Twitter woes

I don’t know how many readers of this blog use Twitter but I certainly do. I have had a fairly long run of using the platform but I believe the fun has come to an end.

Those of you who used the internet from the ‘early days’ would remember or relate to this easily. The web was static pages, email lists, forums, using many search engines, ‘under construction’ icons and pages that looked like this:

web

Or like this:

maddox

The core defining elements however took shape during those days: open interaction and information flow, robust debate, and virtual identities. The political histories of the countries that contributed to the growth of the internet, and the peculiar type of people who would learn to use computers to ‘go online’ gave rise to this culture.

Importantly, the core elements were there before newspapers and agencies, corporations, broadcasters, government agencies, or even blogs, came to the web. Initially the big players tried to merely replicate what they did in the real world, online. News articles would just be pages, for instance, online shopping websites would only allow you to buy stuff. Blogs would just be people’s personal journals.

Soon enough it was evident entities had to do what the internet did, on the internet. It was far more profitable to encapsulate a little piece of the internet inside your product. If you were a company maintaining a ‘presence’ on the web, a static website would be fine. But if you were someone trying to attract users, hold their attention and gain something in the process, you had to play by the rules of the free net.

With the growth of blogs ‘the internet’ moved into these spaces. In a way it can be said the blogs are where it truly still lives. Blogs (more precisely the database architecture behind them) brought the another core defining element: the permalink. User-generated online speech/content had become citable and indexable, like academic papers.

With the growth of social media websites a few things happened. First, a lot of interactivity and debate has moved into these platforms. A lot of the internet has drained into these venues. A second observation that can be made is that social media platforms do not provide anything new in an internet architectural context. Lastly it can be said there are a now substantial number of people who are online, who have only known the net via the prism of social media. In other words they don’t know of an internet apart from and outside of it.

Consider Twitter at this juncture. It is used by millions of people. Yet it offers little new speaking in terms of mechanism: it is a micro-blogging platform and nothing more. The latter point is particularly important.

If a blog user or a news agency prevents you from posting content on their website, there would be nothing you could do – after all the owner controls the venue. But the owner exists inside the larger ecosystem of the internet and there would nothing he could do to prevent you from publishing content elsewhere. Additionally, there is a practical limit on how much censorship one could keep performing at one’s own venue. This is because of the underlying free nature of information flow on the internet. Unlike where brutal governments employing force would absolutely suppress opinion or fact, information suppression cannot be absolute online.

But what happens, or could happen with something like Twitter? First, if much of the internet drained into it there would not be an ecosystem outside, of which Twitter would be a part of.

Second, the individuality and quirkiness of censorship itself, ironically, would disappear. For instance if a climate skeptic visited ATTP’s blog and left a comment critical of him he might delete it. On a microblogging platform like Twitter, the skeptic’s tweet could not be conveniently bumped off by ATTP. The permalinks belong in a single common pool the company controls!

But there would be a hidden downside. The same tweet might become subject to an opaque Orwellian Twitter rule that “scientists cannot be criticized with hatespeak on our platform”. Or more familiarly, a Twitter ‘policy’ might decree that climate skeptics views would not be tolerated on their plaftorm and your tweet would get the boot. Blanket rules made by committees would exert vast but diffuse power.

Now imagine if ATTP, Gavin Schmidt, and Michael Mann were made members of a Twitter ‘Trust and Safety Council’. Picture ATTP translating his ‘comment policy‘ for use by the Twitter on climate skeptics.

The good ol’ days when these stalwarts of climate justice were confined to their own blogs snipping comments would suddenly seem very attractive.

As it happens, social media platforms have not yet swallowed the internet whole. But many millions live in them, and want the rules of the old internet erased or re-written. Unstated rules and arbitrary bans have multiplied on Twitter. Lastly there actually is such a thing as a Twitter Trust and Safety Council that advises the company. Though it doesn’t have climate folk on it like the hypothetical above it has people with an axe to grind on video games.  Yesterday a critic of activists who are on this ridiculous abomination of a ‘Council’ was suspended from Twitter.

