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Social live audio isn't actually social

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What We Want While We Listen To Or Watch Stuff

My Twitter app has a new tab on it. It’s four little circles. They’re the new icon for Spaces. Not only is Twitter recommending me Spaces via incessant push notifications, it has now also pushed other tabs to the side, putting Spaces dead-center in my app. While it’s unclear if Jack Dorsey will still be CEO by the time I publish this, it seems like Twitter, the company, is seriously considering Spaces as the next big thing for its app.

What’s funny is that as Spaces becomes more prominent, more and more users are publicly fretting about how long Twitter will allow it to exist. The thinking being that the way users are using Spaces at the moment — “squirt” contests, conversations about race science, cash giveaways for women moaning, violent transphobia — is too chaotic to be allowed. And it’s true, Spaces has already inherited all the problems of the larger community. American radio host and mens rights activist Tommy Sotomayor went viral over the weekend after he hosted an unhinged and transphobic Spaces event.

But as much of a mess as Spaces is currently, I don’t think it’s the next Vine or Periscope. For one, Spaces was created by Twitter itself, while both Vine and Periscope were acquired by Twitter before their official launch. Plus, the key features of Vine and Periscope — short looping videos and live broadcasting — live on as features in the mobile app. I suspect any sort of “end” for Spaces will look like that. There will just be an audio button that sits in the corner of a new tweet window. The special tab might disappear, but the rough functionality will remain. So far the only really buzzy feature Twitter has truly sunsetted was Fleets, which, in my opinion, ran counter to what people use Twitter for in the first place. Twitter is the anti-Instagram, for better or worse.

All that said, I don’t think it’s actually worth wondering what Twitter will do with Spaces, but, instead, we should consider what might make actually “live social audio” work.

I’ve been comically negative about Clubhouse because I find it both philosophically repulsive and also just a badly designed app. But its early hype has made it a blueprint for subsequent “live social audio” apps, which, are all hilariously not very social. Instead of looking to the world of livestreaming, the people making these “live social audio” apps keep chasing this idea of a “room” mechanic. Whether we’re talking about Twitter Spaces, Spotify Greenroom, Discord Stages, Facebook Live Audio Rooms, or Clubhouse, they all tend to put users, in the form of little avatars, in semi-private digital spaces, with speakers at the top and some kind of way for users to signal they’d like to “call in” to participate.

Listening to these “rooms,” let alone participating, is usually reserved for users who have downloaded the app and, even more confusingly, can only do it on mobile. So far, Discord Stages and Spotify Greenroom work on desktop, but only Discord Stages works within a browser. Though, neither allow you to share a room with a permalink.

This is, objectively, insane. All of these apps are promising a “live social audio” experience but do not allow their listeners to share the room via a simple link. Twitter Spaces does, but that link doesn’t work once the Spaces event is over. Even weirder, very few of these “live social audio” apps have tools that let you socialize within their own ecosystem. This is probably best summarized by Clubhouse spill-over rooms, where users were making smaller rooms to discuss and dissect what was happening in larger rooms. Not sure how social your app is!

What makes all of this even more bizarre is that we have three absolutely massive livestreaming platforms offering, essentially, the same four things, none of which are happening in the burgeoning world of live audio. I recently talked about this on my podcast, but I think all live streaming media platforms succeed because they offer both an internal and external second-screen experience. On Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook, you can watch the livestream, you can login and participate in the chat, or you can watch the chat reacting to the stream. This three-layer viewing experience is accomplished with four key features:

  • Individual livestreams or channels generate their own URLs, which can be shared across the internet.

  • Livestreams can be viewed on desktop or mobile.

  • There’s some kind of option to save or clip a livestream.

  • And there’s a chat window, which can be used by users who are signed into that platform.

This is how you get viral moments like that stop sign in Salem, Massachusetts, that no one stops at, Twitch Plays Pokémon, or Chewbacca Mom. But right now, none of the leading “live social audio” apps are offering these things. Not even Facebook’s very own Live Audio Rooms. Guys, I know you’re busy changing your name so people forget you facilitated genocide, but you literally already made a good live media product. Just give people the option to only broadcast audio??? Apps like Clubhouse or Spotify Greenroom don’t let you actually share the audio rooms you jump into or even easily talk to other users who have somehow found them.

