Category Archives: Twitter

Is it OK to be 420 friendly on main?

It's 4/20 baby!!! It's Saturday, you're lit, brain perfectly calibrated to toasted, sparking your joy, blowing smoke rings so on point it feels criminal not to share on your Instagram story.

But something stops you from posting. And it probably sounds like the voice of your D.A.R.E. teacher yelling about how posting pictures of pot online can get you arrested and ruin your career.

"Even if you just post one picture, it comes back," said Anjela, who is very much not a D.A.R.E. teacher. Preferring to keep her full name separate from her online weed-sona, she's better known as Koala Puffs, a weedfluencer with over half a million Instagram followers.  Read more...

More about Twitter, Marijuana, Culture, Elon Musk, and Social Media

Rod Rosenstein stares blankly into the distance at Mueller report press conference

Attorney general William Barr held a press conference Thursday morning to discuss the long-awaited Mueller report, a move which has been criticized by Democrats as unnecessary and "inappropriate." Next to him stood deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who spent most of the conference staring intensely into the middle distance.

Remember when Chris Christie stood next to Trump during a rally and looked like he'd just woken up on a submarine to hell? This was kind of like that. Several people made "Sound of Silence" jokes.

madame tousseau's new rod rosenstein figure looks pretty lifelike

— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) April 18, 2019

More about Twitter, Social Media, Rod Rosenstein, Mueller Report, and Culture

Jack Dorsey’s getting dunked on for his unkempt look at TED 2019

Congrats to Jack Dorsey for, once again, becoming a meme on his own platform.

The Twitter CEO made an appearance at TED 2019 in Vancouver this week wearing what I assume is his favorite black beanie. The beanie is very large — larger than most beanies — and covers his ears fully. His bangs protrude from the hat at an angle, as if he were a sentient MySpace photo. It is all so weird.

And from this weirdness emerged a particularly good genre of Twitter meme: A meme that dunks on the person who came up with Twitter. People have roasted Dorsey's disheveled appearance before, and a lot of the same observations came up this time around — particularly the idea that only a man could get away with looking like a Lord of the Rings character who got too drunk and woke up in Silicon Valley. Read more...

More about Twitter, Jack Dorsey, Social Media, Ted 2019, and Culture

Jack Dorsey says it’s time to rethink the fundamental dynamics of Twitter

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took the stage today at the TED conference. But instead of giving the standard talk, he answered questions from TED’s Chris Anderson and Whitney Pennington Rodgers.

For most of the interview, Dorsey outlined steps that Twitter has taken to combat abuse and misinformation, but Anderson explained why the company’s critics sometimes find those steps so insufficient and unsatisfying. He compared Twitter to the Titanic, and Dorsey to the captain, listening to passengers’ concerns about the iceberg up ahead — then going back to the bridge and showing “this extraordinary calm.”

“It’s democracy at stake, it’s our culture at stake,” Anderson said, echoing points made yesterday in a talk by journalist Carole Cadwalladr. So why isn’t Twitter addressing these issues with more urgency?

“We are working as quickly as we can, but quickness will not get the job done,” Dorsey replied. “It’s focus, it’s prioritization, it’s understanding the fundamentals of the network.”

He also argued that while Twitter could “do a bunch of superficial things to address the things you’re talking about,” that isn’t the real solution.

“We want the changes to last, and that means going really, really deep,” Dorsey said.

In his view, that means rethinking how Twitter incentivizes user behavior. He suggested that the service works best as an “interest-based network,” where you log in and see content relevant to your interests, no matter who posted it — rather than a network where everyone feels like they need to follow a bunch of other accounts, and then grow their follower numbers in turn.

Dorsey recalled that when the team was first building the service, it decided to make follower count “big and bold,” which naturally made people focus on it.

“Was that the right decision at the time? Probably not,” he said. “If I had to start the service again, I would not emphasize the follower count as much … I don’t think I would create ‘likes’ in the first place.”

Since he isn’t starting from scratch, Dorsey suggested that he’s trying to find ways to redesign Twitter to shift the “bias” away from accounts and towards interests.

More specifically, Rodgers asked about the frequent criticism that Twitter hasn’t found a way to consistently ban Nazis from the service.

“We have a situation right now where that term is used fairly loosely,” Dorsey said. “We just cannot take any one mention of that word accusing someone else as a factual indication of whether someone can be removed from the platform.”

