So Where Can Twitter Go From Here?
Twitter can be indispensable, engaging, and fun for everyone on the planet, and make even more money in the process. So why isn’t that happening?
- For most people, Twitter is too hard to use.
- For most people, Tweeting is scary.
- For most people, Twitter feels lonely.
None of this is a surprise, as Twitter was mostly built by and for its power users. The odds are high that if you are reading this, you are one of those Twitterers who has built lists and muted accounts. You quote Tweets and tag photos with ease, you have multiple group DM threads, and for anything remotely real-time, you turn to Twitter search before Google.
People like you bring incredible value to Twitter and your product experience should never be worsened. Your feedback to the Twitter team has quite literally shaped the product and your passionate opinions remind all of us that there is something really special here. Long live the raw feed and all of its serendipitous glory. Unfortunately, most of the features listed above are complications that chase normal users right back out the door they came in.
The good news is this is all fixable. However, an incremental and iterative approach to improving Twitter will not work. Instead, Twitter will need to take huge risks, deeply question its key assumptions, and launch materially new stuff early and often.
Twitter does have boldness in its bones. It took unreasonable ambition to go from a company where pundits asked “How will you ever make money?” to building a business that will rack up $2 billion in annualized revenue this year. In parallel, it has been no small feat to guide the company from being a wholly text-based service to one teeming with rich media and a growing video monetization business. Even buying Periscope shows the company has the capacity and appetite for taking risk.
But Twitter needs to be bolder still. It needs to place more bets with potentially oversized payoffs. It needs to question aspects of Twitter it has taken for granted. It needs to operate with smaller teams that require less permission to make change happen. Twitter can afford to build the wrong things. However, Twitter cannot afford to build the right things too slowly.
Ultimately, while there is no one Twitter that fits all, there is nothing stopping Twitter from fitting most. There is a Twitter that hundreds of millions more people will embrace and use daily. This is what it might look like…
Using Twitter Could Be So Much Easier.
The world’s very best content is already inside of Twitter. All of the news, sports, entertainment, human interest, music, branding, social justice, humor, politics, celebrities, technology, and beyond. Twitter not only has it all, Twitter has it in real-time, before any other platform in the world.
Yet, for most people, using Twitter to see that great stuff is too hard. Why? Twitter doesn’t work like our minds do. Our brains prefer signal over noise. Yet, on Twitter:
- Timelines are oriented in strict reverse chronological order.
- Twitter’s core timeline building block is an account follow.
Though immediacy does underpin the value of some Tweets, many other great Tweets have long shelf lives and are just as compelling hours or days later. Plus, a timeline rigidly restricted to specific accounts presumes we won’t value anything Tweeted by accounts we don’t follow. As a result of these two constraints, Twitter timelines are spontaneous, but scattered and of inconsistent relevance.
On any given day, 500 million Tweets are sent. Some of them are wonderfully insightful, funny, provocative, inspiring, heartfelt, or even historic. Yet hundreds of millions of those Tweets are noisy distractions. For any sample of accounts, the odds are extremely high that the most recent Tweets are not the best Tweets.
This is where so many new users get hung up. Hardcore Twitterers have the savvy and patience to continuously tune the array of accounts they follow. They even train the nuances of their visual attention to notice only what they care about when scrolling rapidly. However, new users usually get lost in the rough before they have a chance to find any diamonds.
The next few hundred million Twitter users will want to know that they are always seeing the most interesting and most important Tweets. Sometimes that will mean seeing the freshest Tweets posted. However, in many other cases, users won’t care if those Tweets are ten seconds or one hour or two days old. In parallel, they won’t care if the Tweets were posted by someone they follow or not. They just want the best stuff.
So it is time to ditch the assumptions that:
Recent Tweets are always the best Tweets.
Only the people we follow post the best Tweets.
By Michael Levitin excerpted from here:
Until recently, Occupy’s chief accomplishment was changing the national conversation by giving Americans a new language—the 99 percent and the 1 percent—to frame the dual crises of income inequality and the corrupting influence of money in politics. What began in September 2011 as a small group of protesters camping out in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park ignited a national and global movement calling out the ruling class of elites by connecting the dots between corporate and political power. Despite the public’s overwhelming support for its message—that the economic system is rigged for the very few while the majority continue to fall further behind—many faulted Occupy for its failure to produce concrete results.
