Post Twitter block: What’s the next step?

I posted this yesterday:

This was possibly because I had created a “mirror account” to share the news through the IFTTT bot, without adding noise to the existing “academic” account. It must have been caught up in the “algorithms” because it was an auto-generated timeline without much of “human activity”.

My immediate reaction:

What it has forced me to rethink the social media paradigms. In specific cultural contexts, it “flattens hierarchies”, but as again, the nuances are more around an “illusion” of flattening. Social media fans out specific trends; it’s cool to be part of the “fun”, but offers no real value. Science hasn’t become addressable to the masses, for example, but the narrative got politicised. The pandemic was clearly a wake-up call. Likewise, for all those who went to Mastodon (another decentralised Twitter clone) haven’t found the traction or found it difficult to achieve the “network effects” of scaling/being relevant because Mastodon doesn’t have the Twitter’s “recommendation algorithm”. It was never designed that way. Possibly, in the future, they might have something around on those lines, but it wouldn’t entice me either.

I am rethinking my Twitter “strategy”. I realise that writing on social media achieves only one quantifiable outcome: improving the recommendation algorithms to better target advertisements. In effect, you are an unpaid worker toiling for billionaires that extract more value from your “hard work”. I had circumvented that partially through the IFTTT service (and the bot) to daisy chain my services and use specific applets to create my own Twitter experience. As a result, I averaged thousands of tweets for no effort, PER MONTH (to not violate Twitter’s “rules and regulations”). I barely interacted, only if I got a specific mention or to respond to anyone else, if I chose to visit the site. My timeline was a useless mess of congratulatory messages, or my colleagues claiming a breakthrough, or someone being breathless announcing their “podcast”. I don’t deny their efforts. Because I could, I linked the blog to Twitter. IFTTT came up with an interesting service around creating AI summaries, which I think was cool. Each blog post could be summarised to fit the tweet limitations with a specific link.

As again, zero effort.

I also passively consumed some Twitter accounts through “lists”. Basically, you bundle accounts in one specific folder, and those lists can be made “private” or “public”. Most “power-twitter” users consume lists on Twitter to avoid algorithmic biases.

I went a step further and used Inoreader (my RSS feed reader) to add even more boolean logic and filter them at the source. I could filter them with links only or remove the ones with “re-tweets”. (AND or NOT functions). It was simple. I added even more context to my Twitter experience by subscribing to advanced Twitter search (eliminating, retweets, for example) and then subscribing to the advanced search in Inoreader. This way, I could keep myself updated in real time.

Twitter’s API limitations (and eliminating the free tier) have impacted many services around it. This was a warning shot in 2008-09, when many useful services sprung up around Twitter API (and while they could have easily created a massive platform/ecosystem) around micro-blogging service, they nixed them. For example, during that period, the “hyper-local” terminology was very much in use to create “news” from an isolated cluster (including the concept of “citizen-journalist”). Basically, they wanted free labour for the “internet-likes”. That option was shut down. Twitter then aligned itself with the mainstream media to drive internet traffic.

How and why Twitter started gaining credence? Most celebrities now issue tweets around their banal understanding of reality or just agenda driven vitriol. This, in effect, creates more network effects. The ones on the “conservative-right” (or “left”) want to create “engagement-metrics”. When I started looking closely at Twitter, I was surprised to see that they have no solid metric of how the tweets have propagated or been seen by the “followers” (or swarm). They mention “tweet impressions”, which is as good as useless as Twitter.

There is no close alternative to Twitter, except Mastodon, that can only provide utility if you are borderline masochistic. Understanding the federation protocol is as close as poking yourself in the eye. One simple deterministic reason to avoid using it is that you work only on someone else’s server, and if the costs become too much to bear, the service can be shut down.

Telegram has been my one-stop show for many years, for justifiable reasons. It provides one-on-one chats, along with channels to serve as broadcast, and now groups with topics to improve seamless conversation flows. I use bots to automate my experience, broadcast and consume topics without timeline/algorithmic nonsense. I used to be worried about the “subscriber-counts”, but I don’t care about it now. Blogging remains a veritable exercise to improve writing/idea generation and understand complexities.

I am always happy for disruptions; it forces me to adapt and improve. WordPress is my digital home, and I can expand on ideas here. I might miss my dedicated Twitter lists, but in hind-sight, it wasn’t of much value. Maybe I can figure out some way out in the future. (One tech solution is to use some RSS creation application) that can connect to Twitter lists and pipe out the complete content outside. I’ll update if I can find out something.

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