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I have also been fascinated by the progressive hatred of Elon, although as MY explains it does make sense. And as many have pointed out, it may be smart for an EV tycoon to be hated by the left in order to prevent EV adoption from becoming a partisan political issue. If conservatives can buy a Tesla to stick it to Biden (who generally refrains from mentioning Tesla in the context of the American EV industry) then all the better.

In many ways Elon may shitposting us to a greener future where conservatives embrace EVs to stick it to the libs and liberals accept EVs to address climate change with only slight apprehension towards Elon. The far left will do their part by demonizing EVs as an exploitative capitalist tool that allows us to address climate change without a proper communist revolution.

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I have also been fascinated by this, but I don't think Matt explains the cause, just points at part of the mechanism. Musk seems to have become a sort of stand-in for our Silicon Valley overlords, despite the fact that he doesn't (didn't) really operate in any of the areas that traditionally frighten people about big tech. He makes electric cars and rocket ships. He doesn't (didn't) data mine people's personal info, sell them to advertisers, track them, own a media platform full of toxic speech, etc. And yet people still really hate the guy.

And really a lot of seems to boil down to two things: the first is that a lot of other people *really, really* love him. It's kind of hard to overstate this. My friend who teaches university students says that tons of kids (men) have posters of Elon up on their walls. They want to be him. He's real-life Tony Stark.

And also, he's loudly and proudly a douche bag. He's swaggering, he troll-y, he's rich. The fact that he builds rocket ships -- which is, you know, genuinely kind of cool -- has been recoded as "billionaire builds toys for the 0.0001% while masses die for lack of universal healthcare." This frame doesn't make a ton of literal sense, but that's nevertheless the frame.

I'm old enough to remember when Bill Gates was the world's super-villain. As Microsoft's dominance of tech receded and he ramped up his philanthropic activities, he transformed into the world's kindly rich uncle, doling out gifts and offering up pleasant little book reviews. And now he's become something of a bête noire for conspiracy theorists on the right, who see him as part of the one-world government (or something).

Point being (if I have a point), people seem to take on these roles through a combination of 1) being public 2) having perceived power and 3) being the appropriate vessel for a certain kind of anxiety or contempt.

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I'd argue he's still much more like a Silicon Valley founder/billionare than a traditional rich guy.

Sure, *now* he owns companies that make physical stuff. But he initially make his money from Paypal and Zip2, two classic dot-com get-rich-quick stories. The latter only lasted 4 years, but it sold for enough to give Musk $22 million. That kind of thing really rubs people the wrong way.

And now? Tesla makes cars, but they don't actually make much profit (none at all until recently). SpaceX is still burning money. All of his money comes from Tesla stock value- people seem to think it'll make profit in the future, so they're giving him shitloads of money now, when it's hardly profited at all. And a lot of that is driven by hype about his tweets, his posters, dogecoin, etc. It's the same way Mark Zuckerberg (and many others) got rich- not by being profitable, but by hyping up a company so much that investors will value it at billions. Again, rubs people the wrong way, just based on common sense intuition.

Oh and... "He doesn't (didn't) data mine people's personal info, sell them to advertisers, track them, own a media platform full of toxic speech, etc."

He does now! Twitter does all that stuff.

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Yes, he does now. Hence the "(didn't)". But that doesn't account for prior perceptions of him.

Elon Musk is 100% a Silicon Valley founder billionaire. I just don't think that really explains much of why people hate him. I doubt that people are especially attuned to the mechanics of tech fundraising, or think that Elon's wealth is illegitimate per se.

Of course, I think this account of Silicon Valley wealth is also objectively wrong, so maybe this reflect my own bias. Facebook made $118b in revenue last year and $34b in profit. My common sense intuition is that that's how Zuckerberg got rich.

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I think they pick up on his general "air" of being a Silicon Valley get-rich-quick-through-stuff-I-don't-understand guy, without bothering to think about his actual finances too much. I'm glad things worked out for Mr Zuckerberg, but Facebook certainly wasn't making billions when it IPO'd.

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I think a lot of the hatred has to do with the left idea that there should be no billionaires and "every billionaire is a policy failure." Musk, Bezos, and Zuckerberg are the most visible because they run technology companies, so they get the most hate. What is really fascinating is how relatively little attention is paid to people like Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin, and especially Sam Walton's children and grandchildren (who inherited their billions, unlike the majority of American billionaires).

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Billionaires who just shut up are somewhat invisible to the online left. Obviously the online left isn't *that* powerful but it's interesting to think about as a sort of thing that almost attempts to police billionaire behavior.

It obviously doesn't work because if they just quietly give money to foul causes people don't really notice, but it's interesting.

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The idea that there should be no billionaires has two parts:

1. The economic system provides excessive rewards to those who succeed, even when their activities are genuinely wealth-creating and beneficial to society.

2. The extremely wealthy have excessive power and influence over society, especially the political system.

The first really isn't the fault of the billionaires, they're just playing by the rules. The second may be generally true of the billionaire class but must be judged on a case-by-case basis.

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I think the idea that billionaires exert excessive influence over the political system, and the idea of the excessive influence of money in campaigns generally, was disproven last election cycle when a bunch of Democratic Senate candidates massively outraised their Republican opponents through small dollar donations and still lost a by a lot.