Spaces comes close to getting it right. Though, only sort of, and, seemingly, by accident. Twitter is, itself, a live chatroom for all of culture at the moment, which is why its live social audio product has already lapped Clubhouse. This is also why Discord’s live audio has done so well. These two apps already have second-screen experiences built in.

So what’s the deal?

Well, at first I thought maybe it was a copyright thing. Maybe there is some kind of fear that if your audio-only app was accessible via public permalink on both desktop or mobile, you’d risk people playing copyrighted music on it. Except, live video platforms like Twitch have had copyrighted audio-detecting algorithms for years and also the most viral Twitter Spaces show so far is the UK’s Sing Your Dialect, which is a karaoke contest that absolutely isn’t clearing the music that people are singing. Even TikTok, the altar on which all intellectual property copyrights are sacrificed in the name of virality, offers both mobile and desktop interfaces and permalinks.

So if it’s not some kind of weird copyright thing, then it must be about control, right? If your live social audio app doesn’t allow desktop and mobile listening and permalinks, it’s because you don’t want users coming from outside of your ecosystem to listen. Which means it cannot, by definition, be social.

The video above is from a Twitch show I like called “Therapy Gecko”. It’s hosted by a man who guys by Lyle Forever. He dresses up like a gecko and he gives advice to people who call into his show. It’s chill. His Twitch streams are recorded and uploaded to YouTube and — wait for it — the audio from his show is lightly edited and uploaded to a podcast RSS feed. There are a lot of Twitch channels that do this. Pixel Circus is another good “Twitch podcast”.

Obviously, there might be something a little lost if you could no longer see the Therapy Gecko, but, he and many other Twitch channels have already figured out “live social audio” and are using a platform much better equipped for it. It just seems weird that an entire universe of janky walled-off apps have appeared all promising something you could achieve by turning off your webcam while you stream to Twitch and throwing a Google Voice number up on the screen.

So to jump back to Twitter Spaces. I don’t think “Twitter will shut it down” — no matter how repugnant and gross it gets — but I think it, and every app like it, soon, will reach a point where they have to become audio-only Twitch or perish. And I think Spaces will adapt faster than you expect. In fact, starting very soon you’ll be able to record Twitter Spaces. And, once that happens, then we’ll really see how “social” social audio is.

The Artist Of The Original Bus Cartoon Thanks The Internet

This is very cute. The Brazilian artist behind the “two passengers on a bus” meme is named Genildo Ronchi. My friend Alexandre sent me this great tweet he posted thanking everyone for sharing his art. “This is the original art from the most interacted meme in the world this week,” he tweeted. “Much to be thankful for! Thanks!”

If you click through on that Twitter embed you’ll see the original text that accompanied the cartoon. It reads: “Choose the happy side of life!” Someone should make a version of this where the guy on the left is captioned “creators who sue random internet users for turning their artwork into memes” and the guy on the right is captioned, “My cartoon is the most interacted meme in the world this week”.

MrBeast’s Big Dumb Squid Game Happened

Full disclosure: I have not watched the full MrBeast Squid Game video. I simply refuse to watch any YouTube video that’s over 10 minutes long unless it’s a pedantic nerd summarizing the plots of comic books that I don’t have the time to read. But I did skip around to see if MrBeast would be executing the contestants himself or if that was being done by his employees that he allegedly harasses. For those actually curious, the “executions” were done using squibs and an iPad.

The MrBeast Squid Game has been watched over 100 million times and has almost half a million comments. And the only thing grimmer than the content of the video is the reaction its garnering from some very big brains on Twitter. “MrBeast Squid Games video: 103M views in 4 days. It took 7 weeks to make,” Youtube’s former head of creator product marketing Jon Youshaei tweeted. “Netflix’s Squid Games series: 111M views in 30 days. It took 10 years (!!) to make. More views, less time, fewer gatekeepers. That’s the promise of the creator economy.”

Sounds like Youshaei is someone who really understands how iterative works are produced. I thought this was a good take on the whole situation, though:

An International Guide To Cat Baby Talk

A Reddit user asked the members of r/aww recently what people in other languages say when a cat is “making biscuits”. The responses are extremely cute. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “In russian we call it ‘teddy bear stomping’.”

  • “こねる(koneru) is the more proper term, but sometimes it's called ふみふみ(fumifumi) which loosely translates to ‘stomp stomp’.”