Yet with the 2016 elections looming and a spirit of economic populism spreading throughout the nation, that view of Occupy’s impact is changing. Inequality and the wealth gap are now core tenets of the Democratic platform, providing a frame for other measurable gains spurred by Occupy. The camps may be gone and Occupy may no longer be visible on the streets, but the gulf between the haves and the have-nots is still there, and growing. What appeared to be a passing phenomenon of protest now looks like the future of U.S. political debate, heralded by tangible policy wins and the new era of activist movements Occupy inaugurated.
One of Occupy’s largely unrecognized victories is the momentum it built for a higher minimum wage. The Occupy protests motivated fast-food workers in New York City to walk off the job in November 2012, sparking a national worker-led movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In 2014, numerous cities and states including four Republican-dominated ones—Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska, and South Dakota—voted for higher pay; 2016 will see more showdowns in New York City and Washington, D.C., and in states like Florida, Maine, and Oregon. From Seattle to Los Angeles to Chicago, some of the country’s largest cities are setting a new economic bar to help low-income workers.
The tidal wave didn’t come from nowhere. The grassroots movement composed of fast-food workers and Walmart employees, convenience-store clerks, and adjunct teachers seized on the energy of Occupy to spark a rebirth of the U.S. labor movement. This renaissance was most recently visible on April 15, when tens of thousands of workers marched in hundreds of cities to demand better pay and conditions. McDonald’s and Walmart have responded with incremental wage hikes, and Senate Democrats this spring called for raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour. As Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, a socialist who rose to prominence with the Occupy movement, put it, “$15 in Seattle is just a beginning. We have an entire world to win.”
Occupy also reshaped the U.S.-environmental movement, which had its rebirth in fall 2011 when 1,200 people were arrested in Washington, D.C., protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. As people gravitated to Occupy encampments, teach-ins, and demonstrations across the country, that energy easily transferred into the fight against climate change. This was especially true on college campuses, where a student-led divestment movement has rid more than $50 billion in fossil-fuel assets from universities and institutional investment funds worldwide.
Occupy prompted a grassroots anti-fracking movement that pushed cities, counties and states to enact bans on the controversial drilling process—from Athens, Ohio, to Mendocino County, California, and in states like New York and Maryland. Last fall, those movements coalesced into the world’s largest climate march when 400,000 protesters descended on New York City to demand robust cuts in emissions and investments in renewable energy. President Obama has responded to the growing pressure by mandating new carbon cuts for power plants, signing a first-ever emissions-slashing deal with China, and vetoing a Republican measure to push through Keystone (although his decision in May granting permission for Shell to drill in the Arctic struck many as a disturbing reversal of his climate promises).
When it comes to money in politics, Occupy also drew mainstream attention to the corrosive influence of wealth on the political process. That helped spur a nationwide movement as 16 state legislatures and more than 600 U.S. towns and cities have passed resolutions to overturn Citizens United and draft a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people and money is not speech. In April, the “We the People Amendment” to outlaw corporate personhood was introduced in the House by a Democratic coalition led by Representatives Rick Nolan (Minnesota), Jared Huffman (California), Keith Ellison (Minnesota), Matt Cartwright (Pennsylvania), and Raul Grijalva (Arizona). The message has resonated on both sides of the aisle, as presidential candidates from Clinton to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham call for a new era of campaign-finance reform to remove big money from electoral politics.
The student-debt crisis is another magnified arena where the Occupy protests shouted first and loudest—and in which serious policy shifts are now afoot. Occupy offshoot movements like Strike Debt, Rolling Jubilee, and Debt Collective are tackling America’s $1.3 trillion college-debt conundrum by buying back student debt for pennies on the dollar and forgiving it. Those movements also spurred a rebellion by student debtors, known as the Corinthian 15, who in April celebrated the closure of the for-profit Corinthian College chain, which they had accused of deceptive marketing and deliberately steering students into high-cost loans. In January, President Obama addressed the burgeoning crisis by introducing a $60 billion plan to make all community college free for two years. And in late April, nine Democratic Senators joined a list of 60 Congress members supporting a resolution to institute four-year, debt-free college nationwide—a dramatic departure from piecemeal proposals of the past.
