playing to an empty room

The Twitch streamers who spend years broadcasting to no one:

“It’s kind of exhausting playing to an empty room day in and day out with no results,” one Redditor wrote on a now-deleted thread on r/Twitch.

“It’s fucking hard to stay positive when doing this 5 days a week when it feels like nobody drops by,” another Redditor wrote in a different thread, after spending months streaming to nobody. “I’ve come to a realization that streaming just isn’t working for me.”

“Been streaming on and off for 4+ years and everytime I come back I go weeks where the majority of time I’m streaming to no one,” another Redditor wrote. “It’s tough.”

I think about this story in the context of this website and my podcast. I maintain both of them more for myself than to have what I do seen and heard by others. Sure, I’d love to have an audience that grows every day, but I do these things as hobbies and mental exercises more than anything else.

I’ve become a better writer from writing here since 2006, and I’ve become a better speaker from doing a podcast semi-regularly since 2014.

The same goes for my Instagram account. The fact that I have around 1,100 people interested in my photos street cars is great, but I was doing it way before Instagram existed (how about me with a 2.1 MPX Canon PowerShot ELPH S100 on the streets of Manhattan in 2000).

Clearly some Twitch streamers enjoy the sense of community they get from it, but for the streamers who don’t enjoy the actual process of streaming, then maybe it’s not the right hobby for them.

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Community

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“Twitter is shit when it comes to meme”

Young people still love Twitter — as screenshots on Instagram:

“You’d think, ‘I have a viral account on Instagram. Almost 50,000 people pay attention to me. Surely they care about what I’m tweeting?’” says Hartwig. “But people absolutely do not give a single shit about what you’re tweeting,” she says. “When I post on Instagram, I can expect about 2,000 likes a post. With Twitter, I expect about two retweets and 20 to 30 likes.” She says Twitter rewards trends and current social relevancy, while Instagram offers more topical flexibility.

In theory, Twitter should make sharing content easy; retweets are a vital part of its model, and you can share anything with one click. Going viral on Twitter is also a double-edged sword: even if you pop off a good joke, its success is unlikely to reward you with substantial new followers, and most meme creators are looking to build a fan base, not just go viral for 15 minutes. Having viral tweets can often make the platform virtually unusable, not only because of spam, but due to the personal harassment and dogpiling that often accompanies it.

This sounds very similar to my experiences with Twitter and Instagram. I’ve had my @combustion Twitter account since 2007 and for the last 4-5 years I’ve been hovering around 330 followers, whereas on my Instagram @combustionchamber, I’ve gone from ~500 followers in 2017 to ~1100 followers this year. Admittedly, I put more effort into maintaining my Instagram account, but my effort and focus is rewarded with more followers who appreciate my obsession for snapping shots of the old cars I find on the streets.

There’s a simplicity to both viewing and creating content on Instgram that I think makes it much more approachable than Twitter, regardless of age. In light of the news last week that Twitter is replacing their head of product (again) it should be no surprise their platform seems like a shitshow with no clear focus or objectives.

Let’s also not forget they dropped support for their Mac desktop client earlier this year. Luckily Tweetbot still exists.

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Community, Product

New York continues to trade a rich culture for a culture of rich.

In a piece for Harper’s Magazine, Kevin Baker writes about the continued rise of affluence in New York, at the expensive of diversity, community, and affordability (via kottke):

New York has been my home for more than forty years, from the year after the city’s supposed nadir in 1975, when it nearly went bankrupt. I have seen all the periods of boom and bust since, almost all of them related to the “paper economy” of finance and real estate speculation that took over the city long before it did the rest of the nation. But I have never seen what is going on now: the systematic, wholesale transformation of New York into a reserve of the obscenely wealthy and the barely here—a place increasingly devoid of the idiosyncrasy, the complexity, the opportunity, and the roiling excitement that make a city great.

As New York enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, it is in imminent danger of becoming something it has never been before: unremarkable. It is approaching a state where it is no longer a significant cultural entity but the world’s largest gated community, with a few cupcake shops here and there. For the first time in its history, New York is, well, boring.

Boring is the wrong word and trivializes all the bad things Baker lists out that have happened in New York. I don’t give a shit if New York boring. What pisses me off about New York in 2018 is that it continues to cement it’s status as a playground for the rich.

A culturally “rich” city is the result of diversity: of income, of ethnicity, of trade, of perspective, and many other things. New York continues to trade a rich culture for a culture of rich.

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Community, Finance

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Dumb Fucks

Jean-Louis Gassée posted another great Monday Morning Note, Mark Zuckerberg Thinks We’re Idiots:

The message is clear: Zuckerberg thinks we’re idiots. How are we to believe Facebook didn’t know — and derived benefits — from the widespread abuse of user data by its developers. We just became aware of the Cambridge Analytica cockroach…how many more are under the sink? In more lawyerly terms: “What did you know, and when did you know it?”

