Bill Bennett

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Twitter wakes from its slumber

Owen Williams says after years of little activity Twitter has woken from its slumbers and is making “meaningful changes” again.

It’s a positive view from Williams who confesses to being a Twitter loyalist.

He writes a quick summary of the recent changes:

First, Twitter launched Spaces, which allows people to host an audio room and have an actual conversation with their followers.

In other words a Clubhouse knock-off. Clubhouse was a hit when the pandemic first sent people into lockdown. Lately it has a run-down, tumbleweed rolling down main street feel.

Then there were Super Follows, which allow Twitter users to offer a paid version of their tweets and actually make money on the platform.

Another feature, Communities, offers a way to create entire timelines around topics that can only be seen by those that are part of the community, similar to a Facebook group.

There’s also Twitter Blue, the company’s new paid subscription service that provides additional premium features such as an ‘undo tweet’ timer, custom app icons, and even ad-free article access for subscribers.

Put that way, it is a lot of change in a short period following a long period  when little happened.

Twitter Blue

Williams writes about his experience with Twitter Blue. He sees it as having potential.

I’m less positive about that move. The Blue $5 a month subscription isn’t a lot of money for people with decent incomes. It’s the price of a cup of coffee.

Yet there is far more benefit in a cup of coffee than in Blue. Twitter could have bundled more functionality into that subscription.

The most important point from Williams’ (and my) point of view is that Twitter has opened the API to developers once more. In recent years it has been a largely closed system.

Back in the day there were many innovative products and services built off the back of Twitter which made it a much fuller and more valuable service.

Twitter is still weak when it comes to closing down offensive and violent material. But that appears to be improving even though there’s a lot of collateral damage to more innocent material along the way.

The most necessary change would be to defang the armies of bots that weaponise the social media service to spread misinformation, threats and fear. Like Facebook, it could do with more reliance on human editors to spot the worst offenders.

Google tweaks Google+ mix removes Photos, Streams

Mike Murphy gets to the point for Quartz when he writes Google will strip Google+ for parts.

Stripping for parts is a delicious metaphor — the tech industry just can’t get away from car analogies.

The deal is this: Google will pull the Photos and Streams components from Google+ and set them up as two new products.

… and Google Hangouts?

There’s talk elsewhere the company will do the same for Hangouts. I’ve never had success with Hangouts but I know many readers love the application and prefer it to alternatives like Skype and FaceTime.

In some ways Google+ is a better social media tool to use than either Facebook or Twitter. It has a clean interface and offers greater flexibility.

I’ve found engagements with others can be more enlightening than the terse 140 character limit Twitter imposes. And there’s a higher signal to noise ratio than you’ll find on Facebook.

Google+ easy to read, navigate

Best of all, you can quickly read back through discussion threads. That can get tricky on Twitter when talks take off in multiple directions. And, of course, being Google means you can find things fast.

The problem is that Google+ never managed to get past the feeling that there’s tumbleweed blowing down empty streets.

Google says there are billions of accounts. That’s sort of true. Signing up for the service is more or less mandatory if you use other Google products or even an Android device.

Yet estimates say there are only a few million active users. That’s about two percent of Facebook’s active users and, maybe, five percent of Twitter’s.

Twitter grumble

There’s a joke that you go to Twitter to listen to people grumble, go to Linkedin to listen to people pretending to work hard, go to Facebook to watch people play and go to Google+ to see what Google employees are up to.

Google+ wasn’t Google’s first attempt at social media. You may remember Buzz and Wave. Both were awful, but they had fans. Google+ was a better experience, the basic idea and code were sound enough. It’s just that Google never seems to have got social media.

Commentators are writing Google+ obituaries. That may be premature, although one never knows with Google. This is a company that has no compunction about taking lame horses behind the stable for shotgun practice.

What is clear is that Google+ will change.