Twitter refugees - Where should we go?
Some updates, some moves and some new directions
It’s been a while...
This summer Selected Wisdom launched its first podcasts and I was thrilled to chat with some of my favorite people. Big thanks to Matt, Deb, Larry, Nahid, Colin and Mark for spending time with me and sharing some great stories.
Right after the first season of the podcast launched, I had a major, and really great, career change. The Miburo team and I were acquired by Microsoft. Beginning on July 1, we began integrating with their amazing cyber security teams to help detect, assess and disrupt cyber attacks and foreign malign influence (i.e. my usual beat - cyber, propaganda, misinformation). I’m thrilled to be part of a tech company that is firmly committed to protecting the internet, social media and democracy. Our Miburo team is now the Digital Threat Analysis Center (DTAC) at Microsoft, and if you are interested in what Russia, Iran and China are up to in the information space we’ll continue to post at the old Miburo substack (signup here). We’ll have our first post as DTAC in December 2022, and in 2023, our Substack will morph into a new website at Microsoft - more to follow.
Next, Selected Wisdom will remain and I’ll be publishing a mix of content as I have at this blog since 2010. National security thoughts, some podcasts from folks I think are quite brilliant, more stories like this one from 2021, a post about aliens (yes, aliens) that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and my new amateur hobbies of robot dogs, iPhone time lapse photography and debate over what are the best streaming shows on HBO Max and Apple TV - the varsity channels of television. This brings me to the question of the day:
Where do we go if we are not on Twitter?
I reluctantly created a Twitter account in 2010. I’d also just started the original Selected Wisdom blog on Wordpress. Twitter provided one of the only methods to share one’s blog beyond direct email. In its early years, I surprisingly enjoyed Twitter. Some may remember the first tweets were topics like, “I just ate (fill in the blank) for lunch”, a really bad joke no one understood, and updates on someone’s current location. But communities quickly sprouted amongst small groups of folks that knew each other and shared common interests; mine being the study of terrorism and counterterrorism.
Most accounts gathered a couple hundred followers, followed a couple hundred others. For me, over time, I made some real world, life-long friends, one of them being J.M. Berger (See World Gone Wrong here at Substack). I learned from our Twitter conversations that J.M. lived a few blocks down the street in Boston. We later went on to blog and tweet with American al-Shabaab member Omar Hammami, before teaming up with Andrew Weisburd to tag and track the Russians interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Enough about memory lane, fast forward to today. American politics, foreign influence, bots and bitcoin have rendered Twitter a chaotic stew - not a town square for civil discourse. Twitter today feels like an old neighborhood from one’s youth. I have some nostalgia for the familiar faces, remember having funny exchanges, getting into some fights, but find myself visiting less often. The center of gravity of Twitter is news, and when newsmakers, producers and reporters depart the platform, the app will die as a central place for many different communities. Until this happens, Twitter will continue on in some form.
My prediction on Twitter, if I had to make one now (it’s probably too early to tell), is that it will become a technologically solid place for right leaning political audiences and digital currency die hards; a reality distortion field that will eventually turn a profit for Mr. Musk. But it will never be the place where everyone comes to get their news, nor will it become a super app like China’s WeChat. Tech entrepreneurs want Americans to do everything online in one place, but Americans and Europeans don’t mind constantly trying out new things in new places. In the West, the desire for a super app comes from those that want to control the super app, not from those that want to use a super app.
I don’t want to hang out at Twitter much anymore, and thus, I’m looking for a new digital haunt. At the same point, I’m not going to shut down my Twitter account, nor am I going to move to Canada if my preferred presidential candidate doesn’t get elected. Instead, I’ll wait and see if I want to come back at some point, I’m open to being proven wrong.
This weekend, I set up some new social media properties in some new places. When looking for a new digital home, I looked for a few features: news, authenticity, community - the things I once valued at Twitter. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll spend more time at these four hangouts.
LinkedIn - Throughout the pandemic, I found myself using LinkedIn more and more for posts and discussions. Why? I know who I’m communicating with on LinkedIn, and the conversations are civil since its a site for professionals. Trolls don’t troll on LinkedIn as they don’t want to lose their current job or jeopardize a future one. I just updated to public setting on my account, and anyone with a free account can follow at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/clint-w-watts/
Substack - I’ve always enjoyed blogging and commenting, and I’ll be back here with more posts and hopefully more discussions. Substack just launched the Substack app for discussions which I’m going to try. Here’s the link: https://substack.com/app
Post.News - Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway recently interviewed Noam Bardin and he described his vision for Post.News. It’s exactly what I’m looking for: news, community and moderation. Post.News is in beta form right now, and I just got my account https://post.news/clintwatts (@clintwatts). I’m most excited about this new digital haunt and if you’d like to sign up, here’s the link.
Mastodon - As seen on Twitter, many now flock to Mastodon which feels like Twitter but is decentralized, which I feel pressured to say is ‘better’ even though I’m not sure I agree with that. We’ll see. I’ve signed up and will do some Twitter-esque jabbering there as well. My account is https://federated.press/@clintwatts
I hope everyone that celebrates Thanksgiving had a good weekend, and I’ll see you here more often.
Clint, thanks for this post and for sharing your warnings over the years.
I vividly recall watching your first public testimony years ago and then following you on Twitter.
It’s comforting that in late 2022 you’re still one of my trusted go to public servants. Though the Twitter town square is being demolished, I can still find you.
Thanks for all you do to inform the public. All the best in the coming year. Cheers!