Journalism without Twitter

twitter down a holeSo I’m taking live notes at Blockchain in Journalism: Promise and Practice, happening at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, in the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia School of Journalism, to name the four Russian dolls whose innards I’m inhabiting here

In advance of this gathering, Linux Journal, which I serve as editor-in-chief (but can’t use as a blog, meaning editing it live is do-able but not easy), published When the problem is the story. I wanted it up, on the outside chance that stories themselves, as journalism’s stock-in-trade, might get discussed. Because stories are a Hard Problem: maybe one we can’t solve.

Okay, now the live blogging commences::::

“Token curated registratries, aka TCRs.” Mike Goldin of AdChain is talking about those now. Looking him up. Links: Token Curated Registries 1.0#18 Mike Goldin, AdChain: Token-Curated Registries, An Emerging Cryptoeconomic Primitive.

Observation: blockchain is conceptually opaque, in ways the Internet (the way everything is connected) and the Web (a way to publish on the Internet) are not.

Not quite technically speaking, a blockchain is a distributed way of recording data in duplicate. Or something close enough to that. (Let’s not argue it.) What makes blockchain hard to grok is the “distributed” part. What it means is an ever-expanding copy of the same record accumulates on many different computers distributed everywhere. Including yours. Your computer is going to have a copy of a blockchain, or many blockchains, for the good of the world—or the parts of the world that could use a distributed way of keeping an immutable record of whatever. See what I mean? (Yes and no are equally good answers to that question.)

Mike Goldin just said that understanding blockchain is as big a cognitive leap as it took to grok the Internet way back when. Not so. Understanding blockchain is a shit-ton harder than understanding the Internet.

“Identity procreator type tool” just got uttered. My wife, who knows blockchain better than I, just made two fists and whispered “Yes!” I believe @JarrodDicker of just uttered it.

RadioTopia just got some love from Manoush Zomorodi of ZigZag.

So let’s get to the title of this post.

Normally I’d be tweeting this, but right now I can’t. Nor can I write about it in Medium. Both are closed to me, because Twitter hates my @dsearls login, for reasons unknown, and my login to Medium uses my Twitter handle.


When I tried to troubleshoot my eviction from Twitter this morning, I went to the trouble of creating a new password, alas without help from Dashlane, my password manager, which for some reason wasn’t able to help by generating me a new one. Dunno why.

Deeper background: I’m active on four different Twitter accounts, spread across four browsers. I tweet as myself on Chrome, and as @VRM, @CustomerCommons and @Cluetrain on the three other browsers. The latter three are ones where multiple people can also post.

(Yes, I know there are ways to post as different entities on single browsers or apps, but being different entities on different browsers is easier for me. Or was until this morning.)

So I decided to try getting onto Twitter on one of the other browsers. So I logged out @VRM on Firefox, failed to log in as myself, created the new password through Twitter’s password creating routine, made up a new password (because Dashlane couldn’t help on Firefox either), and wrote the new password down on a sticky.

Then, once I got @dsearls working on Firefox, I logged out, and tried to log in again as @vrm there. Twitter didn’t like that login and made me create a new password for that account too, again without Dashlane’s help. Now I had two passwords, for two accounts, on one sticky.

Then I got in the subway and came down to Columbia, ready to tweet about the #BlockchainJournalism from the audience at the Tow Center. But Twitter on Chrome wouldn’t let me in. Meanwhile, the new password was still on a sticky back at my apartment, and not remembered by Firefox. So I thought, hey, I’ll just create a new password again, now with Dashlane’s help. But I got stopped part way with this response from Twitter when I clicked on the new password making link: .

This kind of experience is why I posted Please let’s kill logins and passwords back in August, and the sentiment stands.


So now that I’m experiencing life without Twitter, on which much of journalism utterly depends, I’m beginning to think about how we’ll all work once Twitter is gone—either completely or just to hell. Also about my own dependence on it. And about how having Twitter as a constant steam valve has bled off energies I once devoted to doing full-force journalism. Or just to blogging. Such as now, here, when I can’t use Twitter.

A difference: tweets may persist somewhere, but they’re the journalistic equivalent of snow falling on water. Blog posts tend to persist in a findable form for as long as their publisher maintains their archive.

Interesting fact: back in the early ’00s, when I was kinda big in the (admittedly small) blogging world, I had many thousands of readers every day. Most of those subscribed to my RSS feed. Then, in ’06, Twitter and Facebook started getting big, most bloggers moved to those platforms, and readership of my own blog dropped eventually to dozens per day. So I got active on Twitter, where I now have 24.4k followers. But hey, so does the average parking space.

I guess where I’m going is toward where Hossein Derakhshan (@h0d3r)has been for some time, with The Web We Have to Save. That Web is ours, not Twitter’s or Facebook’s or any platform’s. (This is also what @DWeinberger and I said in the #NewClues addendum to The Cluetrain Manifesto back in ’15.) Journalism, or whatever it’s becoming, is far more at home there than in any silo, no matter how useful it may be.



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6 Responses to Journalism without Twitter

  1. Paul Grange says:

    “That Web is ours, not Twitter’s or Facebook’s or any platform’s.”

    Wanna bet? Insert “When they came for…”

  2. Doc Searls says:

    Paul, all the platforms are projects. They may be big and bad now, but trees don’t grow to the sky. The mighty fall and turn to humus on the ground. The Net and the Web are that ground.


  3. This question is front and center right now for those of us who invested countless hours in the Google+ platform. Granted, that was a dicier bet than Twitter because it was not Google’s bread and butter, and Twitter is for Twitter. But the future is unknown. In the long-run, we will all be better off as the owners and controllers of our own data. That’s why I’m interested in what’s happening with Solid right now and where it seems headed.

    The challenge that is still not solved by platforms like Solid in and of itself is “discovery.” I’m sure it varies by person, but Twitter’s value for me is 80% discovery and 20% learning through conversation. Google+ was about 60-40, maybe 50-50. We will still need forums to expose ideas at scale. And yeah, RSS is a powerful tool to that end with the benefit of not consolidating power into proprietary feeds.

    But right now, I’m more focused on what the heck to do with all the content and connections that many of us built over the years on Google+.

    • Doc Searls says:

      Thanks, Gideon.

      Do you (or anyone) know if Google + could possibly be archived somehow at the Internet Archive? Or if through an API the personal data there, in some form, can be downloaded by members? (I have no idea, but it seems worth asking.)

      The problem, of course, is platforms. I’ve lost a fair amount of my own writing to platforms closing, nearly all of it not saved on the Internet Archive. And I had huge fear in ’16 that the failure of Yahoo would mean losing the dozens of thousands of photos I had up on Flickr. At the moment Flickr seems safe, but it’s still vulnerable. (I now have over 70,000 photos there, getting 5000-10000 visits per day.)

      I wish Solid the best. I should also note that there are dozens of other similar developments out there as well, with similar ambitions, but without the marquee value of Tim Berners-Lee’s involvement. Many of those are listed here. My own belief is that we all need our own platforms, plus some kind of plan (not worked out yet) for our work to last online.

      Alas, none of us own real estate in the online world. At best we just rent. That too is a problem to solve, somehow.

      • Yes, the plan is for everyone to use Google Takeout and download JSON formatted copies of their stuff. I haven’t done it yet myself since we have until the end if next August. But I know others who are experimenting already with varying levels of success. I get the sense that this will be an area of focus for the G+ dev team.

        The problem, of course, is that having a bunch of downloaded JSON files is only so interesting. The key is going to be where to move them online.This is a relatively large group of people, many with interesting content. So it’s an opportunity for one of these platforms — I’m drawn to Solid partially because of that marquee value and partially because Tim Berners-Lee has been thinking and talking about linked data for a long time.

        Yeah, the longevity of this stuff is also a really interesting challenge. Especially when you consider its social value above and beyond the economic value that the author is willing to pay to keep it hosted. This is particularly important once they are deceased.

  4. Nikolas says:

    IMO, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as spreading fake news and people are believing them without verifying the facts. These sites might fall down one day and reach the point where they started.

    I guess the end is near.

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