Why The Twitter API Change is Nothing but Good

As of August 16 2018, the Twitter API changed for 3rd party developers. Without getting too technical, Twitter is turned off the old streaming API and did not replace a bunch of it with anything at all.

That means 3rd party clients lost:

  • timeline streaming
  • notifications on retweets, quote tweets, likes, and follows
  • mentions and direct messages will take longer to get a notification for
  • most of them are loosing the Apple Watch app as well

Like I said in the title, this is nothing but upside as far as I’m concerned.

A Quiet Twitter is better

This is all upside because a quiet Twitter is a better Twitter. Cal Newport has an idea that he calls Attention Capital Theory. This is the idea that the biggest asset/resource we have is our focus and attention. Our brains are the primary asset of the knowledge economy we pretty much all work in.

Applications like Twitter or Facebook or … anything that randomly pops up and steals your attention are terrible because they steal your focus. They’re stealing the biggest asset that your company has, regularly with no return to you in value.

Bassex Research has published a study that estimates the cost to the US economy to be around 588 billion dollars lost due to interruptions. You read that right, $588 BILLION dollars. That’s a lot of of lost productivity we just don’t think about.

With Tweetbot and Twitterific going much quieter, you have some of your attention back. You will no longer be interrupted at every turn by something that just doesn’t matter.

I’d much rather have you build a device that is quiet all the time anyway, and I talk about this in my upcoming book The Art of Focus. With 3rd party Twitter clients just not being able to bug you the choice is being made for you.

You’ve got your attention back in some small way. No you’re not building your focus muscle, but it’s a start.

But the users should get these things

While I feel for third party developers, the writing has been on the wall for a while. In 2015 Twitter talked about how they’d be screwing developers and then backtracked. If a 3rd party developer was caught off guard by this API change they simply weren’t paying attention.

Twitter does provide clients that will give you all the alerts you want for iOS and Android. For macOS and Windows they say to use the website because that’s the “best” experience. I’m sure that the Twitter web interface has some push notifications they want to send you through your browser as well.

In Twitter parlance “best” means the one they can update the fastest with ads and new features to steal your eyeballs.

That may sound bad, and you may be annoyed thinking that Twitter cares about it’s users. That this move is user hostile. But Twitter doesn’t care about it’s users, at least not in the way you’re thinking. And this move isn’t user hostile.

You probably think that you’re the user.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you sent Twitter any money? Never, because you’re not the customer. You are the product.

The people that Twitter gets money from is advertisers. That means Twitter want’s you to see as many ads as possible without being too annoyed. They care what their advertisers want, and the advertisers want your attention regardless of the cost it may have on the economy.

My friend Eric wrote about this recently as he tried out the official Twitter client.

Twitter today fills my feed with ads – most of which are flagged as “promoted” content. Some of which are not flagged in any way. The other day, I noticed advertisements for Accenture Security in my timeline, all retweeted by “null.” Attempts to suss out the identity of “null” failed, as the Twitter API merely told me “usernames are unavailable.”

So Eric got ads. He couldn’t figure out where they were from exactly or who was retweeting them. Turns out that Twitter kind of masked that it was Accenture that was retweeting it’s own stuff and somehow that retweet was relevant to Eric.

I’d say that was shady, but remember Eric is not the customer he’s the product. Twitter is doing exactly what it’s customer Accenture would want it to do.

I think that this is only part of the problem with Twitter. There is currently a campaign for people to close their Twitter accounts on Friday August 17th. This is directed at Twitter’s lack of commitment to do any type of moderation on people like Alex Jones, who I won’t link.

Twitter has routinely shown that it won’t deal with people spreading hate if they’re white. But if you say a naughty word to the founder, prepare to have your account limited. Read my friend Eric’s post and you’ll see that he was once told he was breaking rules and was limited and was never told what rule or where he broke it.

But Twitter was so so good

I, like many others, remember the “good” days of Twitter. Meeting like minded individuals in tech. Yes it was mostly men and they were mostly white. But from my small down in BC, it was a breath of fresh air to find some other people that were interested in the same things I was interested in.

I’ve made friends in real life through Twitter. I’ve got work through Twitter. I built part of my reputation as a WordPress developer through Twitter and getting my content out there.

This is not what Twitter is today though. It’s marketers auto-posting about whatever they think you should know about. It’s bots following you to try and build a follower count. It’s ads and hate being spread.

If you’re looking for a social media platform that feels like Twitter used to then Mastodon is one option. I’m on Mastodon.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what Micro.blog is and how I could decide to use it.

My biggest preference would be to see people blogging again. Sure some short form Tweet like content, but more longer content that people think about. More content like this that I could interact with.

Some people are feeling that this is happening. Clearly I’ve never left blogging as I roll over 1600 posts here. Unfortunately I think that my preference is really a pipe dream, but one can hope.

I’m hoping that Mastodon and Micro.blog and Blogging get some more attention again as Twitter screws the 3rd party developers that made them a company in the first place.

Photo by: fallentomato

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