I agree with the point of Dustin Curtis's Black Widow:
Twitter was built on the backs of the very developers it is now blocking. It now expects those developers to continue supporting Twitter by syndicating content into its platform, but it no longer wants to provide any value to developers in return.
(Though, I would have ended on "to those developers in return", as Twitter seems more than happy to have three of the four infamous quadrants do their thing; you know, the ones where the users of Twitter are the product being sold?)
But I had to object against the initial argument that Twitter's social graph outshines Facebook's, which was the stepping stone Dustin uses to get to his conclusion. I took to Branch to talk with Dustin about this a bit, but would like to elaborate here, in proper form.
Twitter has an enormous advantage over Facebook in one key area: while people on Facebook tend to friend their friends, people on Twitter tend to follow their interests.
There are many people and brands that I identify with, like or lean towards that I don't follow on Twitter. Why? Because following them on Twitter means putting up with their Tweets. Some of them are simply obnoxious retweeters, some are just noisy or irrelevant to my interests on any given day. But in many cases I like your album, but don't care what you had for breakfast. And because Twitter has no tools for me to manage this, relationships on Twitter remain binary, you either follow, or you don't. Mentions and hashtags provide some semblance of an expanded relationship metric, but it's almost impossible to get intent from a mention. Did I agree with this person? If I did, am I more likely to subscribe to O Magazine?
Contrast with Facebook. They know your age, your marital status, your family, your friends, your high school, college, current and previous places of work, who you most interact with, which locations you've checked into and with who, as well as which people you generally appear in photos with. And they have Likes. Universally scorned by the technorati, the Like button is a veritable stroke of genius, as a fire-and-forget way of defining who you are to the people who follow you. Show me a single Firefly fan who hasn't liked Firefly on Facebook, or a single Apple fan who hasn't liked Apple. Likes are a way for people to define themselves, and as such they are perfect for refining a social graph (where refining means "monetize").
And what's more, Facebook provides users with tools to filter their stream. Don't like a person? Mute them. Don't like a brand? Mute it. It's exceptionally simple. You can Like a band, yet not have their crap fill your stream needlessly.
Dustin countered in our Branch discussion that:
I only have one counterpoint to your response, but it's a really big one: Facebook ads are terrible. Every report about them is negative. They have horrific click-through rates. On the other hand, I've heard that Twitter ads are extremely effective. What does that say about the respective graphs?
To which I replied
Well, it's hard to say what it says about the graphs. It might just as well say something about the complexity of Facebook's site vs the simplicity of a tweet stream. Or it might say something about the business intelligence team at Facebook vs the one at Twitter. Or the audience. It could be any number of things really.
More data is more data. What you do with that data, and who your advertisers are is as important as the kind of data you have access to. Personally I find that all ads are terrible, and I can't remember the last time I clicked one; but then again maybe our ilk are no longer a target audience worth bothering with?
In any case, if I may be so bold for a moment, I find the tendency to bolster arguments, ill-conceived or not, with unverified factoids a dangerous path to go down. Rumors mills abound in the tech world as it is, so when I see something like this:
This is why it has been shown that the vast majority of Twitter users who sign up never tweet, even though a huge number of those people view their feed often.
I instantly have my inner judge strike it from the record, because it amounts to nothing but hearsay. Where's the source? What's the evidence? I think it's right, but where the evidence to back it up? Twitter thinking of itself as a broadcast medium certainly rings true following their recent insanity. But asserting it — and this becomes more true the bigger your bullhorn is — without backing it up? No bueno.
There's a film, it's called 5-25-77 and it's by this guy, Patrick Read Johnson. And it's been gathering dust for years because studios don't believe in it. But I do, and I've wanted to see it since the moment I saw the magnificient trailer, which to this day brings a little tear of nostalgia to my eye. I've talked about it many times, and I even wrote Patrick several times, because that's how obnoxious I am about this film.
You know who helped produce this film? Gary Kurtz. That's right. Gary 'I made Star Wars awesome' Kurtz. If he believes in this film, so can you.
I don't ask you for much, except to get off my lawn. But, just this once, please, get out your wallet, and donate. Make this happen.
Maybe App.net will become something great, maybe it won't; I'm really fine either way. I don't want to leave Twitter as much as give it a wake up call, of the R. Lee Ermey variety.
For a company which has consistently reaped the benefits of its developer community to the extent as Twitter has, it seems completely ludicrous for it to then turn around and squash that self-same community without once thinking: "Hey, wait a minute, where is our innovation supposed to come from now?"
