Twitter is nothing but a parade of cops. Policemen’s day at the ballpark. It’s not just political, or strictures on art. It’s everything down to, Do you put ketchup on a hotdog? Fuck you! Do you put pineapple on a pizza? Fuck you! Because I’m a cop and I decide how everybody lives their lives. That’s an absolutely poisonous thing to pour into your head, especially if you’re a writer. The constant hectoring and hall-monitoring of that place. The purpose of Twitter is to let everybody know that you’ve got a badge and you’ve spit-shined that shit and you are controlling these halls.Jordan Harper, author of She Rides Shotgun & writer for The Mentalist.
A few months ago, when Twitter acquired Scroll, a New York-based startup, the only question that remained was how they would integrate the service into the primary Twitter offering. That question got answered yesterday when the company introduced Twitter Blue, a premium offering in its major markets, including the United States. (Twitter Blue was available in Canada and Australia as part of its iOS app.)
For $2.99 a month, you get access to ad-free and paywalled content. You can undo tweets and get access to many beta features, such as uploading longer-length videos. You can pin some private direct message conversations to the top of the “messages folder.” There are some other customization options as well on Twitter’s iOS app. However, it is the reading part that is the main show of this premium offering.
When you subscribe — I did — on the web, you get an additional icon in the right-hand menu that says Top Articles. When you go to Top Articles, you see a list of much-shared articles shared by those whom you follow.
I also like the “conversation” panel that opens up when you highlight the article before clicking on the link to read it off-Twitter. At present, the default timeline is articles shared over the past 24 hours. I would love to get the option to select eight, or 12 hours, as folks tend to share articles more frequently on Twitter. In short, the Twitter team has successfully integrated the old Nuzzel that came to Twitter as part of the Scroll acquisition.
The ad-free reading offerings thus far underwhelm me — there were three articles in my entire 24-hour “top articles” timeline. They have agreements with quite a few big publishers, but they are the lowest common denominator publishers. If you happen to have specific interests or follow a narrower group of accounts on Twitter, you might be out of luck. For me, this lack of quality sources is the weak link in the new offering — but let’s hope they can overcome this challenge.
Despite the shortcomings, I am willing to try this new offering, at least for six months. After all, like most of us, I don’t want to sign-up for individual magazine or newspaper subscriptions. I don’t want to deal with micro-payments for articles, newsletters, and other content worth our attention. It remains to be seen what percentage of Twitter users are more open-minded and equally open with their wallets.
After all, the bigger question remains unanswered: What percentage of 397 million Twitter users will pay $36 a year for these premium features. The revenues garnered from a million subscribers for the premium service will be a mere rounding error in the company whose revenues were $3.72 billion in 2020. So, success for Twitter Blue means many millions of subscribers. It won’t be easy — it is hard to get people to pony up for something they perceive they have been getting for free.
Nevertheless, Twitter should stick with it because, in time, people will start to see value in this premium upgrade. I like the new direction Twitter is taking. “In much the same way Spotify has become a place where people experience music, Twitter could be the place where we discover, share, and consume news and other written content,” I wrote in an essay, What Twitter can learn from Spotify, last year.
Many of Twitter’s new changes, such as introducing newsletters and now the Twitter Blue, show that Twitter is finally embracing its destined place in the news & information ecosystem.
November 10, 2021, San Francisco
While my week has been noticeably quiet here on my internet homestead, it has been quite the opposite for me out in the real world.
I had to go to the dental surgeon to remove a couple of wisdom teeth that had become nuisances and were putting the entire neighborhood in distress. I recognize that it was a pretty minor procedure, but like any reasonable adult, I am scared shitless of visiting the dentist. I was in a state of panic for two days leading up to the event, unable to sleep and overcome with anxiety.
On the day of the procedure, it all turned out to be relatively fast and straightforward — thanks in large part to the surgeon, who kept talking to me about photography and his love of Lindorf technical cameras. Of course, now he is a Canon man. (I wonder why the world still insists that dentists prefer Leica.) He gets full marks for keeping my focus on everything but the surgery as he extracted those getting the troublemakers out.
I was back home in just two hours, but that was followed by two days of pain. I used the prescription pills twice, but given their content (Hint: rhymes with “foxy”), I decided to switch to plain vanilla Tylenol. Between the headaches and the jaw aches, not to mention being restricted to eating only soft food, it hasn’t been fun. But I am feeling better today. Almost normal. I am even looking forward to eating a proper lunch. As I eat, I will likely mull over the question that’s been needling me: does wisdom go when the wisdom teeth do? (Let me know what you think, and the funniest answer will get tweeted on my Twitter.)
One — and maybe the only — positive side effect of the surgery was that it gave me a lot of forced downtime to do a bunch of reading. I was able to get through both my Safari Reading List and my Pocket Reading Lists. I also got a chance to enjoy a handful of movies and some cricket. Given the mediocrity of the New York Yankees, cricket is proving to be a much-needed salve for my bruised baseball fandom. Due to injuries throughout the league, even my fantasy baseball teams are proving to be disappointments.
