Jack Dorsey, CEO of the turd pile we can’t stop pressing our collective faces into day after unbearable day, appeared to take some responsibility for Twitter’s unique ability to bring out the worst in human behaviour in a thirteen (13!) part thread today. Let’s get to the bottom of what these statements might mean:
We’re committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.
After ignoring glaring issues with the use of our platform for the past 11 years, we’re committing to pretending to care.
Why? We love instant, public, global messaging and conversation. It’s what Twitter is and it’s why we‘re here. But we didn’t fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences. We acknowledge that now, and are determined to find holistic and fair solutions.
As arbiters of judgement against ourselves for our bad, bad behaviour, you can bet we’ll be extremely fair.
We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers. We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough.
We’ve seen a lot of stuff, guys. Seen it, looked right at it, observed it closely, inspected it, gotten to the bottom of the whole thing, taken it all in...
While working to fix it, we‘ve been accused of apathy, censorship, political bias, and optimizing for our business and share price instead of the concerns of society. This is not who we are, or who we ever want to be.
...and let me be the first to say those accusations were completely spot-on!
We’ve focused most of our efforts on removing content against our terms, instead of building a systemic framework to help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking. This is the approach we now need.
Rules were made to be broken. Wait, no, rules were meant to be frozen. Wait, no, that’s the tagline for Snow Day. Why did we write the rules again?
Recently we were asked a simple question: could we measure the “health” of conversation on Twitter? This felt immediately tangible as it spoke to understanding a holistic system rather than just the problematic parts.
Someone suggested a rubric by which we look less like we’re completely fucking up. Great idea!
If you want to improve something, you have to be able to measure it. The human body has a number of indicators of overall health, some very simple, like internal temperature. We know how to measure it, and we know some methods to bring it back in balance.
From a medical perspective, Twitter is terminal.
Our friends at @cortico and @socialmachines introduced us to the concept of measuring conversational health. They came up with four indicators: shared attention, shared reality, variety of opinion, and receptivity. Read about their work here:
Why am I bringing these companies up? Surely their ideas are pertinent to Twitter, the company I run and am tweeting about at length.
We don’t yet know if those are the right indicators of conversation health for Twitter. And we don’t yet know how best to measure them, or the best ways to help people increase individual, community, and ultimately, global public health.
What we know is we must commit to a rigorous and independently vetted set of metrics to measure the health of public conversation on Twitter. And we must commit to sharing our results publicly to benefit all who serve the public conversation.
You’ll know definitely when we’re doing a terrible job! Which is very, very different from now, where you feel an instinctual queasiness from using our product.
We simply can’t and don’t want to do this alone. So we’re seeking help by opening up an RFP process to cast the widest net possible for great ideas and implementations. This will take time, and we’re committed to providing all the necessary resources. RFP:
We’re not equipped to make the thing we made something people can safely use.
We’re going to get a lot of feedback on this thread and these ideas, and we intend to work fast to learn from and share the ongoing conversations. @Vijaya, @mrdonut and I will do a Periscope next week to share more details and answer questions.
Remember our live-streaming service Periscope? One second thought, please don’t remember Periscope.
Thanks for taking the time to read and consider, and also, come help us:
We’ve all been trying, Jack.