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Posted in Geek, personal
July 6, 2023

Twitter continues it’s downward spiral, what now?

I’ve previously written two versions of this post, talking about Twitter’s downfall and my thoughts on successors. So I thought I’d go through the good, the bad, and the buggy.

In the last week alone, Elon rate limited Twitter, made it so that you had to login to see tweets – which resulted in Google de- indexing Twitter search results, as it’s no longer an accessible site. (This could also be a little payback for Elon not renewing their contract or for allegedly being behind in Google Cloud payments). But regardless, this continues to spell trouble for those who use Twitter as part of their livelihood.

Elon’s also killed Tweetdeck and replaced it with a newer, slower version of the same platform. Both versions allow a Twitter user to put their account in columns. One for notifications, one for various lists – something used by a lot of power users, or easily distracted people (like myself). The new version will be free for the next 30 days and then will require you to be verified to have access.

He continues to say that he wants Twitter to be a public square, and then kill any kind of content moderation that would lead to meaningful discussion.

While it isn’t the first time we’ve heard this – this truly feels like the last days of Twitter. As it’s becoming obvious even to the Elon-Faithful, that the Emperor has No Clothes. The rumored boost to engagement only benefits people making quality content. And with big names moving on, whose attention are they catching? And even to the far right, they love getting to argue with the Left and throw their gotchas. But if the Left is leaving, who will they harass?

So here are a list of alternatives that I’ve given a shot and some of my very honest opinions. You might disagree, and that’s the beauty of this. But I have tried a lot of sites.

Threads

Meta launched their Twitter killer on the 5th. I created an account there, but I’m not sold on this yet. It feels unfinished and like they were launching it to take advantage of the moment.

Threads is app only (so you can find it in the App Store or Google Play Store), and it uses an Instagram account to create your threads account. They make setup easy, with a number of things that you can bring over from Instragram. Your name, your profile pic, your bio. You can even follow the people you follow on IG. Though be forewarned, it sends push notifications to anyone on IG who hasn’t created a Threads account asking them to join. (So, sorry to people I did that to yesterday. That was not part of the feature description at all)

If you’re familiar with Instagram, it’s going to feel pretty intuitive. You can have threaded discussions, there’s a feed. You can post pictures.

But like Instagram, the feed pushes you content. Not chronologically, and not necessarily just the people you follow. And unlike Instagram, they currently don’t support alt-text.

In true Meta form, privacy experts are saying the app collects a LOT of data about yourself, including health information. I saw no opt-outs from data sharing for California users, and they have already stated they will not be rolling out Threads in the EU – likely due to GDPR.

So I reserved my name, posted a couple things, including a criticism of the lack of alt-text, and then removed the app from my phone.

Bluesky

Bluesky is Jack Dorsey’s new platform. It’s currently in beta, and there are no apps for it (yet). You can join their waitlist or get an invite from someone already in the beta. I got an invite from a friend this week, and I don’t have any invites yet.

It’s a familiar feel if you’ve used Twitter, but not a direct Twitter clone. You have functionality like QTs and RTs, and threads don’t quite display the same. (You can fuss with your settings to keep replies in threads from showing in your feed)

The feed is chronological.

Some neat privacy features – you can subscribe to and mute lists. So there are a couple accounts that are dedicated to tracking hate groups that put them in lists and you can instantly create a more pleasant environment by muting them.

Right now the feel of it is a lot like early Twitter. People starting conversations and an optimism that it can stay this way.

(I know there are a number of people who want to avoid it because Jack is a billionaire and a billionaire who sold Twitter to Elon, while still retaining shares. You can both not want to be involved in a platform and want to keep your shares in case someone does make it profitable. And most of the major platforms are run by billionaires. Opting out of that will limit where you go. But again, it’s your own choice)

Note: One of the current issues with Bluesky is that it’s being built like a framework and not like a platform. The eventual goal will be something like Mastodon with Federated Servers. But the issue with Mastodon (spoiler) is that your experience is only as good as the moderation. As the beta has opened, some of the weaknesses have been exposed. Such as the fact that nobody made it impossible to create usernames with slurs in them. Or that the moderation right now isn’t manned by people.

Much like Mastodon, this has left Black people on the platform uneasy – especially given the immediate response, which was that this is still a growing platform. Racism and other types of hate are not new to any platform. In building a space, how to handle hate should have been part of that blueprint. “It’s still in beta” should be used to explain why search isn’t working. Not why nobody thought of how to handle Nazis or slurs.

(They did block slurs in user names, and are currently trying to figure out how to handle the rest. So while I do think this is the platform that holds the most promise, please keep this in mind)

Tumblr

Tumblr is a microblogging site. It’s in essence a community built on sharing the things you find interesting. As a user, you can both create posts and reblog or like posts. Your feed consists of blogs that you follow, as well as a small amount of recommended posts based on your likes.  When you reblog something, it not only shows up in your feed, but the feeds of everyone who follows you.

There was a huge exodus when Tumblr began cracking down on sex and nudity in order to continue to be in the Apple App Store. Rather than allow users tags to mark adult content or report blogs that don’t flag their adult content in an attempt to get them to follow guidelines… they banned posts that showed anything adult, and began banning accounts. A not insignificant amount of people left the platform.

