuss.

Regarding rich text editors for the web, surely there must be one that's ok after all these years.

I don't tend to agree with this, the biggest issue with Markdown is pretty much the double newline, and it only makes sense in places like email where you want single newlines ignored. On Reddit/HN where nobody writes comments with hard newlines unless they mean to change paragraphs, that feature could have been omitted.

I prefer 4chan's system with automatic reply linking. The issue with Reddit and HN is they model conversation as a tree, but real written conversation between several people is usually a DAG with one person replying to several posts at once. The UI can definitely be improved, but trees ain't it.

Agreed, it’s so much better. Just being able to reply to two people at once is incredible.

You're downvoted, but I tend to agree. Regardless of the community, reddit's full-width, compact layout is the easiest way I've found to follow a tree-based conversation.

The one thing that reddit and Hacker News lack is the ability to easily see new posts on an existing thread (though you can get this with a reddit gold subscription or becoming a moderator). The other thing they lack is an index of comments (like you would see with a mail reader).

Those two features made something like usenet with a good news reader easier to use compared to reddit or Hacker News.

Reddit does have that, although I'm not sure how an index of comments would be useful... What would they be indexed by?

I agree that Usenet is fantastic for discussion, too bad it fell out of popularity...

> I'm not sure how an index of comments would be useful... What would they be indexed by?

By index, I mean a threaded list of messages that one can scroll through without having the message body present. In an email/news client, you would typically see something like:

  Subject   Some Author  Date
    Re: Subject  Another Author  Date
      Re: Subject  A third Author  Date
    Re: Subject  A fourth Author  Date
    Re: Subject  A fifth Author  Date
      Re: Subject  Some Author  Date
in one window pane. Then you could click on one of the the messages and the body would be displayed in another window pane. Scrolling through that index is much faster than having to scroll through a lot of comments on reddit or Hacker News. And finding a new message was simply looking for ones that were in bold font.

Ah I see, you mean a newsgroup-style tree. With comment collapsing, I never missed that, but to each their own.

Hacker news does some parts of that better, like promoting new comments higher. On reddit, a new comment is unlikely to be visible enough to get traction.

Usenet did that long before reddit came around.

Usenet achieved this in the 80's and 90's.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact