by Shelton Bumgarner
Trump, apparently, has repeatedly stated that he wouldn’t be president but for his use of Twitter. I tend to agree with him. The question now, of course, is can we go back to “normal” once Trump leaves office. That’s open to debate at this point.
What’s not open to debate is what a grave threat to the American Republic Twitter is as it is currently conceived. It’s just horrible. It’s damaging public discourse in ways large and small. Twitter sets the daily agenda for the chattering class, and as such the fact that it’s the playground of bots, haters and paid Russian trolls is cause for concern to say the least.
What’s worse, Twitter seems completely unwilling or unwilling on a managerial level to do anything about this enormous mess. Now, in an ideal world, I, personally, would have both the funds and the skills needed to design a startup platform that would crush Twitter and I’d be a successful entrepreneur, etc., etc., etc. Alas, that just isn’t the case. I am, however, a dreamer and I can make the case for a new platform that would be designed from the ground up to be a “Twitter Killer.”
If I could implement a Twitter Killer, it would be designed from the ground up to address trolls and bots. It would be designed from the very beginning to be a platform for debate that had some sense about it. It would be attentive to the needs of users and designed for actual conversation. Twitter isn’t very good for actual discussion, to say the least.
I would propose that we bring back two concepts from the dawn of the Internet being open to the public: chat rooms and message boards. If you were to somehow seamlessly and intuitively combine these two concepts together in a platform, I think you’d see ready success.
Right now, there’s Slack for the enterprise when it comes to real time text chat. But as best I can tell it’s not archived and searchable (maybe it is, I don’t know) and it’s not designed for the masses like AOL Chat rooms where. It kind of blows my mind that we rely upon Twitter to do what AOL Chat rooms used to do. It’s weird that we’ve gone backwards over the course of the last 20 years. But we have.
Meanwhile, I would also bring back the concepts of Usenet which were, at one point, pretty powerful and successful. If you updated Usenet in such a way that it provided an easy way to discuss a topic using threads, I think people would really enjoy it. Now, I am well aware that Reddit exists, but it’s just too difficult to use and doesn’t implement threading the way Usenet did.
Additionally, in this fanciful scenario, I would lean heavily on video chat. I would have a feature whereby you could have up to four people on screen as part of a recorded video conference. All of this would be nicely threaded and have inline editing, which would be pretty sweet.
It seems to me that if you were really attentive to the needs of former Twitter users and had a feature set as I have described above, a lot of people who wade through the verbiage of Twitter would be more than happy to give you a chance. A lot celebrities, though leaders and content providers would love the feature rich nature of such a service and if you thought it out enough from the beginning you could probably steal a march on Twitter.
Unfortunately, I can’t do this myself, so I’m left daydreaming. It just would be really cool to be able to ditch Twitter and start from scratch. I guess under the right circumstances Reddit could do much of what I have described, but they don’t seem all that interested in changing in the direction I want and need as a user.
Something needs to give, regardless. We need a new service that fills the function of Twitter but in a way that doesn’t give rise to racist, misogynistic bigot presidents. Once you gave people an option, one with the same aim as Twitter but did its cultural job a lot better, I think people would flock to it.