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Another Twitter Replacement Receives Some Scrutiny
If you’re having trouble keeping up with all the Twitter “replacements,” there are essentially three to pay attention to at the moment.
First, there’s Mastodon, a Twitter-like service that operates via federation. Users can spin up their own version of Mastodon and link it to — or unlink from — other ones. It’s particularly popular with furries and other older internet communities. Its federation feature means that instances can easily kick out nazis and other kinds of extremists, but it also means that small instances can quickly turn into weird fiefdoms. There have already been a few high-profile examples of activists of color and trans writers getting kicked off Mastodon instances for being “too political”.
Next up, we have Hive. It’s mobile-only at the moment and its interface feels more in line with Instagram or TikTok. Its “Discover” page, however, has an almost StubleUpon-like feeling of spontaneity, which is kind of neat. But it only has three employees and doesn’t seem to have any moderation. There’s also some question about whether or not Hive usernames are unique.
And, finally, the most buttoned-up of the three is Post.news, which is in beta still with a waitlist. Post.news has been pitched as a Twitter replacement specifically for journalists. It’s got “news” right in the URL. That’s how you know it’s for news. I don’t follow anyone on the platform yet, so my main homepage is just whatever everyone’s posting, which, during my last few scroll sessions, I would, charitably, describe as boomers complaining about Twitter. In fact, a lot of posts on Post.news are literally just screenshots of tweets, which also describes what half the internet has looked like for the last decade, but it’s still not exactly promising for a website hoping to dethrone the bird app. Also, the Krassenstein twins appear to be on it. And me. Any club that would have me as a member, etc.
Over the weekend, Twitter users noticed that in the original version of Post.news founder Noam Bardin’s welcome post, he wrote, “We believe that all humans are created equal, endowed with unalienable rights that include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of their gender, religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, net worth, or beliefs.” 🥴🥴🥴
And from there, the weirdness around Post.news has only grown. The company is funded by Andreesen Horowitz. It doesn’t seem to have a way to actually natively see if your content is being interacted with on the site. Instead, each post has a “conversation” section, which is powered by a third-party service from the company OpenWeb. Also, the site is using a weird paywall system with an in-app currency of “points” and it seems like their big plan is to get publishers to paywall their content on the platform, like instant articles, but powered by micropayments. Which is a funny idea, seeing as how Meta literally retired instant articles this year. So I’m not sure how making people pay for them would make that idea work better.
Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz wondered if Post.news would end up like another buzzy Andreesen Horowitz investment, Clubhouse, and start only recommending reactionary CEOs, crypto goons, and weird right-wing influencers. And I think it’s a really apt comparison.
Clubhouse saw an 80% drop in downloads this year and is, by all metrics, dead. But its central ethos — a gate-kept broadcasting tool for the rich and powerful — has become the defining philosophy of late-stage Silicon Valley. It’s what Elon Musk wants to do to Twitter. It was the entire impetus behind Web3. And it, simply, will not work at the scale they need it to. But, unfortunately, we’re going to keep seeing more platforms try and make this work. Even as Apple is, allegedly, considering taking Twitter off the App Store. They’ll push their tokens or user points or subscriptions for boosted visibility or special features and every time, they’ll attract the same kind of grifters and weirdos that are willing to pay to post and they’ll end up killing their own community. Which I guess is kind of funny. Imagine being a tech CEO and, no matter what you build, the only people you can see in your feeds and messages are the kind of people who would pay extra money to have their content seen by you. Seems like hell.
Happy Black Friday! If you don’t know, there’s an Internet Garbage Store. And I’ve got a new design up there today from artist Chris Bishop. A few readers said they loved the “carefree weekend vibe” tagline I’ve been using on the new Garbage Day weekend edition, so I had Chris whip me up a chill weekend ghost for a new T-shirt. You can use the code TWTTRSOVR to get anything on the store for 15% off until Tuesday. You can pick that up here.
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A Very Interesting Tweet
A Lot Of Men Are Getting Visibly Agitated About The Musk Backlash
I don’t want to single out a random guy here. So I’m not going to look up his username or anything. But I do want to talk about the video embedded above because it’s extremely indicative of what I’ve been seeing in the r/elonmusk subreddit lately. If you press play, it’s a video stitched with a recent clip of comedian Adam Conover on a podcast where he declared that Musk is “a fucking moron.” At around six seconds in, a young man says he was so upset with Conover making fun of Musk that he had to “step outside to make this video.”
“You’re seriously saying Elon Musk is a moron,” the man in the video asks incredulously. And then he rattles off a whole bunch of stuff about how Musk couldn’t be dumb because other rich guys say he’s smart.
Men all over the internet are becoming really palpably distraught that Musk’s Twitter takeover isn’t being declared a resounding success by, well, anyone other than the members of their own online echo chambers. The reason why isn’t complicated. Musk is a wealthy, selfish, often cruel, weirdo who has marketed himself as a man who is so smart that he can do whatever he wants. And there are a lot of men who either think they’re also like that or wish they could be. It’s the same thing as Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Every town has a bunch of boomers who think they’re the Trump of their own lives and a bunch of Gen Xers and millennials who think they’re going to launch the next Tesla over PBRs at the townie bar. And as Musk’s downward spiral gets worse, these guys, like any fandom ramming up against the guardrails of reality, will become angrier, more reactionary, and incomprehensible to outsiders. I don’t think there’s a risk of a violent Joe Rogan-listening hustlebro uprising, but I do think things are going to get more annoying for sure.
Speaking of which…
Shopify Has Joined The Culture War For Some Reason
Earlier this month, Nandini Jammi, the co-founder of online advertising watchdog Check My Ads, reported that right-wing influencer Libs Of TikTok was using e-commerce platform Shopify to sell merch. The tweet was spotted by an Ottawa city councilor, and turned into a news story in Canada.
Jammi then tweeted that according to her sources a specific member of Shopify’s C-suite was personally keeping content from far-right vendors from being removed from the site. Shopify’s CEO Tobi Lutke replied to Jammi, tweeting, “Shopify has a published acceptable use policy and a principled process to apply it. Pressure groups on all sides try to influence it sometimes and CBC needs to see through that not amplify bad faith narrative.”
To which Jammi shot back, “You literally have people selling Nazi memorabilia on your platform, dumbass!” Whoops.
I guess the main question I have when it comes to the reactionary CEO trend is whether or not they will succeed. If they do, we’ll enter a really dark new world where the men who run our information technology have all refused to moderate their platforms anymore and also, in many cases, want to make us pay ever-increasing premiums to use them. But, also, you know, most of these guys just run marketplaces. Shopify literally is, but Twitter is too in a way. And, no disrespect to these titans of industry, but a marketplace isn’t rocket science. If I was the CEO of a business that only existed thanks to network effect and a lack of antitrust regulation, I’d try and be a little more humble is all I’m saying.
BlockFi Filed For Chapter 11
Fun fact: A while back, when my dad was really heavily interested in crypto, he had me look into different kinds of crypto credit cards. He had bought a bunch of Bitcoin and Ethereum during the pandemic and, like many consumer investors, wasn’t sure what do next. He asked me to have a poke around and, admittedly, I was kind of curious too. After falling down the rabbit hole, everything I was reading was saying that BlockFi was the most trusted and secure place to put your money. I ended up doing a quick phone consultation with a BlockFi rep because I had some questions and the stuff on their site didn’t make a ton of sense. And, after the call, I told my dad to hold off on crypto credit cards.
And then, basically once a week for months, a BlockFi rep would call me, asking me to sign up, and kind of brushing aside all the reasons I would explain I didn’t think it was a good fit for my retired dad. I ignored calls. I put their emails to spam. Nothing worked. And, then, suddenly, I didn’t hear from them again. I wondered why and then I got an email this morning announcing they had filed for Chapter 11 because of investment from Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX.
The reason I’m sharing this story is because, as of a year ago, any average person who was curious about crypto could have easily signed up with BlockFi. I mean, it has a four-star review on NerdWallet — still. The more I think about the last two years, the more creeped out I get about how easily things companies were able to spring up, quickly gain some semblance of “respectability,” and then implode less than a year later.
I Got Duped By A.I. Art
The other morning, I was scrolling through Reddit half-awake when I came across a post of promotional art for a Marvel TV show called Bashenga: The First Black Panther. I didn’t read the post super closely, thought the images looked a little funky, and wondered why I hadn’t heard of this show before. But, also, there’s like 100 new MCU properties premiering every month now and, so for a couple minutes, I was pretty convinced this was real.
Turns out the whole thing was created by an artist named Shaun Harrison, who used a combination of Photoshop, After Effects, and the generative-A.I. Midjourney to make fake screenshots of a Marvel show that doesn’t exist.
Weirdly enough, the fake character posters look the wonkiest, but the fake stills from the show, which, if you look closely, have some A.I. artifacts in the background, look surprisingly convincing.
I’ve been waiting for this. There are, obviously, a lot of concerns about the ethics of A.I. art — which we aren’t even close to solving yet — but I think we’re going to start seeing a lot of artists find ways to work with these apps, especially fan artists, like the Tumblr users that used an A.I. to generate a fake My Chemical Romance song back in September, and I’m kind of excited to see what people come up with.
Speedrunners Descend Upon The New Pokémon Games
The new Pokémon games are incredibly janky. Stuff isn’t loading right. Glitches will literally crash the game. The competitive play is broken. But Pokémon has a very big speedrunning community. And speedrunners have never encountered a bug that couldn’t exploit to play a game faster. Also, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are open world. Which means, all the glitches and bugs are actually just hacks to weaponized. Excited to see how elaborate these speedruns are about to get.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a tweet with an incredible amount of divorced energy.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***