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Big Technology

‘We were hyper-focused on doing very, very few things’

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts — edited for length and clarity — with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kayvon Beykpour is one of Silicon Valley’s busiest product executives. As Twitter’s head of product, he’s survived for years in a formerly cursed role that seemed to turn over every few months. Now, Beykpour’s team is shipping. Twitter just released…


Time itself is now for sale

The world’s first tweet is now for sale as an NFT, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced last week. In an article about the news for CNN Business, writer Jazmin Goodwin details how NFTs (that is, non-fungible tokens) have become a way to buy and sell what were once unique and ephemeral spots of time—not only Jack Dorsey’s primal tweet (bids for which have now reached $2.5 million), but videos of famous dunks by Lebron James, and innumerable other “moments” that bear commodification.

Time itself is now for sale, and it surprises us not at all.

In ancient Europe, a visit…


‘Twitter description guy’ isn’t a guy. It’s Twitter’s curation team, and I talked to the woman who runs it.

“Twitter description guy,” in users’ collective imagination, is a beleaguered soul, constantly scrambling to comprehend the bizarre subcultural memes that go viral on the site so that he can write sober-minded summaries of them for Twitter’s trending section. In December, Twitter’s description of a Minecraft-related trending topic led Twitch streamers and gamers to imagine a beleaguered “Twitter description guy”. They worked to make #TwitterGuyIsOverParty a trending hashtag in hopes that said Twitter guy would be forced to write a description of his own cancellation.

There is, of course, no single “Twitter description guy.” The descriptions are written by Twitter’s curation…


Pattern Matching

Products like Clubhouse and Twitter’s “Super Follows” offer a new kind of engagement

Open Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, or Pinterest, then look at your index finger. If you’re like me, you’ll find it already hovering over the screen, poised for scrolling. Our algorithmic feeds have conditioned us to expect little from any given post, flicking our eyes across each one just long enough to decide whether it’s worth a second glance before we dispense with it forever and move on to the next one.

These feed-based platforms are powered by scale and automation. They encourage users to friend, follow, and like liberally, building sprawling networks on the promise that aggressive ranking algorithms will…


Going viral on Twitter feels good, but it doesn’t pay

I’ve always wondered what a viral tweet is worth, because it’s an interesting way to think about what social media is worth — and what we hope for when we post. On the one hand, social media creates a tremendous amount of value. Twitter pulled in $3.46 billion last year, mostly by selling ads. It boasts 330 million active monthly users and an astonishing 145 million daily users (myself included). It’s a tempting target for advertisers.

But on the other hand, all that money goes to Twitter, not its users, despite the fact that it’s the creators who tweet those…


Big Technology

Why Twitter’s Clubhouse clone is poised to give the hottest app on the planet a run for its money

I live a simple life with a few steadfast rules. They include: 1) Be kind 2) Call loved ones at least once a week 3) Don’t expect too much from Twitter. Alas, after a hasty hot take and then some serious thought about Twitter’s new Clubhouse clone — called Twitter Spaces — I’m relaxing rule number three for just a moment. Lord help me.

Twitter and Clubhouse are locked in a battle to dominate a new form of audio social networking that feels equal parts podcast, industry convention, and conference call. For the uninitiated, the format has people gather in…


Pattern Matching

The hot new social app has found success by replicating real-world social structures rather than exploding them

Clubhouse, the exclusive group-voice-chat app that launched last year to fanfare from the venture capital set, erupted into the headlines this week when Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dropped in for conversations with other tech luminaries. “Elon Musk’s Clubhouse banter with Robinhood CEO triggers stampede for Clubhouse app,” Reuters reported. “Clubhouse’s Moment Arrives,” Platformer’s Casey Newton declared. Both cameos strained the app’s capacity; Zuckerberg’s apparently broke it, at least briefly.

There was also backlash: The Information editor-in-chief Jessica Lessin pointed out that these events’ organizers blocked many journalists from attending; the New York Times reporter Taylor…


Pattern Matching

Birdwatch and the Oversight Board are new approaches to the same idea: shifting responsibility away from the platforms themselves

In the never-ending scramble to solve the insoluble problem of content moderation, social media companies are willing to try just about anything — as long as it doesn’t involve making it a core part of their business.

Contrasting approaches were on display this week from Facebook and Twitter. Facebook’s Oversight Board, a semi-independent body that it created as a sort of appeals court for content moderation decisions, ruled on its first slate of five cases. …


Congress asked the FBI to investigate the app’s role in promoting ‘civil unrest’ in the U.S. — but the entire social media ecosystem demands scrutiny

The House Oversight and Reform Committee chair demanded on Thursday that the FBI “conduct a robust examination” of Parler and its alleged role in the Capitol riots on January 6, which resulted in the deaths of five individuals and for which hundreds of people are being investigated by the Justice Department.

In a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray published by the Washington Post, the committee’s chairwoman and New York Representative Carolyn Maloney asked the agency to consider Parler as “a potential facilitator of planning and incitement related to the violence, as a repository of key evidence posted by users…


What happens when your archnemesis is gone?

Most mornings for the past five years, 62-year-old Jeffrey Guterman has woken up in his Florida home, made coffee in his kitchen, and sat down at his computer to tweet out taunts to the president.

“You excreted on democracy,” he wrote recently.

“You are lower than slime,” read another sharp-witted missive.

But that beloved morning ritual ended on January 8, when Twitter suspended Donald Trump’s account — effectively nuking not only the president’s 56,000 tweets, but the platform on which a generation of quick-twitch reply-guys built their names and audiences.

Say what you will about Trump’s reply-guys, a well-known (if…

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