Python code to parse a Twitter archive and output in various ways – GitHub – timhutton/twitter-archive-parser: Python code to parse a Twitter archive and output in various ways
I am interested here as someone who realizes how much a) community, b) professional learning, and especially c) knowledge production arose from the particular context (including technological, political, personal, epidemiological, generational factors, etc) of 2005 to 2015. And I’m wondering where teachers–especially new teachers–will get that next.
Some Thoughts About How And What Mastodon Is
Towns and distinct places. There was a great analogy I saw, that Twitter is like a big city. It contains super interesting stuff, a lot of people, in some cases it is quite dirty and could do with being cleaned up, but there’s a mass there and the ability for serendipity that doesn’t exist in a smaller space. The city analogy feels much more apt than the town square, not least of which because a town square with tens of millions of daily active users isn’t something for which we have a mental model. A city, though? Yeah, that fits: they’ve even got people who’ll hurl abuse at you and, in theory, people who might have an opinion about whether that’s okay and do something about it. You might move to the burbs or to a nation state that has a better opinion about, say, paid family leave or not having a death penalty, but every so often you might still want to visit that big dirty noisy city just to have a look around.
This has me thinking about Dron and Anderson’s discussion of nets, sets and groups.
In the near future, Musk and his engineers may yearn for the days when their hardest job was merely landing reusable rockets.
- David Frum on our complicated relationship with Twitter
- Charlie Warzel on the possibility of death by neglect
- Eli Parisar on why Twitter is not a town square
- Ben Werdmüller on why it may be time to move on
For me, Clive Thompson captures things best, explaining how working with all the variables to land a rocket is still a far cry from the complexity of grappling with 400 million Twitter users.
Grappling with the behavior of 400 million Twitter users? Hoo boy.
The complexity is absolutely mind-bending, particularly given all the diversity of human parties involved. You’ve got celebrities with massive followings; people passively surfing Twitter for news; advertisers looking to find useful audiences; shit-stirrers and political actors posting misinfo and disinfo; a silent majority of Twitterfolk who never post at all, and just lurk; foreign agents looking to mess with global politics; friends looking to mostly follow friends; people looking to hate-follow opponents; political figures using Twitter to reach their public; botmasters running legit bots; botmasters running bots that skirt the edge of legitimacy. That’s just a thoroughly incomplete list, generated off the top of my head. But the point is, these users all have very different desires, often opposed to others’ desires. Whoever runs Twitter has to thread the needle on all those clashing goals.
I want to revisit the question of the future of blogging in light of the impending reconfiguration of the social media environment due to Elon Musk buying Twitter.
Pre-Musk twitter, for all its faults, was, along with WordPress-style blogging, the last holdout of a convivial kind of web. Not convivial enough to satisfy genuine Ivan Illich stans like L. M. Sacassas or Robin Sloan perhaps, but far more convivial than Medium/Substack/Patreon/Facebook type corporatized platform ecologies. And definitely convivial enough for a philistine like me who prefers (modulo Covid effects) Starbucks over indie coffee shops anyway.
Rao explains that if Twitter were to disappear, it is not something that can necessarily be replaced with something else.
In brief, I treat all these so-called options as part of the cozyweb, good for my cozyweb activities like the Yak Collective, but not meaningful substitutes as far as the more public affordances of Twitter, such as serving as a distribution medium for blogs, are concerned. Twitter is basically sui generis that way. Not only can nothing replace it, it cannot be built again either, since it was a product of a particular era of the web (like Wikipedia and Craigslist). If it goes away, or transforms unrecognizably, we just have to do without.
With the association between long form blogging and Twitter, Rao wonders what flow on effect that Musk’s proposed changes may have.
But perhaps, this time, it would be good for blogging to plot a course into the future that isn’t so vulnerable to these battles over aggregated discussion and distribution media.
And perhaps it is would be best if blogging were to fade away gracefully, without passing the torch of independent convivial media technology to a suitable successor. Maybe the future is about neither corporatized platform technologies, nor Quixotic indie conviviality.
Maybe it is about an entirely different kind of media environment.
This is a particularly interesting in regards to those who wish to find somewhere else to converse and what that might mean.
In other pieces written about Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, Adam Serwer suggests that Musk’s purchase is less about free speech and more about politics:
“Free speech” is a disingenuous attempt to frame what is ultimately a political conflict over Twitter’s usage as a neutral question about civil liberties, but the outcome conservatives are hoping for is one in which conservative speech on the platform is favored and liberal speech disfavored.
