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The desperate collective Id of late-stage Big Tech

Read to the end for a good Mark Zuckerberg video

If Only Twitter Blue Users Have Checkmarks Their Checkmarks Don’t Mean Anything

At this point, I no longer consider Twitter’s comms channels an official broadcast of the company’s activity and, instead, now I sort of treat it like a glimpse into the frothing and desperate collective Id of late-stage Big Tech. Every couple days it’ll blast out a bunch of updates on features and products and monetization strategies that will never actually happen and don’t really mean anything. I mean, the company’s ability to articulate its own roadmap seems to be so meaningless to itself that it literally set up an auto-reply to its PR email that just sends back a poop emoji.

This week, though, Twitter announced a couple curious things that I do think provide some fun insights into how grim things are getting over there. First, we finally have an actual date for the “winding down” of of the “legacy verified program”. It’s April 1st. Because there is literally no one with any common sense left at that company.

Oh, even funnier, if an institution wants to be verified it will cost $1,000 a month! Plus an additional $50 for each account underneath that organization. lol sorry, but are you out of your fucking mind???

I clicked on the link to see what the paid verification currently offers and it didn’t work for a while because the site is breaking in front of our very eyes. But when I finally got it to show up, it currently lists access to things like an edit button, folders for bookmarks, a way to customize your navigation inside the app, and the ability to post long videos. Apparently, you’ll eventually get the ability to rank higher in replies and see less ads. See the first paragraph above for how I feel about the likelihood of those things happening.

But let’s pretend that on April 1st the legacy-check-pocalypse will happen. According to the most recent data I can find, 0.2% of the site pays for Twitter Blue. I do not believe there is anything that Twitter can do to get that number above even 1% in the next nine days. So all that’s going to happen is that we’ll suddenly be able to immediately identify who pays for Twitter (and doesn’t matter) and lose any ability to know if what we’re looking at is an account run by real person (who does, assumedly, matter).

This will also, hilariously, immediately remove any reason to pay for verification. Now, I’m sure there are some people who are paying $8 a month for an edit button and longer video uploads. And if you pay for Twitter and read this newsletter, know I love you and by reading Garbage Day, the cringe cancels itself out. But based on the amount of NFT and AI spam being pumped out by Twitter Blue subscribers, it seems like the majority of the 0.2% that pays for Twitter is paying to make themselves look like people who are important or notable enough to be legacy verified.

And it seems like at least someone inside of Twitter is aware of this little conundrum because Alessandro Paluzzi, a platform features leaker, noticed earlier this month that the app is currently testing ways to hide your Twitter Blue checkmark. So I just want to put all of this together in one concise paragraph because it’s maybe the funniest thing in the whole world:

Elon Musk and an army of the tech industry’s biggest reactionary dorks literally bought and took over Twitter after years of being both obsessed with it and also completely consumed with resentment over “the liberal establishment’s” perceived importance on the app. They were furious that they did not also get the same little blue checkmark that 22-year-old viral news reporters were given so they could protect themselves from impersonators and mute some of the death threats they get on a daily basis. And so these giant losers built a new way to pay for a blue checkmark so they could pretend like they were just as important as they assumed the verified users believed themselves to be. And they expected everyone else to eventually pay to keep their checkmarks. No one has, of course, but Twitter is still moving forward with this. But they seem to realize that if they do that all it’ll do is make Musk’s try-hard fanboys immediately identifiable on the app. So now they’re building a way to hide how lame they will look alone on the site with their paid checkmarks.

Very cool. Good stuff. Excited for April 1st.

Instead Of Paying For Twitter, Pay For Garbage Day

It’s cheaper — $5 a month or $45 a year — and while it won’t give you a little checkmark, it will make you more fun at parties and in various group chats. Hit the green button below to learn more!

I’m Doing A Virtual Event Next Week About AI

I’ll be speaking at a virtual event next week hosted by the very excellent digital consultancy firm Part and Sum. I’ve partnered before with them on a reader survey about the future of tech and an in-person event about AI last month. Next week’s event is called “Designing the Future: How AI Transforms User Experiences & Interfaces,” and it’ll be all about how to actually use generative AI from a user perspective.

Here’s the registration link. Hope to see some of you in the little Zoom window next week!

