Twitter users may be about to find out what Twitter is like when virtually everything people use it for has been demolished.
Then again, we could also be overreacting to a bit of social media-fueled hysteria.
On Wednesday, unconfirmed reports that Twitter was planning to essentially kill the like and retweet buttons by making them invisible spread throughout the platform, accompanied by a flurry of panic from Twitter users who recognized exactly how detrimental such a move would be to the site’s health, well-being, and community engagement.
But the reports may have been premature, and slightly inaccurate. And while Twitter later issued a clarification, it didn’t entirely settle the matter. Let’s break down what’s really going on.
Twitter is working on an app designed to improve conversation overall
Twitter has long been working on the release of a new mobile app, “twttr.” The app has a few specific aims, one of which is to make long, threaded conversations on Twitter easier to read. As you can see in the below screenshot — taken from a beta version of twttr by Vox’s sister site The Verge — a thread in the app will look similar to a typical threaded discussion on LiveJournal or Reddit, with successive reply strands being indented accordingly.
And if you look closely, you’ll notice that this change to the interface doesn’t leave any room, once you scroll past a parent tweet, for Twitter’s familiar like, reply, and retweet counters.
On Tuesday, Twitter released a prototype version of the app to a limited group of testers. Multiple tech sites reviewed it, but few if any seemed to consider the buried implications of the streamlined threads: no visible likes and RTs.
That changed on Wednesday, when miscommunicated news about the app began to cause alarm.
Misinformation about what’s happening to likes and RTs quickly went viral
On Wednesday, NBC News reported on some of the changes the new “twttr” app heralded. Although NBC did note that likes and retweets would be hidden “behind a tap,” it didn’t register the potential significance of such a change from users’ perspective, instead focusing more on changes to Twitter’s camera features. NBC also originally misstated that the app was removing the likes and retweets entirely, which added to the confusion and sent Twitter running to clarify its plans.
Yesterday, we started giving people access to our prototype app twttr which we’re using to test new ideas and get feedback. Putting likes and retweets behind a tap is just an idea to help make conversations easier to read. https://t.co/HTI3ImTYe6
— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) March 13, 2019
But many Twitter users immediately panicked over the idea that likes and retweets were potentially being removed altogether. One tweet that spread rapidly before its owner later deleted it suggested incorrectly that Twitter was removing these engagement stats rather than hiding them, and that the change was being rolled out across Twitter instead of “just” being tested in a prototype app currently only seen by a few people, with no guarantee of ever becoming part of Twitter’s core experience.
“Removing Retweet and Like numbers is HUGE and is sure to upset virtually everybody,” the user posted before realizing their mistake. But by that time, panic had already begun to set in:
hello, twitter hiding engagement counts (likes and retweets) will be absolutely destructive to community-finding and community-making here. social activity doesn’t come just from tweeting and replying, but from liking and retweeting too. those numbers show what people care about.
— jonny sun (@jonnysun) March 13, 2019
Twitter is proposing to hide engagement metrics (likes/retweets) to make the site “friendlier” by removing the appearance of ranking.
Here is the truth: they find the concept of “the ratio” embarrassing to powerful people and embarrassing to be associated with.
— Alexandra Erin (@alexandraerin) March 13, 2019
excited for Jack to destroy my livelihood
— Gretchen Felker-Martin (@scumbelievable) March 13, 2019
And now, before we go any further, we need to take a step back — and a few deep breaths. Currently, Twitter’s plans to implement these changes as part of the new twttr app are unknown. And there is no indication that they will ever affect the larger site as a whole.
But there is still a reason to be concerned for Twitter’s like-based ecosystem. And given that concern, all the fears being expressed over potentially hidden likes and retweets have merit. Because hiding likes and RTs would, in essence, be the end of Twitter as we know it.
It’s madness to consider hiding or removing likes and RTs, but Jack Dorsey keeps talking about doing it anyway.
It’s highly understandable that many people read about Twitter “removing” likes and RTs and assumed the changes were about to take effect across the platform. That’s because Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been talking about his desire to get rid of the like button since last fall, supposedly in the name of “incentivizing healthy conversation.”
He first floated the idea at the Wired25 conference in October 2018, and then raised it again less than two weeks later at a private Twitter event, where he reportedly promised to delete the like button “soon.” This apparent promise, originally reported by the Telegraph, drew scrutiny from the media and plenty of backlash from Twitter users. It also prompted a swift demurral from Twitter itself, which issued an official statement noting that the platform had “no specific timeline for changes or particular planned changes to discuss.”
