…and how we might get it
Dec 13, 2022
I just blocked Elon Musk so I now have full authority to speak on this topic.
No, actually Musk does not really matter. We do need something better than Twitter. Options are scarce.
The people looking for an alternative to Twitter, or trying to create one, mostly do not understand something. That is, the real use of Twitter is in announcing things to the entire internet. The thing which is missing now is the ability to take something “viral”.
When some useful new service comes out, or a new movement starts, or some great event is planned, there must be a way to announce it. It must be possible for someone starting a new blog or channel to build as big a following as she or he deserves, and to keep it. This means that ‘curating’ and shadowing and ‘algorithms’ must be eliminated.
It also means that, for practical purposes, there can be only one Twitter at a time. This means that, realistically, it cannot be a private company. It is not just because that creates a monopoly, but because that creates a threat to privacy due to the inevitable need to sell data.
For it to be a state owned utility could be problematic. It would depend on the quality of the state owning it. There are some states in the world which I would be perfectly at ease with, running the core service of the internet.
However, this state would be limited to operating within its boundaries or those of its allied nations. It would be hard for a state owned utility to operate world wide. Rival states would try to restrict it on their own territory, and we have one state in particular which still thinks it must run everything, everywhere, for everyone.
Something held by a private, non profit entity would be ideal. It would have to be funded by a fee on its users. Trying to fund it by voluntary donations would be as problematic as funding it through advertising, for similar reasons; the funders would soon call the shots.
A member/user based funding system would require some form of democratic governance model. This could be dangerous; democracy is one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented of concepts. What it does not mean is; government by whatever gang of crooks can win an advertising war, or game the process, and get control.
That is what democracy means in those countries run that way; that is, most countries. That is, as a weak democracy. A member owned internet messaging system would have to be run as a strong democracy; that is, as a democracy of result.
A successful messaging service that gave its users control would be subject to constant, fierce hostile take over attempts. Candidates for governance positions would have to be very well vetted. A decentralized structure would be required.
What this sounds like is the “Panquake” project of Suzi Dawson and friends, from the way they have presented it. I have watched that from the start and even kicked a little money to them. I was worried that this would prove to be a scam, but it is shaping up as the real thing.
Suzi and company mostly have the right idea about what a replacement for Twitter will entail. They have reached their funding goals. They say they are now in the process of getting it running.
They have it structured so that it cannot be hijacked or sold off. There would be nothing to sell, as they famously say. Every user downloads their own ‘app’, it is an ‘open source code’, and it can be linked to other internet creatures like Youtube and Google, and even this strange “fediverse” thing.
The Panquakers promise that their creation will provide full technical support and content moderation. The latter is critical; everyone whines or screams about censorship, but if there is no way to keep the trolls and influencers off it, the service will be of no value. Users of Musky smelling Twitter are discovering this now.
It is important that their app be compatible with MAC OS and other common operating systems. It cannot use up too much disk space, processing power, or bandwidth, and cannot create technical or security problems. It must be intuitive.
But the most important thing is that it has to enable the word to get around about something new. To repeat, that is really the whole point of a message service. You also need to be able to confirm that messages were sent and received.
Suzi’s idea of a “thunderquake” seems to solve the announcement problem without creating too much noise. As I understand it, everyone gets a certain number of them and you can send them to the whole network. You collect them by getting “cupquakes” from people who like your stuff.
Isn’t that a sweet idea?
This would solve the problem I have with getting and keeping a small but stable base of readers to my own blog project. I am not even looking to be some big power on the net. I just have an urge to write about current problems and I need enough readers so that doing it makes sense.
Other options to Twitter are talked about. None are adequate. There is Gab, which looks exactly like Twitter but is full of the most ridiculous right wing nonsense. I am scared that Twitter is becoming much like it.
Instagram, TikTok, and so on are for people who like sending pictures or short videos around the net. It is all about collecting people’s data.
Telegram is just for people to talk to their friends. There is no way to build a circle of followers and followees within those platforms, you find them outside and invite them in. Telegram has no technical help at all and is a disaster for anyone with a MAC.
Mastodon is better but is very decentralized. It is hard to get something out widely and hard to find interesting people to follow.
It is a federation of people using their own servers, which makes it very shaky. You have to join one of their ‘instances’ and some of them have waiting lists. Frequently people decide to quit hosting Mastodon Instances and leave all their Instancees stuck, all their old content deleted.
So, it looks like Panquake is the main hope these days. It may seem like I am writing a mersh for Panquake. But the only other option may be as I alluded to earlier, for some post capitalist government on earth to back the establishment of a new internet system that better meets the needs of the users.
This, however, is running into a somewhat different topic. That is, the nature of moderation and ‘censorship’, and the need to sort out what is and is not acceptable speech. That needs its own blog post.
Here is the place to chop this off and send it out.