There’s a larger piece of news here, but it’s a little hidden. See that third tab in the lower navigation bar, that now says “Messages”? That used to be the “Discover” tab, a feature that algorithmically sorts tweets and stories to present a more summarized, aggregated view. Twitter has bumped that feature to “Timelines,” where a user’s main timeline also lives.
It was around 5pm last Thursday when Olivia, a San Diego high school student, noticed that something interesting was going on with her Twitter account.
A swarm of 30 women with sexy profile pictures had just followed her on the social networking service. “guys wtf 30 PORNSTARS JUST FOLLOWED ME WHATS HAPPENING,” she tweeted to her 600 or so followers.
Her friends started joking with her. One said: “I think they want you to join their profession.” And it was a little funny. Weird, but funny. (“actually laughing so hard right now [emoji],” one friend tweeted at her.)
One minute she’s doing homework and congratulating a friend on making varsity. The next, she’s the center of the this swarm of porny weirdness. It was like the setup for a new Spielberg sci-fi movie.
Olivia posted screenshots from her account. She wrote in perhaps ironic all caps, “AM I PAYING FOR THIS” and “IS ANYONE ELSE AS CONCERNED AS I AM.”
But… maybe being followed by pornstars would be the next trend at school? “why arent hundreds of porn stars following me,” a friend tweeted.
Olivia started to notice some patterns, though. Each new follower was following precisely six people and almost everyone else the accounts were following were “verified” by Twitter. Many of the verified were legitimately famous people.
Seriously: what was going on?
I’m not really an “early-adopter.” In fact, I’m the exact opposite. I’m a Luddite and a shepherd.
Our shepherding work in the English Lake District is all about continuity and being part of a living cultural tradition that stretches back into the depths of time. Our work is often little changed from the way things were done when the Vikings first settled these valleys. Even our dialect is peppered with Norse words.
I like old things, old ways of doing things, old stories, old places, and old people. I’m deeply conservative with a small ‘c’. Ask any half decent economist and they’ll tell you that most new ideas are a waste of time, most new ideas fail. Our way of life results in fairly conservative people suspicious of pointless chatter and new technologies for the sake of newness.
I am, in short, about as unlikely to get excited by something like Twitter as anyone alive.
Read more. [Image: @herdyshepherd1]
It started, as so many things do these days, with a lost phone. A nice young lady named Courtney was traveling in a New York City cab. Upon leaving the cab, however, she left—as so many people do these days—her iPhone behind.
Usually, young Courtney’s story would have a sad ending: the phone found, its precious contents wiped clean, its skeletal hardware sold on the black market to the highest bidder.
But this story is not sad. This story is awesome. Because after Courtney left the cab, and her phone along with it, the vehicle was hailed by a guy named Frank. Frank found Courtney’s phone. He examined it, trying to determine who its owner might be. And after some investigation—phones, after all, containing much of our personal data—he came to a wondrous conclusion: The phone in question belonged to Courtney Love. Yes. That Courtney Love.
Oh, and the Frank in question? That would be Frank Bruni, op-ed columnist for The New York Times. Because New York.
So, say you’re Frank Bruni, Timesman and gentleman, in possession of Courtney Love’s iPhone. What do you do then? How do you, you high-profile Good Samaritan, make sure that Courtney Love’s lost iPhone is returned to her? You tweet, obviously.
The Internet has ruined high-school writing. Write the line on the board five hundred times like Bart Simpson. Remember and internalize it. Intone it in an Andy Rooney-esque grumble.
I’ve heard the line repeated by dozens of educators and laypeople. I’ve even said it myself.
Thankfully it is untrue.
As a high-school English teacher, I read well over a thousand student essays a year. I can report that complete sentences are an increasingly endangered species. I wearily review the point of paragraphs every semester. This year I tried and failed to spark a senior class protest against “blobs”—my pejorative term for essays lacking paragraphs. When I see a winky face in the body of a personal essay—and believe me, it has happened enough to warrant a routine response—I use a red pen to draw next to it a larger face with narrow, angry eyes and gaping jaws poised to chomp the offending emoticon to pieces Pac-Man-style. My students analyze good writing and discuss the effect of word choice and elegant syntax on an audience’s reading experience. The uphill battle is worth fighting, but I’m always aware that something more foreboding than chronic senioritis lines up in opposition.
However, while Facebook and Twitter have eroded writing conventions among my students, they have not killed the most important ingredients in personal writing: self-reflection and emotional honesty. For younger high school boys particularly, social networking has actually improved writing – not the product or the process, but the sensitivity and inward focus required to even begin to produce a draft that will eventually be worth editing.
Read more. [Image: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo]
Happy Twitter IPO Day, everyone!
Among all the auspiciousness, you might find yourself in this situation: You will not be buying yourself some TWTR stock (I know, #FOMO), but you still want to get in on some TWTR action (I know! #YOLO!). If that sounds familiar, then I’ve got you covered. Actually, the Internet has got you covered. Because Twitter has been traded on markets long before it was traded on the market. Etsy, the Internet’s go-to source for handmade and otherwise artisanal and otherwise twee goods, has been selling Twitter shares, in its way, for years. It’s been putting birds on things before those birds could tweet.
So if you’re in the market for some alternative Twitter stock—and by “stock,” I mean a $24 dog collar decorated with Twitter birds—you could always buy yourself …
Read more. [Image: Etsy]
Twitter’s shares keep climbing this morning, far above the price set by the company’s bankers, as it prepares to debut on the New York Stock Exchange. This is an IPO with all the trumpets and glitter those three letters conjure.
But as the price climbs past $20 and $30 and $40, the revenue and profit expectations for the company do, too. To justify the excitement, analysts like RBC Capital Markets Mark Mahaney and Sun Trust analyst Robert Peck say Twitter will have to become a utility. But what kind?
On CNBC this morning, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo trotted out a new line for the company’s IPO: he called Twitter “the indispensable companion to life in the moment.”
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
The answer is no. But feel free to read the rest of this post anyway!
Twitter: Things happen there. As Twitter (the company) prepares for its initial public offering on Thursday, this is the pitch it’s made to investors and new users alike. Shaq has a Twitter! So does the President! One time, Senator Cory Booker even zinged a follower!
Maybe Twitter’s right, that these “moments” constitute part of what makes Twitter (the service) fun for its users. (Though I think the service’s popularity has more to do with its friendly normals.)
But maybe another kind of exchange can occur: Something a little more formal, a little more academic. Maybe the company should add to its list of famous firsts an episode which ended last month, when one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals ran a rebuttal… to a tweet.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
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