Ben Werdmuller suggests that opening up the algorithm will not resolve the move to a more inclusive world.
Elon is right to want to open source, but he’s wrong about the implications. The world is moving in a more inclusive, more compassionate direction, and there’s no going back. Nationalism and traditionalism are firmly party of the 20th century, and that is becoming an increasingly long time ago.
Discussing the metaphor of the town square, John Naughton suggests that Twitter is just one small piece of this space:
Musk suffers from the delusion that “Twitter has become the de-facto town square”, which, frankly, is baloney. The internet, as Mike Masnick points out, is the metaphorical “town square”. Twitter is just one small private shop in that space – a shop in which hyperventilating elites, trolls, journalists and millions of bots hang out and fight with one another.
Ranjan Roy and Can Duruk theorise that Musk’s purchase is about diversification:
My mini-grand theory is that this entire sequence of events: The Twitter purchase, the SEC escalation, Tesla’s blowout quarter – it’s all about the next giant package. Musk saw an opportunity at the beginning of the year. Tesla’s business was on a roll, his pay package was almost complete, the SEC was threatening his Twitter account, and Tesla’s stock had stalled out for six months. Every great entrepreneur understands the importance of momentum and he decided to capitalize on this confluence of events.
Similar to Rao, Alex Hern believes a healthy social network is not possible:
I don’t think it’s possible for a site to be both a replacement for Twitter, and a healthy social network, because I no longer think it’s possible for a healthy social network to exist that connects the world.
Robin Sloan adds his thoughts in regards to professional engagement:
As a writer, looking for evidence of readership and engagement on Twitter makes you into the drunk looking for your lost keys under the street light.
Alan Jacobs wonders if Musk might be a hero and close the platform down.
Elon Musk could become the world’s greatest hero by buying Twitter and then immediately shutting it down.
Twitter doesn’t just provide a speaking platform, nor are its effects confined to algorithmic filtering. Twitter shapes our goals for discourse by making conversation something like a game. Twitter scores our conversation. And it does so, not in terms of our own particular and rich purposes for communication, but in terms of its own pre-loaded, painfully thin metrics: Likes, Retweets, and Follower counts. And if we take up Twitter’s invitation and internalize those evaluations, we will be thinning out and simplifying our own goals for communication.
> Twitter gamifies communication by offering immediate, vivid, and quantified evaluations of one’s conversational success. Twitter offers us points for discourse; it scores our communication. And these game-like features are responsible for much of Twitter’s psychological wallop. (Page 1-2)
Games, I’ve argued, are the art form that works in the medium of agency. The game designer doesn’t just create characters, stories, and environments. The game designer sculpts the temporary agency that the player will occupy during the game. They design, not only a world, but who the player will be in that world. I do not just mean that the game designer provides a fictional backstory for a character. They design the essential agential structure of the in-game actor. They designate what the in-game agent’s abilities and affordances will be — whether they will be a jumper, a shooter, a builder or an information gatherer. And, most importantly, the game designer sets the in-game agent’s motivations by setting the goals of the game. (Page 8)
In contrast, gamification is about adding goals to real-life activities:
But gamification is an entirely different matter. In gamification, the designers are instrumentalizing the goals of our real-life activities. FitBit, by gamifying exercise, invites us to change our goals for our health and fitness. And Twitter, by gamifying discourse, invites us to change our goals for conversation, communication, and declaration. Instrumentalizing one’s goals is fine in striving games, because the goals in games were never valuable, in and of themselves, in the first place. But in real life activity, the goals are often independently valuable. So when we gamify those activities and instrumentalize those ends for the sake of pleasure, we risk losing sight of the real importance of the activity. Twitter’s gamification changes our communicative goals away from understanding, connection, and the collective pursuit of truth, and bends them towards something much more impoverished. (Page 30 – 31)
Nguyen raises the question whether gamification really is an ‘unalloyed good’:
In McGonigal’s picture, gamification is an unalloyed good: it simply removes drudgery and adds pleasure. But her optimism depends on believing that gamification can achieve these psychological goods while adequately preserving the value of the activity. (Page 7)
With gamification, the focus then becomes about the greatest number:
We will prefer those communications that appeal to the greatest number — even if that appeal is marginally positive — rather than those communications that might reach a smaller number more deeply. (Page 13)
The problem with such a focus is that things like slow appreciation of ideas and diversity of perspectives is often overlooked in light of the short term instant focus:
Slow appreciation is far less likely to be captured by the system and be counted towards that tweet’s score. (Page 12)
Along with this, the focus is also on what can be counted.