Twitter has an appealing and intelligent chunk of the internet, of all social media platforms. Of them all it closely recapitulates the conventions of blogging but yet provides for real-time interaction. This unique combination throws up many interesting results: Twitter is unbeatable in topical news and event coverage. It is a great place to set off public mob shaming campaigns, and festivals of moral outrage. Consequently it ends up as a great place to forensically de-construct events and reactions as well, as was performed by Louise Mensch in the Tim Hunt twitter shaming debacle.

I came in contact and made online friends with many people on Twitter and learned many new things because of Twitter. It has some of the good stuff – the surprises and growth that can come with robust emergent interaction.

But delusions of grandeur, arbitrariness, ceding platform control to weird single issue players, mucking about hashtag suppression and  ‘shadowbans’ via code (!), and and an itchiness for blanket rule application on what’s essentially a self-balancing, equilibrating process, i.e, on its little slice of the internet, has made Twitter increasingly unattractive and unsavory. An alternative which closely mirrors Twitter but devolves control of content regulation to its users would be a serious competitor.

[edits and updates 2/21/2016]. I archived the earlier version of the post here.

 

 

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19 comments

  1. willard (@nevaudit)

    ­> Consequently it ends up as a great place to forensically de-construct events and reactions as well, as was performed by Louise Mensch […]

    Is it the first time you refer to this resource on your website, Shub?

    I’m asking because of this:

    Thank you nevertheless for plugging in your team’s work.

    Wait – have you mentioned you were in the “team”?

    Too humble, I presume.

  2. Willard

    Which part of “Is it the first time you refer to this resource on your website, Shub” you do not get, dear Shub?

    I want to know if it’s the first time you cited Louise’s piece on this very site, Shub.

    By cited, I mean linked to it. With a URL. You know what’s an URL, right?

    That’s a yes or no answer.

    ***

    Is it by not answering simple yes or no answers that freedom fighters get their sandwiches made, Shub?

  3. Shub Niggurath

    I said your comment doesn’t make sense. I didn’t ask for your preferred answers for questions it may contain.

    You say you asked a question (“Is this the blah blah…? “) because, BAM, you quote me for the reason.

    If you say “I want to ‘save the world’, or ‘go to a protest’, or ‘have lunch’ because” and then quote me (or anyone else) directly without adding anything more to the sentence, it doesn’t work.

    I can see what I wrote, because I wrote it. I cannot see the connection that you are trying to make with your ‘because’ as you added nothing more to the reasoning process other than what you quote. I see what I wrote and I can see my reason for what I wrote. I don’t see your reasoning.

    Per your way of speaking you are asking me whether I cited Louise’s article on my blog for the first time because I asked you to show me a paragraph’s worth of material you have written on Tim Hunt.

    Does that make sense to you?

    Or, your question is simply “where have you written about your work on Tim Hunt?’ But remember I said, you are out of your depth, you have a lot of catching up to do, and you have a lot of reading ahead.

  4. Willard

    > You say you asked a question (“Is this the blah blah…? “) because, BAM, you quote me for the reason.

    I’m truly sorry you can’t understand that I actually quoted my own tweet, dear Shub, and that I quoted that tweet because I am asking you the very same question. Clicking on the tweet leads to a “conversation” where you did not answer.

    Besides, your “Off-topic” would only be correct if your own “as was performed by Louise Mensch […]” was off-topic too.

    You’re playing dumb, Shub, which is a suboptimal way for freedom fighters to get sandwhiches.

  5. Willard

    Does that mean you never wrote anything on what you task me to have written about, Shub?

    ***

    Your “I never wrote anything” is a bit intriguing, considering a team effort you may have yet to mention on your own blog.

  6. Willard

    By “Your “I never wrote anything” is a bit intriguing,” I am referring to this tweet:

    ***

    You can add another advantage of teh Twitter – we can have parallel “conversations.”

  7. Shub Niggurath

    Twitter includes both tweets when it is embedded. You “quoted’ your tweet but it showed mine as well, in response to which your tweet was written.