After all, while Twitter is filled to the brim with smart people, I can't quite figure out what they do. There have been great architecture improvements over the years; the fail whale is today an endangered species. But I don't mean to be an ass when I ask you to consider how rarely the desktop and iPad clients are updated, or when they last introduced a useful new feature…
The first desktop and mobile clients were third party, the @ mentions, the word 'tweet' was third party, #-tags and RT syntaxes were 'third party', search was bought from a third party if I'm not mistaken and the Twitter logo itself was first made for a third-party client!
If one were an ass, one might be tempted to ask if Twitter is even capable of innovation from inside its walls?
So I give my $50 to App.net not because I really want to use it over Twitter, but because I hope that it sends a message to a company which has completely lost its way.
Twitter User #11656
PS: How many hundreds of employees does it take to do something as stupidly simple as sync unread counts across clients?
A post in The Verge's forums recently went after Apple's retina displays, proclaiming that not only did Apple squander the retina display by simply providing too many pixels, thus draining the battery unnecessarily, but the Surface Pro was better and blah blah blah.
It's a thorough analysis in all but one small detail, namely the distance at which people use their mobile devices. Not only does he assert at what distance he assumes people use these devices (15-22"/38-55cm), he asserts that if you do anything else, "you look like an idiot".
Let me count the ways in which I look like an idiot:
- When I'm in bed, with the iPad resting on my chest, just around my nipples at less than 10", I look like an idiot.
- When I'm sitting at my desk, head in my hand with my iPad flat on the desktop, at about 12", I look like an idiot.
- When the iPad is in its dock on the kitchen counter and I'm leaning in to read a recipe, I look like an idiot.
- When I sit in my couch, with a pillow in my lap and the iPad on top of it, I look like an idiot.
- When I'm talking to my wife on FaceTime, and I pull the iPad closer because I miss her, I look like an idiot.
And so on…
Maybe I'm just an idiot who doesn't know how to use his iPad. On the other hand, maybe RobbCab should worry less about equations and more about real world usage?
A discussion about elitist online communities and platforms has taken flight, with some people growing increasingly concerned at the implications of online communities that aren't immediately available to anyone and everyone. It's simmered, but I first really picked it up when I read Anil Dash's post You Can’t Start the Revolution from the Country Club. I love Anil, he's a super smart guy, and I've followed him for many years. But he's wrong in asserting that services like Svbtle and App.net trend towards a larger non-egalitarianism. And that they form country club-like organizations, which once seeded with this elitist culture, will perpetuate it ad infinitum, causing a socio-economic rift in its user base and the inevitable mono-culture.
This discussion seems to stem from an insensitive, inarticulate and unthoughtful post on PandoDaily about App.net, which argued that the problem with Twitter was/is…
Everyone was allowed on, which is great, but at the same time, everyone was allowed in. As PandoDaily contributor Francisco Dao told me recently, every open system degrades over time, due to the quality of the incoming participants. (He also used the word “cockroaches,” but that’s a different story.)
The problem was never the people who started using Twitter, it was and continues to be, Twitter's inability to keep both new and old users happy at the same time.
Anil doesn't mention this article, letting the accusation fall on no one in particular, a space in which it's a little too easy to make up arguments. But he cites two other posts that essentially boil down to "white, well-educated people only want to hang out with other white, well-educated people, and it's a problem". Yet somehow in all of this hemming and hawing no one ever points out that the reason these services — in western markets — are seeded with white male techies, is probably because that is the overwhelming demographic markup of techies! They are mostly male. They are mostly white.
Ideal? Of course not! Should it change? Yes. But the arguments put forward conflate so many issues that it's almost irresponsible. Not to mention that even if the notion of non-free or closed services as 'country clubs' was agreeable, it's at most indicative of a symptom, not a cause. It might perpetuate the problem, but given Twitter's alienation of certain users, how is not building alternative a solution? It's not like App.net takes your race, color and creed before allowing you access; it simply asks you to pay for the service. It seems like an almost alien notion in today's world, that a company would have, gasp, a business plan. Here we are, so used to companies with free platforms flailing around while they try to monetize their popularity, until they inevitably settle on their users as their products. Yay open. Yay inclusion.
But worst of all is the comparison with 'the white flight'; a comparison which violently twists the words 'unwanted people' from 'trolls, spammers and jerks' into a socio-political-laden remark brimming with race and class implications.