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But the Republicans had Fox News, which is probably worth more than all the candidates’ fundraising put together in states where it is the most trusted news source.

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Fox News has a few million viewers per day spread out across the entire country. It has some impact but everyone overrates the impact of cable news in general. Sara Gideon didn't lose in Maine because of Fox News, especially considering Fox News doesn't necessarily like Susan Collins.

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Yeah I realized that a few weeks ago and chuckled. I'd actually heard of him before (for various reasons I'm unusually plugged into South African/Southern African politics) but had forgotten and hadn't put two and two together.

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I think that last paragraph is spot on. In 2022's hyper-partisan world, perhaps the biggest thing you can do to promote EV adoption is (1) become synonymous with EVs and then (2) pick the biggest fight with the libs you can.

(I would also categorize the left's sometimes anti-Elon attitude (I don't think it's ubiquitous at all) as another example of the left being on autopilot, e.g. using the same tools and organizing principles that made sense in 1950 in 2022. The left got good at opposing action - maybe that made sense when the problem was "unchecked industry is being rapacious" but now in a "we need to build a gajillion wind. turbines ASAP" world, that instinct isn't productive anymore - the problem space has changed a lot and it makes hard it hard to recognize at a gut level that Musk is helping.

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My guess is that Musk's trolling the libs behavior will have very little impact on conservatives' buying EVs.

Much more important will be the success of the Ford F-150 Lightning. Teslas are cool, but if they're not big honking SUVs or pickup trucks, I'm not sure they'll really catch on with the Right.

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They're cool, as you said, and for all but the r/conservative and r/antiwork crowds, that's all that matters.

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I think many on the left see Musk as being the wrong person doing it the e wrong way when it comes to climate change. The leaders in fighting climate change were supposed to be hippieish political activists not people who got rich from technology. And we were supposed to halt climate change by consuming less “stuff” that political activists on the left think is unnecessary. We were supposed to go all organic (even though organic agriculture can have a higher carbon footprint) and replace suburban McMansions with small homes in dense cities with good public transit.

Musk is showing a way to lower carbon emissions while keeping the tacky McMansions. I happen to think that’s great because people are more likely to be willing to lower their carbon footprints if it means they get to keep the elements of their lifestyle that they like. Then again I think the real problem is climate change, rather than excessive consumption with climate change just being a negative effect of the “real” problem.

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I think this is a lot of it. The 'Twitter Left' is highly invested in a lot of things as a vision of the future that are strict necessities to mitigate climate change, dense housing, more transit, smaller more efficient vehicles, and in general reigning on capitalism's supposed 'excesses'. And here is Elon, who is all about capitalism (and excess) offering a path to decarbonization that does basically none of that. It must rub them the wrong way.

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The irony is that car-dependent suburbia isn’t a triumph of capitalism at all. It’s HEAVILY subsidized, ridiculously so, and maintaining car infrastructure is the primary reason so many municipalities are going bankrupt.

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I think this is a correct description of many in the environmental movement, but I don't think it accounts for much of the general left's disdain for Musk. Honestly, it just seems much simpler than that for most people: tech bro billionaires suck, Musk is the ur-tech bro billionaire.

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Right - if lowering carbon emissions is a means to the end of reforming people's behavior to be more "good" (in consuming less stuff, etc) Musk isn't doing it right, but if the end is the actual carbon emissions, anything that's a little closer to having your cake and eating it is total winning. I suspect a fair number of MY readers are pragmatists like myself that see 'fixing the problem' as the point of trying to fix problems and hence think pragmatic things like "better natural gas than coal", "better nukes than fossil fuels" and "better electric cars than ICE cars".

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I think an important part of this is that Elon Musk is annoying. He does things of varying importance of varying worth to the world, but he never shuts up. He can't, his businesses are built on hype of a techno-optimist (or techno-dystopian if that's your bent) future that supposedly only he can build. This salesmanship not only makes him the face of an unpopular social class of billionaires, but it has a strong "how do you do fellow kids?" streak thats more annoying than consequential. However, that makes him come across as untrustworthy and that combined his ambitions about changing the world, makes some wary. The annoyance is an important factor though. It has an almost Trumpy quality to it.

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Imagine a near future where conservatives are posting about replacing their gas-guzzling Silverados / F150s with Cybertrucks to stick it to "woke corporatism" / "libtards"

It'd be bad for my family and friends who work for GM & Ford, but it would be great for the planet!

More realistically, I'm hoping that existing lithium projects will be successful, allowing the waiting periods (and prices) for EVs to drop substantially to the point that by 2035-40 GM and Ford decide to retire their fully-ICE models because they're just not popular enough to justify their existence.

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I would be surprised if internal combustion is more than a niche in 2035.

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I would too, if you mean new vehicle sales, given the laws requiring that new cars be electric. But there will be lots of ICE vehicles around for a while. I’m sure the radicals would like to ban existing ICE vehicles as soon as possible, but it’s hard to imagine that happening. Probably by 2035 there will be at least tens of millions of ICE vehicles on the road.

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Future batteries are more likely to be the newly developed iron oxide type, because iron is much easier to get. Only downside is they are even heavier.

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Not for mobile applications. They're ideally suited for stationary load-smoothing applications, not mobile "rapid drawdown, rapid charge" ones.

