Image credit: DALL-E 2 (Twitter symbol burning with a lonely man watching + variation on one of the generated images)

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? 🙂


Wow, how misguided and ignorant can someone be?

(I must admit, I took this MG Siegler set of posts a little bit too seriously. I had sworn off that guy, but since his nonsense was being discussed by others I follow on twitter, I had to peek.)

First issue I have is why is he concerned that Microsoft actually updated the OS after RTM and before GA? It is a *great* thing, as I said on twitter. Not sure why it is being spun as a negative.

Second, after Ed Bott brings it up and appropriately schools him on how Windows works within the OEM ecosystem, MG goes out and shoots himself in the foot by arguing (like a kid, nonetheless) that OS X was only updated after it became generally available to the public. Well, that is bad, isn’t it? That would mean Apple let a buggy OS out to the masses and only fixed issues a month or so later.

Oh, and that nonsense about calling Ed an “Apple malware blogger”? Sigh. More childishness.

As my friend Amir pointed out on twitter, Highlight is not going to be considered magical anytime soon and is nowhere near the Square atmosphere 🙂

Could this household be done with the iPad?

As you may or may not know, we just relocated from the US to Bangalore. While we wait for our stuff to come (shipped by sea), we are living a somewhat nomadic life. The latest temporary residence happens to be a decent hotel, but before that we spent a few days in a guest house and before that, with my uncle and aunt.

For the past week or so, for one reason or the other, both our iPads have not come out of the suitcase. The kids have started going to school so they don’t need entertainment during the day, there was no wifi at the guest house earlier, and there is good wifi here in the hotel but we have a PC that we use a lot and for quick email triage and Facebook/Twitter/ADN, I end up using my phone more than anything else.

As a result, not only have the iPad not been used, more importantly, they have not been missed. We have not once felt like we would rather use the iPad. The kids used to play random games (dress up Barbie or restaurant manager are current favorites) but they have the TV to entertain them after the come from school. For the past several months I have noticed that my use of the iPad has strictly been Twitter, Facebook and the browser. Between the phone and the laptop, I haven’t needed to get the iPad for any of those uses.

This could very well be because we are not settled into “our house” yet. In other words, if the iPad were there on the coffee table, we would of course pick it up than open the laptop. However, I am seriously thinking, if instead of a laptop, I had a Windows RT “device”, I would be absolutely ok and in fact would prefer it. That would take care of the thin-and-light thing that is lying around on the coffee table, and also fits well as a “better computer” than the iPad when hooked to the dock at the desk. So that casual Excel or Word files that I may need to edit on-the-go, can actually be done without fumbling with pinching and zooming to no end.

The kids have enough “entertainment” options outside of the iPad, and even today, there are plenty of games and game-like apps in the Windows Store to keep them busy (and educated at the same time) so they won’t miss the iPad.

There you have it. I am ready to get a Surface RT to replace my iPad 2. At least one of the two that I own.

Priyanka Chopra conducts the “Blown Away by Lumia” competition

If you are not aware of the “Blown Away by Lumia” contest, it is the Nokia’s version of “Smoked By Windows Phone” contest started by Ben Rudolph of Microsoft, at the 2012 Consumer Electornics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Nokia took that contest global, and here are some videos of former Miss World Priyanka Chopra competing with challengers with various smartphones and beating them. Quite cool, although she comes off as a bit too chirpy.

Plex for Windows Phone is out

Plex, the “media center” software application built for a multitude of devices, has a Windows Phone app now. They wrote up a blog post about it and while I am excited that there is a WP7 app now, it was heartening to see the praise they had for WP7 both from a user’s perspective as well as from a developer’s perspective.

There are so many gems in that post, I felt compelled to not only write this blog post, but highlight a bunch of the gems from the post:

Android phones never managed to capture my interest. They just looked and felt like bad photocopies of the iPhone, and didn’t offer anything new I was interested in, like the ability to install a custom theme that looked even uglier than the default, or download torrents on my phone, or play a Matrix animation in the background, or remove my battery, or spend time killing random processes, or over-clock my CPU, or any other beardy sort of thing.

Fast-forward to this January, I ordered a second hand Samsung device to help with development, and promptly fell in love with it.

As much as Android felt like (poorly) recycled ideas and bad new ones, Windows Phone felt original, well designed, and fun to use.

The performance was great, really smooth in a way iOS is and Android isn’t even in ICS.

[Ice Cream Sandwich, or Android 4.0, from a Windows Phone User’s Perspective (my Techie Buzz post from earlier)]

The “pivot” and “panorama” UI concepts were fresh and a great way of making good use of a small screen in portrait mode. The typography was clean and brazen.

The integration of Facebook and Twitter made them feel like first class citizens, not an afterthought.

The live tiles on the home screen were a great way to make the phone feel alive.

But the iPhone felt staid, for lack of a better word. I wanted to be able to pin a few email folders to my home screen and watch them update live. I wanted to see all my social updates in a more integrated way. I missed being able to go to a contact (which I could also pin to my home screen), and easily see the conversations (Facebook, or SMS) I was having with them, and recent photos they’d uploaded.

The iOS development environment is quite good, with the weakest link being Objective-C, which has a steep learning curve and feels like it stepped out of the 80s with a cocaine hangover.

Android, oh, Android, I don’t mean to pick on you once again, but your edit-build-deploy cycle is long enough to make a grown man cry, and then stab himself in the eyeballs, and then cry some more. Java is fine, but the surrounding environment and piss-poor emulator makes it much harder to develop for than it should be.

So how is the Windows Phone development environment? It’s scary good. C# is a great language, .NET is a solid framework, XAML is a really nice way to design user interfaces, and the edit-build-deploy cycle is fast.

We were able to write the [WP7] app from start to finish in two months, between two engineers working part time, which is almost an order of magnitude faster than it took for the iOS and Android app.

Related (linked to from the blog post):

My last thought on Windows Phone is that it’s got all the ingredients it needs to be successful: It’s a fun, useful, well-designed platform, with sexy (Nokia) hardware, and it’s as good for developers as it is for users. It deserves much more marketshare than it has, and Microsoft seems to be making most of the right moves (about time).

Since I use WP7 all day and follow a bunch of WP7 developers on twitter, I am very well aware of all these benefits. I am glad the folks at Plex thought of putting all these thoughts on their blog.

Hope to see many others release their WP7 apps. Are you listening, Instagram?

Windows Phone and iOS pound Android in PCMag’s Readers’ Choice Awards

Wow. Just wow. PCMag’s Sascha Segan just tweeted some astounding results from their Readers’ Choice Awards for smartphone OSes:

As you can see, I was a bit skeptical about the Android bit because Verizon Wireless, especially, has sold a ton of Android phones, of all shapes and sizes. Turns out, Android owners don’t quite like their phones/OS. It’s not surprising, most Android phones start out cool (or “not iPhone”) but they deteriorate over time with battery issues, lags, etc.

Windows Phone and iOS on the other hand, have extremely high satisfaction rates, and it shows through these Readers’ Choice Awards. Another interesting thing, on AT&T, the Samsung Windows Phones rated higher than the iPhone. Whaaaa?

Regardless, as an unabashed fan of Windows Phone, I am delighted with this!

Microsoft’s @fxshaw signing off for the weekend