A power grid for the whole world
Read to the end for a tweet that is very funny if you’ve seen "Andor"
The Outage That Finally Takes It All Down
It can be hard to keep up with the daily machinations of Musk Twitter, but as of today, here’s where we stand: Musk has fired half the staff, gutted thousands of important contractors, has purged employees who were writing negative messages about him in Slack, is publicly firing engineers who correct him when he’s wrong and/or lying about the app’s basic infrastructure, and last night sent an email out to the remaining employees asking them to opt in to “hardcore” Twitter by clicking yes on a form. Those who don’t will be fired. All remaining services on the app now seem to be run by Gary (jk).
As author Gabrielle Moss wrote, “Twitter is like a husband that I hate and then I found out he had 10 days to live and it made me feel sweet and sentimental and now we are on day 11 and I am just looming over his sleeping body with a pillow in my hands.”
I went into this expecting Twitter’s death to be slow and drawn out and, frankly, boring. I’ve been thinking about this in terms of months, not days, largely because that’s how this kind of thing has played out in the past with sites like Digg, MySpace, and even Vine, which did “die” on a single day, but after it already felt very dead, following months of decay.
But Twitter is actively falling apart now. “If you have any apps or sites you log into connected to your Twitter account via OAuth, I STRONGLY recommend changing that right now while you still can,” computer security specialist Ian Coldwater warned this week. “Don't want to take me seriously? That's fine. Good luck.”
And Erica Joy, the chief technology officer for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was even more direct: “There is strong chance twitter has a major outage in the next few days. get your backup comms channels situated if you haven’t already.”
There are, of course, glitches all over the site, but Musk, in behavior eerily similar to when I took apart the family computer at age 12 and broke it while trying to put it back together, is blindly removing important services from the app. One of these is related to two-factor authentication. (It seems like Gary is running that too now.)
I use two-factor authentication for Twitter because I’m a fairly big target for hacks and other kinds of abuse from the internet’s various ghouls and goblins. Musk appears to have disabled the text message that sends the code needed to activate two-factor authentication. There are ways of getting around this, but there were reports this week of bewildered users logging out of their accounts and not being able to get back in.
As I wrote above, this is a fairly unprecedented thing to consider. Twitter is not a large website, but it’s an important one. If the internet was an iceberg, with Facebook and Pinterest and 4chan at the bottom with James Cameron’s personal submarine and the fish have lights on their heads, then Twitter would be the tip. It has, over the last decade, become the way we process the internet and that extends to all forms of culture and, as I wrote on Monday, looks different in every country.
For instance, there’s a great piece in the Guardian’s Pushing Buttons newsletter this week looking at what a sudden Twitter death outage might mean for the games industry, which argued, “It’s also full of developers sharing clips and screenshots from games they’re working on, showing off their art, posting job opportunities when a big studio closes, sharing knowledge and boosting each others’ work.” And I’d say this is true for most creative industries, but also politics and, more recently, business and finance.
If you’ll allow me to get incredibly galaxy brain’d here for a second. I’ve often thought of Twitter like a power grid. In a simple power grid irl, you have a power plant generating energy which is then sent out to various transformers. Those transformers then send that energy to transmission lines and substations, which then connect to people’s homes and businesses and make the lights work, etc. With Twitter, I think of it like a power plant that’s using retweets, likes, and quote tweets to generate viral energy. That energy is organized by verified and/or branded accounts, curated, and then sent out into the cultural zeitgeist. Over the last decade, we’ve watched each major section of society start to hook themselves up to this grid. These industries, political spheres, and social sectors get attention and virality and use it to transform themselves into something new and different. It’s not always good, of course. The Trump campaign, Gamergate, the crypto boom, and the current state of the YA fiction industry are all good examples (I am not saying these things are all equal, please don’t yell at me). But, in the same way, you can easily burn your house down if you drop a toaster in a bath tub.
This is, to give Musk as much credit as I’m willing to give him, why he wanted Twitter in the first place. He thought he was buying a power grid for the world. I’ve seen all kinds of conspiracy theories arguing something else — he’s working for Putin and Peter Thiel to crush liberal democracy, he’s trying to dump Tesla stock, he’s trying to go bankrupt to avoid going to jail for possibly manipulating stock prices, or, the most plausible one, from Bloomberg’s Matt Levine, maybe he’s trying to buy acquisition debt from the bank at a bargain. But I also think he can just be bad at this. I find it much more plausible that Musk is a smart enough guy to realize the potential of a site like Twitter, but also be someone who is so surrounded by sycophants, yes men, lackeys, and opportunistic dark enlightment VC creeps that he just can’t function properly anymore.