Is my understanding anyway. Take with shaker of salt.

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One part of it is definitely his antipathy to mass transit.

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Is it? Mass transit seems like a niche concern even among liberals. Instead what I hear endlessly repeated is that time he called the cave rescue guy a "pedo." Which was surely a d-bag move, but hardly that consequential...

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I’m explaining what’s going on with me and people like me, who are one part of this, even if not the important part.

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Mass transit is nice, BUT - you have to have the cities built for it. So, what's easier - demolishing cities/suburbs & rebuilding them OR trying to find a solution (EV/RoboTaxi) which works in current cities?

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I mean, both things need to happen. Housing is constantly being demolished and rebuilt, so if you start now by legalizing denser construction along corridors where you have transit plans then you get the redevelopment that is needed.

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Hopefully the left will focus their efforts on density, walk/bike-ability, and public transportation.

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I assume you want Trump re-elected?

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I'm not sure to what extent people's motivations for buying Teslas are rooted in politics, or how large an effect this would have

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Apr 27, 2022·edited Apr 27, 2022

To me the most interesting thing about Twitter was how it revealed that when you have a close-up, real-time view of the thoughts of influential, famous people who are regarded as experts, most of time on most topics they are just uncritically repeating the same bits of unoriginal conventional wisdom as everyone else. And yes, as MY says, much of the time the conventional wisdom is correct but hearing so many people repeat it as if was their own fresh, original pearl of wisdom gets a little tedious and boring after a while. I guess bottom line, I think Twitter has the same basic problem as cable news -- there's just not enough fresh original commentary and news content to fill the airways 24/7. That requires longform writing and thinking, and more focused work; not chasing buzz.

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If you haven’t heard of someone before or haven’t thought much about them, seeing their Twitter feed can make your estimation of them go up. But if you already have a high estimate of someone based on their work somewhere it else *it is impossible for their feed to make your view of them go up*.

I mean literally impossible. If they tweet a lot, you think “they have too much free time.” If they don’t tweet, obviously you don’t think about them. If they beef, you wonder why they waste time beefing, even and especially if they are in the right. If they don’t beef, they get no credit for personal restraint. Twitter only has reputational advantages for unknowns. If you have any public persona, you are better off shitposting with a private alt than using a real account.

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That generalization sounds plausible, but there are notable exceptions, at least in my experience. Consider our host. I followed Matt Yglesias' writing on politics and economics for several years before seeing any of his Twitter work. But you know what? His tweets are mostly good, occasionally quite sharp or funny. I also appreciate his honest attitude toward the platform: time suck, yes; fun, yes; a useful information source to broaden your reading, yes; about to leave, heck no (the people who are always promising to "quit this hellsite" are tedious). On balance, my already positive opinion of Matt rose a bit after seeing him on Twitter.

But you know who's even better: his dad! His tweet volume is much lower (a plus in my book), but they are often gems. He's one of my favorite follows and is not someone I would have independently discovered.

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Agreed on both Yglesiases. Rafael is a master of the outstanding one-liner.

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Apr 27, 2022·edited Apr 27, 2022

MY is a good follow, but I would say that means my opinion of him stayed steady. I already liked his output back from blogging days, so it's not like Twitter made me reevaluate. This is the best case scenario: no drop in an existing positive evaluation!

I don't follow Rafael, but since I/you had no preexisting opinion about him, it's not a counterexample to the idea that tweeting only advantages people who don't already have a public persona.

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Huge agree on that first sentence. Social media has shown me that the concept of 'general intelligence' is BS, and people who are legitimately world-class subject matter experts in one field don't have any kind of general wisdom that applies to other fields- their takes outside of their expertise are about the same as everyone else. Kind of an interesting result for people who believe IQ is a real thing versus just modern-day phrenology (I'm in the latter camp)

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'Large group differences'- like how Polish immigrant IQs were markedly lower than native-born Americans early in the 20th century, and various phrenologists at the time fretted that this was dragging down overall American intelligence? https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/6403.pdf Oops, those differences disappeared completely over time, proving that IQ is simply a standardized test and not measuring anything real.

'Large group differences'- like how economic growth caused East German IQs to rise markedly after the fall of the Soviet Union? 'An analysis of IQ, GDP, and educational gains in 16 German federal states between 1990 and 1998 shows that IQ gains had a .89 correlation with GDP gains and a .78 correlation with educational gains. The short time frame excludes significant effects of biological or genetic factors on IQ gains' https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0160289612000864

Like how African American IQs have gone up 15 points throughout the course of the 20th century? And I can't find the paper I was looking at earlier, that showed how Irish IQs have improved markedly as their country became wealthier- the same as the East German situation.

IQ is just a pseudoscientific phrenological test measuring a country's wealth & education man....

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Without engaging with IQ (which suffers numerous issues scientifically and suffers from being used by those with poor intentions), I do think there is a subset of liberal society that denies the relevance not just of IQ but of intelligence in general.

I can generally tell pretty quickly whether or not I’m talking to someone who is smart. Especially if the communication is in person. Has this instinct been wrong? Yes. But rarely.

Most people in the world feel this as well. And at the highest levels of scientific practice and in the lowest rungs of the labor force, the idea that someone could be “smart” is not surprising to anyone.

However, I do find that there is a problem with openly discussing this in a certain segment of modern liberal society. One that prefers material educational credentials to override anything. And I don’t like that.