Most significant, perhaps, is how the debate over inequality sparked by Occupy has radically remade the Democratic Party. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator-who-is-definitely-not-running-for-president and the party’s most dynamic leader, launched her political career in 2012 with the 99 percent movement’s message of Main Street versus Wall Street. Since entering the Senate, Warren has drafted numerous bills to address income inequality, including the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act that would separate investment banking from commercial banking and the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act that would allow students to refinance college loans at a lower federal rate. By fighting to strengthen financial regulations in Dodd-Frank, break up “too big to fail” banks, and impose stiff taxes on corporations and the wealthy, Warren is the closest thing to an Occupy candidate the movement ever got. And now an army of elected populists in both the Senate and House is unifying around her.
On a local level, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio swept into office last year on a 99-percent-style “tale of two cities” campaign to address income inequality. He has since expanded pre-K education for tens of thousands of students, created municipal ID cards for undocumented immigrants, increased affordable housing, and guaranteed sick days for workers in America’s largest city. De Blasio now leads a national task force of mayors who hope to aggressively tackle the wealth gap in their cities—something scarcely imaginable before Occupy reshuffled the political deck.
Occupy was, at its core, a movement constrained by its own contradictions: filled with leaders who declared themselves leaderless, governed by a consensus-based structure that failed to reach consensus, and seeking to transform politics while refusing to become political. Ironic as it may seem, the impact of the movement that many view only in the rearview mirror is becoming stronger and clearer with time. Since the Great Recession, shareholder profits, CEO pay, and corporate tax breaks have soared while average household wealth continues to sink, college debt skyrockets, living costs increase, real wages decline, and the middle class struggles to survive. The world’s 1 percent now possess almost as much combined wealth as the bottom 90 percent. And while no one in Washington may have the full answer about how to fix income inequality, everyone, it seems, is now grasping for a solution.
Where the two main poles of the radical left in the Spanish state—Podemos and the United Left (IU)— managed to merge their forces in projects organised not as alliances between party apparatuses but as participatory citizens’ electoral campaigns, the results were at times little short of astounding.
These citizen’s movements managed to win the city councils of the country’s two most important cities, Madrid and Barcelona, as well as A Coruña and Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Zaragoza in Aragon and Cadiz in Andalusia.
Those breakthroughs have stirred up politics in Spain like nothing since the birth of the indignadosmovement in May 2011. The right-wing media headlines read: “Indignados take Madrid” and “Colau okupies Barcelona City Council”. (In Spanish an okupa is an anti-eviction squatter, and widely respected anti-eviction activist Ada Colau will be Barcelona’s first ever woman mayor).
In the celebrations on victory night a popular chant—along with “Si, se puede! [Yes, we can!]”—was “Yes, you do represent us!”, a positive reworking of the indignado chant first heard in May 2011: “They don’t represent us!”
These triumphs represent the high-tide mark of an election that has seen the ruling People’s Party (PP) vote fall to 27% (from 37.54% in 2011) and the opposition PSOE vote drop to 25% (from 27.03%). Since the last local elections the PP has lost around 2.5 million votes, while the PSOE has lost 700,000. The all-of-Spain vote for Citizens, the right wing “anti-Podemos”, was only 6.55%.
At the same time, in the 13 of the country’s 17 autonomous communities (states) where elections were also held, Podemos made its debut in national Spanish politics with a vote of between 8.83% and 20.5%, averaging 14.46%. (In the local government elections, Podemos did not stand in its own name, but as part of broader coalitions.)
My conclusion, therefore, is that the issue of Greece does not only concern Greece; rather, it is the very epicentre of conflict between two diametrically opposing strategies concerning the future of European unification.
The first strategy aims to deepen European unification in the context of equality and solidarity between its people and citizens.
