Chris Hannah


My current experience of using Twitter #

I signed up for Twitter Blue recently, just to see what all the fuss was about. And while it has a few cool features, such as a customisable navigation bar, and the top stories section, the content, or at least the content that is presented to me, is just an endless stream of homogenised shite.

The majority of tweets I see now, are usually about AI, growth, or people sharing their expertise. All nicely packaged in annoying threads.

There are still things that Twitter does better than any other platform, such as current events, trending topics, the Explore page, etc. I also have a really good Twitter list that I use for football news and opinions. But I think the majority of my social media use is no longer going to be on Twitter.

I’ve been going back and forward between Twitter and Mastodon. Even cross-posting along the way, but I think I’m now going to be primarily over on Mastodon.

“I didn’t pay for Twitter Blue” #

As I mentioned in my recent post regarding Twitter’s blue checkmarks, the situation is getting even more messy now that Twitter seems to be reinstating the checkmarks for some popular accounts.

TechCrunch - Twitter reinstates Blue verification mark for top accounts — even if they didn’t pay for it:

After removing thousands of legacy verification checkmarks on April 20, Twitter is restoring the Blue tick marks for large accounts — even if they didn’t pay for subscriptionsOver the weekend, multiple top accounts (with more than 1 million followers) got their verification marks back. However, many of them, including writer Neil Gaiman, footballer Riyad Mahrez, musician Lil Nas X, actress Janel Parrish Long and British TV presenter Richard Osman said that they didn’t pay for the blue badge.

Wasn’t the idea that Twitter Blue democratizes the blue checkmark/verified status?

Blue checkmarks #

It’s incredible to see the effect of the various recent changes on how the “blue checkmarks” are given out, and what they seemingly represent to different demographics of people.

Before the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk, my rough idea of a blue checkmark was an indicator to say that an account was who it said they were. Although typically only popular accounts and pop culture celebrities were the main beneficiaries of this option. I’d argue that this is probably how most people felt.

I’d also argue that the blue checkmark was something that people would have liked to have on their accounts. Because it seemed to be given to a limited group of people, there was a kind of status associated with it. Now, it seems to represent all sorts of things to people.

Essentially down to two changes - firstly that it (mostly1) isn’t given out based on status or popularity, and secondly that you have to pay for it, as it now comes as part of a Twitter Blue subscription.

There are certainly other parts of the Twitter Blue deal, and I’m personally trying them out myself2. But for most people, it seems as if the view is that all you’re really paying for is the checkmark. Which I guess is probably true for some people. And to others, it’s not as important.

Based on my earlier view on what the checkmark meant, before it was freely3 available, I think it’s good that people can verify themselves4. But there certainly seems to be an issue with the perceived status of having the checkmark.

What I personally find odd, is how celebrities are using the “well I’m not paying for my checkmark” angle to somehow virtue signal. Although I would estimate that some of that is probably a masked dig at Elon Musk, rather than the specifics of having a verified account or not.

I can’t say I really care what the checkmark means. But this whole situation has seemed to have spawned a bunch of little internet tribes, and it’s a bit boring, to be honest.

I briefly saw some of the #BlockTheBlue nonsense the other day on Twitter, and for a while, people on Mastodon couldn’t seem to utter the T-word. It all seems a bit childish to me5.

Right now, I guess, we all just have to adjust to what the blue checkmark now represents. And typically, it’s that a user has subscribed to Twitter Blue, and has at the very least, verified their phone number.

When you think about it, isn’t it odd that only a certain group of people were able to get verified accounts anyway?

  1. There seem to be cases at the moment where either Elon himself or Twitter is activating Twitter Blue (or maybe just the checkmark) for some accounts. I guess to some this may be funny, I just find it a tad weird, to be honest. ↩︎

  2. I’ll probably write about this soon, but I can’t say I’ve noticed a big difference at the moment in how I used Twitter before and after I signed up for Twitter Blue. ↩︎

  3. You know what I mean. ↩︎

  4. Even if it just means associating a phone number with an account, and having it go through some kind of validation on their end. ↩︎

  5. From all sides. ↩︎

The New(est) Twitter Blue #

Twitter announced yet another version of Twitter Blue, which is launching tomorrow. And in all honesty, if this was announced 6 months ago, I’d be all over it.

I mentioned this a few days ago, but it’s now official. Twitter Blue will cost $8 a month if you sign up via the web, but if you do so via the iOS app, it will cost $11 a month. This is obviously to keep the revenue the same (or very similar) after Apple take 30%.

So, treating the web price as the de facto price, $8 (around £6.50) per month, I think is good value for what you get. Although I will add two caveats to that statement, the first being that it depends on if the people you follow are still on Twitter and have not migrated to something like Mastodon, and also that most of the features of Twitter Blue have been labelled as “coming soon”.

If you subscribe to Twitter Blue tomorrow, this is what will be included:

And here is what is currently marked as coming soon:

The most valuable features for me would be the 1080p video uploads, tweet editing, and then the reduced number of adverts.

The problem for me is that I don’t currently use Twitter as much. One reason is that I’m currently spending a bit of time on Mastodon, and the other is that I’m spending less time on social media in general.

However, if a time comes when I feel like I want to go back to Twitter in a more normal capacity. (And if Twitter is still standing at that point). I think this is something I would subscribe to.

It’s also good to see that there’s at least some level of verification happening before blue checkmarks are handed out. So at least they will mean something. And it’s even better to see that the checkmark that a verified user can buy, isn’t the same one that is applied to businesses or government accounts. With businesses getting a gold checkmark, and government accounts getting a grey checkmark.

One big complaint about the purchase of a checkmark was that you could pay for Twitter Blue and suddenly seem as official as any other previously verified account. I think the distinction between different verification types, and that there is at least a phone number being verified for Twitter Blue subscribers, there’s at least some value to it.

As for right now, I still plan on continuing to use Twitter. However, I won’t rush into Twitter Blue, unless something terrible happens over on Mastodon, or something majorly impressive happens at Twitter.

Twitter Blue Will Cost More on an iPhone #

There are quite a few publications sharing information regarding the pricing of Twitter’s Blue subscription, that it will be more expensive from an an iPhone. This is to cover the revenue cut that Apple take from all purchases on the App Store and their in-app payment system.

This isn’t exactly a solution that everyone can suddenly adopt. However, I think for large companies such as Twitter, it’s a clever decision. That’s as long as there is an alternative method to start a subscription from another device at a lesser price.

It’s one thing to offset the commission that Apple take, but I would imagine it also makes the cut that Apple take off all payments, a bit more visible.

Let’s say Netflix added an option to pay for the service via Apple’s in-app payment system, and also made the price higher to offset the commission. I’m sure a lot of people would suddenly be aware. And I’m sure, if the reasoning was made clear by Netflix, a lot of people would be aiming their complaints in Apple’s direction.

I’m not sure how this will play out. Especially as to some, Twitter isn’t even a place to be for free, let alone pay for it. But, if they can get more public attention on the cut that Apple takes from in-app payments, it would be interesting to see if the blame is directed towards Apple, or Twitter for not just accepting that cut, and keeping the end user pricing the same on all platforms.

The Evolution of Twitter Fascinates Me #

Twitter has just started to roll out a new composer tool, Twitter Write, which adds the support to write long-form content. It allows users to write a note, which can essentially be seen as a blog post, just hosted on Twitter itself. There are still limits to what you can write in a note, with the title being limited to 100 characters, and the body having a limit of 2,500 words.

In some ways, I find this feature to be an obvious addition to the platform, especially given the number of Notes app screenshots, or “TwitLonger” links shared on the platform. There’s clearly a demand to share more than 280 characters.

However, I think this feature is a lot more than just a mechanism of increasing the character limit. Especially if you think of the other features that have been added to Twitter in the last year or so.

To some, Twitter should be used as a pure chronological timeline, of tweets from the accounts that you follow. But it’s clear that Twitter as a platform is becoming more of an ecosystem, in which multiple social networking services exist.

Just to name a few of the recent additions, there’s got Spaces that brings live audio conversations to the platform, Communities that allows groups of people to create dedicated places for people to connect, Shopping is a recent experimental addition, and soon people will be able to post longer written content via Notes. For a platform that was originally designed to share tiny pieces of text, it’s evolved substantially.

On top of all of that, there’s Twitter Blue, Super Follows, Tips, and a ton more that I’ve forgotten about.

It’s fascinating to me to see the visible evolution of the platform. And while the big elephant in the room is Elon Musk, I’d still prefer to keep a positive mindset on the situation and think about the ways the platform could still improve.

Twitter Blue - Twitter’s New Paid Subscription #

Twitter have officially announced Twitter Blue, their first subscription, which will give users access to a few extra features and perks. It has been rumoured for a while, so it’s not exactly surprising. But it’s still good to see it officially. It’s only available in Australia and Canada now, but at least we can get a preview of what will be included.

As for features, there are three that will initially be part of the new paid subscription - bookmark folders, an undo tweet option, and a specialised reader mode for threads.

Bookmark Folders are pretty easy to get your head around, it’s just a way to organise bookmarked tweets. Although I think this should be available for all users.