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Along those lines, in the not too distant future we will have polygenic scores that are highly predictive of IQ.

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"I'm not aware of anyone who claims IQ is actually a perfect predictor of ability for any particular *individual.*"

Perfect predictor? Really?

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Kind of doubt “longform writing and thinking” would fill 24/7 either.

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Apr 27, 2022·edited Apr 27, 2022

>> I guess bottom line, I think Twitter has the same basic problem as cable news -- there's just not enough fresh original commentary and news content to fill the airways 24/7. That requires longform writing and thinking, and more focused work; not chasing buzz.

I don't agree with this at all. Unlike cable news, twitter is basically overrun with original content. You can never get to the end. The challenge is curating the stream and identifying the valuable voices.

When COVID came on the scene, it wasn't that hard to curate a list of 10-12 twitter follows that intelligently represented a broad spectrum of viewpoints about how covid might play out and what policy responses made sense. I checked up on their feeds daily to keep informed. I found this to be a much more reliable way to stay informed than reading the NYT (which overall probably got more wrong about covid than right).

When Russia invaded Ukraine, I again assembled a list of 10-12 twitter follows to help me understand what was going on. Once again, I've found this has given me a broader understanding than just following msm coverage.

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I know this is a fundamentally different product, but twitter spaces / Clubhouse is pretty cool.

This only holds when you catch a spaces notification from someone you follow though --the Twitter Spaces browsing page is *ass*. I hope that team gets more front-end developers / designers

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The reaction to Musk's takeover of Twitter crystalizes a transformation of how the left views and handles dissent, especially dissent from within. Liberals used to set the tone on dissent with "the best response to bad speech is more speech."

Today, radicals and extremists on the left have taken charge and changed the ethos to something more like "purveyors of wrong-speak must be punished and punished harshly."

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Honestly I think a part of this particular case is the number of ‘wrong-speakers’ ‘btc bros’ etc who made a lot of money gambling on TSLA while the smart kids on Twitter quipped about how overvalued it is. And it does seem overvalued! Sour grapes is a hell of a drug?

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I think this transformation of the left's view on speech has been going on for a while, but I wonder how much COVID turned it up to 11. "Look, those wrong-speaking people are literally killing people by not repeating the party line WRT COVID."

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What you're missing is that American life is generally more pleasant without Trump Tweeting (in part because U.S. media has much less interest in reporting on crazy statements he makes when not in Tweet form for some reason) and this is more important to most people than some galaxy brain theory about party control dynamics.

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But what’s happening here is media people are complaining that reinstating him will cause them harm because they themselves will feel more compelled to pay attention to his tweets than his other statements. That’s bizarre.

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It is! Honestly, who is making everyone pay attention to this stuff?

Back in the mid-ish-2010s, when NYT, WaPo, and NPR started building their news updates around tweets by Trump and others, I stopped reading and listening to them. I had long used Twitter as a kind of news aggregator/place to find ideas for freelance pieces, and I mostly stopped using that as well. My life improved dramatically! I'll engage with these entities for limited purposes, but I pay attention to what it's doing to my brain and step away before things get terrible.

I know that a lot of journalists etc believe that Twitter is a non-negotiable part of their jobs, but I'm skeptical of this claim for people who are actually doing good and useful work.

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Journalists love to talk about the 'dopamine hit' of social media and write stories about how it is addictive and ruins the lives of <identity group/>. So, by their own logic, they are themselves addicted to Twitter. Viewed that way "Twitter is a non-negotiable part of my job" sounds a lot like "I just need a little hit to focus so I can do my job." And that is how I look at Twitter; as a bunch of 'users' in the addiction sense. When I read stories in the paper that are basically a bunch of screenshots of Tweets, I imagine a bunch of addicts talking to each other about how normal it is to drink vodka before breakfast.

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I'm so very glad that I spent the years in which Facebook mastered sucking people in in a foreign nation that blocked Facebook.

I wish I could take more credit for it, but the reality is that the most likely causal explanation for why my Twitter+Facebook+Instagram time consumption works out to about 20 minutes a week is that I wasn't here to get addicted to them in the first place and it was very apparent by the time I was back that it wasn't something anyone sane should want to do.

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As an early adopter of Facebook, I feel like people often undersell the utility and value that Facebook provided in the early days when its user base was exploding. This was back during the early days of smartphones when SMS protocols prevented phones from doing a lot of the great stuff they do now. Early days Facebook was a unique tool that made it easier for groups of friends to coordinate. It made it easier to connect with friends of a friend and people you only had a passing connection with. I went on many dates and to a ton of parties that I would never have known about or talked to if it wasn't for Facebook augmenting socialization back then. Now, most of the things Facebook did are rolled into other services or come default on your phone, but this was not always the case.

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Sure, but I never cared that much. I talked to the folks outside the country that I wanted to and Facebook could go to hell for all I care.

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Excellent framing! It has been really...interesting to see the coverage of this story by the addicts.

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I get why lots of media people don’t want trump to become prominent again. It was quite a ride trying to react to him! But the idea that he can be safely ignored off Twitter but must be quote tweeted regularly seems off. Maybe something about the business makes this true, I don’t know.