The proponents of this strategy begin with the assumption that it is not possible to demand that the new Greek government follows the course of the previous one – which, we must not forget, failed miserably. This assumption is the starting point, because otherwise, elections would need to be abolished in those countries that are in a program. Namely, we would have to accept that the institutions should appoint the ministers and prime ministers, and that citizens should be deprived of the right to vote until the completion of the Program.
In other words, this means the complete abolition of democracy in Europe, the end of every pretext of democracy, and the beginning of disintegration and of an unacceptable division of United Europe.
This means the beginning of the creation of a technocratic monstrosity that will lead to a Europe entirely alien to its founding principles.
The second strategy seeks precisely this: The split and the division of the Eurozone, and consequently of the EU.
The first step to accomplishing this is to create a two-speed Eurozone where the “core” will set tough rules regarding austerity and adaptation and will appoint a “super” finance minister of the Eurozone with unlimited power, and with the ability to even reject budgets of sovereign states that are not aligned with the doctrines of extreme neoliberalism.
For those countries that refuse to bow to the new authority, the solution will be simple: Harsh punishment. Mandatory austerity. And even worse, more restrictions on the movement of capital, disciplinary sanctions, fines and even a parallel currency.
Judging from the present circumstances, it appears that this new European power is being constructed, with Greece being the first victim. To some, this represents a golden opportunity to make an example out of Greece for other countries that might be thinking of not following this new line of discipline.
What is not being taken into account is the high amount of risk and the enormous dangers involved in this second strategy. This strategy not only risks the beginning of the end for the European unification project by shifting the Eurozone from a monetary union to an exchange rate zone, but it also triggers economic and political uncertainty, which is likely to entirely transform the economic and political balances throughout the West.
An additional factor worth considering is that the state, supported by capital more generally and not just the financial sector, has worked hard to erode the relative significance of fiscal policy in managing the economy and is reluctant to give that victory up.
The point is that fiscal intervention carries the dangers of it being inherently politicized since it brings into public discussion issues of taxes and tax distribution, of social priorities and of spending outside the direct purview of the private economy. Monetary management in contrast has the preferred advantages to elites of being carried out behind closed doors, with strict market-oriented mandates, and of operating through financial markets that discipline each of firms, workers, and states to the “apolitical” priorities of accumulation.
In this regard, the weakness of labor as a countervailing force reinforces the toleration of fiscal conservatism. Moreover, the persistence of austerity and restrained growth provides the state with an opportunity to further weaken labor.
As long as the slower growth doesn’t threaten the survival of the banks — something that has been carefully taken care of — austerity can be used to address the longer-term goal pushed by sections of the elite: consolidating the institutional defeat of private sector unions and moving on to match that achievement in the public sector.
From this perspective, the conservative fervor of the German state for austerity, even with pressures from the American state to go softer, is not just a matter of a historical legacy that is paranoid about inflation, but is also a dimension of the German state playing a leading role in consolidating European neoliberalism and “ratcheting down” to the weaker welfare state and greater labor flexibility the US already has.
American capitalism is currently characterized by both a greater role for financial markets and the weakness of the working class. The stock buybacks that Whitney points to add to existing financial volatility, and the potential of an asset bubble leading to a significant collapse in the stock market. And the political emphasis on the link between driving up stock prices and inequality, and the failure of corporations (and the rich) to invest at levels that justify their radically disproportionate share of society’s wealth, is surely right.
But we should not underestimate the resiliency of capitalism, and the staying power of the American economy. The working class and social movements remain in retreat, and such recent mobilizations as Fight for $15 and Black Lives Matter are limited without larger perspectives.
What we need to build and prepare for is not a capitalism on its last legs but one able to stumble on and to generate profits in spite of all the volatility and uncertainty. The tasks this sets for the Left is the longer term one of winning people over to rejecting capitalism even when it is, on its own terms, functioning “well.”
It is our inability to organize ourselves to address this challenge rather than of focusing on how to fix capitalism that defines the failures of the Left. It is this crisis that we especially need to be talking about.
An article published in the Wall Street Journal this week details some of the impact of hedge funds on the operations of major US corporations, and the way in which their insatiable drive for profit through financial manipulations is sucking the lifeblood out of the economy and contributing to its deepening breakdown.
