Welcome back to Tech Chronicle. If I were hiring someone to be a Subscriber in Chief, it would surely be you.
Write good tweets
“We want to elevate and thank the people who use us,” the job description reads. “Spark conversations that highlight what unites us. Make the platform and world feel a little smaller. And yes, we want to tell the story of Twitter’s purpose and product innovation. These things might be donuts, summoning circles, Serena Williams or the launch of Retweet with GIF.”
It’s an irony that Twitter as a company, having invented a whole category of real-time social media, has not been particularly good at it. The company did not have someone designated to run the @Twitter account full time until 2014 or so, former employees tell me. There’s now a team led by Helen Lawrence, the company’s global head of social media, and Shiraz Siddiqi, whose Twitter bio describes him as “tweeting for @Twitter,” among others.
It’s impossible to rewind the tape here, but one wonders whether Twitter would have such problems — its product innovation agonizingly slow, too much hateful behavior and drive-by abuse — if co-founder Ev Williams had looked for a Tweeter in Chief when he ran the company a decade ago. He could have found someone to model good behavior for the nascent service, to elevate good tweets and drown out the bad.
To take a stand, in other words, about Twitter’s purpose.
In 2008, Williams didn’t want to do that. When Ariel Waldman, now a NASA adviser and then a popular blogger, reported harassment, co-founder Biz Stonesaid it wasn’t Twitter’s business to distinguish between “update and insult.” Williams took it further, suggesting that Waldman was lying about the abuse she encountered: “Before joining a mob, you might want to check if everything they’re saying/assuming is true.” Incidents like that set the tone for Twitter’s hands-off approach to moderating conversations for years, allowing problems to fester and the rot to set in. Even Williams says he rarely reads his mentions because of the vitriol he knows he’ll encounter.
But if you’re going to become Tweeter in Chief, you can’t look away.
What you can do is emphasize Twitter’s brighter side. If you’re thinking of making a bid for Tweeter in Chief, be sure to brush up on “stan culture” (obsessive celebrity fandom, think Ramona the Love Terrier) and “creative activations” (publicity stunts). Most of all, the job description says, you should be all-caps “FUN!”
Beyond the happy talk and GIFs, having someone who serves as Twitter’s public face will mean that someone at headquarters will experience all the grief that regular users encounter. Will that be “FUN!”? Chief, you got me.
— Owen Thomas, email@example.com
Quote of the week
“I think there is a better version of social media to be invented and I don’t know if that will happen incrementally, because there’s lots of smart people trying to evolve these systems at these massive companies. Or if it will happen with just completely new paradigms and new ideas that come along.” — The aforementioned Ev Williams on Recode Decode
Uber reports its first earnings as a public company Thursday. Dara Khosrowshahi, you’ve got some ’splaining to do.
What I’m reading
Daisuke Wakabayashi looks at Google’s shadow workforce of temps and contractors. (New York Times)
Zynga is selling its headquarters building, Roland Li reports, nearly tripling its money. It shows that real estate is probably a better business than video games. (San Francisco Chronicle)
At the same time that Facebook is fighting an Iranian disinformation campaign, its officials are telling Canadian legislators it won’t take down misleading posts or doctored videos during that country’s election. (Washington Post, BuzzFeed News)
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