Excuse me, but… what… the fuck?
PandoDaily's Trevor Gilbert completely misrepresents and then oversimplifies his misrepresentation of the problems facing Twitter in comparison to its early days, and from that a discussion about race and class is zapped into life like some grotesque Frankenstein creation?
I haven't heard a single person talking about App.net mentioning the population of Twitter as being the problem. It all comes down to their policy changes and continuing disregard for the needs of the tech crowd over the general population somewhere in-between leaving their apps to rot while crippling competitors, the dickbar, trending topics, degrading DMs and still (still!) not syncing mentions and DM unread counters. Different groups have different needs, and that the needs of tech nerds are different than those of Justin Bieber fans can come as a surprise to no one. Unless of course you're a writer for The Society Pages, a hammer to all the not-quite-but-almost nails of the world.
As I'm writing this, my Twitter stream is blowing up not with people complaining about other people on Twitter, but about Twitter itself. Why? Because these people, of whom I am one, helped build Twitter, and now Twitter has outgrown us and failed to provide the tools needed to interact with it in a meaningful way.
As for Svbtle, you may have reservations about its personality as a brand, but how is it different than any collection of writers be it old-fashioned publications or any of thousands of online magazines? It's specifically not an open community because it's not meant as an open community, and that is its defining quality. There is room for curation as much as there is room for mosh pits. You can point to Medium and say that they have something interesting going on with their liking system and seemingly open categories, but isn't it a little misguiding to post about the exclusion of people on a platform which at the moment just as exclusive as Svbtle? Or are you saying that you can stop a revolution from a country club?
Anil: But there’s an aesthetic and editorial sensibility that permeates any defined online community that is almost always inherited from its earliest dominant users, and once it’s established, it’s almost impossible to change.
Both Twitter and Facebook started out fundamentally different than what they are today, as did Tumblr and Flickr and any number of popular services, which is why we're having this discussion at all. Size dilutes. You can't state on the one hand that communities stay true to their seed, and then on the other that there's a 'white flight' because they don't. Which is it?
Beyond that, it's a massive fallacy that communities should be everything to everyone. The very word itself, community, stems from common, as in shared, as in 'this is what we share'. If you include everyone in your 'bottled ships club', it's unlikely to be about bottled ships for much longer, which really sucks if you just like to hang out and talk about how awesome bottled ships are and how best to make them.
One day perhaps, you'll get some sort of insightful blog post from me. But that day is not today!
"...he was convinced that there could be no living thing on that remote, forbidding planet.
AND STILL THEY COOOOOME!"
Of late, a lot of people have been pointing to Microsoft as the superior company when it comes to interface design, citing the mostly very smart Windows 7 and Windows 8. The problem is, not all interface design scales, and when you go very minimal, interfaces can lose any sense of tactility and make it hard to focus. Peter Bright of Ars Technica’s shot of Office 2013 highlights that the opposite of Apple’s current design aesthetic isn’t necessarily any better. Acres of white space lead the eye to flick all over the design, making it hard to focus on the content (which is the smallish box on the right, with “This is an inline reply” in it). It’s unclear which components are buttons and which are content areas. Worse, there’s no sense of warmth at all. This feels like an email client designed to appeal to people bereft of emotion. In short, it’s every bit as horrible as Apple’s worst UI design, just in a very different way.
As part of another follow-up discussion, Rian van der Merwe discusses the appropriateness of in-/visible design.
For years people have been telling me they just don't see what's so great about 'Citizen Kane.'" Now they tell me they just don't see what's so great about "Vertigo." My answer will remain the same: "You're insufficiently evolved as a moviegoer." Or, more simply, "You're wrong."
This remains one of the strangest things to come out of a Kubrick production. Though it's prominently featured as the first track on the official soundtrack, I don't know whether Kubrick himself had anything to do with it, though given his propensity for control, probably.
Stranger still, it became the #2 on UK pop charts. Uhm good.
Michael Herr, author of Dispatches, easily one of my all-time favorite books, worked with Kubrick on Full Metal Jacket. Soon after he passed away, Herr wrote Kubrick, a short but wonderful memoir of the man himself; this is the opening paragraph:
Stanley Kubrick was a friend of mine, insofar as people like Stanley have friends, and as if there are any people like Stanley now. Famously reclusive, as I'm sure you've heard, he was in fact a complete failure as a recluse, unless you believe that a recluse is simply someone who seldom leaves his house. Stanley saw a lot of people. Sometimes he even went out to see people, but not often, very rarely, hardly ever. Still he was one of the most gregarious men I ever knew, and it didn't change anything that most of this conviviality went on over the phone. He viewed the telephone the way Mao viewed warfare, as the instrument of a protracted offensive where control of the ground was critical and timing crucial, while time itself was meaningless, except as something to be kept on your side. An hour was nothing, mere overture, or opening move, a gambit, a small taste of his virtuosity. The writer Gustav Hasford claimed that he and Stanley were once on the phone for seven hours, and I went over three with him many times. I've been hearing about all the people who say they talked to Stanley on the last day of his life, and however many of them there were, I believe all of them.
— Michael Herr. Kubrick. Grove Press, 2000. Page 3.
As far as I'm concerned, it's the only book on Stanley Kubrick truly worth reading.
I've been involved with a lot of fantastic things for the new version of Squarespace, which launched last week. But the one I'm the proudest of is LayoutEngine, the component that makes it possible to easily create layouts for pages, blog posts or indeed any piece of the web. Check it out.
Needing to test a component in Internet Explorer 10, I spent some time with Windows 8 today, and boy, oh boy.
I have very little to say about IE10; it seems a capable browser, though that's what we said about every iteration of that accursed line of software for well over a decade. There's some sort of high brow Dante's Inferno reference with IE1-9 lining up with the nine circles of hell. For a moment I thought perhaps we had made it through to the other side, then I noticed the compatibility mode icon in IE10 and decided that we probably just found the secret level...
Whatever the case, what really bears mentioning is Metro, because, well, it's much worse than I thought.
I've long been a fan of Metro (it's great to see a genuinly original take on a new interface; right Android? Right?), but aside from the occasional stark design element feeling not so much modern as unstyled, the clash between Metro and the so-called desktop mode is like continually submerging your body in a nice warm bubble bath, only to immediately get up and jump into a tub of ice water, only to then get up and get back in the warm bubble bath, ad nauseum. You may prefer warm or cold, that's really irrelevant, the point is that you don't get to pick which one to stay in, which makes for a schizophrenic user experience at best, and at worst one of complete disoriention. Metro feels like a foreign concept on the desktop, having clearly been designed for touch only to be brutally Frankenstein'd on top of Windows, a mash-up which makes if nothing else is echoed very clearly in the newly announced Surface: Everything to everybody
And because Metro simply feels wrong on a desktop computer, I intuitively switch to desktop mode, only to find nothing where I would expect it. No Start button, no control panel, no nothing. I can't do anything! It took me a while to figure out that I had to press the Windows key, except that sends me back to Metro...
Now if Metro and desktop-mode had some sort of kinship, but there is no spill over, no shared DNA at all in fact. And that's half of the reason the switch is so jarring, with one stark, typographical and modern (for now), the other glass, blur, curves and traditional UI. Both are actually quite nice in their own right, but it simply doesn't feel like an OS, because really it's two.
This paralysis of choice is deeply endemic of Microsoft's design culture (or lack thereof), and doubly ironic because Microsoft's mantra for Windows 8 has been 'no compromises', which is exactly what Windows 8 is full of! It's reflected again in how applications like Internet Explorer 10 (and other, though not all of course) has two different clients that are as far from one another as night and day. And paralyzed by the very notion of drawing a line in the sand on behalf of its users, Microsoft has left it up to the user to figure out which is the best choice at any given moment, because hey, what if it's everything to everyone, all the time!?
It would, unfortunately it looks very much as if it'll be half of the thing to half of the people, half of the time.
Took a couple of years, but we finally have an answer to: "What's wrong with this picture!?"
On the grand stage in L.A., at the event that I've heard called the "Super Bowl of Video Games," the world's biggest video game publishers made clear at whom they would direct hundreds of millions of dollars of investment: Bloodthirsty, sex-starved teen males who'll high-five at a headshot and a free T-shirt.
Surveying the room before the start of a meeting, Jay [Chiat] took one look at my art director partner and me and said, “What are you guys doing here?”
“Beats me,” I said. “We’re just responding to the invitation.”
“You shouldn’t be sitting around a table talking about this bullshit,” said Jay. “Go create something.”
8 minutes of previously unseen 8mm behind the scenes footage from Return of the Jedi from Jeff Broz. Blows my mind mostly because there keeps being more stuff out there!