Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Monday 6 June 2016

The Diving Bell And Twitter

Trying to conduct an intelligent conversation on Twitter makes me feel the tiniest bit like one of those people who are paralyzed and only able to communicate by blinking. Voluntarily restricting my communication to 140-character packets is absurd, and so are "part 1/N" hacks; fragmentation and reassembly are for network stacks, not people. On top of that, apparently a PhD in computer science is not enough to understand Twitter's conversation model.

I'd much rather communicate by blogging and blog comments, email, or even HN/Reddit. Unfortunately RSS is dead and a lot of people only read my blog posts if I announce them on Twitter. The risk is that people respond on Twitter and I get pulled into a conversation there like an arm caught in a woodchipper.

So, I will make every effort to resist replying to threads on Twitter. Please leave comments in my blog or send me email instead of tweeting.


>apparently a PhD in computer science is not enough to understand Twitter's conversation model The conversation model isn't complex, it's just expressed very subtly in the web UI. Tweets can have parent tweets, like in-reply-to. In a single tweet page, the stuff above the tweet is a linked list of parents. The stuff below the tweet, uh, well, yeah that one is a mess. Okay I guess you have a point.
As dx says, in theory, the Twitter conversation model is exactly equivalent to a mailing list or Reddit thread (but without the benefit+harm of selective quoting). In practice, Twitter is complicated first by clients flattening threads to one level (but then some mail clients do the same), and second by people splitting messages across multiple tweets. The splitting is severe, but don’t let that blind you to the different awkwardness of discussions in other media. Any Web forum struggles to show context when a message has several replies. Site owners spend time and worry on dealing with unpleasant comments. And the usual solution to that is “reply on your own site”, which makes the thread even harder to follow.
Mark Thomson
RSS is dead?? RSS is the only reason I get to read your blog posts.
It still works, but I don't think many people are using it.
J. Ryan Stinnett
RSS is still my favorite tool for following what people are up to. Twitter is really terrible for that use case. I'm very happy that RSS readers like NewsBlur still exist.
Venkatesh Krishna
I also subscribed ur Rss.
My feeling about the 140-characters limit on twitter varies depending on the language I use. I can barely write two or three complete sentences in English. However, I rarely hit the limit when writing in Chinese. I guess one idea expressed in Chinese takes only 1/3 number of characters in English. But when counting in UTF-8 bytes, the two languages are roughly the same, so it's fair :)