One Twitter communications staffer even walked back Dorsey’s “soon” timeline with an explicit negation:
Short story on “like.” We’ve been open that we’re considering it. Jack even mentioned it in front of the US Congress. There’s no timeline. It’s not happening “soon.” https://t.co/jXBmkudWYv
— Brandon Borrman (@bborrman) October 29, 2018
But Twitter notably didn’t say that removing the like button was off the table completely. As a result, users’ concerns haven’t gone away.
And many of those concerns are valid, because some of the rumored changes, if they do come to pass, would fundamentally alter Twitter’s purpose.
Simply removing likes would be bad. But even just hiding both likes and RTs could be apocalyptic.
The ongoing conversation about creating healthier discourse on Twitter hasn’t exactly been served by the confusion surrounding the fate of likes and retweets. In particular, there are several slight differences between what Twitter has actually proposed in the past, what it’s currently doing, what it could feasibly do in the future, and what Twitter users think it’s going to do.
The idea of removing likes altogether — the idea that Dorsey first floated in October — was about completely removing the ability to like a tweet. It’s a fraught idea; among many other reasons I’ll get to in a moment, the Twitter like is multifunctional, serving as a way to passively response and interact as well as a bookmarking, scheduling, and notation tool.
However, just ditching the like button would still allow users to retweet and signal-boost important conversations — meaning the basic ecosystem of the site could theoretically continue to live on without too much infrastructure collapse.
The envisioned change that Twitter users foresaw in the prototype twttr app, however, was one in which both likes and retweets would continue to exist but would be hidden from public view by default. While the app allows users to view these stats by tapping to reveal them, remember that most people didn’t realize this at first — and panicked because they thought these features had vanished.
Hiding likes and retweets is arguably a much more destructive change, because it diminishes Twitter users’ ability to elevate some voices and opinions over others. Retweets and likes have always been crucial tools that allow the greater Twitter community to drown out trolls and other detritus, while simultaneously helping good conversations, viral moments, and underprivileged and marginalized voices gain attention.
If those tools are hidden by default, it stands to reason that virality on Twitter would cease to exist.
If Twitter gets rid of likes, that is fine. If you enjoy one of my tweets, simply bring a lasagna to my place of residence. Then I will know from how many lasagnas I have in the lasagna shed whether people like or dislike a tweet. This plan is foolproof.
— Roxi Horror (@roxiqt) March 13, 2019
The same is true for the fabled “ratio” — the relatively young but widely beloved Twitter meme that involves shading the hell out of tweets that get far more comments than likes and retweets — essentially a snarkier version of a community’s collective downvote. Without easily visible tallies of likes, comments, and retweets, users wouldn’t have a clear indication of when a tweet or a conversation was causing controversy or becoming extremely unpopular. There would be no simple way to tell, for example, exactly how much people on Twitter dislike Paul Ryan, or when a tweet you posted is bad, actually.
Without a demonstrable feed hierarchy, every tweet, every opinion, and every response to that opinion would be rendered equal. And egalitarianism is exactly what Twitter users don’t want.
As anyone who’s spent more than five seconds on the internet understands, all opinions are not created equal. Twitter already has a very well-documented problem with harassment. And while Dorsey seems to think that removing the like button would offer a better, healthier way for people to interact across polarized ideological divides, to many users, the idea of putting trolls and bad-faith debaters on a more equal footing with their targets sounds more like a nightmare.
This is not a fucking debate site and the people who harasss you and then attack you for not “debating” them are the ones that need to be removed, @jack @twitter, not the “like” button. Either remove the fucking racists or just admit that you’re on their fucking side. https://t.co/xIaGBJxXI3
— Celeste Ng (@pronounced_ing) October 29, 2018
Plus, hiding likes and RTs would potentially alter so many tiny things about how Twitter functions that it’s difficult to even comprehend them all. For instance, if you’re friended by someone with 10,000 followers, a good way to tell if those followers are mainly bots is to survey the user’s engagement stats; if none of those 10,000 followers are liking their tweets, those users are probably bots, and the follower may also be a bot. Without the ability to quickly gauge how many likes and retweets someone is getting, it becomes more difficult to identify fake Twitter profiles.
Or consider the split-second decision process you go through when deciding whether to amplify someone else’s tweet by retweeting it. If you’re like me, you tend to shy away from retweeting something that’s already gotten thousands of retweets, for fear of being repetitive or boring and clogging up the Twitter feeds of your followers with a tweet they’ve already seen multiple times that day. Without the RT count being visible, that entire decision process goes away, for better or worse.
