Rumination No. 43: Why I Still Use Twitter

Over the past few years, alongside the controversy that has plagued Facebook, Twitter has also received its fair share of criticism. From enabling cyber-bullying to being Donald Trump’s global megaphone of choice, it is often regarded as a toxic hell-stew or ‘dumpster fire’, as numerous American tech podcasters like to say.

Other than the major issues of online abuse, fake news and propaganda, Twitter has also taken away functionality from some of the third-party clients that made the service popular on mobile in the first place. Notable examples include Twitterrific and Tweetbot.

I constantly review my own use social media platforms nowadays, given how distracting they can be. Whilst at university, I reached my social-media-usage zenith with 25 accounts on different services. This was largely due to the encouragement to experiment with various services during my communications degree. I certainly didn’t use all of them constantly and some of them did shut down over time. Others I deleted due to privacy concerns or because they were useless.

My ultimate social-media-usage review occurred last year when I finally deleted my Facebook and Instagram profiles, shifting my personal social media presence to Micro.blog with my site Feld Notes. In addition, Lounge Ruminator solves the problem of having a place to write longer-form content. These two sites are all that I really need.

Still, my Twitter account lives on and I continue to use it. If I have the two most (personally) meaningful spaces possible to record my thoughts and communicate with others, why do I still engage with the platform?

There are two simple answers to this question.

The first is that despite all of Twitter’s issues, the site is still the best place to connect with world news and issues, beyond your immediate circle of friends. Twitter is a space that is almost entirely unrestricted, which is simultaneously its greatest strength and greatest weakness. I prefer Micro.blog as a platform because it is much cleaner in its presentation, it leads to more genuine conversation and you have more control of your content. Twitter, however, continues to be the place where you ‘See what’s happening in the world right now’. Whether it’s fellow tech enthusiasts or some important contacts or friends, they tend to be on Twitter.

The second reason, which is really the more powerful one for me, is that I can still use Twitterrific as my preferred client. Whilst it now has zero access to the polling features or instant push notifications that are reserved for the official app, it still offers an ad-free experience, a customisable interface and a chronological timeline. These are much more enticing features to me.

There is also a level of of fit and finish in Twitterrific that just isn’t present in the official Twitter app. I can choose my own custom icon, I can move buttons, I can change typefaces and I can even choose different colour themes. The Iconfactory, which makes Twitterrific, is so dedicated to the design of its apps that it even hides whimsical elements in parts of the interface. One of the best examples that I can give you is what happens when you click on Ollie the bird’s face in the ‘About Box’ of the Mac version. (I have further thoughts on ‘About Boxes’ if you’re interested.)

Sure, this is useless but it makes using Twitter fun in a way that the company has sadly been unable to do by itself. This kind of whimsy is also a hallmark of great Mac apps. (Not to mention, Twitter pulled its Mac app and is only set to return now that Project Catalyst has made it easier for the company to do so… lazy).

Last year, I almost deleted my Twitter account when I made the big shift to Micro.blog, inspired by Casey Liss’s mini-speech about the platform on Accidental Tech Podcast. I decided to stay because of The Iconfactory and the features that it continues to add to its already fantastic cross-platform app.

If Twitter continues to strip APIs and features from third-party developers, then reason number one may not be enough of a justification for me to stay.

The Conversation: With cryptocurrency launch, Facebook sets its path toward becoming an independent nation

Writing at The Conversation, author Jennifer Grygiel of Syracuse University contributed this fantastic article about Facebook’s announcement of its new cryptocurrency, Libra.

This is a particularly powerful section:

Facebook’s entrance into the financial industry is a threat to democracies and their citizens around the world, on the same scale as disinformation and information warfare, which also depend on social media for their effectiveness.

It may be hard for world leaders to understand that this is an emergency, as they cannot see the virtual powers aligning against them. But they must huddle quickly to ensure they have – and keep – the power to protect their people from technology companies’ greed.

Grygiel goes on to describe how Zuckerberg is essentially building something similar to the Roman Empire, with a central bank, currency and himself as the corporate dictator.

