Watered down (and better for it)

· 2 minute read

Studies have shown that algorithmic timelines drive more engagement than reverse-chronological timelines comprised exclusively of content that the user has explicitly chosen to follow. This makes sense—the overwhelming majority of social media users don’t build and cultivate robust networks on these platforms. As such, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that algorithmic timelines “outperform” what would likely otherwise be a pretty desolate experience.

That said, the few of us who did invest in curation got something even better. Every launch of Twitter or Reddit was comprised purely of exactly what you actually wanted to see. And if you used certain clients—an option that users of both services had until very recently—you could pick up right where you left off.

Exactly what you wanted and right where you left off, always. Without ads! The pure uncut experience. No wonder so many of us were addicted.

Things are very different today. Twitter and Reddit no longer let you use clients that provide this experience. “Following” timelines, while often still possible, no longer sync one’s position and routinely switch back to the algorithmic default. Low-quality ads fill every nook and cranny.

But beyond this, most importantly, there’s just no longer a single Twitter.

When everyone used Twitter, even the algorithmic feed—a worse experience than “Following,” to be sure—was OK. It was primarily comprised of tweets from accounts that you had actually followed, just in a different sort order. Now, with users spread across a myriad of different services, “For You” is full of performative, SEO’d clickbait—the likes of previously only seen on LinkedIn.

Before the diaspora there used to be one place to look and one place to post. But everything’s now spread across Twitter, Threads, Mastodon, and (I think?) Bluesky. Before posting, one must double-check if they’re sharing the right content for the right audience subset. Before reading, one must stop to remember if the app that they’re going to open is actually the one most likely to provide what they’re looking for in this moment. The likelihood that you’ll see what you want is reduced. The likelihood that the right audience will see what you posted is reduced. The likelihood that you’ll open multiple apps only to see the same content multiple times is increased. As is the likelihood that none of them provide the high that used to be available at will.

It adds up. It’s exhausting. It’s impossible to imagine that anyone who spent years with the uncut experience would spend nearly as much time doing all of this.

So we won’t. And we’ll be so much better for it. It couldn’t have been ideal for us to have spent so much time that way, but how could we not have?

We didn’t know how good we had it. But you can have too much of a good thing, so it’s better now that it’s worse.

Mea culpa

· 0 minute read

In January I wrote:

It’ll be pretty embarassing if this is still my latest post a year from now.

Technically I needn’t be embarassed, but let’s be honest, not writing at all until now clearly isn’t what I intended. It’s been a busy year! I moved into a new house, which honestly took up more time and energy than I ever could have imagined.

But still. More to come.


· 2 minute read

How Midjourney envisions this post being written. I asked for visible writing on screen, and, well, yep 🤦‍♂️

For the third straight year, it was New Year’s Eve and I hadn’t written anything all year. I only had a few hours left to change that, just like last year and the year before that.

But did I really need to? I didn’t. I enjoyed the holiday with my family and made peace with this site not having anything from 2022, the first year without a post since it was launched1.

How did I get to this point? When did blogging turn from an outlet to an obligation?

As you can see, I used to write a decent amount and simply don’t anymore. Two contributing factors are that I haven’t kept up with the topic I used to primarily cover (iOS development), and I got older and busier2.

But more than either, I think the bigger reason is that rather than trying to expand my thoughts beyond 280 characters, I became content just tweeting something out and being done with it. Any medium-sized thought was either compressed into a tweet or, increasingly infrequently, expanded into an essay.

This wasn’t always the case! Here‘s a short post that I’m glad wasn’t a tweet, though almost certainly would have been in recent years. Here’s another.

While the bar for tweeting couldn’t be lower, the bar for publishing here felt like it had grown to be insurmountable. If you’re only going to publish once a year, it had better be good, right3?

No more. This is my space on the Internet and I can change it however I want such that I’ll actually start to use it again. And I will4.

While my inability to blog clearly isn’t a recent phenomenon, Twitter’s current managerial situation has unsurprisingly prompted a lot of my recent reflections on the topic. As articulated well in Bring back personal blogging:

The biggest reason personal blogs need to make a comeback is a simple one: we should all be in control of our own platforms.

If what is happening on Twitter hasn’t demonstrated it, our relationship with these social media platforms is tenuous at best. The thing we are using to build our popularity today could very well be destroyed and disappear from the internet tomorrow, and then what?

Owning your content and controlling your platform is essential, and having a personal blog is a great way to do that.

So here I am. It’ll be pretty embarassing if this is still my latest post a year from now.

  1. Funnily, I likely wouldn’t have ever cared if the design of my Writing page didn’t group posts by year. I could have just changed the design… 

  2. I have two kids now! 

  3. I felt like my one post from 2020 actually was. Last year’s, less so. 

  4. I’ve always liked how M.G. Siegler keeps different blogs for different purposes: 500ish for posts almost exactly like this one, 5ish for links, etc. He’s a prolific writer and I have to imagine that the different framings serve as somewhat of a mental lubricant. While I only plan to write here, there are tweaks I can and probably should make: renaming “writing” to “blog,” allowing myself to post without including a header image, etc.