What to do about Twitter?


#1

As a longtime user of Twitter, I must admit that I’ve really enjoyed the random connections and information that I’ve gotten from it. However, in the current age of misinformation, alt-facts, and trolls, Twitter seems to be a double-edged sword. Like many tools, it can be used for both good and evil. Personally, I’d hope to be on the side of the good (and maybe the weird).

Lately, Twitter has largely become a channel of outrage. I get that. In fact, I am mad as hell about the culture of fear, ignorance, and intolerance that is taking over the world. However, I just don’t know how I should channel that anger. Should I add my voice to the growing outrage? Would doing so impact any part of my (mostly progressive-leaning) Twitter bubble whatsoever? Or would it mostly just attract a bunch of trolls to a flame? Does silence make me appear tone deaf? Is it even appropriate to post weird thoughts about code,or bikes, or kids anymore? I honestly don’t know.


#2

I empathize with all that. Sometimes I see tweets or posts about my usual interests, and I’m exasperated and slightly disgusted that people are working on and tweeting about such trivia while all this is going on. Goes double for ads, which exasperated and disgust at the best of times.

But the mood passes, and I continue to do my own trivial job, and sometimes I end up retweeting trivia myself.

I guess life goes on, and we can’t maintain the intensity all the time. In the past, the trivia and jokes would have been more private acts. Nowadays everything’s such a public performance. Maybe that’s why it sometimes feels inappropriate.


#3

If we’re going to bring people together we need to keep and emphasize the things that are common between us.

It’s very important that the national parks lovers AND the cyclists AND the top python programmers all advocate for vulnerable people who are being discrminated against but if they stop being national parks, bikers and python programmers then they’re just a number on a viral retweet in an echo chamber.

The best way for the alt national park people to advocate is to first be the best twitter experience for nature lovers.


#4

I think it depends on how you choose to view Twitter. I mean I RT’ed an animation of how the planets and sun actually move through space today because I found it interesting, but that probably falls under your “trivia” label, @tartley. But am I supposed to stop trying to share positive things while all this craziness befalls my family and friends outside of Canada?

For me the biggest issue with Twitter is lack of classification. G+ really improved things when they added collections so that you can choose if you want to read someone’s political posts or just their technical ones. Unfortunately the Python community at least just doesn’t seem to want to leave Twitter. And without some AI clustering Twitter posts so I don’t see 10 tweets on the same thing just with slightly different wording it drowns the unique stuff out.

I guess I’m saying that Twitter as a platform tends to overwhelm when everyone is outraged at once, but unless people as a whole are willing to switch to something a bit more manageable I don’t see a solution.


#5

I’ve seen a lot of Python devs leaving Twitter. However, I’m not really sure where they’re going. IRC? Facebook? Slack channels? No idea really. Have I been missing something somewhere?


#6

Brett,

You recently posted (re: python core devs) about the human connection - and I think this is key, in one specific way here (by “here”, I mean in these crazy, whacked-out times, which appear to be world-wide in some measure, and thus truly dangerous).

I think I’ve seen Dave doing this often, but in tech-community sense, so I’ll try to generalize it a bit more:

Be yourself. Be true to yourself. Be true to the practice of being yourself, and of honing your own values.

Here’s an example: “truth” and “correct data” in politics doesn’t always need to be directly addressed and challenged publicly, but it might be a time to “be yourself” in your topical area - acceptance and trying to spread diversity in python core devs - say just a little more about why that is valuable and important to you in the project (Brett). Clarity, and simplicity, and naturally cooperative relationships in libraries which make them easy to understand and use appropriately (Dave/curio) - say just a little more about why that is important: truth and clarity and data (examples).

I (for one) who’s parents “grew up” in the middle of eastern Europe during WWII, who suffered bombings, were resistance fighters as students, lost friends, grandparents in German concentration camps, stories of propaganda and how it worked and how it caused damage - these things make me re-tweet items which I see which I think are pertinent and not getting enough exposure (e.g. I selectively re-tweet, re-post things from Ukraine these days).

Playing out yourself, your values more publicly - while choosing what to engage in directly (should I go to that march on DC, or not?) I think is the way - to be unabashedly yourself, intentionally and consciously.

To sort of paraphrase what I think Hashemi was saying - be an advocate for your core values.


