The Bird Is Freed
A Few Thoughts On My Favorite App
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I've had a love/hate relationship with Twitter over the past 10 years.
There are times when the serendipitous connections and vast amounts of knowledge being shared remind me of why I log on every day. Then, there are times when I feel unproductive after spending countless hours on the app and it gives me feelings of anxiety and depression. The cyclicity of emotions is mostly self-imposed as I try to remind myself of the (non-popular?) belief that Twitter is a net positive for myself and society as a whole.
Without Twitter, my business would not exist. Without Twitter, countless new friendships would not exist. Without Twitter, this blog would not exist. I am thankful for all of it. I also understand that it could be gone in the snap of the fingers. Poof.
I'm also thankful to finally be parting ways with my Twitter shares. I've always said I would sell my Twitter stock whenever I would come to hate the product. The theory being that management would turn it into something cringe like Instagram or TikTok, make tons of cash, but at the expense of diluting the user experience. However, I didn't have the richest man in the world buying Twitter to rid me of my shares on my BINGO card.
I'm just glad I can finally allocate money to something that may actually provide value, you know, like an index fund (ok boomer). Just look at the stupid chart below.
If you bought the IPO back in 2013, you'd be up a staggering 20% over 9 years. If you bought the low in 2016, you'd have escaped with a 283% profit. I guess it could be worse. We could have actually lost money. And we surely would have if Elon hadn't come to the rescue. A sliver of hope in a downright ugly investing landscape.
So now that the Elon and Twitter takeover saga finally came to a conclusion last week, there's already a full list of new drama on his plate. Media speculation has run wild with ideas about how he is going to overhaul the company and the app itself. Aren't both long overdue anyways? I mean, how does it go 9 years with essentially zero innovative changes while the employee count ballooned from 2,300 at the IPO to over 7,500 now?
Elon and the future
I want to say up front that I am not a huge fan of Elon, far from it.
Everyone likes to put him on this pedestal as the next coming of Jesus. Undoubtedly he is a visionary. We need people like him to advance society and lead the way. But even a visionary requires help from huge teams of extremely intelligent people to make something work properly. Whether it's Tesla, SpaceX, or Twitter, he has always needed and will continue to need a diverse group of people to help build out his vision.
While I do occasionally enjoy his idgaf attitude ("he's the richest person in the world, he can't say that!") and his moonshot ideas, it's clear he often can't get out of his own way. He often puts his foot in his mouth as we saw time and again since proposing to buy Twitter earlier this year.
He seems to do things that piss off everyone all at once. The latest being the report that he is trying to revamp the Twitter verification process by making verified accounts pay up to $20/month to maintain their verification status. This is a bold move and honestly I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, even as a non-check plebe.
Verified accounts who can afford to pay $20/month to keep their fake celebrity status
— Ramp Capital (@RampCapitalLLC)
Oct 31, 2022
On the surface, I think it's a good way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let's see who really is addicted to this platform. Would I pay it? Absolutely. Probably even up to $100/month, and so would corporations. But, I'd also want to receive value in return. I wouldn't just pay for the badge of honor. If it comes with additional benefits and user experiences then eventually it'll pay for itself as we find ways to extract additional value.
Apparently, mega celebrities like Stephen King (worth $500 million) can't afford $240/year.
$20 a month to keep my blue check? Fuck that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing)
Oct 31, 2022
Three years ago I actually wrote some brief talking points on why Twitter should be paying us. The inspiration for the post was centered mostly around watching all of these other social media platforms pay their top creators very handsomely, with nothing to show for any of us who log on to Twitter every day and produce abundant amounts of content for free.
But in a way that sort of shows the addictive nature of Twitter, and also why Elon bought it. Even as Twitter doesn't really pay us directly, we still log in for our daily brain dump. Some of us complain about the roadblocks to monetization yet we are continuously comparing it to other social media business models centered around ads (that actually work btw). Maybe switching from the ad model to a hybrid subscription model will give Twitter a chance to thrive. I guess we will never know until they try. They can always reverse course if it doesn't work.
Everyone knows the real value in Twitter lies in the connections made on the app. It doesn't need rich media to survive. It just needs ideas to survive. It doesn't need algorithms that prey on our animal instincts like Instagram and TikTok do, all while collecting our data and profiling us better than we know ourselves. It's an open stream of consciousness for the hive mind. Many thoughts are good, many are evil.
Twitter needed a new visionary to kick-start the next phase of Twitter. Regardless of your feelings toward Elon, shouldn't we all be rooting for him to succeed in building "a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner"?
I don't care about whatever political agenda he may have. I don't care if he can turn Twitter into a cash cow for himself and other private investors. I want him to succeed in building a better user experience that many of us believe is possible.
There's an old saying: If you love something set it free. If it comes back it's yours. If not, it was never meant to be.
Elon set the bird free. Let's see if it flies back.