He added that Twitter does remove users who are connected to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party, as well those who post hateful imagery or who are otherwise guilty of conduct that violates Twitter’s terms and conditions — terms that Dorsey said the company is rewriting to make them “human readable,” and to emphasize that fighting abuse and hateful content is the top priority.

“Our focus is on removing the burden of work from the victims,” Dorsey said.

He also pointed to efforts that Twitter has already announced to measure (and then improve) conversational health and to use machine learning to automatically detect abusive content. (The company said today that 38 percent of abusive content that Twitter takes action against is found proactively.)

And while Dorsey said he’s less interested in maximizing time spent on Twitter and more in maximizing “what people take away from it and what they want to learn from it,” Anderson suggested that Twitter may struggle with that goal since it’s a public company, with a business model based on advertising. Would Dorsey really be willing to see time spent on the service decrease, even if that means improving the conversation?

“More relevance means less time on the service, and that’s perfectly fine,” Dorsey said, adding that Twitter can still serve ads against relevant content.

In terms of how the company is currently measuring its success, Dorsey said it focuses primarily on daily active users, and secondly on “conversation chains — we want to incentivize healthy contributions back to the network.”

Getting back to Dorsey himself, Rodgers wondered whether serving as the CEO of two public companies (the other is Square) gives him enough time to solve these problems.

“My goal is to build a company that is not dependent upon me and outlives me,” he said. “The situation between the two companies and how my time is spent forces me immediately to create frameworks that are scalable, that are decentralized, that don’t require me being in every single detail … That is true of any organization that scales beyond the original founding moment.”

Twitter to launch a ‘hide replies’ feature, plus other changes to its reporting process

In February, Twitter confirmed its plans to launch a feature that would allow users to hide replies that they felt didn’t contribute to a conversation. Today, alongside news of other changes to the reporting process and its documentation, Twitter announced the new “Hide Replies” feature is set to launch in June.

Twitter says the feature will be an “experiment” — which means it could be changed or even scrapped, based on user feedback.

The feature is likely to spark some controversy, as it puts the original poster in control of which tweets appear in a conversation thread. This, potentially, could silence dissenting opinions or even fact-checked clarifications. But, on the flip side, the feature also means that people who enter conversations with plans to troll or make hateful remarks are more likely to see their posts tucked away out of view.

This, Twitter believes, could help encourage people to present their thoughts and opinions in a more polite and less abusive fashion, and shifts the balance of power back to the poster without an overcorrection. (For what it worth, Facebook and Instagram gives users far more control over their posts, as you can delete trolls’ comments entirely.)

“We already see people trying keep their conversations healthy by using block, mute, and report, but these tools don’t always address the issue. Block and mute only change the experience of the blocker, and report only works for the content that violates our policies,” explained Twitter’s PM of Health Michelle Yasmeen Haq earlier this year. “With this feature, the person who started a conversation could choose to hide replies to their tweets. The hidden replies would be viewable by others through a menu option.”

In other words, hidden responses aren’t being entirely silenced — just made more difficult to view, as displaying them would require an extra click.

Twitter unveiled its plans to launch the “Hide Replies” feature alongside a host of other changes it has in store for its platform, some of which it had previously announced.

It says, for example, it will add more notices within Twitter for clarity around tweets that breaks its rules but are allowed to remain on the site. This is, in part, a response to some users’ complaints around President Trump’s apparently rule-breaking tweets that aren’t taken down. Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde recently mentioned this change was in the works, in an interview with The Washington Post.

Twitter also says it will update its documentation around its Rules to be simpler to understand. And it will make it easier for people to share specifics when reporting tweets so Twitter can act more swiftly when user safety is a concern.

This latter change follows a recent controversy over how Twitter handled death threats against Rep. Ilhan Omar. Twitter left the death threats online so law enforcement could investigate, according to a BuzzFeed News report. But it raised questions as to how Twitter should handle threats against a user’s life.

More vaguely, Twitter states it’s improving its technology to help it proactively review content that breaks rules before it’s reported — specifically in the areas of those who dox users (tweet private information), make threats and other online abuse. The company didn’t clarify in depth how it’s approaching these problems, but it did acquire an anti-abuse technology provider Smyte last year, with the goal of better addressing the abuse on its platform.

