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Tag: twitter

Notes: 2022-11-08

Phew. No big Paxlovid bounce, thankfully.

This is what I thought of when I heard about Tesla engineers coming over to validate Twitter code. It’s both true that the author seems pretty savvy and that the culture over at Tesla is focused on velocity over anything. Good times.

Let’s get all the Twitter stuff out of the way!

  • Evelyn Douek has smart things to say about Twitter’s regulatory challenges. Not just in the US, not just in the EU — India’s going to be a huge headache.
  • This layoff guide for Twitter employees is worth reading for anyone who’s nervous about their job. Or anyone, really. Use your work laptop in a way which will enable you to execute on those precautions quickly.
  • One billion dollars in infrastructure cuts? This is already working out badly. Sympathies to the guy who just went on call for a bunch of systems he doesn’t know. Gergley has a good thread on the problems ahead. Here’s another SRE still employed by Twitter, and he thinks it’s gonna be ugly. Rakyll is a well-respected principal engineer in the reliability biz; she’s pessimistic and thinks people are leaving.
  • Tangentially related: Starlink is inevitably having to throttle bandwidth. Some math: Starlink wants $5K/month for 2 terminals with a total of 350 Mbps download. That’s cheap and cool but the existing mobile solutions can deliver bandwidth in the Gbps range.

OK, that’s enough horrified observation of the train wreck. Mastodon is treating me OK so far.

If I had to choose one word to capture the difference between engineering levels, I agree that impact is a good one. But there are a lot of different ways to have an impact. I kind of want to do career progression as a spider chart.

I like this story about enclaves and exclaves but what really caught my eye is the platform — this is apparently open to anyone to write this kind of post? In my copious spare time I wanna mess with it.

This program looks like a good entrance point to New Taiwan Cinema. I’ve seen Rebels of the Neon God and I liked it, although I’m not sure I have the right flavor of patience for this particular cinematic movement.

Twitter Layoff Thoughts

Still got covid but thanks to Paxlovid or my natural recuperative energies or something, I’m feeling much better than I did on Tuesday. Let’s see how this goes.

The report described severe staffing challenges that included large numbers of unfilled positions on its Site Integrity team, one of three business units responsible for policing misinformation. It also highlighted a lack of language capabilities so severe that many content moderators resorted to Google Translate to fill the gaps. In one of the most startling parts of the report, a head count chart said Site Integrity had just two full-time people working on misinformation in 2021, and four working full-time to counter foreign influence operations from operatives based in places like Iran, Russia and China.

Elizabeth Dwoskin, Joseph Menn, and Cat Zakrzewski: Washington Post

Elon Musk just laid off half of Twitter to save money, and he will need those lawyers and engineers if he wants to handle the regulatory challenges ahead of him. Maybe he didn’t lay off the really critical employees, like the people supporting the infrastructure. After all:

“Even a temporary but overlapping outage of a small number of datacenters would likely result in the service [Twitter] going offline for weeks, months, or permanently.”



Elon Musk has directed Twitter Inc’s teams to find up to $1 billion in annual infrastructure cost savings, according to two sources familiar with the matter and an internal Slack message reviewed by Reuters, raising concerns that Twitter could go down during high-traffic events like the U.S. midterm elections.

The company is aiming to find between $1.5 million and $3 million a day in savings from servers and cloud services, said the Slack message, which referred to the project as “Deep Cuts Plan.”

Sheila Dang, Paresh Dave and Katie Paul: Reuters

I’m feeling like I’m recovering, but boy do I ever feel for Twitter.

It’s too late for Twitter employees who were laid off, but I strongly recommend this guide. It’s valuable any time you’re thinking you might leave a company, under your own power or not.

Pay to Party

It’s reasonably well known that one path to a hospitable online community is charging people a fee to register. See Metafilter for the best case. They charge $5 to register and it cuts way down on drive-by assholes. The less good case is Something Awful, which charges $10 to register and is often a pit. But that’s because they don’t moderate all that hard.

