Last night and today, half of Twitter employees were fired by the new owner of the company, Elon Musk. Almost 3,800 people without a job because of no fault of theirs. They were doing good, meaningful work. While there surely was some fat at the company, as is the case at any company this size, I don’t think Musk went about it with any real thought process business-wise. If he did, it would have taken a few more months to analyze the value of the various products and teams before he could make a decision.
Anyway, this post is not about the layoffs. I started losing interest in Twitter as a community when Elon finally took it over. It is because he believes that everyone should be heard and that is what he describes as free speech. To him, letting anti-vaxxers say what they want to say is equally important as doctors and medical professionals saying why vaccines are important. Where will he draw the line? Is a Holocaust denier’s voice important to be heard? What about a racist? White supremacist?
Bottom line, I can see Twitter becoming more noise and much lesser signal. So I started thinking where else can I go to get a similar experience, and realized there is really nothing that satisfies what I love about Twitter (besides making genuine friends, even if they are online-only although some are also friends IRL).
So what is it that I like about Twitter that makes me somewhat of an addict? It’s not doomscrolling. It’s not idle surfing which is what I used to do with Facebook when I was active Facebook user. It is a combination of:
- Freshness: I often see stuff on Twitter way before it hits a news publication’s website. Also, it combines multiple parts of my interests into a single feed so I don’t have to whack 15 different moles when news breaks. Sports, entertainment, politics, health and wellness, etc. all in a single feed refreshed 24×7.
- Curation: Over the many years I have been on Twitter I have been very selective about whom I follow. I use Twitter Lists a lot and that’s where a lot of “others” get shoved, but my main feed is very limited so I can see a lot of what they tweet vs the main feed being a giant firehose of information. By selecting people and companies that I have an interest in, I know I get most of what I need surfaced through them directly and indirectly (their retweets and quote tweets). Rarely do I see something that I should have known that I found out elsewhere vs my feed. Very rarely. (Thank you to the people I follow, you make my experience worth the while!)
- Discovery: My recent jobs/positions have made it possible for me to consume Twitter voraciously even during the day. As a result, I see many tweets and as a result, Twitter has replaced my RSS reader for many years now. What I used to do in my RSS reader was discover new content and potentially share it with the world and now that experience is reduced to a single platform.
- Access: Thanks to the popularity and “communication protocol” nature of Twitter, everyone is on Twitter. This has made it possible to be one tweet away from the biggest personalities whether they are celebrities in entertainment or CEOs of companies or founders and financiers of innovative companies. I love that many of them engage with their community on Twitter. I am not sure if this could have been possible if Twitter weren’t the medium it is today.
- Customer support: Often, customer support provided by companies on Twitter is faster and better and more direct than what they provide on the phone or online chat. Some companies have truly done this justice and one example of this is Comcast. Even though it is common to mock the company and their service, I have only had good experience with them on Twitter for sales support as well as technical support.
This combination of benefits is a killer. I am not sure if there is anything that can come close to this experience. There are some promising platforms like Mastodon but I will wait and see if they gain enough of a critical mass. I did the switch a few years ago from WhatsApp to Signal when there was this move regarding privacy policies at Meta but realized quickly that most people I’d like to chat with were not on Signal and stuck around on WhatsApp.
There are other services which provide some parts of this overall experience but fail because they don’t provide the others – Slack, Discord, etc. have good community features but I think they are meant to be more like BBS’s than a Town Square. Which means the community will be limited by design.
It’s kind of ironic but Google+ would have been a great alternative to Twitter – it had a community of all GMail users, it had a feed although it was more algorithmic vs chronological as I remember but I may be wrong, it had Reader built into it for discovery aspects and I am sure if it gained enough momentum, companies would come to it and start providing customer support too.
With all that said, I am not leaving Twitter as yet, but if things devolve and Musk keeps giving the nutjobs an equal presence on the platform, I would be willing to disappear from there and rely on multiple tools to satisfy my needs.
So, what’s a good RSS reader these days? What’s a good public-y Discord server? Any Mastodon fans? What’s a good starting point? 🙂