The article is based on a study conducted for the newspaper by S&P Capital IQ. It found that companies in the S&P 500 index had “sharply increased their spending on dividends and [share] buybacks to a median 36 percent of operating cash flow in 2013, from 18 percent in 2003.” The doubling of this rate was accompanied by a fall in spending by those companies on plant and equipment, from 33 percent to 29 percent over the same period.
The study found that in companies targeted by so-called “activist investors”—that is, hedge funds that hold hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of dollars on behalf of their wealthy investors—the figures were even higher. Targeted companies reduced capital spending from 42 per cent to 29 percent of operating cash flow and increased spending on dividends and share buybacks to 37 percent of operating cash flow from 22 percent.
One of the main factors facilitating these operations has been the provision of ultra-cheap money by the US Federal Reserve, which has kept official interest rates at almost zero, leading to historically low interest rates in financial markets. Hedge funds are able to use borrowed money to acquire major share holdings in corporations and then push for share buybacks and the payment of increased dividends. The buybacks, in turn, can be financed through borrowed funds at low interest rates.
The aim is to produce a rise in the share price of the company or generate an increased dividend flow returning large profits for the “activists,” often accompanied by job cuts or the outright closure of parts of the targeted company deemed not to be making a sufficient contribution to “shareholders’ funds.” At the end of the process, vast profits have been pocketed, without a single atom of new wealth being created, while productive capacity has been curtailed.
On Wednesday, five major international banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, America’s largest and third-largest financial institutions, pleaded guilty to felony charges for helping to manipulate global foreign exchange markets, paying a wrist-slap fine of about $1 billion apiece.
The financial impact on JPMorgan and the other banks for pleading guilty to a felony will be effectively zero. As part of the deal, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued waivers exempting the banks from the legal repercussions arising from their status as criminal organizations, giving them continued preferential treatment in issuing debt, as well as the continued right to operate mutual funds.
Despite the claims by Justice Department officials of a criminal conspiracy "on a massive scale," carried out with "breathtaking flagrancy," there was no talk of breaking up JPMorgan or any other bank, let alone bringing criminal charges against any of their executives.
The rigging of global foreign exchange rates is only the latest in the string of crimes, frauds and criminal conspiracies for which JPMorgan has been fined by US and international regulators.
* In January 2013, JPMorgan, together with 10 other banks, agreed to pay a combined $8.5 billion to settle charges that they forged documents to foreclose homes more quickly.
* In November 2013, the bank agreed to pay $13 billion to settle charges that it defrauded investors by selling fraudulent mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the housing bubble collapse in 2007 and 2008.
* That same month, JPMorgan paid $4.5 billion to settle charges that it defrauded pension funds and other institutional investors to whom it sold mortgage bonds.
* In December 2013, JPMorgan and eight other banks were fined $2.3 billion for manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), the global benchmark interest rate on which the values of trillions of dollars in securities are based.
* In January 2014, JPMorgan paid $2 billion in fines and penalties to settle charges that it profited from and helped operate Bernard L. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
As a result of the crimes perpetrated by JPMorgan and other banks over the past decade, millions of people have had their homes foreclosed, and millions more have lost their jobs, while countless university endowments, pension plans, and municipalities have been swindled out of billions of dollars.
Based on this partial list of only the latest and largest crimes carried out by JPMorgan, it is no exaggeration to conclude that America's largest bank is a criminal organization. Why then is it impossible to prosecute, much less jail, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, the mastermind of all of these crimes and conspiracies?
The answer to this question lies in the vast retrogression in social relations that has taken place in America amid the enormous growth of social inequality. Behind the increasingly threadbare outwards trappings of democracy, America has become an aristocratic society, with entrenched legal and social privileges for the ruling elite.
Before the French Revolution of 1789, European society was divided into feudal estates, such as the nobility, the church prelates, and the commoners. The estate into which someone was born was not only an economic category, but affected all aspects of life, from the laws that applied to him, to the types of taxes he paid, even to the kind of clothes he was legally allowed to wear.