Thanks to tags, you can still find what you’re looking for – but there are still tag spammers as well as a somewhat janky search system. However, Automattic (their current owner) keeps working to improve all these things. As well as finding fun ways to support Tumblr that aren’t a monthly subscription.

Warning: It is hard if you aren’t from a similar platform to not understand the power of following blogs and reblogging their content. That’s how you amplify – just like RTs push out content, reblogs help extend the life of a post. Which is incredibly important for artists. So don’t be afraid to reblog things. (Even if it doesn’t help now – a lot of times people who follow a new account will go through and reblog content they like, so your reblogs can help someone months, even years from now)

Is there a cost?

Tumblr is free to join. You can pay to turn off ads on your account, you can also pay for perks and gifts. You can unleash crabs on a friend’s blog. (It was an April Fool’s joke that was very popular). You can pay to promote a post using a feature called Blaze. In true Tumblr chaos, you can’t really target the audience the way you might elsewhere. You pay for an audience and it goes. Most Blaze posts have been surprisingly wholesome. I’ve seen people use Blaze to share pet pictures, remembering lost loved ones, or even just good news. (They do have to approve whether or not a post can be Blaze-ed)

Is there a bot problem?

Yes. Even if adult content is banned, it hasn’t stopped bots from creating accounts and following users. A dead giveaway is a blank blog, with no profile and a profile image of a woman. (If you create an account on there, please, put something in your bio)

Mastodon

Mastodon is not exactly a social platform. It’s actually a collection of federated servers that use the same architecture so that they can talk to each other. Each server is geared towards specific interests. You can follow anyone on any mastodon server, and each server has it’s own rules/mods. There is a bit of a learning curve, and because each server has their own rules, your experience could vary depending on where you landed.  And with the boom, it’s up in the air how well it can be moderated.

Moreover, while the browser experience is pretty robust (you can even set up a column view like Tweetdeck), there is no official app yet- so your experience varies based on the app you’re using.

Back in the fall, when there was an uptick of people looking for a new platform, a number of Black women reported being faced with racism and zero support from the mods from their servers. Most were simply talking about their daily experience and were shouted at, reported, etc. Servers are only as good as their moderators, and I’ll be blunt – the majority of them are cishet white men. So if you aren’t cishet or white, your experience may vary. I haven’t experienced any racism, but I absolutely believe those who have.

Spoutible

Spoutible is a social platform created by Chris Bouzy, the creator of Bot Sentinel (which scanned twitter accounts to determine if they were run by a real person or were bots). He promised to build a platform that wouldn’t allow hate, and that he’d build this from the ground up. There are now apps I believe – and I created an account, and left pretty soon after.

They are very strict against adult content, and when people began to ask for more guidelines (as their policies page was vague in what they considered adult content), it turned into drama. Bouzy insisted his users didn’t want adult content and that anyone asking was trying to bring smut onto his platform. One of the groups asking for clarity were romance writers, who were concerned if they showed a cover it might violate the policy – and Courtney Milan (a romance writer who was formerly a lawyer) expressed concern that their policies were vague and offered to help him define what it means. This turned into very public smears on Twitter that people were attacking him and what they stood for, which weaponized his fanbase against critics.

It could be the platform for you, but I’m not interested in another cult of personality, so I opted out.

Hive Social

Hive Social is an app based social media platform, that has the most similar feel to the Twitter app without being Twitter. They’ve explicitly said that there is no room on the app for hatred. It will have some of the fun elements of MySpace – music on profile pages, and a lot of customization.

The biggest downside is that it’s a very small team working on this. A major security flaw was pointed out, and the app was unavailable for over two weeks while they fixed it. There has been some misinformation about the political backgrounds of some of the people involved – but there was a prior platform called Hive that’s being conflated with this one.

The growth has been pretty small since the crash, but the people who are there are pretty great.

This is the rare platform that does allow some adult content, you just have to flag it as such, so people who want to opt-out will not be pushed those posts.

Spill

Spill is one that I’m on a waitlist for, but it’s a Black-owned social platform. So I would imagine that it’s one that’s built with community moderation in mind.

Post

Post is another platform with buzz, but it’s worth noting that it was founded by a VC firm, and largely seems like a place for journalists to go. Which is all fine and well, but it seems like it could easily become another Musk!Twitter, given that they seem more interested in monetization options than building a community.

Co-host

Another new platform, co-host has a waiting list to try to curb too much growth too fast. I’m still learning this one, but so far it seems pretty good.

You can easily create multiple blogs, and switch between them.  I don’t believe there’s any app yet.

Dreamwidth

This is an oldie – created shortly after a Russian company bought Livejournal and started purging fandom and LGBTQ content, it uses the same sourcecode as LJ.  It never fully caught on, but you can create communities.

I admit that I haven’t revisited this one in awhile.

What have you found? Am I missing anything?

Where you can find me

I’m all over the internet, but I do list all my accounts here: https://whitneydrake.com/linkme/