(Something Awful is also the only pro wrestling discussion forum I know of where you’ll get raked through the coals for saying things like “Unfortunately abadon as an attractive woman would have a lot more success if her gimmick didn’t involve making herself extremely unattractive”. It’s a pit of contradictions. Anyhow.)

So what is Elon trying to do with this “$20/month for verified users” thing?

First off, if you assume that all 300,000 verified users will go for it, that’s enough money to make it worthwhile. $72 million a year is only 7% of the new debt load Twitter has to service, but that’s not nothing! If you told me I could knock off 7% of my debt by crunching for a week, I’d do it in a split second.

But this isn’t just for verified users. He wants to open it up to everyone.

Jason is making a couple of big mistakes here but he is close to correct. If Twitter charged $20 as a one time fee for using the platform, and then moderated, it would clean up pretty quickly. It would also get very small. This does not fulfill Elon’s dream, alas.

That’s the first mistake. The second mistake is making it a subscription; if you have to pay $20 a month whether you misbehave or not, it’s not a psychological sunk cost and you’re more willing to break the rules and get kicked off. On Something Awful, you can immediately re-register if you get banned, so banning people is an income stream. Again, this doesn’t work if the cost is a subscription.

Can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Command Line!

awk '/in_reply_to_screen_name/ { print $3 }' tweets.json | sed 's/[","]//g' | sort | uniq -c | sort | grep -v BryantD | tail -20
  56 graphxgrrl
  57 patrickoduffy
  58 jessnevins
  59 othergretchen
  60 GlobeChadFinn
  61 ryantomorrow
  65 smakofsky
  66 seclectech
  69 multiplexer
  73 gentlyepigrams
  75 rmd1023
  76 mgrasso
  79 JimHenleyMusic
  79 Wolf_six
  89 carlrigney
 102 _r_o_n_e_
 107 rone_____1
 129 emilytheslayer
 306 rdonoghue
 341 ce_murphy

Notes: 2022-10-28

Back in 1905, before the city was annexed by Seattle, Ballard had different street names. Different and better.

This is OK as creepypasta but it’s great as a parody of forum culture. “Please keep all pet-related talk confined to the appropriate subforum! Thanks!”

For my own reference, this is where you express interest in Letterboxd features and this is where you express interested in TMDB features. Letterboxd has a tricky tightrope to walk: more social features are good but would require more moderation and I think it’s a little bit undermoderated as it is. There’s a very slight spam problem.

Elon Musk, bless his heart, has chosen to lie to Twitter employees about his plans to cut 75% of the workforce. Dude, the Washington Post has the presentations. You just took a ten million dollar hit by firing the CEO instead of sidelining him for a year and paying him to sit at home. Be brave, tell the truth.

Exiting Twitter

[Reproduced from Twitter, slightly edited. I’m fiddling around in a lightweight way with a tool to turn Twitter archives into HTML pages and/or WordPress posts, while I’m at it. Who knows if I’ll get anywhere with it.]

If you have any qualms about a Musk-managed Twitter, now is a decent time to think about whether or not you want to hang around. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. Here’s my plan. I think there’s a decent chance Musk will turn around and off-load Twitter within the next six months, thanks to the amount of debt that banks are taking on as part of this, so I’m not going to do anything drastic; no hurry for me.

I’m gonna leave my bots turned off. I don’t think they were serving any super-important purpose, except maybe the startsmall bot, but life goes on.

I am going read-only. Twitter’s a useful information site for me so I’m not going to stop reading it, but I don’t need to post there. I’ve been building some workflows to make it easier to collect random thoughts; I can do semi-daily posts to

I downloaded all my Twitter data. You should too if you’re thinking about leaving, even if you don’t know what to do with it. There might be tools for the less technical someday.

My key links now live at — I own that domain name, so that’s a persistent place to find me. I’m on Cohost and Mastodon, although I’m not putting a huge amount of effort into either of those.

I’ll reevaluate in six months or so. Earlier if it makes sense, but I’ve got a reminder set for May.