#7

Please keep the breaking Python/biking/nap tweets and don’t tweet about politics. I have to unfollow anyone who tweets too much politics, and I really don’t want to unfollow you. If I want to see tweets about politics (I don’t), there are literally millions of accounts I could follow. But how many accounts tweet about the latest features of Python 3.7 and the clever trolly ways to bend them?


#8

The core devs I have followed on FB actually don’t talk about tech stuff there. Some have always been on IRC, but I personally can’t stand it when I’m not actively in an IRC channel since there’s no threaded discussions. I’ve seen Slack for projects but typically not for community stuff.

So I don’t know of any magical place people have shifted to.


#9

I think this just shows a fundamental problem with Twitter’s model. David should be able to tweet about politics w/ a “politics” label and then have people simply not follow that label (much like what G+ does).

Maybe once I finish the GitHub migration and dealt with the sharp edges left I will finally write my microblog/link-sharing/aggregation/FriendFeed-knockoff service (Atom/RSS-based natch).


#10

I’m not convinced self-labeling would work. Quite a few people have the mentality of “people need to hear my opinion” to the point that they would drop the labelling if they believed it would make their views “reach” more people (just look at the number of topical/parody Twitter accounts that have nothing to do with politics tweeting about politics lately). Twitter needs tools to let people filter their timelines that works even if people don’t label stuff. Unfortunately, Twitter seems more interested in adding stuff to your timeline (“suggested tweets”) than removing.


#11

It’s hard to say if there’s any good solution here. To be honest, I’m not all that interested in posting a bunch of extended political rants–at least not at a level of warranting an entirely separate account for it. On the other hand, I’m not totally apolitical either. I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I’m not thinking about politics at all (quite to the contrary–I think a lot of what’s going on sucks big time right now).

On the whole, I still tend to view Twitter as a place to dump whatever dumb brainfart I happen to be thinking about at the time. More often than not, it’s something related to Python, coding, or some other technical thing. Sometimes bikes and kids. Sometimes promotion for classes. In the current political climate, a lot of it seems pretty trivial though. I don’t know. Maybe there’s still some value in it.


#12

+1 for tweeting whatever the hell you want, especially if it’s political. In general, I value that piece of your mind as much as I value your thoughts about Python; in times like this, I value it more. You are a thoughtful and empathic human; if anyone deserves to share their feelings on Twitter without second-guessing or (even subconsciously) self-censoring, it’s you.



etc.


#13

So, I was thinking about this whole Twitter predicament this morning and I decided that instead of just posting tweets into the storm, maybe it would be much more interesting to haul my butt over to O’Hare airport to see what was going on in the middle of the day on a Monday. I was not disappointed.

I hung out for a few hours with a small group of women holding signs. They talked about their recent experience with the women’s march in DC. Various airport employees would come by to chat and give us a thumbs up. We talked to all sorts of foreign travelers from all over (India, Iran, China). People offered to buy us coffee. It turned out that one of the other protesters lived just down the street from me. It was cool. In fact, it was great.

There were also a lot of reporters milling about. Univision, Telemundo, Fox, the local ABC affiliate. Chicago Tribune. They took a lot of pictures. I was interviewed a few times on camera. In fact, my goofy mugshot just led off the Chicago 6pm news. So, on the whole, I’m thinking THAT was perhaps more impactful than me posting a random raging tweet storm.

Anyways, I’m not sure that any of this answers the whole Twitter dilemma. It was an interesting adventure however. If you’ve got a flexible schedule, maybe it’s better to go out and get away from the keyboard.


#14

For what it’s worth, I’ve blogged about this recently:

I see you are following more than six hundred people. I humbly suggest you try following less and see how it goes. It did wonders for me any way.

Cheers !


#15

Yeah, I sort of agree w/ Brett -

I post a lot about politics, but because US folks tend to be so isolated from realistic, world perceptions.
I also have two generations before me that fought (literally, militarily or WWII resistance) tyranny of various forms, and I think politics is hugely important now for us.

That said, having different handles / logins for twitter is possible (Dave has a PythonCookbook handle), so in some sense what Brett suggests already (sort of) exists. Hashtags leave it to the reader, and consume content space, so they basically suck for this. Twitter would do good to institute sub-accounts, so (for example) @dabeaz worked like now, @dabeaz.tech included a sub-group of posts, including @dabeaz.PythonCookbook — something like that.

But we don’t have that.