    So revisit your first comment. You say

    “Is it the first time you refer to this resource on your website, Shub?

    I’m asking because of this:”

    The ‘this’, is your own tweet, asking the same question: ‘Have you written about it on your website?’

    You asked a question because you asked a question? There is no ‘because’ there. There is no reasoning.

    In reality, you asked me if I had written on my blog about Tim Hunt, because, I asked you what you had written. Or least, you asked me immediately following my question.

    I know the answer. You haven’t written anything. The climate guys were not involved in the Tim Hunt story, including you. James Annan wrote ill-informed nonsense on the matter, essentially something that came to his prejudiced academic brain about old white people.

    If you unable to specify what the problem is, but trying to elicit a reaction using my own words, it looks like we’re done.

  8. Willard

    > You asked a question because you asked a question?

    I asked a question here because the first time I asked, you did not answer. As I said earlier in the comment to clarify the one you declare having failed to understand:

    I’m truly sorry you can’t understand that I actually quoted my own tweet, dear Shub, and that I quoted that tweet because I am asking you the very same question. Clicking on the tweet leads to a “conversation” where you did not answer.

    Yes, Shub: one can ask a question because it hasn’t been answered.

    Why don’t you answer it?

    I don’t know the answer to it, because I haven’t look under every god damn link you put on your website for the last year or so.

    ***

    > In reality, you asked me if I had written on my blog about Tim Hunt, because, I asked you what you had written.

    First, you asked me what I have written in response to this:

    So instead of facing the fact that your team partner has misread one single paragraph, you tried to make it about my understanding of the Hunt affair.

    Second, considering that you failed to cite or mention anything you yourself have written on Hunt, there are fair chances you wouldn’t even be able to satisfy this silly standard.

    ***

    > If you unable to specify what the problem is […]

    There are many problems, the first one being that you self-sealed yourself in a double standard.

    A more pressing problem is that you’re asking for a “paragraph” and yet you wouldn’t even have a thread for it.

    Don’t ask otters to have written about Hunt if you haven’t authored anything, Shub. And if you think that people can’t form an opinion on silly episodes like Sir Tim’s without having written about it, you really need to learn about the world of ideas. And if you think that I haven’t notice that this challenge is your way to play squirrel, think again.

  9. Shub Niggurath

    So instead of facing the fact that your team partner has misread one single paragraph, you tried to make it about my understanding of the Hunt affair

    B has not misunderstood or misread any paragraphs. Again, your attempt to show that he has (I did not follow your tweets to him from the start) rely mainly on quoting him and highlighting his own words.

    As a result I had to point out that if you are to contest B’s understanding at any serious level you would need a good understanding of the Hunt affair. Even the ones where you don’t quote were are the usual cryptic, sneering, holier than thou, speak-to-the-audience-not-the-opponent type of tweets.

    If you are surprised why I haven’t linked to Louise Mensch’s articles from my blog, don’t be. I don’t write about that area in my blog. If I were to write about it I would link.

    Am I trying to say you don’t qualify to speak on the matter? Certainly not. But you haven’t been involved in the matter either. You haven’t written about it or discussed it at any length – *in order for cryptic insinuation-by-quotation alone* to work.

    A bunch of you have picked up some brain disease at the Rabett blog trash-talking with an academic affectation but it doesn’t work.

    Academic trash-talking has some basic rules: never say anything direct, never state your objections clearly, always speak behind people’s backs, affect superior airs, and kick people when they are down.

    So in the end you had an objection or remark to make about my comment on the Diana Crow blog. “So you were on a team, eh mate? How much did you get paid for it?”

    You had an objection, or remark on Pat Shipman’s article on Tim Hunt. with B.

    With respect to Crow I asked you to read the whole comment. I investigated the Tim Hunt episode. Silly as it was, a man’s reputation was attempted to be ruined without basis. For whatever reason, unlike what she did, I didn’t let up. It was not just me, however, who did this. Eventually the whole episode reached a conclusion of sorts. With Pachauri the matter was not sexism but sexual harassment and working with Donna I was one of the earliest to look into the source material. As opposed to the Hunt episode I was on the other side: it appeared there was primary evidence that established sexual harassment by him.

