Tag Archives: culture

Is Automattic Going To Save Tumblr’s Life?

Earlier this year, when it was announced that WordPress creator Automattic was to buy Tumblr, some optimism returned to the realm of creative blogging. Despite there being more free options for bloggers than ever before, most of them are woeful, and at the top of the tree, the spirit of blogging has been dying a painful death.

WordPress.com has shifted its commercial focus towards business websites, populating the platform with disengaged husks and decimating what was once a passionate writers’ community. Tumblr has suffered all kinds of problems in the hands of Verizon, and seen a catastrophic drop in usage as a result. Medium.com, proclaimed by some as the new king of serious blogging platforms, has been blighted with an elitist mentality, where a heavy curation bias sees ‘preferred authors’, with ‘preferred styles’, seizing the bulk of the visibility. And Blogger (.blogspot) has no real native community features at all. If you can code HTML and CSS, and you have a separate social media presence that can drive traffic, Blogger is unbeatable. But most people can’t, and don’t. Continue reading Is Automattic Going To Save Tumblr’s Life?

What Are Social Media Algorithms and Are They Really So Bad?

Social media algorithms. The concept of them is so unpopular that some alternative social platforms actually trade on the fact that they (supposedly) don’t have them. But in this post I just might change the detractors’ minds. I’ll explore the reality of algorithms, explode some of the myths that surround them, and find out whether they really do us a favour or a disservice.

WHAT IS AN ALGORITHM OR ALGO?

In the context of social media, an algorithm – algo for short – is simply a sorting mechanism. A system of priority for the display of content or profiles.

The most basic social media algorithm is a reverse chronological display. That’s newest posts always at the top of the timeline, with no filtering – i.e. nothing removed. Despite the order being very simple and basic, this is still an algorithm. And by default, any social app you can find on an app store will filter out some sensitive matter. They won’t be accepted by the app stores if they don’t. So essentially, all social networks with timelines use some type of algorithm – even those who claim not to. You can read some more network-specific details in Finding The Best Alternative Social Media Platform.

Most social platforms, however, additionally manipulate their basic, reverse chronological timeline. They’ll filter out more than they’re required to filter out by the app stores – most often to avoid endless repetition and valueless spam. Then they’ll start to interfere with the chronological order, so that popular or more personally-relevant posts are placed at the top of the timeline, even when they’re not the most recent. Continue reading What Are Social Media Algorithms and Are They Really So Bad?

“Trust Me, I’m a Male Feminist!”: Twitter Feminism For Men

What’s the difference between a male feminist and a female feminist? It’s not a gag – there’s a simple and thought-provoking answer. The difference is that the male is in a position to actively address some of the issues he’s fanfaring about. For example, if he believes there’s an unfair gender pay gap of 22%, he can send 11% of his salary to women’s groups. If he believes men should not be invading female spaces, he can take his unsolicited commentary out of women’s Twitter mentions. Is he doing those things? If not, why not?… Continue reading “Trust Me, I’m a Male Feminist!”: Twitter Feminism For Men

Twitter Detective MasterHack: How To Retrospectively Find A User ID Number

I wrote in my Old Usernames article about the importance of Twitter’s User ID in keeping tabs on slippery people’s behaviour. The User ID is a unique account identifier which remains the same however many times the user changes his or her @username. If you know the User ID, you will always be able to find a given Twitter profile (or at least find what’s happened to it) via its numerical URL.

But what happens if you discover that, say, a group of account @usernames have been switched, and you need to actually prove that the switch has taken place? This can happen with account networks when they try to cloak their origins. And it became important recently when the lead profile in a network of raving political activist accounts rebranded as the main promo feed for an alternative social media platform claiming to be politically impartial. I know, you couldn’t make it up, could you?

Well, there is fiendishly clever way to find out who’s been switching usernames, and PROVE it. Anyone can do it, and you can read the full tutorial in: How To Retrospectively Find a Twitter ID Number.

Will Twitter Ban “Cash Giveaway” Accounts?

If you haven’t yet seen one, where have you been? On Twitter, supposed “cash giveaways” have become a means for the self-styled “benefactor” to build a vast following, elicit unnaturally high levels of compliance from the public, and make a lot of money. But if there’s no separate terms and conditions page, the cash prize almost certainly doesn’t exist. And even if it does, how would you know? This is a world where the winners are almost never mentioned, let alone identified. It’s just tweet after tweet of…

“RT, Like and Comment to win £5,000 in cash. Must be following me, and must tell me what a fantastic guy I am in the comment, blah, blah.”

That’s the kind of character we’re talking about. Not just spectacularly manipulative, but also childishly egotistical. And there’s no “Congratulations to the winner”. Aside from their occasional, staged convincer ruses, these dudes can’t even be bothered to pretend someone actually won. New day, new giveaway, and it never ends.

This post was written in May 2019, before the rise of the #TwitterPhilanthropy tag. I’ve done a full update taking into account more recent events in the #TwitterPhilanthropy Cash Messiah post, but I’ve also left this post intact for historical reference… Continue reading Will Twitter Ban “Cash Giveaway” Accounts?

Twitter Unfollow Practices: Spammers Are The New Inactives

When ManageFlitter and Crowdfire sat at the epicentre of Twitter follow management tools, usage of those apps helped spread a notion that one of the best targets for unfollowing was the inactive user. And the Twitter ‘manage’ apps made the process of following so-called “inactives” very, very simple.

But in January 2019, a range of Twitter unfollow apps, including both of the aforementioned, had their API access disabled by Twitter. This rendered the best known unfollow tools inoperable. And because these and other apps had such an enormous presence among Twitter users, the effective shutdown of their core functionality actually changed the Twitter landscape – even for those who never used them.

For example, you may recall that this time last year, if you went more than 30 days without updating your timeline, your mutuals would start to unfollow you. That was because ManageFlitter and its derivatives had an “Inactives” unfollow category, which used a 30-day filter to determine who was, or was not, still using Twitter. The implication was that app users should unfollow accounts in the “Inactives” category, and many did. Continue reading Twitter Unfollow Practices: Spammers Are The New Inactives

How To Avoid a Twitter Shadowban

One of the most fundamental changes in Twitter’s policy ever, was the introduction, at the beginning of March 2017, of proactive moderation. Previously, Twitter had responded to user reports of abuse, offensiveness and spam on an individual basis, but this had largely failed to tackle an endemic problem with low-quality profiles and annoying or distortive spam.

Because Twitter is so huge, the bulk of this new realm of moderation would have to be automated. Twitter thus set to work devising algorithms which could attempt to identify known traits of low-quality or offensive profiles, and then penalise those accounts. Some penalties would be notified to the offending user; others would not. The classic shadowban is not notified to the offending user.

From the start, circa 1st March 2017*, a large number of Twitter profiles were auto-moderated, and dropped out of the search timelines for varying periods of time. The surreptitious measures which rendered many accounts widely invisible, quickly became known as shadowbans.

[*Update 16/4/2019I’ve now been able to confirm that tweets were being taken out of search based on shadowban criteria before 1st March 2017, but the measures had their publicised launch on that date.]

EFFECTS OF A SHADOWBAN

There are different types and degrees of shadowban, but most typically, the user’s tweets will drop out of Twitter’s default search results. Depending on why the user is shadowbanned, the following consequences may also apply… Continue reading How To Avoid a Twitter Shadowban