Twitter’s weeds

Mike Monteiro wrote on Medium this week about the daunting, insurmountable problems facing Twitter’s leadership team. He talked about meeting in person with Jack Dorsey:

We discussed Twitter’s role in the world stage. And I admired his vision, but feared his approach. Jack, and to an extent Twitter’s pet porg Biz Stone, have always believed that absolute free speech is the answer. They’re blind to the voices silenced by hate and intimidation. The voices that need to be protected. But anyone who’s ever tended a garden knows that for the good stuff to grow, you have to deal with the bad stuff. You can’t let the weeds choke the vegetables.

I love the metaphor of a garden. In fact, I wrote a whole chapter of my upcoming book Indie Microblogging about gardens. The chapter is a longer version of what Mike says above, but with a twist.

The issue isn’t that Twitter doesn’t care. It’s instead a fundamental design flaw in the platform. Because tweets don’t exist outside of Twitter, when you’re banned, you’re done. For this reason, and because their business depends on a large user base, Twitter is hesitant to throw anyone off their service. They’re unwilling to tend the garden for fear of pulling too many weeds.

Imagine instead a service based on blogs, where the internal posts on the platform were the same format as the external posts. The curators of the platform would have more freedom to block harassing posts and ban nazis because those problematic users could always retreat to their own web site and leave everyone else in the community alone.

That’s how the web is supposed to work. It’s a core principle of Micro.blog.

Twitter will continue to improve. I believe they’re trying. But the root issue can’t be fixed without starting over.