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Ask HN: Is Twitter Dead for Interesting Discussion?
18 points by thisisdallas 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments
I haven’t been on Twitter in several years because of the toxic nature. It seems like everything is now political or social commentary which usually goes, “I’m right you’re wrong”

Is that primarily the case in the startup world today? Is Twitter still a useful platform for reading about bootstrapping founders, new technologies, and interesting business related discussion?




I don't think it was ever a place for interesting discussions. It's not what it was made for, and attempts to shoe horn them in are always awkward with paged tweets of the /1 /2 /3 variety, and threaded conversations significantly more awkward.

Quick notes, maybe with a link to something deeper, brief comments on something... It's never been any good at much else. Even leaving aside toxicity and trolls, it's simply not build for discussion.


I wanted to use Twitter to follow researchers in my area (machine learning), but despite heavy moderating from my side, I was never able to make it work. Non-relevant posts (this is a movie/game I like! this is happening in my personal life!), political stuff, random thoughts. On the other hand, when something interesting is written, it is retweetted by 20 people and Twitter can not bundle these together. But what's even more depressing, there is no other way of keeping up with some top-notch institutions and individuals. It's actually kinda crazy that this is what we got after 20 years of Web, completely useless tool.


It's very much as if people are slowly being introduced to the idea of a .plan file (though with more centralization).

They don't have decades of experience getting bored with poorly-organized thoughts, it's all new. And the algorithm and interface hide the simplicity of their communications, making it into a product they have to take or leave, rather than a process we can tweak to our desires.


Inverting the question might be more useful:

- What are the characteristics of interesting discussion?

- What are the requirements necessary to meet those characteristics?

The DL;DR: is that conversation is hard, and it scales poorly. Twitter meets the fundamental requirements poorly. As to most technological platforms.

The underlying question and problem is the one that philosophers have tried to address for millennia, in particular the distinction between the philosophers and the sophists (dialectics and rhetoric). Twitter is principally a rhetorical channel.

I think it's Juergen Habermas who has done some work on participative democracy / group truth-seeking, though I've been at a loss for the specific reference or terminology, or even if he's the key figure in the movement. That said, there are domains, particularly truth-and-reconciliation movements, which also apply similar principles.

If you're looking for informed expertise, some level of reputation, garbage collection, and gatekeeping is required. Soft methods work better than hard ones (see HN's own moderation policies and practices for an excellent example). Ungated forums tend toward noise.

The flipside is that gated forums tend toward groupthink and self-selection mechnisms, typically favouring conformity over correctness or truth value.

And there are other goals of various communities. There's story-telling, community-building, support and encouragement, entertainment, teaching, demonstrating capabilities (and its flipside: "virtue signalling" or "alliegience signalling").

My best results have been with smaller groups of reasonably-well selected people. Anything much over 50 people seems to fall apart fairly quickly. HN itself isn't perfect, but among larger forums is among the best I'm aware of, and has been for over a decade, whcih is a remarkable record.

Communications turns out to be complicated. Especially between people.


Twitters sweet spot is for keeping up and reacting to live events.

It’s probably a must for journalists and activists. And the “reacting to live events” ramps up the anxiety, and necessarily dials back thoughtful, reflective conversation.


An interesting conversation involves listening and responding in ways that highlight important insights and help us all explore the subject.

I used to do that on Twitter. But conversations on Twitter are a lot like management by pure consensus— one person can ruin the dynamic by deciding a subject is not fit for discussion or by being unable to comprehend the subtleties of the topic.

So, to avoid flame wars, I rarely try to have an adult conversation on Twitter, anymore. And when I do I usually end up muting or blocking some random sod who got in over his head.


Interesting discussion (IME) has been unavailable there for a while (though I admit I sometimes enjoy the trolling and putdowns, it's very much not what you're after I suspect.)

Where it shines is quick access to reporting within particular spheres, by following journalists and news junkies, or by searching items with links, within your topic of interest. Discovery of communities of interest by the obvious means also works reasonably well (again, IME).

Unquestionably almost all links to reporting are posted with some agenda, even if it's just the simple agenda of a news org trying to get readers, but as a source of fresh links to interesting stuff it's probably the premier resource, when used appropriately.

Occasionally, if you follow politics (or indeed app store drama) tweets are themselves news, but that is the exception in twitter interest as far as I'm concerned.


Twitter confuses the hell out of me. Always has. The "thread" is very difficult for me to follow, so I never understood how anyone ever has discussions of any depth on it.

The other thing that really confuses me is the tribal aspect of it. I recently noticed a string of tweets/replies where a user of race A replied to user of race B (in agreement) and was rudely told by another of user of race A to get out of "our discussion". Which is really strange to me, since the primary use case seems to be aimed at having wide-open inclusive discussions, but there's a huge segment of the userbase that seems to treat it more like leaving the backdoor unlocked so they can shoot anyone who "breaks in".


I've found that using Twitter was more trouble than it's worth. Even when I filtered out as many keywords as I could, my feed was just filled with sad or inflammatory content. With their character limit, insightful discussion is basically DOA. I'd recommend sticking to niche forums for this kinda stuff: they might not be as large, but these communities are oftentimes much more dedicated to their field. There's no "I'm right you're wrong" because other people are there to hold them accountable.


A platform with 100 million users isn't going to be entirely political and social commentary, nor is it the case that all political and social commentary is toxic. Twitter is a vast and diverse ecosystem with plenty of interesting people, conversations and content. The same is actually true for all of the big social media platforms, despite what HN contrarians would tell you.

Twitter gives you a lot of fine-grained tools for curating your feed and you have to use them.


Math twitter is consistently happy and good. People just ask questions and answer them in a helpful way and post coffee selfies. Also, vintage hardware twitter is nice.


Why worry? If you’ve gone this long without it, you’re not missing out on anything.

Ignoring the potential utility Twitter can offer, the quality of “discussions” hasn’t improved one iota over the years. IMO no one could argue in good faith that the culture is better in 2021 than it was in 2011


> IMO no one could argue in good faith that the culture is better in 2021 than it was in 2011

I wouldn't say "better". There's still just as much animosity. More like the division has shifted and those that say it's better no longer find themselves on the line.


My twitter is about 90% writers, mostly fiction. I find it pleasant and informative. I did alot of cleanup to get there. I do sometimes run into Awful Twitter clicking through from news stories and blogs, so I can see that not everyone's experience is the same.


Drives me crazy reading discussions or long "posts" on Twitter - who in their right mind uses such a platform for such things? We have links. Post a link to a proper web page.


I use twitter via RSS feed in inoreader only. Looking at it naked is too confusing but consuming it via twitter is manageable as it allows you to see the whole tweet on a single line.


No. Try Muting keywords that are common to the discussion you don't like.

I don't like twitter takes on politics so I mute words around politics.


Twitter is the outrage mob distilled in 140 characters. (now 280 but it didn't change anything)

There is very little of value on twitter and if it disappeared tomorrow I don't think most people would notice or care. It's the niche communities that provide value, like the AnandTech forum members cataloging m.2 usb enclosures.


Short answer: Yes

Long answer: Only follow accounts with small numbers of followers, and you'll find the discussion is a lot more worthwhile




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