Yearning for President Blog – OAG #9

The Tweet-storm, in the new era of President Tweet, remains a nostalgia-inducing afterimage of the blog and of the era of President Blog, but it may also portend a return or attempted return to coherent, accountable, and consequential civic discussion in a mass society, back from the Great Flood of clicks.

Whatever Twitter offers to discourse or its preliminaries, information does not want only to be free to move on, or free to displace, then be displaced. It also wants to be free to stay, to be appreciated, to be invested with and to be attached to content, for a virtual community even if only a community of two or for a “community within” – the community of mind known to neuroscientists and philosophers, and, if they are right, to each and every one (or more) of us. Information does not want just to negate. It also wants to posit. Information wants to be free to be ephemeral, to be forgotten, to live for an intimate moment and vanish, but it also wants to be free to endure, to be recalled, to survive, to stand and fight as well as to snipe and flee.

The tension turns up in a social media phenomenon I noted a couple of weeks ago in, of course, a Tweet:

When I referred to “unwieldiness,” I meant the difficulties for both author and reader in organizing and responding to a “tweetstorm.” Depending on the app being used to compose and read, the storm1 may be interrupted at multiple points, either by author error or by a by a design not really intended to assemble and exhibit a long series of tweets: As a reader, when interested in a Thread (less often than perhaps once upon a time), I more often than not find myself clicking around looking for a rendering that simply presents the unadorned procession of tweets in order, without premature “conversation,” obstreperous “show more”‘s, and intervening errors.

Developers can seek to bridge the gap between instant impulse and extended consideration in different ways, perhaps with a focus on execution speed at transition points between Twitter and other-than-Twitter host. I hesitate to get into the technical questions before I have done some more work of my own, including on speeding up this very site, but I will note that there has been significant effort on the composition side, in the creation of tools for breaking text into tweets or quickly converting blocks of text into readable images. Why these tools have not caught on more broadly may in turn have to do with negative reactions to tweetstorms.

A storm or drizzle or bleating spate of tweets suggests a kind of bid for dominance, or at least a step on to a virtual soapbox. When I take my tweet-maker in hand and drizzle over your timeline in twenty or fifty emissions, I am defying Twitter’s forced formal egalitarianism, in which every tweet, of the million-follower star as well as of the new egg, takes up the same ca. 140-character moment of space-time.

Now, Twitter is not by any means a realm of complete equality. Still, some alternative options to deliver essentially the same extended content may be illustrative of the key way in which it mostly is.

If I were to compose a ca. 3000-character text, put it on my blog, and then proceed to tweet 25 minimally mutually distinct links to it, one per minute, I might be seen to have obviously spammed my followers’ timelines.

I could instead break the original text itself into 25 different numbered tweets, and likewise tweet them out, one a minute. The result would take up the identical amount of Twitter-turf, each tweet just as much a self-promotion, but, if every tweet was substantially different from every other one, I at least would have satisfied one of the two most basic Twitter imperatives, the presentation of novelty (as novelty for me and possibly for you), even if I’d still be failing on the other, connected imperative, on spontaneous immediacy in answer to the basic Twitter question – “What’s happening?”

The labor and preparation involved would also contradict the imperative of spontaneity, as also visible in the overly prepared Twitter storm, written out somewhere else for just this purpose. The artificial storm would almost certainly lack the aura of a thought in the process of being thought – because it obviously would not be that.

The deficit would be even more apparent were I to storm some major part of this post using David Winer’s “Little Pork Chop,” which partly automates the reconstructive disassembly of text into tweets. The result would partly satisfy both requirements, and also partly fail them: Like the contrived, pre-written but hand-delivered storm, the porked storm would also not be a “real” storm, and it would be even less likely to be received as one. It would take up the same amount of words, but, because Little Pork Chop goes instantly to tweets, rapid fire, the result would be less attention-commanding than the same series of tweets transmitted “the old-fashioned way” over a longer period. (No doubt LPC could be modified to imitate the Tweet Storm, but… that would be dishonest, and might even invite Twitter prohibition.)

The differences between the pork-storm and real storm bring us back to the initial observations on the gap and its difficulties. The aura of novelty and immediacy in the “act of tweeting” before a public consisting potentially or in theory of millions upon millions, or some significant percentage of one’s followership plus who knows how many others via retweets, may be irreplaceable and unique, regardless of how we attempt to mediate between “tweet here now” and the longer wave form of blogging -which latter also once seemed to provide an astonishing advance in bringing widely separated minds together on a topic of mutual interest, but which now seems to over-stress our patience.

Or we could put the matter in political terms, as during the immediate aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election, and in so doing also illustrated another alternative twitter and site mediation:

The Tweet-storm, in the age of President Tweet, remains a nostalgia-inducing afterimage of the blog and of the era of President Blog, but it may also point to a return to the possibility or image of coherent, accountable, and consequential civic discussion in a mass society, back from the Great Flood of clicks.

Notes:

  1. Sam Wilkinson’s term is, indeed, probably better than, say, “Twogging” for a series of tweets all on the same subject, deployed to bypass Twitter’s trademark character limit. I might suggest “Bleeting,” and I’ve also used the term “Tweet-Drizzle,” which seems less pretentious than “storm.” Twitter or rather its Tweeps seem lately to have moved in the direction of the simpler “Thread.” []

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Burt Likko
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Is the in-between point between a Tweet and a blog post the “Facebook essay”?

wpDiscuz

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(0)

And this programmer suggested a way to avoid user input all together:

Eventually, programmers on Reddit started making fully-functioning, interactive versions of the awful forms, like this and this and this. Someone even created one out of the classic game Snake. The meme hasn’t stopped for weeks now, and iterations of it seem to be growing more detailed and elaborate.

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Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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State of the Discussion

bob
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+ Wade, your last paragraph is crucial to your argument. Certainly it expresses economically the source of the weight of a country's foreign policy, and [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
CK MacLeod
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+ Not sure where you got the idea that I ever wrote “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!" - bob's idea for a possible rallying [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
Wade McKenzie
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+ The conversation that you and Bob were having at the time that I wrote my comment had everything to do with the recent missile strike [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic

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