Dear North American readers, don’t forget to move your clock ahead one hour tonight! I hate this change, and the early darkness it brings. I’m hoping someday we won’t be changing the time twice a year.
This week’s big story is the massive turmoil at Twitter, with huge layoffs, the new owner upset with advertisers, a new subscription plan that lets you pay for verification to launch next week(!) and features (like the Revue newsletter platform) on the chopping block. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Fortunately that isn’t the only story. There are new features for creators on YouTube and Facebook, adult content is back on Tumblr, manage projects in Google Sheets and more.
Goodbye to Hangouts
Hangouts was officially closed on November 1. You may still be able to access Hangouts at hangouts.google.com for a brief time, but it’s really the end of an era.
I took a look back at when Hangouts was cool. It was ahead of its time (with AR costumes and live streamed Hangouts on Air), but missed the big shift to mobile devices. And while its ties to Google+ let you invite (almost) anyone to chat, that wasn’t an asset when Google+ went by the wayside.
I’ll also be joining Michael Daniels and Heather Kraafter on Tinkering with Tech next Wednesday, where we’ll talk about Hangouts and Chat. It should be interesting! I’ll be sharing the video link when I have it both on YouTube and on Twitter.
I’m sad, but mostly about losing Hangouts as it was its heyday. On to Chat and Meet!
Turmoil at Twitter
As I noted in last week’s newsletter, Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter left open a number of questions about how it would be run. This week has brought few answers and more questions about how the platform will survive at all.
For an overview I recommend “Twitter, cut in half” by Casey Newton and Zoe Schiffer.
Over the course of the past week a number of executives and other employees were either fired or resigned. Then on Friday (yesterday as this goes out), more than 3,000 Twitter employees, or about half of the staff, were laid off.
Some teams are now entirely gone, including the Ethical AI Team, their Human Rights team, Accessibility Experience Team, election information teams (just days before the US midterm elections) and the team that writes the context for trending topics.
In a New York Times’ report, they had to note “Twitter’s communications team, which was almost entirely laid off, did not respond to a request for comment.”
Many Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) were also laid off, leading to questions about what will happen when there are technical issues that require fixing. (There will be technical issues)
On the bright side, Twitter’s Trust and Safety organization only lost 15% of their team. They manage content moderation, among other things. But the team’s head, Yoel Roth, notes that they have had to “deprioritize” some tasks like password recovery and suspension appeals.
But even with all those cuts, money is going to be an issue. And Musk does not seem to understand that the advertisers, who provide something like 90% of Twitter’s revenue, don’t like chaos and uncertainty.
While the NAACP is calling for an advertising boycott, the bigger problem seems to be Musk’s own behavior. According to one report, at NewFronts in May, when platforms usually lock in millions of dollars of advertising for the next year, advertisers were reportedly put off by the uncertainty around how the platform might change with Musk in charge. So that put Twitter in a bad financial situation from the start.
But Musk doesn’t seem to have the temperament or self-understanding to woo advertisers back to the platform.
After Twitter’s CCO Sarah Personette quit last Friday, another Twitter executive who is trusted by the marketing community introduced Musk to agency heads in New York. That executive was fired at the end of the day. Then Musk was on a call with a number of CMOs who asked him for his plans. And either he couldn’t or wouldn’t provide that information, despite a surge of hateful content.. Folks gently explaining to Musk that brand safety was very important to advertisers resulted in Musk blocking those people.
After blaming advertisers’ hesitation on “activists” trying to destroy “free speech”, Musk then promised a “thermonuclear name and shame” of advertisers who have chosen to pause or cancel their ads. It’s hard to imagine how this could convince advertisers to work with him. Maybe it could work in advertisers’ favor, with the free publicity?
Musk’s management style seems to be to toss ideas out and demand his employees work long hours to implement them. If they don’t pan out, it’s someone else’s fault.
Supposedly next week Twitter will launch a revamped Twitter Blue subscription. At $8 per month it will include a verification badge, or, I should say, a “check mark”, since there apparently won’t be any actual verification done (Matt Navarra has an overview). This will somehow “destroy the bots”. It sounds like a recipe for impersonation and a boon for scammers, but I guess we’ll see how that goes.
