Thursday, October 27, 2016


I just started using Twitter, and now I'm going to write the same complaints that everyone probably writes about Twitter.

1. Pictures

What does everyone know about Twitter? The 140 character limit. But of course no one can write anything worthwhile in 140 characters. So, since Twitter allows you to attach a picture as well, that is what everyone does. Not only does every nonprofit group using Twitter have to come up with a picture or cartoon or at least a graphic to put under whatever they're talking about, but other people have resorted to *taking a picture of their extra text" and putting that up.

Let's say that you want to quote something from one of these extra-text blocks. What do you do, trim the picture to make a little irregularly sized area around the words you want? Someone has typed something in and their writing was in Unicode or ASCII, which you can copy and paste as writing, and now it's in a bunch of pixels which you can't. It's the same thing that happened with old-style PDF files, and it's a Lovecraftian information-destroying horror.


OK, how much effort would it take Twitter to not show you retweets of a tweet that you've already seen? It can't be much programming effort, since every tweet has to have a unique ID floating around somewhere. But they haven't wanted to do this -- who knows why -- and as a result, when you're interested in something, you're going to see every major occurrence connected with it complete with its picture a whole lot of times. Why?

3. Ads

Since 2010 Twitter has been not-making-a-profit on its "sponsored tweets" which it jams right into your timeline whether you like it or not. Hulu now lets you pay to not see ads, which of course people do, and Web sites in general either do the obnoxious ad popup thing in which case you never go back or sullenly let you use an adblocker. There are Twitter clients with adblockers as well, but they have certain problems which make them less tenable. Twitter itself will let you opt out of ad personalization, which only means that you'll still get the same number of ads, they just will pretend that they aren't tracking you. Twitter has the same advantage as any other social media company that entrenches itself in its space, but this has to be a vulnerability.

4. Timelines

OK, let's say that you turn off the wonderful algorithmic timeline and get something that bears some relationship to Newtonian time. Then, unless I'm missing something, Twitter is apparently unable to remember where you were on your timeline if you last looked at it on some other machine. Maybe non-Euclidian timelines have to be turned off on each machine? Who programs things this way anymore?

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