These small but meaningful ripple effects could fundamentally alter Twitter as we know it.
It bears repeating again that all these changes are rumored and speculative, and there’s no solid evidence that a major diminishment of Twitter’s engagement features is on the way.
But if Twitter users’ worst fears are eventually realized, it wouldn’t be the first time that a social media company either misunderstood or ignored what its users loved about the site and made changes that drastically altered those users’ experience. The current Twitter hysteria may be a false alarm, but it’s rooted in very real and very valid concerns.
Amazon 2-day shipping: Why packages sometimes arrive later
In less than two decades, Amazon single-handedly transformed the way we think about online shopping. Before Prime launched in 2005, two-day shipping was virtually unheard of — now more than 100 million people use the service, and they expect the things they order online to arrive at their doorsteps in 48 hours or fewer.
There’s just one problem: Amazon, which has focused on obtaining customers at all costs for decades, seems to be looking for ways to cut down on shipping costs. In some cases, that means weaning Prime users off the near-instantaneous shipping they’ve come to expect.
From the beginning, free two-day shipping was Prime’s biggest draw. Memberships were cheap — $79 a year in 2005 and $119 today — and users had the option of paying a small fee to get their orders delivered in just one day. Today, Prime is about much more than package delivery: Users can order everything, from groceries to a house cleaner, through Amazon. But as Amazon has expanded, the promise of free two-day shipping — the main draw of Prime — has begun to come with a lot of caveats.
That’s not to say Amazon is totally changing course. In 2014, Amazon launched Prime Now, a service designed to deliver products in an hour or less, for some New York City-based users. (It expanded to other major cities in 2016.) Amazon often makes headlines for the grueling work expected of its in-house delivery fleet — or, more accurately, the network of contractors that deliver packages to Prime users across the country — a sign that it continues to take its shipping promise seriously, often at the expense of workers. But even as Amazon has doubled down on ensuring speedy delivery, it has begun looking for ways to rein in customers’ desire for instant gratification, a phenomenon it arguably helped create, in an attempt to cut costs and streamline its supply chain.
The result? Prime orders don’t necessarily arrive in two days anymore, nor are they always delivered to customers’ homes. All of this makes sense from a financial perspective, but that may not be enough to win customers over.
Prime customers pay for — and expect — quick, free shipping. They aren’t always happy about Amazon’s cost-cutting efforts.
Two-day Prime shipping isn’t necessarily a thing of the past, but it’s undeniable that Amazon delivery isn’t as seamless as it used to be.
Amazon will no longer deliver some small items, like razors or hair ties, individually. Instead, customers have to purchase $25 worth of these “add-on” items before Amazon will send the box out; the point, according to the company, is to give customers access to “low-cost items that would be cost-prohibitive to ship on their own.” Since 2011, Amazon has given users the option to have packages delivered to “lockers,” which are basically branded PO boxes, instead of to their homes or offices. Most recently, Amazon rolled out Amazon Day, a new delivery option that lets customers choose a specific day for all of their orders to arrive, is the company’s latest cost-cutting effort.
All of this makes sense from a financial perspective. Delivering packages to a single location instead of hundreds of individual homes cuts costs, and requiring customers to meet a delivery minimum for small orders helps Amazon consolidate deliveries, as does the Amazon Day program.
But the response to these new initiatives has been mixed at best.
Last December, Fast Company’s Mark Wilson wrote about how Amazon Prime is “getting worse,” claiming the company had all but abandoned its promise of two-day shipping for most products. “That little Prime logo used to mean something,” Wilson wrote. “Now it feels like a ruse that lulls shoppers into a false sense of security, until they go to checkout and see a shipping arrival date far later than anticipated.”
“This cuts through the greatest promise of Prime. It’s not just the free, two-day shipping. It’s that it’s so reliable, you never have to think for more than a second about buying something. In this sense, Prime was constructed to be great for the consumer (so efficient) and great for businesses (mindless impulse shopping!). … It doesn’t help that we’ve seen a slow dilution of Prime itself over time, with the rise of Prime Pantry and Add-on Items. They force you to buy a minimum number of items to get the best deal, adding back the very psychic burden Prime had eliminated from the equation of online shopping in the first place.”