The Undo Tweet feature is a bit interesting. Because it may seem like it’s just another way to delete a tweet, but instead, it’s probably better to think of the feature as a customisable tweet delay. Matt Birchler had this idea not long ago, and his reasoning was that a delay could give you time to rethink whether you really wanted to tweet something. This won’t allow for a huge amount of consideration, as the maximum delay will be 30 seconds. But you’ll definitely be able to quickly stop a tweet from being posted that may contain a wrong link, image, or spelling mistake. I think this could be quite useful.

As for the Reader Mode, this is a way to condense threads into a single view so you can read them much more seamlessly. Rather then manually scrolling through tweets, and getting replies from other people in the way.

There are a few extra perks for subscribers, and they are custom app icons, colour theme options, and dedicated customer support. I haven’t seen any of the app icons or themes, but I’m definitely up for some customisation.

Twitter only announced the pricing for Australia and Canada, with them being $4.49 AUD and $3.49 CAD. But with the way In-App purchases work, you can see what the app offers from the App Store page. And from that, I can tell that Twitter Blue will be £2.49 a month in the UK. Which I don’t think is that bad, and I’m 99% sure I’ll be signing up whenever it’s available.

Write-only Twitter #

I've come across this idea before, where you would use Twitter as a write-only service. The aim is usually to minimise the time spent on the platform, either to avoid distraction, or to keep away from the content, when all you want to do is publish a tweet.

I understand the reasoning. Sometimes you just want to write a quick tweet, share a link, etc., but you don't always want to be trapped on the social network itself. A few examples for myself would be sharing a link to a new blog post or a photo that I've taken.

As for the reasons to stay away from the content on Twitter, I guess that will be different for everyone, and every situation. I have thought about trying this myself, where I would avoid reading Twitter entirely, and treating it as a one-way street. But this always felt hypocritical, since it's like you're putting your content above everyone else's, expecting your followers to read what you tweet, but you have no intention to do the same.

Nevertheless, there certainly is the market for solutions where you do treat Twitter as a write-only service. And it just happens that I've come across a blog post by Josh Ginter on using Twitter without reading the timeline, and also a product called Typefully by the creators of Mailbrew. Which allows you to create write and publish tweets without any form of timeline distraction.

Josh Ginter's solution was to only tweet via a dedicated Shortcut:

First, I created a simple “Tweet” shortcut that provides a simple text input box. Once I’ve inputted my tweet, tapping Done shoots me through to Tweetbot (or you could tweet through the Twitter app — whichever you prefer), pastes the tweet I previously typed, and a final tap of the “Tweet” button sends the tweet and shoots me back to Shortcuts.

Nowhere in this shortcut is there an ability to see who has tweeted in your timeline. There’s also no way to cancel the tweet and read tweets in the timeline mid-way through the shortcut — if you hit “Close” in Tweetbot, the shortcut will shoot you back to Shortcuts.

Twitter, But Without the Timeline

I think this solution would start to get on my nerves after a while. Because the Shortcuts app opens when you launch the shortcut, and it navigates back to the Shortcuts app afterwards. However, it still has the desired effect.

One app I use when sharing content to Twitter is Linky. It has a very good share extension, and lets me share content without ever opening the Twitter app.

As for Typefully, it is essentially a Twitter composer. There is no feed, or any content from Twitter at all. The only things you can do is to compose tweets, and either publish them, or schedule them to be published later. It works great in a web browser, and also if you add it to an iOS Home Screen.

This tool is what I would probably opt for, if I wanted a write-only experience for Twitter. But I think it's also a great tool if you simply want to compose a thread of multiple tweets, or want create a batch of tweets to cue published at different times. Matt Birchler made a useful video on Typefully over on his A Better Computer channel.

I'm interested to see if this idea of a write-only Twitter is appealing to others. And if this does become a trend, I wonder what other products will be created.

Twitter Finally Adds Support for iOS Live Photos #

After four short years, Twitter have added support for Live Photos. A feature that was announced alongside the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, in 2015.

If you ignore the strangely huge delay, I do think that it’s a very welcome addition. A lot of people including myself take Live Photos all the time. So I can see this being quite popular.

It doesn’t literally keep them as Live Photos though, they are converted to GIF format. That’s not exactly a bad thing though, as I’m sure there’s quite a few benefits of storing them as a GIF rather than the raw video from the Live Photo.

One thing I didn’t like about the video alongside their very brief announcement, was the attitude towards the newly added support. They talk about how millions of Live Photos are taken every day, but how they go unshared and forgotten about. But “Today is a new day”. Sure, today is a new day and it’s a pretty cool feature, but I think it easily could have been done a number of years ago. The only blocker for adding this support earlier was Twitter themselves.

Twitter Announces New Gesture To Open Camera #

Twitter have announced (on Twitter) that an updated camera interaction is on its way. So you’ll be able to access the camera with just one swipe:

This is a really good improvement. I’ve even downloaded the official Twitter app again, so I’m ready to try it out.