Scripting News for 5/11/2008

Why decentralizing Twitter is hopeless 

To every yin there’s a yang. Here’s a brilliant counterpoint to what I’ve been writing here about decentralizing Twitter. I’ve excerpted the last paragraph because it is some of the best tech writing I’ve ever read. Wonderful.

Echovar: “The idea of building competitors to Twitter on the same platform, or redistributing Twitter to multiple players reminds me of the idea that New York City should be rebuilt in Ohio because it would be cheaper. Or perhaps we could distribute a little of New York City in every state of the Union. New York City is what it is because of the people who live and visit there. Building another New York City in Las Vegas doesn’t result in the phenomenon that is New York City. In a very important sense, Twitter is decentralized at its core, it is rhizomatic rather than arborescent.”

Now go read the whole thing, please. :-)

PS: As has been pointed out by several emailers, the idea of relocating cities in the virtual world appeared in a piece I wrote yesterday, where I said indeed it does happen. It can’t happen in the real world. But in defense of echovar, it would only happen if there were a war where platform vendors were fighting in vain to lock us in, and only when Twitter was so mature that we understood every nuance of how it’s used. Yes, we are, today, locked into Twitter. And I’m not comfortable about that. Eventually, relocating New York may be what we have to do. Charles Cooper is very correct though in his piece on this subject, it’s time for Twitter to get into this discussion and tell us what their thoughts are.

What do the images mean? 

From time to time people ask what the images in the margins of Scripting News mean. I don’t think I’ve ever answered the question on the blog itself.

There are many answers to the question because they mean whatever you want them to mean. The point is to stimulate creativity. If I wrote an article about Fidel Castro, for example, and put a fiery picture of Fidel next to the piece it would satisfy curiosity. “I wonder what he looks like?” Suspense eliminated. That kind of imagery serves to quell creativity, to push it down, stifle it. It answers questions as opposed to raising them. Lowers entropy instead of increasing it.

My goal is to stimulate thinking. If people say they disagree with me — excellent. Sometimes I disagree too. There are many sides to every question, and many of them are valid. To fix on one answer as being the only one would be to eliminate creativity, imagination. It’s why stories told on radio can be so incredibly vivid compared to movies or TV. You get to supply the visuals. So if the meaning isn’t obvious, you get to find your own meaning. That’s better sometimes than filling in all the blanks. Create new blanks.

My pictures are supposed to raise questions. The first one might be “Why did he put that there?” You may find you have an answer, but know that that’s your answer, not anyone else’s. It says something about you. Or you might look at the picture and say “That’s a weird picture” and not give it another thought. That’s also a valid answer. Or you might be tired of the pictures and see one and choose not to read the article. More power to you!

Esther Dyson once sent an email asking why there was a big picture of herself next to an article that had nothing to do with her. “I thought it was an interesting picture” is what I said. I told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I once got a call from a neighbor when I lived in the country, she said she was going to get some baby goats, and they might make a lot of noise as they were being weaned from their mother. I asked why she was getting the goats. She said she always wanted goats.

That’s pretty much what the images mean. :-)

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