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Twitter And Its Substitutes

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I get my news from Twitter. I follow experts in various fields, from universities, think tanks, wherever. I also follow individual reporters and editors who have proved their worth and governmental officials. I do not follow “official” news feeds from media.

I use Tweetdeck on the desktop with an ad blocker, and my mobile is an Android. Both of those seem resistant to Elon Musk’s mucking about. In any case, my experience on Twitter is about the same as it’s ever been, minus some of the people I’ve followed who’ve given it up, plus far too much about Musk. My “For You” feed shows only people I follow anyway, with their tweets mixed up in time, not the string of Musk tweets others are reporting.

I have signed up on Post, Spoutible, and Mastodon. Mastodon came last night, when the feed on Twitter seemed particularly thin. I have been avoiding it for many reasons, mainly its complexity. I looked at it before the rush and was put off by the demand to choose an “instance.” WTF. I later joined up, randomly chose a server, and then tried to set up a profile. It was during one of the rushes, and the screen kept freezing. I really really hate software malfunctions and am slow to go back to sites that display them. It doesn’t matter that I knew why it was.

Post seemed promising, but it showed me some of what makes Twitter work. Replies will be right there on the post. Seemed like a good idea, but nope. On Twitter, replies show up separately, providing more opportunities to read or jump into the conversation. The “Explore” feed on Post reminds me of Facebook for hundreds of thousands of people I don’t know.

Spoutible is very new, with a similar user interface to Post and to Twitter itself. I haven’t used the Twitter interface for years, and it is obvious to me why. I don’t know how people deal with it. Tweetdeck makes a big difference.

I’m new to Mastodon, but it’s pretty much what I expected. A big positive is that it has an interface like Tweetdeck’s. There are also ways to import your follows from Twitter. I haven’t used either yet. There’s enough other kinds of fussiness to set up, and I’ve been finding my follows individually. A great many of them, particularly the governmental officials and institutional feeds, are not there. Nor are a great many of the experts I follow. I’ll run one of the transfer programs, and it will get a little better.

The problem for the alternatives is network effects. There are many more people on Twitter, and the interactions go up much more rapidly than linearly. Additionally, from what I’ve seen so far, there are many more accounts from outside the United States on Twitter. You can say that that will improve when everyone moves from Twitter, but that’s a collective action program we haven’t solved.

There’s a problem that began before Musk and has been exacerbated since his takeover: people telling other people what to think. By blocking and protecting my tweets, I avoid random strangers (mostly men) telling me the Real Truth about nuclear and chemistry issues on Twitter. There is a premium for being Nice on the other networks, and I have been Niced a couple of times on them. It is not unlike mansplaining. I cannot tell you how much this puts me off a network in general.

So I’ll continue on Twitter until it becomes unfunctional for me. Post is shaping up to be an okay alternative source of news, having enticed a number of news outlets with a possible way to pay for and read one article at a timeAt this point, more of the people I talk to are on Mastodon than the others, so there’s that.

Some of the loudest critics of Twitter haven’t used it and have no need to. My experience is different. It continues to be useful to me and a source of information for my blogging. I only have time and mental bandwidth for one of these apps. I’ll keep spots on the others in case we lose Twitter.

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner

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