It shouldn't work. But it absolutely could.
Talk to me at 100 million, not 100,000, Dave.
You're right that that seems like the proper response, because of something you yourself linked to, the now-classic "Welcome to Hell, Elon" post by Nilay Patel, which I just reread since you linked to it (and boy does it hold up). Patel wrote:
"The essential truth of every social network is that the product is content moderation, and everyone hates the people who decide how content moderation works. Content moderation is what Twitter *makes* — it is the thing that defines the user experience. It’s what YouTube makes, it’s what Instagram makes, it’s what TikTok makes. They all try to incentivize good stuff, disincentivize bad stuff, and delete the really bad stuff."
If this is right, then it sounds from what you wrote that Bluesky hasn't been tested yet. It's invite only: it's fun because the trans shitposters can post without fear. That's great. But it's easy to do if you're only inviting people & are remotely selective about it. The question is will they be able to shitpost without fear *after* the doors are thrown open. And nothing you've said gives any indication of what the answer to that will be.
I haven't used Bluesky yet—not invited—and you make it sounds great. I hope it works! I liked (as well as hated) twitter pre-Elon (and you do underplay here how twitter was justly known as the hellsite *before* Elon took over, even as its users all kept coming back and also got things out of it), and if Bluesky can recreate that, great. (I mean, partly great. Its being a hellsite wasn't only do to easily-bannable-by-AI trolls: it was also due to the dynamics of attention and group action and out-of-context tweets and all sorts of things that would necessarily be recreated if Twitter Pre-E was recreated, since they were baked into its format). But I feel like all you're saying so far is that private parties don't have assholes in them. Which isn't much of a test, as far as I can tell.
But I'm not a media theorist, so maybe this is wrong. If you think so, I'd love to hear why.
It seems to me that the current state of BlueSky (a curated group with big names) is not a good representation of what Bluesky will be. If you ask yourself, how is this not going to be Twitter, you end up with a few observations and questions:
1. Is this just Twitter but with your own choice of algorithm?
2. How is this going to be paid for? It is a network of ‘personal data servers’ and ‘big graph servers’+’feed generators’. (see https://blueskyweb.xyz/blog/5-5-2023-federation-architecture) The latter is where all the data goes (firehose), requires a lot of money, and where the algorithms run.
3. If you rely on algorithms (and a free choice of labeling by others) to curate (or select your own bubble), how does that protect the providers against anti-hate-speech and all other societal rules? Will the party that runs the bgs say “It’s not me, guv” and get away with everthing? Because that bgs is what Twitter is doing now centrally: run the algorithms.
4. If there are many bgs’s, how much waste in traffic will there be as they all will want access to all traffic to put into their algorithms. They all want to ‘crawl’ all the providers. Instead of a push architecture, bluesky is a pull architecture, it seems.
These are just initial questions.
Nicely done. Thank you for clearing up many of my questions about the Bluesky, Mastodon, Twitter dynamics and the new CEO. I assumed an Ad person would just be a public face salesperson but being "trumpy" too is yet another foolish move by Elon.
Another is one of the coolest parts of P.E. Twitter was how stars, heroes and power-people would sometimes interact with you if you said something interesting, clever or really stupid. Those opportunities and vibes now seem pretty much gone unless you pay Elon for a blue badge of shame, which few are going to do..
After spending a few months on Elon's psychological profile recently, one of my main conclusions was he was far too anti-social to successfully run a social media company. The only part of that conclusion I now question is wondering if that was being too generous. His delusions and continuing "bad actor" words and behaviors regarding Twitter and politics only seem to be growing exponentially worse.
Is Substack's Notes not an option to compete with Twitter?
It’s been … ah, well literally *months* now since I applied for a Bluesky account and have had the app otherwise sitting idly and prettily on my iPhone, doing nothing. So far, it’s not a Twitter clone insofar as one platform is rather a bit more egalitarian in who can sign up and participate—not that I’d ever go back to Musk’s Hitler-esque hellscape. But honestly, if “members only” works for you, great. It’s just another bubble.
I'm just marveling at "skeets," since skeet shooting involves knocking birds made of clay out of the sky. So a takedown of the bird site? Did they think about that when naming them, or was it just a rhyming thing?
Is Dave writing a Wired magazine parody? Is this what he points to sometime in the future as unfounded tech optimism? Talk to me when I can join. Right now Bluesky is a very exclusive club.
What a beam of sunshine in a cloudy week... I will wait on the sidewalk outside Bluesky until it opens.
Nailed it. Well done.
Can I ask why you are not considering (or if you have tried) Spoutible? I think they have fewer power users and have allowed more people to join, so maybe there is less fomo anxiety to join?
My feed at Spoutible is very different from my Twitter feed. The official sports team accounts I follow are not there (yet). And accounts I look to for breaking news on the Ukraine war are not there (yet). And then also less or none of the entertaining shitposting. But also no nazis.
I’m trying to imaging the agile sprint where everyone at Bluesky worked sixteen-hour days to implement the “no Elon here” feature. It must have been extraordinarily technically complex, on the order of anything SpaceX has ever done—no, more so! Put a man on Mars? Psssh… doesn’t cut it unless that man is Elon (and your product is “staying on Earth”).
Solve the scalability problems by capping the users at 60K and start running a one-in-one-out policy. That would really drive Elon et al mad.
The questions I've had about AT / BlueSky have been "how do you scale X" questions, mostly. For ActivityPub / Mastodon, it feels like these questions have some answers?
Moderation? Well you need to have a community small enough to not need much so an admin can do it, or a vibrant enough community that it has some members willing to do moderation duties, or a surrounding organization that can dictate and enforce whatever policies are relevant.
Resources? Whoever wants to operate the server can make whatever arrangements are necessary. This could be anything from Patreon donations or a operating expenditure line item. It remains to be seen how large these instances can be. AT / BlueSky seems to stipulate that users get encrypted/signed datastores that are portable somehow.
I guess my point is that someone has to pay for this, with attention and with money. With a relatively tiny userbase, a tight control of invites, and no way to participate for the uninvited (either by federating or even looking at "skeets" in context), it currently can continue not mattering. Those answers have to come sooner or later. If it's simply "we will sell advertising on this website" then there will have to be some extra juice or extra lock-in to prevent people from federating themselves elsewhere, as well as an off-ramp to resuming Twitter's pre-Elon problems.
All that said, even getting to that place would represent an improvement. So two cheers and bring it on.