Five stupid Twitter ideas
"His job is to point the musket of his franchise in the right direction, and fire."
One: Twitter should buy Substack and not change it at all—except for the subscribe popup nagbox, whose inventor should be identified, separated, and maybe even sued. This UX monstrosity, out of Adderall by A/B testing, is clear-cut millennial sabotage. Quick reminder to never trust anyone between 25 and 45—at least, not by default.
I am completely serious about the sus quality of this technology. Neighbor, I was on the Internet in ‘89—to paraphrase the Beastie Boys—I was posting when you were s— your mother’s d—. Substack’s greatness is that it is a period piece—made like our old GenX Internet, not your shitty millennial Internet.. except for one or two “features” like this, which float up like big underripe turds from 2008. At least let me shut it off! No one would subscribe to Gray Mirror on account of some Web 2.0 dopamine twitch. And if they did, we wouldn’t want them.
But seriously: one serious systemic problem with the way that Silicon Valley builds social technology is that from entrepreneur to VC, there are many ways to measure the quantity of users, but few ways to measure the quality of users—their excellence as human beings, not the frequency of their clicks. Since the quality of a network can only decline, they are radically mismeasuring their capital. This measurement error is how Clubhouse experienced controlled flight into terrain. And needless to say, the quality reader likes nagboxes the way the quality gourmet likes “processed cheese.” Hey Substack: chasing away my best readers is not a good thing.
Two: Twitter should build an in-house truth engine, which can deeply adjudicate any boolean factual question—creating a far more reliable source of truth than any now extant. Any successful insourced truth must harmoniously integrate all three sources of knowledge and wisdom: monarchical (the thought of the company itself); oligarchic (the “reliable sources” of the powers that be); and democratic (the scattered knowledge of the crowd). While testing and developing this engine, focus on public controversies that do not track political fault lines, like true-crime episodes.
Three: Twitter should turn the social and political clusters in its social graph into formal, organized, self-governing communities. These communities should not be silos; they should see each others’ tweets. But every community wants every other community to see its only own good content—so every community must govern itself by choosing which of its tweets will show its own best face to the rest of the world. Only if the community’s self-chosen paladins are generally obnoxious does Twitter have to generally throttle the community. Even this is a last resort after a conversation between central and local government. Within the community, anything goes; if the community is internally obnoxious, it will see only obnoxious low-rent ads.
The principle of self-governing communities has gone under many names; in the United States, it is called federalism; in the British Empire, indirect rule. The resulting system lacks any 1-n fanout and will reduce moderation costs by roughly one zillion.
Four: Twitter should adopt a review structure that enforces group-blind standards to the definition of “hate speech.”
What is “hate speech,” anyway? It might more neutrally be defined as military speech—the frame of mind that dehumanizes a collective enemy, so that harming the enemy feels not only acceptable but even morally necessary. An example which is not loaded in today’s culture war is the word “gook” as used by American soldiers in Vietnam. It is not okay to kill people. But it is God’s work to hose down gooks with the door gun. Therefore the word “gook” is purely military in nature and purely useless in discourse.
It is necessary, as here, to talk about a word of military speech. It is sometimes useful in a literary capacity to use it ironically or poetically. It is okay, for mere compliance with the powers that be—just to give Caesar his due—to compromise this exception. The only clear-cut exception is that “hate speech” about one’s own group is inherently ironic, and therefore inherently legitimate.
If any human or algorithm analyzing speech is given only neutralized descriptors, such as [race] or [derogatory word for member of race] or [stereotype of physical features of race], bias can creep in only through the definition of hateful jargon. Structural bias is always the hard thing when dealing with racism. This kind of structure is easy to see and talk about.
A Twitter in which all groups were considered equal, no group had any special right to insult, or to not be insulted by, any other special group, and every group had to respect the same equal definition of “hate,” would be a fairer and more pleasant place. It might even show the way to a new world without any kind of race or culture wars.
Five: Twitter should extend its scope and become a citizenship app.
The purpose of Twitter, today, is to help you exercise your right to speak as a citizen of the marketplace of ideas. Speaking is only one of your democratic rights. Another is voting. Twitter will not tell you who to vote for. It can help you use your right to vote—which seems like a natural extension of using your right to speak.
The purpose of a citizenship app—an idea quite unfairly mocked in the biased, unfair mainstream liberal media—is to help you maximize your power as a citizen. You can maximize your power as a citizen by using your democratic rights, including the right to vote and the right to demonstrate, as strategically as possible. What could be more American? Banning democracy, that is bad. This is doing a democracy, which is good.
Your optimal citizenship strategy is to maximize political efficiency—your curve of energy invested, to power produced. You want to matter. But you don’t want to do anything. For however much you do—you want to matter as much as possible.
In general, a good way for a large group of people to collectively matter as much as possible is to have as much coordination as possible—voting as an army, not a mob. Also, not only is voting as an army perfectly legal, and far more powerful—it is also way more fun. Here is the onboarding flow.