A company’s culture emanates from the top and it starts early. In 2004, the man who was in the process of creating Facebook allegedly called Harvard people who entrusted him with their emails, text messages, pictures, and addresses “dumb fucks”. Should we charitably assume he was joking, or ponder the revelatory power of such cracks?

I deleted my Facebook account last week like (a lot of? a few?) others, but as I mentioned on Twitter, I’m not naive.

My newsfeed has been full of junk, memes, opinions, and ignorant political rants for too long and this Cambridge Analytics scandal was just the extra push I needed to do want I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time.

‘Tis a silly place.

WhatsApp co-founder tells everyone to delete Facebook:

In 2014, Facebook bought WhatsApp for $16 billion, making its co-founders — Jan Koum and Brian Acton — very wealthy men. Koum continues to lead the company, but Acton quit earlier this year to start his own foundation. And he isn’t done merely with WhatsApp — in a post on Twitter today, Acton told his followers to delete Facebook.

“It is time,” Acton wrote, adding the hashtag #deletefacebook. Acton, who is worth $6.5 billion, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. WhatsApp declined to comment.

I deleted my Facebook account 2 days ago. When I talk about Facebook, I’m usually talking about the ‘face’ of Facebook — the newsfeed/homepage. It’s just junky. It’s been that way for a long time. I almost exclusively talk with my close friends in a private group we set up. I ignore everything else.

I’m not convinced Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the leadership at Facebook have backbones.

Facebook Still Sucks

On Facebook’s news blog David Ginsberg and Moira Burke ask if Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?:

The bad: In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward. In one experiment, University of Michigan students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than students assigned to post or talk to friends on Facebook. A study from UC San Diego and Yale found that people who clicked on about four times as many links as the average person, or who liked twice as many posts, reported worse mental health than average in a survey. Though the causes aren’t clear, researchers hypothesize that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison — and perhaps even more so than offline, since people’s posts are often more curated and flattering. Another theory is that the internet takes people away from social engagement in person.

The good: On the other hand, actively interacting with people — especially sharing messages, posts and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions — is linked to improvements in well-being. This ability to connect with relatives, classmates, and colleagues is what drew many of us to Facebook in the first place, and it’s no surprise that staying in touch with these friends and loved ones brings us joy and strengthens our sense of community.

So Facebook has concluded social media sucks if you use it the wrong way. Wow, thanks for the advice.

That’s like a car dealership selling cars that all pull to the right without turning the steering wheel and the dealer telling you, “The driving experience is better if you drive straight.”

Facebook created a platform that encourages the passive consuming of information garbage. If people are engaging in this incorrect usage, maybe Facebook should rethink how Facebook is designed, which it sounds like they’re doing.

Another way of feeling better about yourself is not using Facebook at all. I admittedly have an account that I check once or twice a week and I’m usually reminded as soon as I log in why I don’t like using it for more than a minute or so. If I spend any significant time on Facebook, it’s in the private group my best friends and I set up to talk.

The main Facebook newsfeed feels like I’m having a political debate in an isle of Walmart, with someone handing out pizza bites next to me and a row of TVs playing clips of stupid home movies and dogs tricks behind me, all the while hearing everyone else’s rants around me. Bleh.

What Ed Lee Didn’t Do

How Mayor Ed Lee remade San Francisco in Big Tech’s image:

It was for the have-nots, too, but not in the same way: many have found themselves economically banished from San Francisco. At the dawn of Lee’s tenure, nobody foresaw the explosion of tech industry job growth in this city and region at its present level. As such, the Lee administration’s gift bag for tech outfits — an industry that was poised for takeoff, regardless — led to unforeseen consequences. The avuncular Lee found himself portrayed by the city’s left as the smiling avatar of the tech- and business-friendly policies that have driven San Francisco’s inequality levels to be on par with those in Rwanda.

“Ed could have worked more robustly to address the runaway inequality in San Francisco,” says former city supervisor John Avalos, a critic of Lee’s from the left who ran against him for mayor in 2011. “The way he supported tech and the private sector was an effort that got out of hand. It was like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

This was all part of Ed Lee’s San Francisco. His policies made many people angry. But right now people aren’t angry; they’re sad.

Fuck that, I’m angry. Just because someone dies, doesn’t mean you can’t be critical of them.

The number of homeless people — and their sidewalk encampments of tents – exploded in number under Ed Lee, mirroring the explosion of techies and tech companies in San Francisco. I know this because I’ve lived in San Francisco for five years and I’ve been visiting it regularly since 2001.

I’m not saying Ed Lee is completely to blame for this, but he sure as hell didn’t make the situation better.

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Community

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Making Friends Over 30

Over at The New York Times Alex Williams explores why it’s so hard to make friends over 30:

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.

No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.

But often, people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event, like a move, say, or a divorce.