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I consider this evidence that the "news" business is broken. The specter of Trump and his ilk still seems to drive a tremendous amount of what passes for journalism. I pretty much buy the theory that if he can start tweeting again, it will be bad for him and the Republicans. But on net, I really wish people would step away from this stuff and get actual lives.

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"U.S. media has much less interest in reporting on crazy statements he makes when not in Tweet form for some reason"

Anyone know what that seems to be true? Is it as simple as journalistic laziness?

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Quote-tweeting Trump brought themselves engagement. They felt like big-shots, on the same playing field with him.

On the other hand, screenshotting his press releases makes them seem weak and stenographers, even though it's the same thing.

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They have to report on newsworthy things and not on non-newsworthy things. Somehow, a statement by a public figure on Twitter is automatically newsworthy, but not on a niche service. There’s probably some actual truth to the difference between a statement on Twitter and one elsewhere, but it’s exacerbated by the journalists themselves all overestimating the importance of that difference by feeling it so sharply in their personal life.

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Occam's razor....

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What’s interesting to me is the extent media and politics folks seem to think they are imprisoned on Twitter. Previous management was basically unconscious, and that’s the way they liked it. it could be their clubhouse, staffed by a few people who share their general outlook. and it would both never make any real money (which might force them to chase some ad or algo model they don’t like) but also not be some rich guys vanity project / toy.

And maybe they are captured by the network and incompetent diffuse management was the best situation for them. It seems odd to me though. I know folks really like having access to famous athletes and musicians dumb tweets but it feels like the ‘important’ part of Twitter is this tiny media / pol corner which is like 1% of an already small social platform and will never be worth much money (and remain useful to those folks). Why don’t you all just email each other? Start a ‘we hate ourselves and everyone else too’ discord for dc and Brooklyn residents.

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That email chain kinda existed. It was a Google Groups forum called JournoList, created by Ezra Klein. After it was made public, it was closed down. I guess the whole thing just morphed over to Twitter.

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Matt has hinted there is a new list (that I think he said he’s not on). But I bet the people on it are still swimming around Twitter complaining.

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The "private speech garden" has evolved into invite only closed slacks and/or discords. This isn't just true for politics, it's true for lots of other things where people discuss things (in my world) like software leadership trends/advice. Most such communities self-censor the looniest takes in order to not be "kicked out of the club", which more or less works to keep things civil.

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I think it’s not just that Musk enjoys tweeting, it’s that he enjoys trolling and shitposting that seems to rile liberals up. They hate that he doesn’t abide by elite rules of conduct.

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Elon is a 4 Chan poster and there's nothing in the world the Tumblr posters that now staff progressive media and activist groups hate more than a 4 Chan poster.

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This is something I've been trying to point out to my more left leaning friends, advising them to not let him bait you. The level of success to that has had high variance.

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Apr 27, 2022·edited Apr 27, 2022

Okay, but is his $44 billion purchase of Twitter effective altruism?

More seriously, I still don’t get it. Like, look at numbers 7 & 8. Those two demographic points about twitter are kind of “the problem”, right? It’s a warehouse for the richest, most educated, most left and liberal people. Isn’t one of the biggest criticisms of “the discourse” today that it is entirely driven by the concerns of left-elites? That’s why we talk about rearranging the deck chairs at Harvard instead of broad higher education reform, including *gasps in PMC horror* trade schools. That’s why we focus so much discussion on callouts, naming and shaming, etc. That’s why there is so much attention on fringe left “theory” and not on substantive policy.

It’s a club for a specific subset, the meritocratic elites, and bears little resemblance to most peoples lives. Were you shocked on Twitter when Trump became president? Were you shocked on Twitter when Youngkin became governor? Maybe Twitter is only passingly related to reality?

I’m not convinced Twitter matters except in that so many “top” people clearly think it is the most important thing in their lives.

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I agree with most of your points, but American progressives' antipathy toward vocational education predates Twitter though.

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Sure, but when Twitter is the only conversation that matters, this antipathy becomes the only thing talked about.

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Mike Pesca had a great spiel about the reaction to Elon buying Twitter. I can't cram it down to a single idea, but two interesting observations:

1. A lot of journalists view moderation on Twitter as the only thing shielding people from a non-stop torrent of identity-based abuse. That abuse always comes from 'white men'. (A telling quote included how 'white men' harass gay people, as though those two groups are mutually exclusive.) Elon is the embodiment of everything they hate about 'white men'.

2. More than one journalist has referred to Elon Musk, a man with autism spectrum disorder, as a 'sociopath' who therefore should not be allowed to control a social media platform. See above: in any other context such a comment would render you a hateful bigot, but 'white man' trumps all other identities so it's ok in this context.

It's instructive when ideologues (left, right or whatever) unknowingly reveal their internal understanding of the labels we use to describe (groups of) people because it gives you a glimpse into the pathology that underlies their attachment to said ideology. Here, it is simply defining 'everyone who does not agree with my identity-obsessed worldview' as 'white men'. A recently example on the right is the jump from LGBT to 'groomer' to 'pedophile'.

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When I was growing up I spent a lot of time on old-school internet forums. You would talk a lot, and people would link to things, and you would get into these furious arguments (usually with other teenagers and college students). In particular I remember the furious and bizarrely frequent debates between creationism and "evolutionism".

