Cal Newport: We Don't Need a New Twitter

Someone sent me this link recently (I also had it in my bookmarks!). I responded with this:

I like it! I agree that focusing on a variety of smaller communities is the way to go. I’m not totally convinced that Threads will fail though. My first thought is that it seems quite possible to improve marginally on Twitter. e.g. even if Threads ends up basically like pre-Elon Twitter, that seems like it’d be a pretty big improvement over the current situation (especially if they actually go through with ActivityPub support). And it seems like you could make some improvements on the margin with the recommendation algorithm—dampen down some of the more toxic tweets at least, even if you’re not able to completely get rid of them.

As for whether it’s possible to make something fundamentally different from what Twitter ever was, with the same global conversation but with way less anger… I think he makes a good point that it’s just really hard to put so many people in the same place (which is closely linked to Twitter’s core value prop) while keeping everyone civil. I don’t think Instagram-for-text is inevitable in the general case if you try to do that with recommendation algorithms, but it does seem like a pretty likely outcome for Threads (particularly since that’s already what it is, from what I’ve heard).

To make a counter point to my first paragraph, an issue that Threads might face (is facing?) even if it became less recommendation-heavy is that maybe people don’t actually care about having a sanely-run version of Twitter—perhaps they’ve already moved on. i.e. it’s not that Threads is caught in a dilemma between recommendation-driven influencer content and rage-inducing content; it’s just that a Twitter-like service isn’t a new concept anymore and perhaps people have already discovered that they don’t need it in their lives. That’s sort of my experience, and it seems to be what Cal is arguing for in any case!