    Crow is a journalist. When you investigate matters there will come times when you need to decide how much further to do, whether to continue at all, and how to write about what you uncovered. Lives and reputations will be at stake. I could see she had reached a point where she had to make a decision.

    I said I’ve worked on this issue (sexism/sexual harassment) before, from different ends, but in the end it is always better to lay out all the facts in the open, especially when the matter is out in the open. Without all the fact in the open, matters of sexual politics will continue to remain explosive and will never resolve. Clearly, the people involved think it is better to hush things up and bury them. Look at the Lieb resignation: there is such little information out. My conclusion is that a lot of people would rather keep matters buried because it suits their purposes, for different reasons. So there may be some merit to this approach too. I do see one big problem here, but that’s a question for a different day.

  10. Willard

    > If you are surprised why I haven’t linked to Louise Mensch’s articles from my blog, don’t be. I don’t write about that area in my blog. If I were to write about it I would link.

    Thank you for confirming that you haven’t link to Louise’s hit piece until I asked you if you did, Shub. You wrote at least once indirectly about Sir Tim’s hurly burly last time you were whining about James:

    ***

    I’m not really surprised that you bragged to Diana Crow about being a member of a “team” she would know nothing about had she searched the website you referenced in your signature to your comment on her website:

    Freedom fighters segregate information all the time.

    ***

    > Am I trying to say you don’t qualify to speak on the matter? Certainly not.

    Of course not. You would never do that:

    ***

    > I did not follow your tweets to him from the start

    Yet you took your team mate’s side. Fancy that.

  11. Shub Niggurath

    “Louise’s Mensch’s ‘group’ was not a ‘team’ …

    Diana Crow wouldn’t know I researched the Tim Hunt affair…

    LOL.

    You’re just flailing, mate. I’m done.

  12. Willard

    Laughter is good for the soul, Shub, and I’m glad my comment made you lulz, even if you needed to put words into my mouth.

    Of course Diane Crow could find Louise’s hit piece, in which she could read:

    The opinions therein are all my own, and the language is my own. It is, however, a collaborative effort between me and a dedicated group of researchers as far as the data goes: Shubclimate, James Mershon @Nutria54, Leopard, @DebbieKennett, two anonymous female scientists, @ticobas, and two anonymous male scientists. We have worked on Slack as Hunt Central.

    View story at Medium.com

    That you’ve been part of a “collaborative effort” is therefore “public” information.

    OTOH, it’s not something one could have found out by reading your blog until you wrote this very post. Since you’ve not mentioned that you were referring to Louise’s team, Diane would have had to connect some dots. In fact, this very blog post doesn’t even mention that you were (or still are?) a part of Louise’s “team.”

    Freedom fighters don’t always play team, but when they do, the team spirit is subtle.

    ***

    > You had an objection, or remark on Pat Shipman’s article on Tim Hunt. with B.

    Indeed I did, and before you asked me about my opinion on Sir Tim’s adventures, you asked me to clarify my claim that B misread Pat’s paragraph:

    I will proceed to do so below.

  13. Shub Niggurath

    Don’t spam the board mate. Stuff you write on Twitter is not stand-alone material. If you cannot be assed to explain what you want to say, why say iit?

  14. Willard

    Res ipsa loquitur, dear Shub. At least sometimes.

    The first tweet shows something you have failed to mention on your own blog: that you were a part of Louise’s “team.” It was as a “data researcher” if I understand correctly, which seems to mean for Louise that you made some online searches. That you segregate your ClimateBall from your other fights for freedom may deserve due diligence.

    The second tweet shows that Louise can deny the obvious in complete obliviousness. Almost as violent as like gaslighting. You did not help her much, which does not speak well of your team spirit.

    ***

    Speaking of which, you failed to acknowledge her untruth about the fact that you “referred” me to her hit piece.