The best social media advice I have right now is to spin up a Discord for your buddies. I have one centered around movies. It’s easy and free and you don’t need hundreds of members — just invite your pals and let them invite a few of people and you can get a nice space. Why Discord? It’s popular, many people already have a login, and they don’t need to make a new one to join your Discord. As boring as it is to go with the market leader, it’s sometimes smart. Also, assuming Slack is the alternative, I prefer being in the target audience — Slack is in the corporate market.

If you like a social media service which is more in your control,Darius Kazemi’s is a very good approach.

Finally, I continue to be deeply grateful that my random Tweets about Eric Hargan went mildly viral. There are quite a few people I Twitter-met that way who are insanely cool; I’ve been glad to get little windows into your worlds and have occasional conversations. Thank you.

Thread Reader’s Conspiracy Theory Problem

So I’ve been scraping Thread Reader for a month and I think I have enough data to talk about it. Very important: the guy who runs the site and bot seems like a decent dude, I don’t think this is intentional, but there are some actions I think are worth taking.

If you look at the Trending section of Thread Reader as I post this you’re gonna see people angry at Kavanaugh, which is good. Usually, though, you’re probably going to see a lot of Trump fans, a couple of QAnon threads, a random thread… and maybe a progressive thread. Maybe.

Does that matter? Yeah, probably — a lot of us use the site to save off interesting threads, and we link to those threads, and that means a bunch of conspiracy propaganda is one click away from our links, and it’s presented as “trending.” This is a very small scale example of the kind of algorithmic radicalization that Zeynep Tufekci and James Bridle have written about. (Phrase coined by Kim-Mai Cutler.)

I’ve been scraping the trending threads from the Thread Reader front page hourly for a month, along with metadata: who posted them, how many subscribers they have on Thread Reader, hash tags, links, etc. I wanna dig more but I did some quick and dirty number crunching which is worth sharing.

The big dog of Thread Reader is Thomas Wictor. Over the month I’ve been watching, he’s had 42 threads in trending. He’s full of conspiracy theories about how Trump is setting people up — not a QAnon guy but the same kind of themes. He has 1120 followers. The number 2 poster is Stealth Jeff. He credits Thomas with converting him to a Trump fan. Jeff had 20 trending threads in a month, and has 827 followers. Number 3 is a guy named REX. He cites Stealth Jeff and Thomas Wictor often. “Now I can’t prove that this 4Chan prank was a Trump hit, but it wouldn’t surprise me.” He had 16 trending threads last month and 566 followers.

At number 4, we have Lisa Mei Crowley, our first QAnon follower. She had 11 trending threads in a month, 479 followers. Number 5 is Praying Medic, also a QAnon follower. 10 threads, 820 followers.

The first left-winger on the list is Seth Abramson, in sixth place with 5 trending threads over the month. He has 567 followers. After him there’re three people with 3 trending threads, 14 people with 2, and 91 with 1. (Hi, Ed Whelan!)

Generally speaking if you have more than a few hundred followers and you roll up threads frequently you can count on getting onto the trending list regularly. Notable progressive tweet-stormers have lots of threads rolled up — but no followers and thus rarely trend.

I also tracked hashtags and @mentions. Top five used hashtags in order: qanon, maga, fakenews, spygate, and metoo. Most often referenced Twitter accounts: Trump, POTUS, Jeff Flake, Chuck Grassley, General Flynn… and sixth is Thomas Wictor again. Thomas just got banned from Twitter again, by the by.

This is what algorithmic radicalization looks like. It’s the unintentional result of algorithms which highlight popular content. If you’re turned off by the list of trending threads, you’re less likely to make an account. Positive feedback loop.

So: algorithms are easy to game. The behavior we see on TRA may or may not be people gaming the system; doesn’t matter. If you think it would be a good idea to see more sane ideas trending on the biggest Twitter threading platform, make an account at Thread Reader — it’s free. Subscribe to your faves. If they’re OK with it, roll up their threads. The numbers are low in absolute terms; it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference.