Film Crit Hulk Smash: A SHORT NOTE ON WHY THE TWITTER DISPLAY CHANGES ARE REALLY KIND OF A BIG DEAL

Twitter gets smashed.

HULK GENUINELY LOVES TWITTER.

THAT MAY SOUND STRANGE GIVEN THAT HULK WORSHIPS AT THE ALTAR OF THE LONG-FORM ESSAYS, WHICH HAVE THE CAPACITY TO DIVE INTO EVERY POSSIBLE NUANCE, BUT IT'S TRUE. TWITTER IS GREAT. AND WHAT'S FUNNY ABOUT THAT LOVE IS THAT IT HAS RECENTLY COME UNDER FIRE FROM A BUNCH OF (NORMALLY INSIGHTFUL) INTELLECTUAL CURMUDGEONS WHO THINK IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO TAKE THE NUANCE OF LONG-FORM THOUGHT AND PUT IT INTO SOMETHING SO TRUNCATED AND SEEMINGLY INANE. HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST TO YOU THAT THIS BELIEF IS INSANE. IT'S LIKE SAYING IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO FIT BEAUTY INTO A LINE OF POETRY. OR THAT BREVITY IS NOT THE SOUL OF WIT. THERE'S A REASON COMEDIANS DO QUITE WELL WITH TWITTER AND IT'S NOT JUST BECAUSE THEY'RE FUNNY, IT'S BECAUSE THEY UNDERSTAND HOW TO CRAFT MEANING AND EFFECT INTO A VERY SHORT BURST. 140 CHARACTERS IS INHERENTLY NO MORE OR LESS VALUABLE THAN ANY LENGTH OF COMMUNICATION. JUST DIFFERENT. AND WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THEN YOU CAN REALLY EMBRACE THE MEDIUM FOR WHAT IT IS.

140 CHARACTERS IS NOT THE LIMIT, IT'S THE CHALLENGE.

PERHAPS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT IS THE FACT THAT TWITTER IS A GREAT A SOCIAL SPACE. HONESTLY. HULK GETS TO SEE A CONSTANT STREAMING CONVERSATION OF PEOPLE HULK LIKES AND CHOOSES TO FOLLOW. CRITICS. ARTISTS. ATHLETES. SCIENTISTS. POETS. THINKERS. AND EVEN DELIGHTFUL NINCOMPOOPS. ALL OF THEM CAN CONTRIBUTE THOUGHTS OF GREAT IMPORT OR AMUSING OBSERVATION. AND WITHIN THAT SPACE IT IS A REMARKABLE WAY TO REACH PEOPLE. TO COMMUNICATE. TO REPRESENT YOURSELF. TO AGGREGATE CONTENT. TO TEASE THEM WITH AN IDEA AND THEN INVITE PEOPLE TO LOOK FURTHER IF THEY SO CHOOSE. COMBING THROUGH YOUR TWITTER FEED IS A GENUINE WAY TO OPEN DOORWAYS INTO LARGER IDEAS, PEOPLE AND PLACES. HULK GENUINELY LOVES THE MECHANISM BY WHICH IT OPERATES. IT IS A NEAR-FLAWLESS, NON-INVASIVE MODEL OF REPRESENTATION. IT IS AN ABSOLUTELY REMARKABLE WAY TO GET PEOPLE TO DISCOVER EACH OTHER.

AND THEN A FEW DAYS AGO THE TWITTER WEBSITE MADE THE CHANGE OF POLICY THAT LINKS TO PICTURES, WHICH NORMALLY HAVE TO BE CLICKED ON IN ORDER FOR YOU TO SEE, WILL JUST AUTOMATICALLY POST INTO YOUR FEED IN "THUMBNAIL" VERSION. THUMBNAIL IS AN EGREGIOUS TERM BECAUSE THE CROPPED PICTURES ARE STILL FUCKING HUGE. EASILY THE SIZE OF 3-4 TWEETS. AND TWO AND A HALF OF THESE "THUMBNAILS" CAN TAKE UP AN ENTIRE SCREEN. RIGHT NOW THIS CHANGE HAS ONLY OCCURRED ON THE WEBSITE (WHICH IS HULK'S MAIN USE, BECAUSE HULK SPENDS 20 HOURS A DAY ON VARIOUS COMPUTERS), BUT SOON THE CHANGE WILL APPEAR ON THE MOBILE APP VERSION TOO. AND THEN (AS THEY HOPE AT LEAST) THE EXTENSION PROGRAMS AS WELL.

SO WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL, YOU ASK?

WELL, THERE'S A LOT OF THINGS THAT MAKE IT A BIG DEAL. THE RIDICULOUS AESTHETICS ARE VERY MUCH CHANGING HOW A TIMELINE READS, FOR ONE. AND NO, IT'S NOT A DUMB REDESIGN THING WHERE CRANKY OLD PEOPLE ARE LIKE "OH NOES, EVERYTHING IS ALL DIFFERENT!" IT'S ACTUALLY DESIGNING THE SYSTEM SO THAT IT'S HARDER TO SEE THE TEXT AMONGST THE LARGE IMAGES AND THUS YOUR EYES AUTOMATICALLY GRAVITATE TO THE PICTURE. THINK OF HOW FACEBOOK STATUS TIMELINES LOOK NOW. IT'S ALL JUST PICTURES AND HEADLINES. WHICH JUST MEANS TWITTER WILL NOW GO THROUGH THE SAME EXACT CHANGE. A TWITTER FEED IS GOING FROM TAKING SOMETHING THAT IS ENTIRELY TEXT & IDEA-BASED TO SOMETHING VISUAL AND SURFACE BASED. IT WILL GO FROM SOMETHING THAT REPRESENTS YOURSELF AND HELPS LEAD PEOPLE TO OTHER CONTENT TO SOMETHING THAT PRESENTS CONTENT ITSELF. AND WITH PURE EMPHASIS ON THE VISUAL ASPECT, WHICH IS GREAT FOR ARTISTS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS, BUT NOT SO GREAT FOR WRITERS AND COMEDIANS. HULK IS SORRY, BUT THIS CHANGE IS MASSIVE. HULK LOGGED ONTO TWITTER ONCE TODAY AND INSTEAD OF SEEING THE 9-10 TWEETS THAT HULK COULD THEN START SCROLLING THROUGH TO OTHERS, HULK INSTEAD SAW 2.5 PICTURES TAKING UP THE SCREEN, ONE OF WHICH WAS AN AD. THAT IS ABSOLUTELY 1000% CHANGING TWITTER, BOTH "WHAT IT IS" AND "WHAT IT DOES."

HULK UNDERSTANDS IF YOU THINK HULK IS OVERREACTING. YOU PROBABLY THINK THAT HULK IS CLEARLY JUST SOME CRANKY OLD FART WHO DOESN'T LIKE THAT HIS FAVORITE THING IS CHANGING. YOU WOULD ARGUE THAT THERE ARE OBVIOUS WORKAROUNDS. THAT THE COMPANY IS JUST CLEARLY TRYING TO EXPAND ITS FUNCTION. THAT IT REALLY WON'T CHANGE THINGS THAT MUCH. BUT HULK COMPLETELY DISAGREES. HULK WAS FINE WITH THE ORIGINAL SPONSORED CONTENT BECAUSE IT DIDN'T CHANGE THE SYSTEM. BUT THIS IS GOING TO HAVE ACTUAL BAD EFFECTS FOR EVERYONE. AND TO PROVE IT, LET'S START WITH THE CENTRAL QUESTION:

WHY IS TWITTER DOING THIS?

THEY ABSOLUTELY KNOW THIS CHOICE IS DOUBLING UP ON THE METHOD OF COMMUNICATION AND THEY KNOW THIS IS WAY LESS USER-FRIENDLY (ESPECIALLY WITHOUT GIVING YOU THE OPTION TO TURN IT OFF) SO WHY THE HELL WOULD THEY EMBRACE IT? BECAUSE MAKING PICTURES AN INTEGRATED PART OF YOUR TIMELINE ALLOWS ADVERTISERS TO POST PICTURES TOO. TO BE INTEGRATED INTO YOUR TIMELINE IN A WAY THAT AUTOMATICALLY MAKES THEM STAND OUT. ESPECIALLY IN COMPARISON TO THE STEALTH "PROMOTED TWEETS" THAT EXIST NOW. THIS IS MAKING ADVERTISERS SALIVATE AND THEY ARE PAYING MUCH MORE MONEY. TRUST HULK. THIS IS HAPPENING. AND THE INTRUSION UPON THE READER IS IMMEDIATE AND FELT. ALREADY TODAY HULK HAS DISMISSED A CRAPTON OF ADS. BUT WHY WOULD TWITTER SUDDENLY GO FOR BROKE WITH ADVERTISERS WITH SUCH RECKLESS ABANDON?

BECAUSE TWITTER IS GOING PUBLIC IN THE STOCK MARKET ON NOV. 7.

THIS IS THE HARBINGER AND COMPLETELY PART OF A NEW, FAMILIAR TREND. THERE ARE A MILLION NUANCES TO THE CYCLE, BUT BASICALLY IT GOES LIKE THIS: WEB PIONEERS CREATE USER FRIENDLY SYSTEM THAT FILLS A PUBLIC NEED. THEN DEPENDING ON A COMBINATION OF SKILL, LUCK AND TIMING THAT USER-FRIENDLY SYSTEM TAKES OFF. ONCE ON TOP, OWNERS GO "OKAY WE'RE ON TOP! WAIT, HOW COME WE'RE NOT KAJILLIONAIRES?" THE ANSWER IS BECAUSE THE INTERNET WAS DESIGNED TO BE FREE. SO THEN THEY LOOK FOR WAYS TO EARN MORE INCOME THAT FINALLY START TO INFRINGE ON THE USER-FRIENDLY ELEMENTS OF THEIR SYSTEM. SOMETIMES IT'S WITH ENCROACHING AD SPACE. SOMETIMES IT'S WITH STRETCHING FUNCTIONALITY TO GAIN MORE KINDS OF PEOPLE. BOTH THINGS FORCE USERS WHO CRAVE USER-FRIENDLY CAPACITY FIRST AND FOREMOST TO GO FIND ALTERNATIVES. AND FOR THE REGULAR USES IT SPLITS FUNCTIONS AND CREATES A DIVISION AMONG HOW YOUR CORE AUDIENCES USES THE SPACE. THEN ONE GROUP DOESN'T LIKE HOW THE OTHER GROUP IS USING THE SPACE AND VICE VERSA. SO PEOPLE START TO LEAVE ON BOTH SIDES. WE'VE SEEN THIS A MILLION TIMES BEFORE (IT'S EXACTLY WHAT LED TO THE GRAVEYARD THAT IS MYSPACE AND TO A LESSER EXTENT WITH THE ORIGINAL USERS OF FACEBOOK). YES, PEOPLE LIKE THEIR DEVICES TO HAVE MULTIPLE FUNCTIONS, BUT THEY LIKE IT MUCH LESS THAN THE WAY THEY LIKE TO COMMUNICATE IN SOCIAL SPHERES. BUT BY THAT POINT IT'S TOO LATE IN THE CYCLE. THE BALL IS ROLLING TOWARD THE SELLING OF A COMPANY OR GOING PUBLIC AND THEY AREN'T INVESTED IN THE USER ANYMORE, THEIR SIGHTS ARE ON THE ENDGAME OF GETTING A CRAPLOAD OF MONEY. SO THEY COMPLETELY ABANDON THE MODEL OF FUNCTIONALITY THAT GOT THEM THERE, WHOLESALE ACCELERATE ON NEGATIVE ASPECTS TO MAKE AS MUCH CASH AS THEY CAN IN THE DYING DAYS, THEN CASH OUT THEIR CHIPS.

SINCE SILICON VALLEY RECOGNIZES THIS CYCLE IS THE BEST WAY TO MAKE A TON OF MONEY OFF THE INTERNET (NOT BUILD A LONG-LASTING BRAND OR BUSINESS), THIS HAS BECOME THE NEW BUSINESS MODEL THEY SHOOT FOR FROM THE VERY BEGINNING... REALLY.

SO MAKE NO MISTAKE THAT THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE. AND IF YOU TURN TWITTER INTO A PLACE THAT SHARES PICTURES AND TURNS OFF THOSE LOOKING FOR CONTENT-RELATED TWEETS THEN YOU ARE INHERENTLY DIVIDING YOUR AUDIENCE. YOU ARE INHERENTLY TRYING TO UNDERMINE THE SPACE OF IDEAS AND REPRESENTATION THAT MAKES THE MEDIUM SO ALLURING. YOU ARE INHERENTLY EMBRACING THE SURFACE ELEMENTS OF THE USERS AND HELPING TO USHER THE MERE RE-POSTING OF CONTENT. AND THIS DIVISION WILL ABSOLUTELY CREATE PEOPLE JUMPING SHIP. AND THEN TWITTER WILL BECOME JUST ANOTHER GRAVEYARD.

AND HERE'S THE CATCH... TWITTER HAS BECOME POPULAR ENOUGH THAT IT HAS BECOME A FUNDAMENTAL PART OF HOW PEOPLE RUN WEB BUSINESS AND THEIR CREATIVE IDENTITIES. HULK'S NOT TALKING ABOUT GIANT CONGLOMERATIONS HERE. HULK IS TALKING ABOUT WEBSITES JUST LIKE THIS ONE. HULK IS TALKING ABOUT THE VAST AMOUNT OF FREELANCE FILM CRITICS, WRITERS AND COMEDIANS WHO HAVE TRIED TO BUILD AUDIENCES IN THIS SPACE AND NOW HAVE AN INCREDIBLE WAY OF REACHING THEM. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THERE IS NOTHING MORE GRASS ROOTS AND MERIT-BASED THAN TWITTER AND IF WE HAND IT OVER TO THE CORPORATE CONGLOMERATIONS SO THAT THEY CAN JUST POST SOME FUCKING ADS THEN WE'RE SEALING OUR OWN DOOM AND GOING TO HAVE TO START OVER IN SOME WAYS WITH WHATEVER THE NEW USER-FRIENDLY SOCIAL SPACE WILL BE.

THAT'S WHY THIS NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED.

YEAH, YEAH. HULK FULLY UNDERSTANDS THAT THERE ARE PLENTY OF ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS LIKE TWEETDECK AND TWEETBOT AND YES HULK WILL BE GOING IN THAT DIRECTION MOST LIKELY, BUT THAT DECISION WOULD BE A FAILURE ON TWO IMPORTANT FRONTS:

1) IT IS NOT ACTUALLY SOLVING OR EVEN ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM, BUT AVOIDING IT.

2) THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE WILL NOT DO THIS AND TOLERATE / EMBRACE THE PICTURE ELEMENT AND AS A RESULT IT WILL HAVE A DIRECT EFFECT ON THE WAY SOCIETY USES TWITTER, REGARDLESS OF HOW YOU USE IT. YOU ARE NOT AN ISLAND IN THIS. WHAT'S BAD FOR THE SYSTEM WILL ULTIMATELY BE BAD FOR YOU TOO.

AND THAT'S WHY IT'S SO PAINFUL TO SEE THE CONVERSATION DRIFT INTO TALK OF "OH IT'S JUST BUSINESS" OR "NO, IT'S NOT AFFECTING ANYTHING" OR "IT'S JUST PROGRESS!" OR "YOU CAN JUST USE THIS OTHER APP." ... SUCH RHETORIC IS NOT SEEING THE REALITY OF WHAT'S COMING... SUCH RHETORIC IS NOT SEEING YOUR OWN DEMISE COMING.

BUT THERE'S SOMETHING WE CANNOT LOSE SIGHT OF IN ALL THIS... WHEN SOMETHING FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGES ABOUT A SERVICE WE USE, AND THAT CHANGE FUNDAMENTALLY SUCKS, WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO GO FUCKING NUTS. SURE, SOMETIMES WE DO IT FOR UNCALLED FOR OR STUPID REASONS, BUT SOMETIMES IT REALLY IS WORTH IT. BACK WHEN NETFLIX TRIED TO BREAK UP ITS COMPANY AND TURN THE DISC SERVICE INTO ANOTHER ENTITY (QUICKSTER?), PEOPLE ABSOLUTELY REVOLTED. THERE WERE THE SAME PEOPLE DOUBTING IT THEN (EVEN HULK TO A DEGREE). THE SAME PEOPLE OFFERING MITIGATED SOLUTIONS. BUT INSTEAD OF SHRUGGING, PEOPLE COMPLAINED ENDLESSLY. AND THE REVOLT ACTUALLY WORKED. NETFLIX CAVED. AND PLEASE UNDERSTAND IT WAS TOTALLY IN THEIR INTEREST NOT TO CAVE. NETFLIX WAS TRYING TO BREAK UP THE COMPANY SO THAT IT COULD PAINLESSLY CLOSE THE STRUGGLING DVD DELIVERY WING WITHOUT AN IMPACT ON THE OTHER DIGITAL DELIVERY COMPANY, WHICH THEY SAW AS THEIR FUTURE. BUT WE, WANTING THE USER FRIENDLY OPTION OF IT ALL BEING UNDER THE SAME BANNER AND COST, FOUGHT FOR IT AND DEMANDED BETTER. AND WE WON. COMPANIES REALLY DO LIVE IN RELATIVE FEAR OF WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY IF YOU THREATEN (AND DELIVER) WITH IMMEDIATE IMPACT.

SO GIVE @TWITTER HELL.

<3 HULK

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