Musk has also directed his team to reduce annual infrastructure costs by $1 billion, including spending on servers and cloud services. There is some skepticism that this will even be possible without degrading the service. Or maybe it will be OK, as long as there isn’t a big spike in traffic (hopefully no famous people die).
And Revue (which hosts my newsletter 🙁) and the newish “Notes” blogging tools are on the chopping block.
Because Musk borrowed so much money to buy Twitter, the company is currently saddled with more debt than its usual revenue can cover. It seems unlikely that the subscriptions and cost cutting will bring Twitter into the black, even if ad revenue recovers.
As for alternatives, Mastodon is a Twitter-like platform where you join the server of your choice, and messaging is federated (like email). Some folks are working on tools to help migration or find your followers’ Mastodon handles.
As a Twitter user, the past few days have been fascinating from a watching-a-car-wreck perspective. But it was also sad to see so many Tweets from fired employees bubbling up in my feed. They were treated pretty badly in all this.
But I’m not leaving Twitter, at least not yet. I’ll probably give Mastodon a try. And we’ll see how it goes.
I’d vote for Hank Green’s “solution”.
Here me out…Google Plus.
— Hank Green (@hankgreen)
Nov 2, 2022
Brandon Friedman notes that because the media uses Twitter, it is important in shaping information and commentary even to people who don’t use Twitter.
People who are not on Twitter have no idea how much its destruction will impact everyday life. The exchange of information on Twitter fundamentally changed how — and what — media is consumed by everyone, whether they use the app or not.
— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC)
Nov 4, 2022
Mike Masnick wonders when Twitter will be available in the bargain bin. Automattic picked up Tumblr for less than $20 million, having dropped in value from $1.1 billion just 6 years prior.
YouTube: Go Live Together and more
YouTube is rolling out Go Live Together, a new live streaming feature that lets a host invite a guest into their stream with them. Both host and guest need to use the YouTube mobile app on their phone. The host is responsible for the content, and gets any ad or Supers revenue. You can get a sneak peek from Creator Insider and learn more in the YouTube Help Center.
Creator Music is rolling out to monetizing YouTube Creators in the US. Creators can either buy a license for music or choose to share revenue instead.
YouTube has tips for podcasters who want to build an audience on the platform.
Meta for Creators
This is Meta Creator Week, with announcements aimed at improving the creator experience on Facebook (in other words, monetizing). Here are some top announcements:
Professional Mode for Facebook profiles, that allows you to use creator tools (including monetization, when eligible). Previously a separate page was required.
Create and sell Digital Collectibles (NFTs). This will ultimately include both images and videos, with access to different blockchains and wallets.
Paid subscriptions on Instagram. This is initially launching in the US.
More Stars (paid gifts). Stars will be automatically enabled on eligible public creator content.
Stars Parties on Reels, which ends in a celebration if the creator reaches their goal
Virtual gifts tailored to the content you are watching
Stars on photos and text posts on Facebook
New gifts and Stars on Instagram, starting with Reels
Tumblr has updated their Community Guidelines to allow content with nudity, mature subject matter and sexual themes, as long as it has the appropriate Community Label. Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic (parent company of Tumblr), explained why porn isn’t allowed, including anti-porn credit card companies and app stores, and current legal requirements for verifying age and consent.
Yonatan Zunger writes about the “Sunk Benefit” fallacy, and how to consider when it is time to move on. He suggests you value the work you have done, and the problems you have solved, but move on from a particular set of tools or company when it’s time to do that.
The Substack newsletter platform launched Substack Chat, allowing writers to communicate directly with readers. It’s looking more and more like Substack is less a newsletter platform, than a sort of social blogging platform that sends out posts by email. It’s interesting to see how it has grown.
Creators can now upload HD video directly to Patreon. The advantage is no ads, no embedding, and a short teaser can be created for non-patrons. This is free with Pro and Premium plans through 2023, then will be covered by new paid plans.
Google Workspace subscribers can use the new interactive timeline view in Google Sheets to track and manage projects.
Flickr has a number of updates, including a new License History modal on every photo page. You can see the type of license a photo has, how that changed over time and get more information.
Snapchat is partnering with Amazon Fashion for AR shopping. Try on fashion glasses before you buy.
Reddit is testing a “Happening Now” page where you can find active Live Chats and Reddit Talks.
That’s all the updates for this week.
Image by Gerhard from Pixabay. Free to use commercially, no attribution required.