I wanted to share some gems I found on the Internet this week while laid out in bed, struggling to will away my aches and pains. These are some perfect time wasters:
- Does your facemask come with a HEPA air-purifier, microphone, and a pair of headphones? If not, you should consider this.
- Here is a great and simple way to introduce soundproofing to your offices and apartments. Leave it to the Swedish to use a common-sense approach to screwing around.
- “Drill, baby, drill” gets a Japanese makeover.
- Can you turn music into landscapes? Hmmm!
- The Golden Gate Bridge sings. No, seriously.
- Musicians quit their pop life to find a different career. Now, that’s inspirational!
- 35.4 percent of those who answered my Twitter poll think Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” was the best one-hit wonder of the 1990s, barely edging out the “Macarena.”
- ‘90s music was awesome! The era’s website designs? Not so much. Here’s how some of today’s top services, such as Twitter and Spotify, would have looked in the 1990s.
- Speaking of old technology, I miss this baby.
- As the world turns: Amazon now offers a monthly vinyl subscription service.
Finally, here is what I said on Twitter this week:
July 22: Washington often conflates “building more infrastructure” with “resilient infrastructure,” a risky proposition in a networked society, argues @ratulm of @intentionet, part of @trueventures community. @SenatorLujan should talk to experts like Ratul.
July 21: A team at Duke University implanted a new-generation artificial heart in a man, the first such procedure in North America. It is an implantable prosthetic that includes biological valves derived from bovine tissue & operates on an external power supply. https://buff.ly/36Rk6FK
July 20: I wonder if Freud secretly haunts the corridors of Apple’s offices: space autocorrects to SPAC.
July 19: We live in a world where you have to (proverbially) scream to get attention & credit for your efforts. It is important to own your narrative.
Jul 24, 2021, San Francisco
“Tweek,” is an aggregation of the tweets I sent out during the week. It is a habit I picked up from Disquiet, a blog run by Marc Weidenbaum. It allows me to remember what I was thinking about during this specific time. It also allows me to correct my grammar and spelling. If you don’t follow me on Twitter, this is just the best of what I have shared with my community.)
July 14: Well, in terms of product wishlists, my @Photoshop wish list would include a way to boost the ludicrous 2 GB file size limit. It made sense when the cameras had puny sensors. Now five curves + enhanced DNG is enough to zoom past 2 GB. And while we are at it, when will the Visual AI community develop a way to figure out the “sensor dust” problem and solve it by removing dust spots. That alone is worth $10-a-month in time saved. Upsizing of files isn’t that much of a necessity, as is “dust spot removal.”
July 14: Nothing except they are paying attention to those who are speaking to the fact that it was a terrible design decision, and they rectified fast. It is a good thing to see in a company. (My tweet was in response to a tweet from Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman’s comment about Apple tweaking the Safari look-and-feel after massive blowback from the developers.)
July 13: Hey @kayvz @jack @arctictony – product suggestion: use your magic to auto label paywalled links. That alone would make Twitter highly sticky. For now, all I do is spend time clicking on links I can’t read.
July 12: In a few years, everyone will realize that
@jasonkilar was right to push Hollywood into the streaming release mode. Nothing better than watching new movies at home. Waiting for headsets with a fantastic viewing experience. (Read more https://buff.ly/2QLqB2k) https://buff.ly/2UHM8jQ
July 11: Scratching my head and wondering where I have read this story before — maybe a few years ago? And more scratching later: so what’s different & what will be the model! More importantly, who is the sugar daddy buying the influence here? Anyone?
July 17, 2021, San Francisco
It was a slower week for me — between work-related emails and research, I had little time for actual writing. I barely even had time for Twitter, and even then only as a very occasional guilty pleasure. Still, I managed to write a long thread about a new Nielsen rating gimmick called “The Gauge.” I am trying to get my data together for a piece about why it’s bogus. In the meantime, here are some other tweets from the last seven days:
- Medical industry payments to orthopedists & neurosurgeons who operate on the spine have risen sharply, despite government accusations that some of these transactions violate federal anti-kickback laws & put patients at risk. KHN
- A lot of hints in these product releases about Amazon’s grand ambitions to become a big hairy presence in the “network of everything.” Exciting and scary at the same time! The Tape Drive
- I know the (Indian) men’s team is playing #WTCFinals, but for me, the batting of Shefali Verma in the #IndvsEng game in both innings is a real (fire emoji). A star of the game today, megastar tomorrow. How many more amazing talents are out there. We most definitely need Women’s IPL. @BCCIWomen #
- With summer officially one the way, it is time for some summer crime flicks. I will start with two of my favorites – The Andersen Tapes (Sean Connery) and Rear Window (Jimmy Stewart). Tell me your picks. And get some recommendations from friends as well. (The responses from various folks on Twitter included: The Sting, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Heist, Red Rock West, Blood Simple, To Catch a Thief, Insomnia, and both versions of The Thomas Crown Affair.) More replies are still coming.
While some may use Twitter with more of an agenda, for me it is simply a place to share what’s on my mind. Follow along: @om