I Made A Big Video

I’ve had a few requests from readers to collect different essays from Garbage Day into one coherent thing they can read all at once. I didn’t do that lol, but I did make this video. It collects a few things I’ve written in this newsletter and fleshes them out into what I think is a complete look at what I’ve been calling “Silicon Valley’s Midlife Crisis”.

The story I tried to tell is how the companies that built the Web 2.0 era all sort of, uh, lost their minds during the pandemic and became obsessed with online exclusivity. And I believe that that obsession is breaking the internet’s biggest platforms now and is leading to an inevitable moment where AI content will eat everything up. Let me know what you think!

Good Tweet

New Deranged House Dropped

This came across my feed this morning thanks to a tweet from user @sarahduggers. This is five-bedroom in Bedfordshire, England, looks fairly normal. Most of the pictures are pretty uneventful. It looks like a cute, sort of traditional British home. In my experience, there are only two kinds of British interiors: soulless modern gray, white, and black with Kubrick-ian underlighting or a slightly larger-on-the-inside-than-you’d-expect Hobbit house.

Anyways, in the listing, there is a YouTube video. I promise you that no matter what you think this video is, it isn’t that. I have never been more confident of anything that there is no way you can anticipate what happens immediately after you press play here.

ChatGPT Prompt History Became Public

So I don’t consider myself a professional pessimist, though many of you email me to tell me that that’s what you think I am lol. Though, I do spend a lot of time thinking to myself, “I wonder what the worst possible thing could happen to this new technology.” So the fact that I didn’t even think about the idea that ChatGPT conversation history could suddenly become public should give you a sense of how bad this is.

I’ve met a lot of people who are using ChatGPT for some seriously intimate interactions. There’s an entire online community using generative AI as a therapist. I’m glad the bug was fixed and I’m glad it wasn’t worse, but hoo boy. This might be a good time to pump the breaks if you’re using ChatGPT for really sensitive material.

Congress Gets To The Bottom Of The Nyquil Chicken Challenge

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress yesterday. From what I’ve seen, I’d say that he did fine, but also the distinction between ByteDance, Douyin, and TikTok is so fuzzy and confusing for the average person to understand that it seems unsustainable that it continues in its current form much longer.

During the hearing, Chew was asked by Georgia Rep. Buddy Carter if Douyin, the Chinese sister app to TikTok, has challenges like the Nyquil Chicken Challenge. Good news, Carter, TikTok doesn’t have the Nyquil Chicken Challenge either because it didn’t actually happened.

Related to this, YouTube creator Hank Green confused a lot of folks this week by tweeting, “Tiktok is banned in China, which makes this whole conversation almost otherworldly.” A lot of people responded with things like “Uh, it’s not. They have Douyin.” Which is the point that Green was trying to make. Chinese people can’t access TikTok. They have an equivalent app.

Years ago, I went back and forth with a TikTok spokesperson about the Douyin thing. They were not happy that I was referring to it as a “sister app” because, according to them, it’s totally different. I eventually went all the way down the rabbit hole about what those differences are. If you’re curious, Douyin is the original version of TikTok. In terms of features, the core interface is largely the same, but Douyin has more sophisticated features, like the ability to add audio to livestreams and you can search via facial recognition. It also is more closely integrated with e-commerce features. But, no, the two apps are not connected in any way in terms of content. The question though that I have never gotten a good answer to and one that I wish had been asked yesterday is: is the algorithm that powers Douyin the same as the one that powers TikTok? And if not, why?

AI-Generated Content Is Evolving Real Fast

It’s so over, man. It’s never been more over than it is now.

The End Of Aspirational Content (Sorta)

I’m including this tweet because I loved the quote tweet of it from user @monopolyphonic, who wrote, “Because the aspirational Instagram influencer era is dying in favor of the everyday normal person TikTok influencer era and she is doing things to try and appear more normal on purpose.”

Which I think is exactly right. Though it does cause a weird logic loop. If aspirational content is over and a kind of grimy cybergrunge aesthetic is spreading across social media, and social media is still powered by status and parasociality, how performative will this normalcy become before it just turns back into relatable content again?

Put another way, I think the Gen Z rejection of the “touch my butt and buy me pizza” era of relatable content is a bigger existential crisis for social platforms than they may be anticipating. If these networks turn everything back into slick aspirational content by the nature of how they work, how much longer will people be using them if this is really the culture shift that it appears to be?

Some Stray Links

P.S. here’s a good Mark Zuckerberg video.

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

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