Hello and thank you for reading my weekly email blast.
This week was 👍 good — finally! But how can that be? Because, I am wilfully ignoring all of the BAD news (even the bad news in this letter). The good things:
- Shad Jahangir offered insight on some of the new Twitter features. He's a cool guy and if I was straight, I would probably want to be his wife.
- What's an algorithm? Like, actually?
- A chance to make fun of Dominic Cummings
🤦♀️ Yet another very concerning acquisition
It's like the free market is ADDICTED to these, amirite? The acquisition in question is Brandwatch by Cision. Ah yes, two companies you may have never heard of that probably have too much control over your life. Why is this acquisition significant? Let's take a look at what either company do, and then you'll see...
- They are in the business of uh... 'disrupting' PR (if disrupting means just doing more of it)
- Among their products is a communications cloud, and also a large database of media channels and influencers
- They also do online monitoring so that you can 'understand' how people 'feel' about your brand
- The name is more literal than Cision, so you can probably guess that they do more of the same
- Except they call it 'social listening' and it uses AI. The point of this is to also understand brand sentiment or, you know, whatever governments might pay them for
- Be aware that a while back Brandwatch merged with Crimson Hexagon who are basically Cambridge Analytica Lite (or maybe they're better? Because there's no scandal associated with them?)
☝️So hopefully you get it: this is essentially the beginnings of some kind of 'brand sentiment' giant — all they need to do is get bought by Salesforce and there you have it! Hahahahaha... ha?
💅 Look out — it's a Super Follower!
Right so... you may have heard about Twitter's new features. Summary: we got groups, paid subscriptions, and a strike system for misinformation.
🚮 Getting the tat out of the way: they want to do groups based on 'shared interests'. According to Facebook, White Supremacy is a shared interest so...
⚾️ Five strikes and you're out: From Monday, Twitter started labelling potentially misleading tweets relating to the covid-19 vaccine. If you're tweet it labelled, it may be garnished with links to the truth, and you may get a strike. If you get five strikes, you're GONE! No more Twitter for you.
💰Where the money is: super followers. A super follower is someone who pays you a monthly fee to see ~extra content~ that the mere unpaying mortals will NEVER see. Some observations:
- Status! Clout! Social Capital! Oh, you have 13k regular followers? But how many SUPER followers do you have?
- Why would I pay for a Tweet that someone could just screenshot for me? I doubt this is how it will work. I feel like you'd just tweet secret links to more content that isn't on Twitter?
To echo my new favourite phrase: 🤷♀️ but what do I know? I asked my good friend Shad, a product designer who has an uncanny ability to predict user behaviour, what he thought about how super followers might change the way people use Twitter. He said this:
"They’re kind of taking on clubhouse, patreon, onlyfans and substack all at once [...] Twitter is basically turning into a full stack creator platform. I can imagine podcasts being hosted via Spaces, with integrated newsletters for long form content, which is behind a paywall."
Shad Jahangir, a freshly shaved proto-Scott.
So Shad thinks this could be great for content creators, but also: "But then on the other hand it’ll also be used to sell get rich quick schemes".
We also shouldn't ignore the potential dynamics that come out of paying real money for social capital. Where is that 'super follower badge' visible? Maybe it will only be visible if you want it to be. Or maybe it will be more implicit than that: “Like if you superfollowed me and joined my Space I’d be incentivised to give you a platform. Because you're paying me,” Shad said. Jokes on him, I would never super follow him anyway 🙄.
I dunno how I feel about this. In some ways this sounds perfect for insecure people with deep pockets?
But anyway: thank you Shad for your insight👏. Feel free to design your own Horrific/Terrific merch and buy a t shirt. I know how much you like doing that. (Can I have one?)
🤡 “information technology consultancy activities”
This is what Dominic Cummings new company, Siwah ltd, will apparently be doing. There are many ways to laugh outrageously at this…
In case you forgot who Dominic Cummings is: he's a very forgetful long-distance driver with poor eye sight; he's riddled with double standards; quite literally the scum of the earth; as about as pleasant as that whitish stuff that gathers in the corners of your mouth when you get really thirsty.
Anyway, he's now founded a tech firm of some sort — can't wait to see what he does with it, the cunt.
🤷♀️ Just admit that you don't know what an algorithm is
This week among the hellish menagerie that is my RSS feed, I came across this piece in MIT Technology review about what we mean when we say 'algorithm'; it made me realise, more than usual, that I hardly ever know what the HELL I'm talking about. If you don't have time to read it, or it's behind a paywall, here are some of the things that stood out for me:
- Pretending that algorithms are this giant, secret, complex thing, has enabled humans to deflect a lot of blame when things go wrong. E.g. the bullshit vaccine distribution algorithm in the US.
- Don't assume that algorithm means 'AI' or 'machine learning'. In fact the vaccine distribution thing was "was more akin to a very simple formula or decision tree designed by a human committee".
- If you are talking in ML terms, however: an algorithm is basically a set of instructions to help a computer learn things from data. Then, what is learned is called a model. Or sometimes... the model is also the algorithm?
The definition is complex basically, and no one has agreed what it is. Have fun trying to sound smart at parties now that you know this...
😱 Results from last week's competition
None of you entered, you all just went out of your way to tell me that you would not be entering — which I appreciate. The tweet in question is taken out of context from a conversation about Cyberpunk 2077, where men can select genital size for their characters and women just to SETTLE for one size. One person (man) said that there should be an option for Trojan style vaginas (stores many Greeks). So I said this:
It's uh... technically true. Because I am Greek. Think about it...