The thing is, like 50% of the shit people were talking about was false, misstated, poorly understood or otherwise. Honestly 50% might be generous. It was a shitshow, no one smart and well-informed was on these forums.

At the same time, I was getting most of my science information from a couple of print magazines and conversations with my dad and his friends. They were also wrong about everything.

Being right about stuff is basically an elite practice and people being wrong about things is not that dangerous.

What IS concerning is that the velocity and scope of communication has increased such that people can all be wrong about the same thing at the same time very suddenly.

So really what we need is not a solution to misinformation, Twitter could solve the main problem by just fragmenting the conversation more and making it a little harder for everyone to be seeing roughly the same 'main content'

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Apr 27, 2022·edited Apr 27, 2022

It's interesting to find someone with socialist politics, eg. views about how society should be ordered that are highly at odds with my own views, offering interesting insights about what's behind the outrage about Musk:

Here's Freddie deBoer

>> Should we stop the free flow of ideas is a meaningless question because we can’t. France and Germany’s decades-old laws against far-right arguments and organizations have failed entirely to prevent extremism in those countries. Drug cartels communicate around the world effortlessly. When ISIS was being pursued by the entirety of the Western military and intelligence establishment, they still actively recruited. In English! They got white middle-class teenagers to fly to goddamn Syria to sign up! And you’re telling me that tweaking Twitter’s terms of service is going to eliminate the ideology that wasn’t ended by a war that killed 4% of the world’s population? What the fuck are we talking about here?

No, liberals and leftists are afraid of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter not because they think it will contribute to right-wing extremism, which exists and always has and always will but which is also far more marginal than they like to pretend. They’re afraid because Twitter is where they perform the personalities they lack in real life, where they act like the confident and clever people they patently aren’t, and where they pretend to do politics by telling the same terrible jokes, over and over, while the political “movement” they represent remains totally powerless and reviled. Twitter, in other words, is where they wage busy little PMC lives. And they’d prefer that space be pleasant for them. They have eliminated the existence of any contrary opinion in their personal lives and private lives, and now they want to do the same in Twitter, which as sad as it is to say is the center of their emotional lives. Which is why it’ll never stop at “the really bad stuff.” The things that liberals believe should be eliminated from social media have grown and grown as time has gone on, and will continue to grow. Eventually people will say that those who disagree with them about the correct size of the Earned Income Tax Deduction are literal fascists.

https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/just-keep-it-off-my-timeline

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Freddie is very dramatic

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Yea, Freddie has roughly six distinct ideas and needs to find increasingly melodramatic ways to state them in new contexts every few days.

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Well said: "personalities they lack in real life" was quite the escalation.

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They're not necessarily bad ideas, several of them are quite on-point, but he wonders why his audience is increasingly rabid right-wingers looking to see the generic libs get hated on, and it's because he finds it necessary to hate on them to gin up some content.

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founding

It sounds suspiciously like self-description when it comes in this sort of context.

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The thing I find the worst on social media are the handful of big DEI industry types that say the most offensive and bigoted statements, but it is Ok because they say, "Y'all YT people..." But far worse is the weird amplification of this by affluent white women. The lapdog like behavior of them saying, "White people stay in your lane..." or whatever is just very off putting.

These are white women who have more money than God, but think they are activists by abasing themselves in front of some hucksters.

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I think Ben Thompson described an interesting plan for addressing Twitter’s content moderation and financial model on Apr 18 in his article, “Back to the Future of Twitter”. [1] His basic idea is to separate Twitter into a backend service that hosts content and a front end client that provides moderation and algorithmic amplification. Twitter would then open the backend up so that anyone can develop their own client by paying for access.

The backend would do the minimal amount of moderation necessary to conform with the law in each jurisdiction and then provide optional services to the clients for more sophisticated moderation and algorithmic ranking. Twitter would continue to host their existing front end and possibly create more over time.

The idea is that the plethora of clients would allow for experimentation and meeting the diverse user preferences. You could have heavily moderated clients as well as wild west anything goes. While all clients would reference the same social graph and tweets/replies, each client could use whatever methods they want for filtering and ranking.

Some possible clients I’ve considered.

1. A client geared towards journalists and other prominent people that provides them with a layer that filters out harassment. This could include manual curation of their DMs, replies and retweets. The service would also have a team of lawyers for reporting credible threats of violence to law enforcement and sending cease-and-desist letters for proper libel. (Note this works well with Elon’s plan to require human identity verification, even for anonymous accounts.) This service would be expensive and geared towards people that value this layer of protection for professional reasons.

2. A client geared towards techies like myself that want to experiment with their own algorithms. While we’re a niche group, many of us would gladly pay quite a bit of money to support such a nerdy hobby. There’d be sharing and critique of each other's work as we toil to optimize our own Twitter experience. Over time some of the ideas might filter into other clients' algorithms.

3. Partisan clients. Fox news could provide a client as could CNN. Even the DNC, RNC, and other parties could provide their preferred view of the social graph. They’d be openly filtering and ranking the social feed in a way that corresponds to the user's political preference.

[1] https://stratechery.com/2022/back-to-the-future-of-twitter/

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Isn't this Usenet?

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Tech companies keep reinventing Usenet. Forums, some social media, discourse, slack, Dropbox. All could be custom front ends to Usenet.