Wilson’s complaints about Prime suggest a bait-and-switch strategy. Amazon got 100 million people to become Prime users by guaranteeing frictionless service, but now that it’s gotten a sizable chunk of the market hooked on quick, free shipping, it’s trying to cut delivery costs by scaling back on the very thing that got customers interested in the first place. Put another way, Prime is built on the idea that shopping should be frictionless; Amazon has now introduced a degree of friction that wasn’t there before, and some customers aren’t happy about it.
“I can’t help but feel the frustration around how the false sense of shopping confidence is blown when Amazon simply uses the PRIME lockup as a gimmick,” one reader wrote in response to Wilson’s article. “The ‘prime’ benefit of getting your stuff when you expect it is gone, and it’s not just because of the holiday shipping crunch.
Amazon changed customer expectations regarding shipping. Now it’s changing them again.
One of Amazon’s core principles is “customer obsession,” a “vigorous” desire to “earn and keep customer trust.” (Amazon has, by the way, also been known to use customer obsession as an anti-union talking point.) Put simply, customer obsession means giving the customer what they want as cheaply and quickly as possible — e.g., within 48 hours or fewer — at the expense of profits.
Anne Goodchild, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington who focuses on supply chain transportation and logistics, told me that Amazon significantly altered customer expectations and shopping patterns.
“The status quo [has been] that we take ourselves to the store, pick up the goods, and go back to our homes. That’s actually a pretty inefficient way of doing the last mile: We all individually use our cars, and that kind of commuting creates a great travel burden,” she said. “Delivery services, to some extent, have the potential to be an improvement. [They consolidate] a lot of deliveries — hopefully — into one vehicle like a UPS truck. They have strong incentives, profit incentives, to do that in an efficient and cost-effective way.”
The problem, she said, occurs when delivery becomes too quick. “As we move toward faster delivery, it gets harder to consolidate.” The promise of instant delivery means that customers can buy virtually anything they want without thinking about it; they don’t always think to consolidate their purchases into a single order, because there’s no need to. (A 2018 survey by the optimization platform Feedvisor found that 46 percent of Prime members shop online more than twice a week.) “When we’re not paying some sort of personal cost for the trip, I think it’s easy to overlook how much travel we’re adding,” she said.
Other retailers have attempted to compete by offering similarly fast shipping. “After Amazon, we have things like ShopRunner and even Target [now] saying that if you order certain items, you can get two-day shipping,” Ambulkar said. “I don’t see two-day shipping going away. I think there’s definitely more and more businesses adopting it.”
Even as other retailers lower their shipping times to keep up, Amazon appears to be tweaking its two-day shipping promise. Prime may be cheap and easy for customers, but the cost of all those deliveries adds up quickly. Amazon spent $21.7 billion on shipping costs in 2017, according to its annual report. That’s nearly twice the amount it spent on shipping in 2015.
“Amazon has pursued a growth trajectory rather than a profit one,” Goodchild added. “I think everyone would agree that their strategy has been to please customers and, in doing so, grow their market share.”
But now that it has more than 100 million Prime customers, Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more profitable — which could end up alienating some of the customers it has made an effort to court.
Justin Smith, the founder of TJI Research, an analytics firm that focuses on Amazon, told The Goods that Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more efficient — and cost-effective. “Lockers or other pickup points, or encouraging customers to ship items in the fewest number of boxes possible, which might mean getting it a bit later than if you had shipped items separately,” are all part of that strategy.
“I also think that because of how big they are, they are able to become smarter about predicting what items people are going to order in different regions,” Smith added, “and I believe they’ve been able to put items in warehouses closer to where they expect people to order them from in order to reduce the distance that items have to be shipped when they’re ordered. If that can be done efficiently, I think you reduce the individual shipping volume as well as decrease the delivery time, which improves the customer experience.”
It’s also better for the environment. Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions in the US, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks — the kinds of freight vehicles that are often filled to the brim with Prime purchases and other online orders — are responsible for nearly one-quarter of the total transportation footprint. These trucks, which used to deliver the bulk of their loads to stores and other retail hubs, are now increasingly dropping packages off to individuals. All those one-off orders add up, both financially and environmentally — but, because this type of delivery is often more convenient for the consumer, this has become the new normal.
Not everyone agrees with the premise that more efficiency will result in greater customer satisfaction. Saurabh Ambulkar, a management professor at Northeastern University, said customers who have come to expect two-day — or even same-day — delivery might not readily accept more optimized, less customer-friendly options. “The whole [promise] was that Amazon can deliver the thing to my house, so why do I need to go to the central locker to get something? Why do I need to go to the store?” he said. “If I have to step out of my house to get something, they lose that competitive advantage that they have, but they have to do some of it [in order to] ease the pressure on the supply chain.”