a life of gamification will tend to draw us towards those activities which have clearly measurable goals, or can be transformed into something with clearly measurable goals. When we demand the pleasures of gamification in our activities, then the range of activities available to us diminishes – and the degrees of freedom we have within the activity also diminishes. (Page 17)
Focusing on what can be counted tempts users to change their goals to match.
We aim to express what we think of as true, and to question and challenge each other’s expressions, as part of our quest to understand the world. But gamification tempts us to change our goals — to aim at expressions which maximize our score, rather than those which aid our collective understanding. And it promises to reward us for that change with pleasure. Twitter tempts us to subvert the activity of earnest conversation for hedonistic reasons. (Page 25)
First, Twitter’s makers are designing for gamification for the sake of profit, which they pursue by making their design seductively pleasurable to its end-users. And second, those users are accepting the seduction, and gamifying their discourse for the sake of pleasure. At both levels, we find people willing to forsake the original goals of discourse for some other end. (Page 34)
Overall, Nguyen summarises the situation by comparing gamification, moral outrage porn, and echo chambers with junk food and nutrition.
Gamification, echo chambers, and moral outrage porn go together like junk food. Different kinds of junk food are unhealthy in different ways — some are too high in salt, some too high in fat, some too high in sugar. But the reason they are often consumed together is that they are all likely to be consumed by somebody who is willing to trade off health and nutrition in return for a certain kind of quick pleasure. The same is true of gamification, moral outrage porn, and echo chambers. They are all readily available sources of a certain quick and easy pleasure, available to anybody willing to relax with their moral and epistemic standards.
Echo chambers instrumentalize our trust; moral outrage porn instrumentalizes our morality; and gamification instrumentalizes our goals (Page 37 – 38)
Stats have this terrible way of turning you — or, at least, me — into a zombie. I know that they don’t say anything. I know that huge chunks of my Twitter followers are bots, that I could’ve bought my way to a higher Amazon ranking, that my Medium stats say nothing about the quality of my work, and that I should not treat any number out there as a mechanism for self-evaluation of my worth as a human being.
The philosopher C. Thi Nguyen believes that to understand modern life, we need to understand how games work.
In contrast, platforms like Twitter use gamification to funnel our values without giving us space to step back. This manipulation occurs through the use of points. Although this quantification is useful for ‘seeing like a state’, it does not account for choice and nuance. For example, Fitbit can capture your steps, but not your life.
The conversation ends with a discussion of conspiracy theories and what Nguyen describes as ‘game mindfulness’. He basically summarises this as a suspicious of pleasure.
I actually think there’s a tiny hint in how pleasurable games are. And this is going to make me sound kind of awful, but the way I navigate the world right now is I’ve developed a fair amount of defensive suspicion about certain kinds of pleasure. A marker of design game-like systems is that they’re very pleasurable to operate in.
The idea of social media as a game is something Tom Chatfield has also touched upon in regards to play in the digital age.
So in the broad sense you could almost go as far as saying things like Twitter or Facebook are a kind of very clever game because people have a profile which they care about, and they are constantly in the business of trying to make numbers go up, trying to get more followers, trying to get more likes, trying to get more tweets or re-tweets. They are comparing themselves to other people. Again, in Twitter there’s a sort of global scoring system where you can see where you are ranked. And there are these very playful dynamics as well whereby you are free to do anything you like within the rules of the game, within the magic circle there on screen. You can switch on, you can switch off, you can like, you can unlike, you can really indulge whimsy. So that’s one thing.
It is interesting to think about other platforms like micro.blog and what ‘points’ actually count. Also, the way in which such games can be subverted for other means, as is discussed by Ian Guest in his research on Twitter and education.
It becomes increasingly difficult to believe that Sales’ critique wasn’t affected by a massive blindspot here. Perhaps if she had engaged in more analysis of the media environment more generally, she would have been less inclined to call out Twitter and ask what it was going to do about the trolls and would have been more inclined to call out mainstream media outlets and ask them what they are going to do to improve the quality of public debate.