I’m keenly aware of this problem as a 40-year-old dude.

My wife is initially surprised how dismissive I am of the boyfriends and husbands of her friends and co-workers. Then I explain to her that if the guy in question is cool, I’ll make a few concerted efforts at reaching out to them (grab a drink, hit a concert, meet my other friends) but I’m usually met either with radio silence or reasons they can’t hang out. At this point I write them off.

If I run into them again I’ll usually replace my previously genuine conversating with vapid smalltalk. If they’re not making an effort, why should I?

Pretty Hate Machine

Mike Monteiro’s history of Twitter, from beginning to end (via kottke):

Twitter would have you believe that it’s a beacon of free speech. Biz Stone would have you believe that inaction is principle. I would ask you to consider the voices that have been silenced. The voices that have disappeared from Twitter because of the hatred and the abuse. Those voices aren’t free. Those voices have been caged. Twitter has become an engine for further marginalizing the marginalized. A pretty hate machine.

Biz Stone would also believe that Twitter is being objective in its principled stance. To which I’d ask how objective it is that it constantly moves the goal posts of permissibility for its cash cow of hate. Trump’s tweets are the methane that powers the pretty hate machine. But they’re also the fuel for the bomb Twitter doesn’t yet, even now, realize it is sitting on. There’s a hell of a difference between giving Robert Pattinson dating advice and threatening a nuclear power with war.

Monteiro is right. Twitter has become “a cesspool of hate”. People I follow who historically only tweeted about art, culture, or design now react to Trump on a daily basis. Multiply that by the 240 accounts I follow and that becomes a shitload of negativity. Not a great way to start your day.

Suspending Trump’s Twitter account is not a First Amendment violation. Twitter is a company with clearly stated policies you must abide to use their service. If you do not abide by those policies then you don’t get to use the service.

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Community, Tromp

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Boycott Bullshit

Twitter Users Split on Boycott Over Platform’s Move Against Rose McGowan:

Activists, celebrities and journalists joined a boycott of Twitter on Friday to protest the social media platform’s locking of the account of the actress Rose McGowan, a fierce critic of the film producer Harvey Weinstein over his alleged sexual harassment and assaults of women.

The boycott began at midnight Thursday in New York and was to last all day. Many of those taking part signified their participation with the hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter.

The idea for the protest came from Kelly Ellis, a software engineer, who wrote: “#WomenBoycottTwitter Friday, October 13th. In solidarity w @rosemcgowan and all the victims of hate and harassment Twitter fails to support.”

This is such bullshit.

The idea isn’t bullshit. The idea is great — boycott Twitter for locking Rose McGowan’s account for saying she was the victim of sexual harassment while at the same time allowing Jerkoff Trump to continue to spew hate and hostility on his account. Many have argued Trump has violated Twitter’s terms of service.

I digress.

What’s bullshit about this boycott is how half-assed it is. Boycott Twitter for a day? Really? One whole day? There’s way too many things happening second by second, all over the world, to get a meaningful amount of people to focus on one thing for more than a few hours.

An effective boycott should last longer than 24 measly hours. You also need to offer people an alternative platform of communication if you’re asking them to give up what they currently use. When you do that and Twitter notices their daily active user count plummeting, there’s a good chance they’ll start enforcing their terms of service.

That’s how you effect change.

If you’re saying to yourself that what I’m suggesting is extremely hard, you’re right. Effecting change is very hard. It’s not something you can do by typing a hashtag before a word on your fucking pocket computer.

Microblogging AKA Tumblr AKA Twitter

In 2007, CNet reviewed the then new “microblogging” service, Tumblr:

Tumblr blogging service, which launched last month, gives people the chance to publish brief or full-length, media-rich posts using their browser or mobile phone. It’s a happy medium between a tidbit posting service, such as Twitter, and a full-fledged blogging tool, such as WordPress or Blogger. Tumblr is aimed at folks who feel they may not have enough content or time to write a full blog, yet still want to write and share links and media.

After today’s announcement, Twitter is sounding a lot more like Tumblr.

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Community, Technology

Twitter Becomes Less Twittery

Twitter is increasing their character limit from 140 to 280:

We want every person around the world to easily express themselves on Twitter, so we’re doing something new: we’re going to try out a longer limit, 280 characters, in languages impacted by cramming (which is all except Japanese, Chinese, and Korean).

Huh? The 140-character limit is what makes Twitter unique. What’s next, increasing the limit to 560 characters? Then 1120? Pretty soon Twitter will be able to pivot into a blogging platform like it was 2003 again. Yeah!

Forcing constraints on a situation can lead to more creative solutions.

I’ve heard many comedians say they love using Twitter as a “testing ground” for new material because a) they can get reactions from people immediately and b) it forces them to be economical with their choice of words.

I think this move will water down the Twitter experience.

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Community, Words

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