“In bigger cities, maybe the central locker is closer to the place you work, but in other places, I think delivering to residents is what made Amazon more competitive than other players in the market,” Ambulkar added. “If I have to go to a central locker, I can just go to the store to get that product.”
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A Man From a Remote African Village Has Been Named Best Teacher and Will Get $1,000,000 for It
When talking about the job of a teacher, many people refer to it as “a calling”. We all want our children to be educated by teachers who love their jobs and who make children feel inspired, interested, and motivated. There are 2 opinions when it comes to teachers: “A talented person will be successful, no matter what,” and “A talented person needs a good teacher.”
A charity foundation that was set up in 2015 by a businessman named Sunny Varkey (and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, his patron) awards someone as “Best Teacher” every year with a Global Teacher Prize.
Bright Side was really interested in the winner of the 2019 competition because there were 10,000 applications from 179 countries, with a prize of $1,000,000.
Teachers from India, Australia, the US, Kenya, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, Argentina, Great Britain, and Georgia made it to the final stage of the competition.
A Kenyan science teacher and Franciscan friar named Peter Tabichi won the award. The award ceremony took place in Dubai and the name of the winner was announced by actor Hugh Jackman.
Peter Tabichi is a teacher in a small African village where the inhabitants often don’t have enough of the most necessary things. Despite this, his students are famous for their wins in international science competitions which is what ultimately attracted the foundation’s attention.
The school these students go to doesn’t look like a school that houses major victories. There is only 1 teacher for 58 students and 1 computer, and in order to make it to lessons, many kids have to cover huge distances on washed-out roads during the rainy season. Most of Tabichi’s students are kids from poor families or they’re orphans. The school is sorely lacking financial support, so Peter donates 80% of the money he makes on the development of the school — the school uniforms, textbooks, and other materials.
7 years ago, he used to teach at a private school but then decided to become a Franciscan friar and leave his job. The code he lives by requires him to have a somewhat ascetic lifestyle and help others. This is why teaching at a poor school is considered charity for Tabichi.
“This win does not belong to me: it demonstrates the achievements of young minds. I am here only thanks to my students’ achievements. A victory gives them a chance. It means that there are no borders for them.”
Tabichi explains how he uses different motivation methods with his students because the secret to success is believing in yourself. Every person can find something they like doing and feel confident. Peter teaches kids to look at things from different perspectives. This is why his projects where students can organize processes and analyze results by themselves are very popular.
The teacher doesn’t say that some of these projects are “cool” and others are “not cool”. The most important thing about them is that the students have to use their imaginations and have to look for new solutions. Tabichi says, “Creativity is extremely important, especially in difficult situations when the resources are limited.”
In this school, there are scientific and creative clubs where every student can showcase their achievements.
“Seeing my learners grow in knowledge, skills, and confidence is my greatest joy in teaching! When they become resilient, creative, and productive in the society, I get a lot of satisfaction for I act as their greatest destiny enabler and key that unlocks their potential in the most exciting manner.”
Tabichi also managed to talk about tolerance: “He created the ’Peace Club’ where there are people of 7 different nationalities and religious beliefs who all visit this school.
People are most interested in one big question: What is he going to spend his prize money on?
His answer? First and foremost, on computer science class, the development of the science lab, and new projects that can improve people’s lives. For example, Peter wants to teach his students to grow drought-tolerant crops. This project is absolutely necessary for life in Africa.
Interestingly, the agreement terms of the foundation say that the winner has certain responsibilities and the prize is not given to the winner right away.
For 10 years, the winner gets $100,000 every year and they have to stay in the profession for 5 years and be a global ambassador for The Varkey Foundation. It means that they have to visit certain events, talk to the media, and participate in training.
We’re deeply impressed by such people! Their stories are bright illustrations of what we call “the purpose of life”. What do you think about this award?
Digital Trends Live – 4.15.19 – All Digital XBox + An App That Gives You Stock For Shopping
On today’s episode: The discless Xbox may be the worst kept secret and it’s coming next month, Apple is spending big on its Arcade offering, A.I. invents a new sport, Gixo fitness app goes live in a world of VOD offerings, Bumped is a loyalty app that gives you stock for shopping with your favorite brands, Stratolaunch makes maiden voyage, Pepsi may become the most hated brand in the world with upcoming space billboard, Freelancer teems with Arrow Electronics to provide on-demand engineering services.
View at DailyMotion
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