Ever since reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, I wondered what would come after the nation state. As our world becomes increasingly globalised, do we really face a future of megastates? It seems like we do, however we haven’t really considered the possibility that such nations won’t be national in the traditional sense. What if this dystopian future of surveillance—which is already upon us in many ways—actually gives birth to a new type of nation: the ‘corpornation’? Indeed, will we start to see ‘corpornational’ wars between Facebook and the likes of Google, Amazon and WeChat in the future?

This may sound ridiculous but people around the world are increasingly losing their belief in traditional institutions and political systems. The leaders of the future may be corporate rather than parliamentary.

My advice is simple: delete your Facebook account. Be a part of the open Web instead.

Rumination No. 42: Handmaid’s Tale Fashion

One trend that I’ve noticed increasingly—with a minor level of concern—is the sale of outfits that match the colour scheme of The Handmaid’s Tale. If you haven’t seen it before, stop reading this and start watching it. In the programme, handmaids are forced to wear bright, red cloaks that symbolise their fertility and wives (their infertile female superiors) wear a distinctive shade of blue-green.

This trend exploded during last year’s second season but this time around, it’s back in full force. Interestingly, the colours are now being presented next to each other and even together on racks! I can’t quite see how this could be a coincidence. Check out the example from Coles’s ‘Mix’ section below.

No colour or particular combination of colours must be avoided necessarily, however I feel that it’s in somewhat poor taste for supermarkets and fashion retailers to offer women’s fashion that is inspired by a fictitious, totalitarian Christian-fundamentalist state that robs women of choice and freedom.

Couple this with the recent controversy of Kylie Jenner’s recent Handmaid’s Tale-themed party and you have to wonder: do people appreciate their privilege or are they really just blind consumers, hungry for their next like on Instagram?

Rumination No. 41: Someone Else Will Take Care of It

Look up the word ‘courtesy’ in the Oxford English dictionary and you’ll find the following definition:

The showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behaviour towards others.

Sadly, when it comes to customers, many seem to have almost no concept of courtesy. I saw a horrid example of this recently at an outdoor café setting on Alfred Street in Sydney, as a family left this table behind, covered in takeaway materials.

There is a clear difference between dining in and having takeaway. (I wrote about this in one of my other recent ruminations.) Quite simply, if your drinking vessel, cutlery and other items are not disposable, it’s safe to assume that you can leave everything there and it will be cleared by a staff member. If your items are disposable or recyclable, then you should show the common courtesy of tidying up after yourself.

The nincompoops who got up from this table and left had no intention of cleaning up. When I noticed this, I turned to them and said directly, ‘There are plenty of bins around. Are you going to clean all of that up?’. No joke, I was met with a blank expression—zero response—and they just walked away. We were surrounded by bins and there was no excuse to leave this behind.

There is a risk that my public commentary will one day see me landed in hospital; I often call out tossers and people who don’t wear helmets when riding bikes. I encourage you to do the same, when it is safe and appropriate.

At the risk of sounding downright socialist, this form of café littering is pure evidence of the flawed capitalist idea that the customer is always right. Guess what: they’re not.

Rumination No. 40: Flat White Physics

Some time ago, on the popular ABC TV programme Gruen, the panel analysed the coffee industry and how its advertising has become more dramatic and ridiculous.

One aspect of coffee advertising that they covered is the dramatic nature of the crema. With each passing year, drops of coffee seem to become bigger and more pronounced as they collide with the crema.

After another recent trip to Aldi, I think that it’s now safe to say that coffee is defying the very laws of physics on coffee-machine packaging too.

Continuing Gruen’s work, I thought that we should have a quick look at it.

What on Earth is happening here? Rather than coffee falling into the glass, it’s now being sucked up into the air, perhaps by a passing UFO.

In this case, the perspective is all weird and the glass seems to be on a totally different angle from the neighbouring (and curiously undersized) milk frother. Not to mention, how is the milk being poured so aggressively at that odd angle without spilling, particularly when the vessel is almost full?

Has your coffee ever accomplished such acrobatic feats? Watch your barista the next time that you buy one and see what happens. Don’t be seduced by this deceptive imagery.