  • “I say ‘Fare la pasta’, that can be roughly translated as ‘doing pasta’”

  • “‘Patouiller’ from ‘patte’ (cat leg) and a cute diminutive because it's a cute movement”

  • “꾹꾹이(kkuk-kkuk-yi) in Seoul, Korea. Describes its motion.”

  • “I'm from Mexico In Spanish it's called ‘haciendo masita’ It refers to when a baker is kneading the dough for bread.”

A Real Cursed Tweet

A Friendly Reminder That One Of The Leading COVID Researchers Is A Furry

I wrote about this back in February, but it came up in the Garbage Day Discord recently and I figured it would be a good time to remind people about this now that a new COVID variant has dropped. Twitter user @sailorrooscout is a leading COVID researcher and was involved in the production of the Moderna vaccine. She is also a furry that identifies as a pine marten.

She’s very vocal about COVID misinformation and her account is a super useful resource! But, yes, she also a furry. This has already confused a few people.

An Extremely Impressive Bully Maguire Video

If you don’t know, “Bully Maguire” is the meme name for Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Peter Parker taken over by the Venom symbiote from Spider-Man 3. I’ve tried before to really explain the levels of irony and nostalgia happening within meme movements like Prequel Memes and Raimi Memes, but I’m still not sure I’ve really nailed it. I think, for a subset Gen Z boys, Spider-Man 3 is like their version of mid-career Nicolas Cage movies? A sort of blur of camp and nostalgia? Still not sure I’ve got it tbh.

Anyways, the video above imagines if “Bully Maguire” went on Hot Ones. Not sure I find it “funny,” per se, but I can recognize that it is extremely well-done.

(*muttering to myself* …maybe it’s like millennials and Shrek?)

Your Wife Will And Probably Should Divorce You If You Take Out A Loan To Buy NFTs

First off, I don’t believe the massive “my wife is gonna divorce me for buying NFTs” thread is real. The account posted the thread when they only had around 30 Twitter followers and if you go to their YouTube channel the top video is an upload of MTC’s song “S3RL,” which is sometimes called “Hentai Girl”. The account seems to be pretty aggressively trying to build a Discord and it’s also full of anime shitposts.

Do I think there is someone out there pathetic enough to take out a $180,000 loan and use it to buy an NFT and then get divorced over it while also running a hentai YouTube channel? Sure, but I just don’t think their online presence would be this well organized.

Meanwhile, a crypto token called Omicron is pumping right now after the news of the new COVID variant with the same nam— Oh, wait, what’s that? Oh, it already crashed nvm.

The Mystery Of This Frida Kahlo Quote

This was dropped in the Garbage Day Discord by mlc. This is fascinating. Last week, the Twitter account for the Museum Of Modern Art posted this quote from Frida Kalho. It turns out, however, that the quote that the MOMA attributed to Kahlo was actually written by a 15-year-old girl named Becky on PostSecret in 2008. Whoops lol.

If you click in and check out the quote tweets it’s full of users dunking on the MOMA for using the misattributed quote. There’s a really great deep dive put together by Quote Investigator if you’re curious about how this PostSecret quote ended up paired with Kalho.

The MOMA didn’t delete the tweet, however, instead they just attached a correction via a reply. “The quote in this tweet is erroneously attributed to Frida Kahlo,” the museum’s account wrote.

I am not — at least try not to be — a misinfo scold, so I sort of love that the museum has kept the tweet up. I mean, it’s doing numbers, right? And all attention is good attention in an economy fueled by engagement, baby!

Sorry, Sorry, It’s Been A Busy Few Days, Here’s The Lars Ulrich Toilet

I went searching for some context about why there is a toilet in the shape of Lars Ulrich. I thought, maybe, perhaps, this is what Napster founder Sean Parker goes the bathroom in. Turns out, no. I came across a great Loudwire headline, which, honestly, only created more questions: “Lars Ulrich Toilet the Latest Creation of Musician Who Made Skeleton Guitar”. Hell yeah, brother.

The artist in question is named Prince Midnight and if you click through you’ll discover he looks exactly like what you’d think a guy named Prince Midnight looks like. Midnight told Loudwire that the Lars Ulrich toilet was actually his way of paying tribute to Metallica. Ok!

Some Stray Links

P.S. here’s a real good story about a hat.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***

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