And so now he’s panicking, desperately pulling apart the power grid, trying to figure out where the electricity is and how he can make more of it. But it was the grid, as a system, that made everything work (as imperfectly as it did). Which means, going forward, I am now operating under the assumption that there might just be a day where the site goes down and doesn’t ever come back up again. See you all in the wasteland after the fall.
Also, please don’t email me to tell me that I don’t understand how a power grid works. I googled it this morning to make this sure metaphor would work and I think I did a good job all things considered.
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A Good Tweet
Trump Can’t Be Factchecked On Facebook Anymore
So Donald Trump is running for president again. Last night, he literally locked a bunch of people in a room and yelled at them for a while about all the scary bull shit he wants to do if he ends up in charge again. Mark Zuckerberg, obviously jealous that Elon Musk has been hogging all the criticism from journalists, has decided that Trump can no longer be factchecked on the platform.
Trump is banned on Facebook, but his campaign page isn’t and, as CNN reports, a memo went out at Meta reiterating that “political speech is ineligible for fact-checking. This includes the words a politician says as well as photo, video, or other content that is clearly labeled as created by the politician or their campaign.”
Luckily, Meta has done a great job funding and supporting journali— oh, wait, sorry, my mistake. Following this month’s layoffs, they’ved pretty much abandoned news.
My gut tells me that the Trump/DeSantis cat fight will end up being the political equivalent of when the Three Stooges would all get stuck in a doorway together and render both of them a non-issue for 2024, but most things that can happen do and they’re usually very bad, so who knows.
The Chris Evans Fandom Needs To Go Outside
A group of fans of the actor (and guy from Massachusetts) Chris Evans are upset that he didn’t publicly disclose that he has been dating actor Alba Baptista. The statement above is both long and wildly unhinged. And it’s causing a real stir on Twitter. As of this morning it had around 5,000 quote tweets.
A lot of people are angry about these fans being so entitled to the life of a man they don’t know and, while I do think everyone involved with writing this statement needs to go sit in some grass for a while until they feel the like real human beings again, I also think this sort of nice to see in a retro way. You know, as Twitter collapses, it’s a little sweet to see deranged stan armies coming out of the woodwork in the same way that it’s nice to see John and Hank Green fighting with Elon Musk. I value my precious time on this planet too much to actually make it myself, but I’d love to see one last real cringey Avengers: Endgame edit with all the different trolls, influencers, and shitposters coming together to stop Thanos Musk from building his everything app.
SBF’s Clever Little Twitter Trick
Former millennial billionaire and, assumedly, still current member of a Bahamian crypto polycule Sam Bankman-Fried has spent the last week tweeting the message “what happened” one letter at a time. Why was he doing this? Well, a popular theory is that if you post a new tweet at the same time that you delete an old tweet, bots that track deleted tweets won’t catch it. Unfortunately for SBF, his entire Twitter history was already downloaded.
The UK Treasury Is On Discord For Some Reason
The UK finance ministry announced this week that they were starting a Discord server. I have absolutely no idea why this happened or how, but I was pretty curious to check it out. I’m a big Discord user and I’m super interested in where institutions might be headed now that Twitter’s falling apart. So I jumped into the server this morning right as another user named "SUNAK WIFE PEG VID LEAK LINKBIO" was joining. It seems like they were being banned and rejoining over and over again.
There’s no way to post in the Discord, it’s just a room with announcements, but they’ve kept reactions on, including letter reactions, which means users can spell stuff out together. So far they haven’t managed to “kung pow penis” anything yet, but the top emojis I’m seeing are the EU flag, the Irish flag, a brick, and the trans flag. Excellent stuff, all around, everyone.
Thank You For My Twitter Plaque
I love this so much. I was made by Brian Moore, the technologist and artist behind projects such as Blockedchain, Hypetags, and non-fungible Olive Gardens. He sent me a Veriforever plaque, which commemorates my original, non-paid bluecheck. It will be the first thing that I show all my guests now, so they know I’m the real me. If you’re interested in getting your own, you can check out the site here, that is, if you qualify 😏
Some Stray Links
“Is that a mosh pit or a dance floor? For hardcore band Turnstile, the answer is yes”
Someone on Tumblr said that Bloomberg’s Matt Levine is slowly turning into an H.P. Lovecraft protagonist and I think that’s very accurate
“It Shouldn’t Be This Hard To Buy Concert Tickets”
P.S. here’s a tweet that is very funny if you’ve seen Andor.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
“I use two-factor authentication for Twitter because I’m a fairly big target for hacks”... but you’re also a person using modern internet services. Target or otherwise, MFA should always be used- especially for top-level OAuth providers.
Not gonna lie, I misread the header as "The outrage that finally takes it all down". It's been that kind of a week, and it's only Wednesday.
Thank you for keeping us updated on all the things!