The foundations of American democracy, laid in the aftermath of the American Revolution, were set up in opposition to the rigid social hierarchy that dominated contemporary Europe. The American Constitution prohibits the granting and holding of titles of nobility, while the 14th Amendment explicitly guarantees "the equal protection of the laws" to all people.
But could anyone argue that this is the case now? According to the American Bar Association, there are more than three hundred people serving sentences of life without parole for shoplifting in the state of California alone, while countless thousands of men throughout the United States are imprisoned for being too poor to pay child support.
Meanwhile the financial oligarchy and the state officials who defend their interests are effectively immune from prosecution. This tiny elite constitutes not merely a separate economic class, but effectively a separate estate, judged under what are, in effect, a different set of laws. A worker can be thrown in jail for failing to show up for a court date, while bankers who steal billions of dollars get off scot-free.
The American financial aristocracy is an inherently criminal class. Its wealth is based not on production, but on plunder, speculation and the upward redistribution of wealth through the impoverishment of the great majority of the population.
This financial oligarchy controls all the levers of power in contemporary society. The media, courts, politicians and so-called financial regulators are all under the thumb of the Wall Street mafiosos. Far from seeking to restrain Wall Street’s criminality, the government functions to facilitate and cover up for its crimes.
In exchange, politicians are provided with millions of dollars in campaign contributions and "speaking fees," while top financial regulators are invariably assured high-paying positions on Wall Street after their stints with the government.
Ben Bernanke, the former Federal Reserve chairman who funneled trillions of dollars to Wall Street during the 2008 bank bailout, announced this year that he has been hired by two major Wall Street firms, the hedge fund Citadel and the bond trading firm Pimco, each of whom will presumably pay him a seven-figure salary. Bernanke followed in the footsteps of his colleague Timothy Geithner, who became the head of hedge fund Warburg Pincus in November 2013, following his stint as Treasury Secretary.
There is no way to break the power of the criminal cabal that dominates political life in the United States within the framework of the present social order. Holding the Wall Street criminals to account requires a radical reorganization of society. Only then can the criminals who head the major US financial institutions be arrested, tried and convicted of the crimes that they have orchestrated against the populations of the United States and the whole world. Their ill-gotten gains must be seized, and the major Wall Street banks must be put under democratic control by the international working class.
High-volume hydraulic fracturing "raises new, significant, adverse impacts not studied" in the state's last major analysis of oil and gas development in 1992, the 2,000-page report concludes. The negative effects that fracking could bring to the state include:
— Air impacts that could affect respiratory health due to increased levels of particulate matter, diesel exhaust or volatile organic chemicals.
— Climate change impacts due to methane and other volatile organic chemical released into the atmosphere.
— Drinking water impacts from underground migration of methane and/or fracturing fluid chemicals associated with faulty well construction or seismic activity.
— Surface spills potentially resulting in soil, groundwater and surface water contamination.
— Surface water contamination resulting from inadequate wastewater treatment.
— Earthquakes and creation of fissures induced during the hydraulic fracturing stage.
— Community impacts such as increased vehicle traffic, road damage, noise, odor complaints,and increased local demand for housing and medical care.
Issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation, the "Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement" took more than six years to produce, as public comments on drafts and the burgeoning literature on the various effects of fracking led to repeated revisions of the study.
The assessment notes that considerable uncertainty over the adverse environmental and public health consequences of fracking has "grown worse over time."
Industry, for example, has long asserted that fracking fluid has never migrated to or tainted underground drinking water, but documented cases have revealed drinking water contamination from fracking. A study this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the presence of chemicals used in fracking fluids in the drinking water of three Pennsylvania households. State regulators also detected methane in the families' water. Similarly, leakage rates into the atmosphere of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that could wipe out the climate benefit of natural gas, remain unclear as major studies only now get underway.
In New York, the resistance to fracking grew as residents saw the effects of the gas boom across the border in Pennsylvania. New York localities, such as the village of Dryden, created fracking bans that withstood court challenges adding momentum to activist efforts for a statewide prohibition.
New York is the first state with substantial natural gas reserves to ban fracking. Others, such as North Carolina, placed moratoria on the practice that they eventually lifted. Some, such as Vermont, have bans in place that are mostly symbolic as they have minimal oil and gas reserves.