They don't do this because everyone wants to be a walled garden where they have control of user data.

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My first thought is this sounds like combining Twitter with Reddit. I have no opinion yet on whether that's a good or bad thing.

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I am thinking more like combining Twitter with Substack - which is a thing I've already seen with their "hey, make this thread a long form post" experiment they are running. MY could create his own "sub-twit" that you pay to join and in doing so, assume the rules of discourse he decides to enforce.

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I think that makes some business sense for Twitter but the partisan clients putting everyone in more bubbles seems bad for discussion in general.

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“The Boring Company is actually a subtle genius play at setting up a mars colony” strikes me as… motivated reasoning at best.

An underrated way of figuring out what people want and are concerned about, in my experience, is to listen to them when they tell you what they want and are concerned about. Elon Musk is on the record, continuously and vigorously, that he thinks single-car-width tunnels dug by the Boring Company are a solution to traffic congestion.

The safest hypothesis here isn’t that this is part of some grand mars colonization plan, but that Musk thinks this is, in fact, a way to make vehicular traffic move faster. The fact that this leads inexorably to the conclusion that Musk is a complete crackpot is no one’s fault but his.

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Completely agree. Musk has also explicitly said that he, personally, finds public transit to be gross and unpleasant. The guy likes cars / individual transportation and hates traffic. In that way, he's pretty similar to a lot of folks. You don't have to go digging to understand his motivation.

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Pun intended?

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My understanding is that there's an upper bound as to how many cars you can have on the road before all the crossing paths from merging results in traffic congestion. I should learn on how Musk wants to solve that problem.

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Musk’s habit of explaining these ideas from inside a cloud of pot smoke while talking to Joe Rogan is, as card players call it, a strong tell.

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The plan is to tunnel underground so that they don't cross, they go over/under each other. It might not work, but that's the idea.

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But the tunnels have to connect to each other at some point, and with those connections come merging conflicts. This just seems like Musk wants to build an underground version of freeways--which, fine, but it's not like freeways have solved the congestion problem.

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Right, they merge like a freeway onramp does. Some slowdown, sure, but you don't have to stop and wait, so the average speed is much higher. And you would probably only have to do it once or twice, rather than stopping at every single cross street.

The main problem with freeways is that they're really expensive to build! In theory you could build a 10-deep layer of freeways across the city, and that would pretty much solve congestion. (admittedly, being in an accident on a freeway 10-layers high sounds terrifying. but it would certainly help traffic congestion)

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Are you seriously suggesting that a 10-deep layer of tunnels underneath a major city would be _less_ expensive to build than freeways? Major cities are known for a lot of things, but "simple subterranean architecture wherein a private company can easily drill multiple layers of overlapping tunnels" is rather not one of them.

And "sounds terrifying" is the _kindest_ description I could think of for an accident in such a system. Guaranteed fatalities in the dozens to hundreds the first time you get a chain-reaction lithium battery fire in a tunnel seems like the _optimistic_ take.

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As a side note here, the logic of “this guy seems like a crackpot but he’s also been really successful so actually he must secretly be very smart” is seductive but kinda flies in the face of history: getting accidentally fuck-off rich based on one good idea is often when people let their freak flag fly. Henry Ford was an out and out nazi— does the success of Ford Motors mean that we should pause and ask if he had actually stumbled onto a real issue vis a vis “international Jewry”?

Or, sorry, I realize it’s considered gauche in some quarters to admit that fascism ever existed so let’s go with a beloved example from my childhood: we all grew up eating Frosted Flakes and the Kellogg Company is an extremely successful company: was W.K. Kellogg actually right about the dangers of masturbation and the critical importance of regular enemas?

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The problem with this theory is that Musk has actually been successful in several fields and is not just accidentally fuck-off rich from one good idea. That doesn't mean that every idea of his will work, but it does mean that the burden of proof that he's actually a complete crackpot is rather higher than what you've provided.

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Yes, I don't know why people think the tunnels idea is so obviously wrong and stupid. It *might* not work, there's a lot of places it could fail for cost/safety/regulation/weird unknowns. But it also might work!

The basic idea makes sense: tunneling lets you build in 3D, rather than 2D. You can go over/under obstacles, so you don't have to stop, and you can build many more tunnels than there are surface roads. You can also restrict access so that there are no obstacles, just other cars moving at the same speed. Then you can tunnel right up to each destination (with deep elevators to underground parking garages), rather than dumping you out somewhere just roughly in the area, which backs up traffic with a lot of cars slowly circling around looking for parking.

The ventilation issue... well, yes, that's a serious problem for gas-powered cars. But if you happen to own an electric car company, being able to restrict the tunnels to only allow EVs is a great feature. It's not some top-secret plan, he's very open about the fact that the tunnels will only allow EVs! If you want to be a driver for the Vegas loop, you have to have a Tesla.

Again, I have no idea if this will actually work, and I'm guessing he doesn't either. But if it fails, it'll fail because of details, not because of some glaring obvious flaw like "he doesn't know that you cram more people into a subway car than a private car".

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"This guy is very successful but is actually a complete crackpot" seems like the same sort of mistake you're accusing MY of.