Journalists who complain about bullying on Twitter are often told: You don’t have to be on there, if you don’t like the abuse, get off. There are several problems with that. First, there is the principle that no person should be bullied into silence and forced to vacate the public arena.
It is interesting to note that when Lisa Millar seized control and removed herself from Twitter, the effect of it was that the attacks against her escalated, causing her name to trend for days.
Second, Twitter is a helpful tool in the journalist’s kit. It is unparalleled for following breaking news, crowd-sourcing talent and marketing program content. Third, many journalists use Twitter and so it is a way to influence their reporting, and therefore the public conversation, by promoting issues that deserve more attention, emphasising relevant data or highlighting examples of spin or hypocrisy.
Some journalists, like Millar and Hamish MacDonald, are abandoning Twitter, judging that its usefulness is now exceeded by its drawbacks.
At the very least, those journalists who remain on the site should stop reporting Twitter reaction as if it signifies anything remotely representative of the Australian public.
He suggests that although Twitter has a problem, to blame everything on this is too simplistic:
It is easier to complain that social media is toxic when mainstream media isn’t that much better.
It is interesting to read this next to Margaret Simons’ discussion of the journalists responsibility. I am just not sure what the compromise is.
I am a freelancer, and a media commentator. No employer can limit my account, although I suppose they could stop commissioning me if I was sufficiently offensive or unwise. Here are my rules, worked out for myself over the years:
- I regard my Twitter presence as a part of my journalistic practice and try to engage in conversation without abandoning the professional disciplines of objective practice. I would be very worried if anything I tweeted meant that a future interview subject would think I was unable to do journalism of integrity.
- I almost never share personal material on a public account. I made an exception a few months ago, because my father is in aged care and has not yet been vaccinated. But I offered that as an example of the national story. I did not share, explicitly, my worry or angst. Nor my opinion.
- As a media commentator, I try to offer analysis, rather than opinion. It’s a blurry line, I acknowledge.
- I retweet not necessarily to endorse, but because I think my followers will be interested in the content. I usually respond to criticism, as long as it is not abusive. I hardly ever block people.
These guidelines have served me well, and I regard my Twitter profile and followers as professional assets.
Many educators are living on a diet of abstracts, one-line wisdoms from Twitter, and drive-by professional development.
I wonder how such a statement relates to journalism?
Twitter is a parasite that burrows deep into your brain, training you to respond to the constant social feedback of likes and retweets. That takes only a week or two. Human psychology is pathetically simple to manipulate. Once you’re hooked, the parasite becomes your master, and it changes the way you think. Even now, I’m dopesick, dying to go back.
Let your old bad posts be forgotten
Aral’s post Hell site reminded me that, while I’ve talked about deactivating and reactivating my Twitter account several times, I haven’t mentioned ways in which I’ve found to battle the algorithmic timeline.
- Turn on latest tweets
- Use Tweetdeck with lists
- Turn on notifications for individual accounts
There is no specific reason I’m doing this, other than curiosity. I want to see what I miss, and how I will use my time. I think I’ll end up with more audio book and podcast listening time, and I’m hoping that I’ll write and meditate more. Time will tell.
I was really interested in how you start your day in the Twitter Search. Personally, I follow Twitter via a feed in Inoreader. This kind of feels like a semi-vacation, especially when you have the shock when opening the app again for whatever reason. You kind of forget about the additional features and functions that you miss out on. I certainly do not post information as much as I used to.
With Twitter, the president turned a barrage of gadfly attacks into the voice of American power. His legacy as a tweeter will long outlast his account.
This seems like the sort of topic that one might blog about?:
My fast food social media diet has been replaced by one managed around blogs, feeds and comments. I do sometimes feel I miss out on some things, but trust that if I need to know something that I will probably capture through some other means.
New research shows the #IStandWithDan and #DictatorDan warring Twitter hashtags were pushed by a small number of orchestrated and hyper-partisan accounts.
New research shows they were driven by a small number of fringe, hyper-partisan accounts — many of them anonymous “sockpuppet” accounts created specifically to support either side, but posting as an independent third party.
Although it is not clear if there was a central organisation behind the campaigns, but the ‘Dictator Dan’ message did align with the News Corp papers and Sky News.
On a side note, I think the War on 2020 team captured the absurdity of in their skit: