The Trouble with Twitter – Kent Barton

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Evan Van Ness asks the following question. It’s timely and overdue:

https://twitter.com/evan_van_ness/status/1195831858333986817

Reddit might be worth revitalizing — or perhaps there are better alternatives. But it’s worth noting that Twitter has some major flaws as the nexus of community discourse:

1.) Conversation gravitates around the schelling points of “influencers.” God, I hate that term, but that’s the best description. You’re well-known and/or have oodles of followers, hence your opinions are propagated more widely. Meanwhile, if you don’t fall into that influencer category, your thoughts/perspectives have a harder time reaching the community.

Contrast that to reddit, where anyone — it doesn’t matter who you are — can make a meaningful post and generate discussion. This seems to square much better with the spirit of decentralization. Interesting ideas should be discussed, regardless of who’s propagating them.

Sure, well-known community members will still tend to receive more upvotes, but overall it’s much easier for *anyone* to have their voices heard on reddit.

2.) Twitter isn’t a good platform for deep discussions. Everything has to be compressed into pithy, bite-sized packages. Threading sucks too; conversations split up, and it’s not clear what’s going on without digging through the entire thread. It’s much more intuitive on reddit.

In an effort to make their voices heard, people may also be encouraged to phrase their tweets in a provocative/attention-grabbing way that wasn’t necessary on reddit. This can skew the discourse toward a more confrontational direction.

3.) Personal strife and drama can become much more pronounced, giving the impression that everything is going to shit. It winds up right there, constantly in your feed, overclouding everything else and giving the impression that everything is getting super-negative. Drama can happen on reddit as well, but it’s typically confined to a thread or two. It’s human nature, I suppose — especially in a bear market, when everyone is cranky and fearful-to focus on negative developments. But the fact is, the algorithm-assisted negativity may give a false impression and create an inaccurate narrative about what’s happening in the community.

This isn’t to discount the importance of negativity; there are real problems we’re all dealing with. But my point is that Twitter can over-emphasize the drama, at the expense of the meaningful progress and discussion that’s happening in the space.

Reddit is not perfect, but Twitter has some major flaws. Can we do better? I’ll bet we can.

For example, why don’t we dogfood this thing and use a decentralized platform? Does anything fit the bill? Can it solve some of the above problems? Can we use something like ethresear.ch, but for a wider, non-technical audience? Or maybe reddit really can be revitalized.

Now’s a good time to ask these questions. If we’re ever going to get to a million developers, the community needs to grow in a constructive way. Twitter’s fundamental limitations could limit the expression of new ideas that are so crucial to moving the ecosystem forward.



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