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My own, even more incoherent theses that are subject to revision from any good pushback:

1. What I sense is at the core of Musk hate from the left is the simple fact that he's a really rich guy. A lot of the left get viscerally opposed to a rich guy being able to throw around his wealth to influence society, and while buying Twitter is hardly the most pernicious thing a rich guy throwing around the weight of his wealth could do, it's still triggering to some to see the idea that someone could just swipe up a prominent company for $44 billion.

2. I also sense some sort of intersection with identity politics here, in that Musk at least gives off tech bro vibes that don't sit well with those that feel women and racial and other minorities are underrepresented in everything.

3. The "whole idea of colonizing Mars is stupid" thing seems like a microcosm of "Why care about Mars when we have so many problems on this planet" which turns quickly into a EAish style argument about "Why should he allowed to buy Twitter when we can do so many better things for $44 billion?"

4. The greatest promise I see from Musk buying Twitter is taking it private. That frees Twitter from the clutches of Wall Street and its overwhelming demands to increase shareholder value, which could lead to an end or reduction of the algorithmic amplification identified as problematic. It's a hard TBD to see if Musk follows through on that promise, but given that the founder of Twitter himself said the same thing (https://twitter.com/jack/status/1518772754782187520) that makes me a little more bullish.

5. The major thing Twitter needs to throw the grand majority of its moderation capacity behind is to keep going against harassment. My non-pseudonymous Twitter contribution is rather small and deals with a rather banal topic, but it also puts me parallel with some more prominent users who are not shy about the harassment they face, and how it gets so much worse if you're part of a disadvantaged group. I would hate to see some of my favorite Twitter follows feel like they have to leave because they're being harassed too much, and a tradeoff where Twitter focuses on that while taking a generic free speech approach on everything else would be acceptable.

6. "Buying solar panels and electric vehicles to own the libs" would be a great outcome if Musk gets coded as a right wing guy.

7. Add a damn edit button, Elon!

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"4. The greatest promise I see from Musk buying Twitter is taking it private. That frees Twitter from the clutches of Wall Street and its overwhelming demands to increase shareholder value, which could lead to an end or reduction of the algorithmic amplification identified as problematic."

The deal seems to be structured in such a way that makes it even more important for Twitter to actually be profitable -- otherwise, Musk would lose a substantial amount of money. Wouldn't that put even more pressure to produce returns?

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founding

I think Musk personally probably has less desire for profit than shareholders generally. Small shareholders usually have nothing they want *other* than profit. Musk may have other things he wants.

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Guess it depends on what Musk wants out of his purchase.

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I think I'd like to add a #8:

"After one year, all tweets, with no exceptions, are automatically erased."

I mean we're not talking the works of Shakespeare here. If your Twitter thread is so vital as to require archiving for the benefit of future generations, turn it into a Substack post.

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Nope, I'm strongly anti-tweet deleting. There's a lot of tweets that I'll find quite valuable and want to reference in the future to help make good points, and it's very frustrating when those get zapped.

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Plus anyone can use an archive service to preserve anything. Some people even find a screenshot credible. We should all act as if anything we say on the public internet will be preserved for eternity, and if scandalous in the future then it will surface.

On a related tangent, I think everyone should also act as if everything they say online can and will be tied to their public real identity. The OPSEC necessary to ensure an anonymous account can never be tied to ones real identity is higher than most people realize. Just one sloppy mistake can deanonymize an account. For many people this could be something as basic as forgetting which account they are on saying something that provides a connection.

Hence, I recommend everyone always use their real name so they're not tempted to say something that would embarrass them should it be tied back to their real identity.

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How do you imagine an edit button working? I find it hard to see how it wouldn't just lead to changes to small but important parts of tweets completely throwing people's responses and likes out of context.

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It seems straightforward to me to just keep a history of the tweet where people can look back at the original to check whether there's any funny business around or whether it's just a banal typo fix or data correction.

It would also be really nice to affix tweets to older ones where you retract or clarify what you previously tweeted, instead of having to do a clumsy QT that keeps the erroneous tweet unfrozen--or even worse, deleting the tweet outright and leaving people in the dark on what exactly you retracted.

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Amplification of engaging misinformation isn’t just algorithmic, it’s behavioral. If people retweet some juicy tidbit of nonsense, it mechanically shows up in all their followers’ feeds, even if Twitter is acting as a dumb pipe. Unfortunately, it’s inextricably linked to the content-discovery method where you are a retweet of something interesting and true.

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Most people don’t hate Elon Musk for real progressive reasons. They hate him because he’s an obnoxious dork and because the people who worship him are also obnoxious. Most of the “He should spend that $44B on XYZ instead” takes are just a performance. He’s annoying and immature and those people are much more tolerable when they aren’t influential.

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He bought a falling knife. Nobody goes to twitter to engage in actual discussion. That is what substack and slowboring are for.

Why is discussion here better? You pay in and have some incentive to be civil and not sound too unhinged, lest you get a reputation as the village idiot.

Here, we can talk to each other like adults, even if I only share 20% of views of Republican regulars here. When it’s people yelling at each other in poorly written 280 char headlines with zero reputation at stake, of course it’s going to sound like a crazy street corner rant.

I hope the “you must be a human rule” helps… but I have my doubts.

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Yeah, a bit of the difference between that and what I see here is exactly what I am saying. A larger paywalled audience with even a bit more at stake in terms of rep tends to result in more civility, even when the audience is wider in terms of political POV.

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