Donald Hicks, VP Twitter Services, in a company blog post, hints Twitter is using its existing technology in new ways to address abuse:

The same technology we use to track spam, platform manipulation and other rule violations is helping us flag abusive Tweets to our team for review. With our focus on reviewing this type of content, we’ve also expanded our teams in key areas and geographies so we can stay ahead and work quickly to keep people safe. Reports give us valuable context and a strong signal that we should review content, but we’ve needed to do more and though still early on, this work is showing promise.

Twitter also today shared a handful of self-reported metrics that paint of picture of progress.

This includes the following: today, 38 percent of abusive content that’s enforced is handled proactively (note: much content still has no enforcement action taken, though); 16 percent fewer abuse reports after an interaction from an account the reporter doesn’t follow; 100K accounts suspended for returning to create new accounts during Jan. – March 2019, a 45 percent increase from the same time last year; a 60 percent faster response rates to appeals requests through its in-app appeal process, 3x more abusive accounts suspended within 24 hours, compared to the same time last year; and 2.5x more private info removed with its new reporting process. 

Despite Twitter’s attempts to solve issues around online abuse (an area people now wonder may never be solvable), it still drops the ball in handling what should be straightforward decisions.

Twitter admits it still has more to do, and will continue to share its progress in the future.

Janelle Monáe at Coachella will be your new friendship meme

Next time you'd like to support a friend in meme form (a vital part of any friendship), no need to pull out that Amy Poehler GIF from Mean Girls. 

Turn instead to Janelle Monáe, who had a great time in the audience at Lizzo's Coachella set on Sunday. She danced, she laughed, she wore cool sunglasses, she took videos like a stage mom — she really made the most of the experience.

People on Twitter latched on to the moment instantly. "We love a supportive friendship," wrote one user. Others applauded Monáe's choice to wear earplugs — responsible!  Read more...

More about Twitter, Music, Memes, Janelle Monae, and Social Media

Pete Buttigieg’s new influencer handbook is an extremely online way to campaign

Pete Buttigieg is taking online campaigning to a very 2019 level.

The South Bend mayor, who announced his official presidential bid on Sunday, understands the undeniable power of the internet, and he plans on using it to his full advantage.

Buttigieg, his husband Chasten, and their dogs Truman and Buddy, already have beloved Twitter presences, but the millennial mayor and his team took things a step further this weekend by releasing an entire set of digital assets, social media guidelines, and detailed explanations behind each of his visual campaign aesthetics so that influencers and fans can easily show him support online. Read more...

More about Twitter, Politics, Instagram, Social Media, and Influencers

Twitter is overrun with ‘celebs as things’ threads and it rules

Do you ever look at your favorite celebrity and think "candle?" 

If so, we invite you to log on to Twitter, which is currently full of "celebrities as everyday objects" threads. Want to see Ciara as Bath & Body Works candles? It's there. Chris Hemsworth as hammers? Makes sense — also there. Harry Styles as Fabergé eggs? Not there yet, but we imagine someone will make it soon. 

Naturally, the threads originated with Stan Twitter: The devotion to their faves is so strong that it makes sense they'd see them in things like coffee pots, sneakers, and, uh, bacteria. There are a lot of threads about Taylor Swift, in particular. (The Swifties reman incredibly powerful.) Read more...

More about Twitter, Social Media, Culture, Celebrities, and Web Culture

Twitter updates twttr prototype app with engagement swipes, conversation tweaks, better Dark mode and more

Twitter’s new prototyping app twttr, which it created to test and get feedback on new features — and new approaches to old features — has been out in the wild for a month. Now, with Twitter taking in the first wave of responses from users, twttr is getting an update. The move highlights how Twitter continues to chip away at ongoing criticism that it is too confusing for most people to use, which has impacted overall growth for the social media platform.

The latest version of twttr is a decent step ahead in that mission. Updates include: the introduction of a swiping gesture, specifically in conversations to like or reply to a Tweet; new labels in threads indicating who is the original poster and who you follow and improved visibility with dark mode. Ironically — even as Twitter has shifted to putting experimental features into twttr — the latter app is also getting an import of new features from the main Twitter app, which has been getting updates that had yet to be rolled out to the prototype app. These include new versions of the Twitter camera, dark mode and profile previews that keep you in your timeline.

Note: neither I nor any of my colleagues using twttr seem to have gotten this update yet ourselves. So I will “update” this post with screenshots when Twitter actually pushes it to one of us on Test Flight…

Overall, those who are using twttr say they prefer it to the official Twitter app, says Sara Haider, Twitter’s head of product. That likely means certain features are sticking enough in the prototype app that they will be making their way into the permanent Twitter experience. But what form that will ultimately take is still in play.

One of the big areas that is still seeing some changes are engagement buttons — that is, the options to “like” a Tweet with a heart, to reply to it, or to retweet.

These are a cornerstone of how Twitter is used, but they are also potentially distracting and add to the noise in an often chaotic experience, since timelines and potentially conversations are more or less constantly on the move.

In the new build of twttr, engagements do not appear by default. Instead, you get to them by way of a swipe to the left or right on a Tweet.

This is not exactly new: it’s an iteration of what we saw in the first major build of twttr. There, the engagement buttons were also hidden away completely in conversations, and they only appeared when you tapped on a Tweet to begin engagement.

But it seems that design decision got very mixed reviews, said Haider, who said that while it was easier to focus without the distraction of metrics, it also made it harder to like and retweet since it required an extra tap.

My guess is that it also resulted in less engagement, even among the power users who signed up test twttr in the first place — which is likely not the end result that Twitter (or its advertisers, or others who measure and rely on engagement metrics) would want.

Replacing that tap with a swipe brings twttr in line with one of the most popular gestures in app user interfaces today, since the small touchscreens of smartphones are natural surfaces this gesture to make quick responses. My guess is that we will see yet more changes in how gestures are used in Twitter overall, since in the main Twitter app, currently a swipe to the left brings up the Camera, while a swipe to the right gets you to your Profile page.

Haider also said that early feedback, from those using twttr in English and Japanese, included a clear endorsement of the new threaded layout for conversations. This made them “easier to follow” and let readers see more replies.

The layout collapses side-conversations that branch out from the main Tweet, giving you the option either of expanding them to see more replies by way of a “show more” button, or continuing to scroll to see more replies to the main Tweet without confusing the two.

But some had complained that in an especially noisy conversation, the “show more” buttons appeared too much, serving the exact opposite of their intention: they ended up distracting from the flow of conversation. And if you were using the “dark mode” that was running in twttr, it was hard to follow the shading on replies (something we also highlighted in our initial review of the new app).

These are now getting addressed with more nuanced shading on replies that appears more clearly in dark mode, and it also seems that Twitter will be playing with the number of “show more” buttons that are coming up in threads.

Another interesting addition brings to light something that Twitter had already been experimenting with in its original app, the appearance of labels for “original Tweeter” and to indicate who you follow, to better organise what you might want to see or know as the reader.

We first saw these tags appearing in January, and indeed, even as they were appearing for some users as part of a test on the main app, the twttr app rolled out without them. Now that’s changing.

Parity between Twitter and twttr is something of a theme here, since Twitter has also made some other changes to bring features in the latter up to date with newer changes in the main app. That includes adding in updated, Snapchat-like camera features; and more nuanced Dark Mode that includes a darker, battery-saving black and other customizations. You are now also able to see profile previews in twttr without navigating away from the flow of conversation (something Twitter has been testing in the main iOS app).

All in all, the picture that this paints for Twitter (and twttr) is that the app and wider platform still remain very much in flux. The company says that it will be “many months” before anything goes from test to full launch, which is no bad thing when you’re on a mission not just to grow usage, but to keep people around for longer.

I’m still waiting (but not holding my breath) to see how and if twttr gets used for other kinds of changes that transcend user interface — such as as changing the mechanics around how to report abuse and manage your overall content experience on the app.

As more people flock to Twitter to get their opinions heard, and Twitter continues to sign up third parties to bring in a wider range of media into the app, transforming not just the application of its mechanics, but the whole reason you may be using Twitter in the first place, there is a lot of work to do in both.

How the first picture of a black hole captures a big 2019 mood

For decades, pictures from space have forced humanity to reckon with our own cosmically small insignificance. But they have nothing on today's monumental first in space photography. 

The Event Horizon Telescope captured a phenomenon so mysterious, so literally awesome that, for many years, scientists believed it would be impossible to depict: a black hole. EHT's international group of astronomers revealed "a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun."

Our collective response to this historic discovery? It basically boiled down to "LOL, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯."  Read more...

More about Watercooler, Twitter, Nasa, Science, and Memes