Category Archives: Annoyances

Long-Form Twitter: WHY OH WHY?

Twitter is suited for short statements and back-and-forth conversation.

It’s terrible for anything long-form.

Long Twitter threads* and images filled with text remind me of the old tech support days when users would paste screen shots of error messages into Microsoft Word documents and email me the document. It was a terrible tool for the job, but it was the one they knew.

Once you get past two or three tweets (doesn’t matter whether they’re 140 characters or 280, it’s the structure that matters), your ideas will hang together better and be better understood if you write an actual article somewhere. Sadly, Twitter has trained people to stay in Twitter instead of going outside to read the %#$ article**, because you won’t be able to get back to where you were in your timeline, and besides, that’s just too long to read right now.

And that would require you to have, like a blog or something, and what sort of weirdo has one of those? 🙄

So people use what they know, and we get screenshots of long paragraphs that are awful for accessibility. And we get 40-tweet threads that people only see fragments of and take bits out of context. And they’ll reply to tweet #5 complaining about something that’s addressed in tweet #12, but they didn’t see it, because that was hidden behind the “read more” link, and how long does this thread go, anyway? (Scroll bars solved this problem decades ago.) And we get links to articles that people don’t read, but they reply to them anyway — or rather they reply to what they assume was in them.

Which I suppose is what we had in the old days, I mean “nobody reads the articles” was a joke on Slashdot 20 years ago. But it’s still frustrating.

Update: I realized I don’t see this so much on Mastodon. I wonder if that’s one of the ways the culture is different, or if I just happen to not be following anyone who writes/boosts long threads on a regular basis, or if 500-character posts give people enough room to breathe that they don’t feel like they’re already writing a long chain, so why worry about keeping the number of posts down, what’s the difference between 10 tweets and 15?

*To clarify, I’m talking about long threads that are effectively one piece of writing, not a series of “oh, and another thing” follow-ups, live-tweeting as things come up, actual conversations, etc.

**This part is true of Facebook as well.

GPS Navigation Options We Need

GPS navigation options we need:

  • I know how to get to the freeway from home.
  • I know how to get home from the freeway.
  • Don’t send me down someone else’s narrow residential streets just to save two minutes.

If I’m trying to get somewhere other than home after work, I’ll use GPS to get an idea of the time remaining and the fastest route. Since I’d rather avoid the freeway during rush hour, it keeps trying to send me on these zigzag paths through residential neighborhoods to avoid backed-up arteries or just avoid busy intersections. I used to follow those routes, but after a while I started noticing other cars ahead of me that were clearly doing the same thing. It’s not just one car being added to that lumpy narrow road with lots of driveways, stop signs, kids on bikes and people taking out the trash. It’s a lot of cars. And of course we’re following the same apps drawing from the same data, so we’re all taking the same side streets, not spread out among all of them.

If there’s a big difference, that’s one thing, but for two or three minutes? What’s the point?

Of course the avigation app seems so testy when I decline to be part of the problem, and it has to keep recalculating…

The Lesser Evil of Selfie Sticks

I’ve known about portrait distance for a while, and often thought that was a downside of using fixed-lens phone cameras for portraits. To frame someone’s face in a phone you have to either zoom (losing detail) or hold it close enough that the viewing angles distort the face. I prefer using my phone for long shots and using a camera with an optical zoom for portraits.

Unexpected consequence: Selfies are now a major source of young people’s self-image…which is distorted, leading them to feel worse about themselves and even seek out plastic surgery.

The researchers looked specifically at selfies taken from 12 inches away — a common distance for someone snapping a selfie without the assistance of a selfie stick. In a selfie taken from that distance, men’s noses appear 30 percent wider and women’s noses appear 29 percent wider than they actually are.

I think we can all agree that selfie sticks are a lesser evil than unnecessary cosmetic surgery!

Update: From the Facebook comments, here’s a link to a series of portraits taken at distances ranging from 2 meters down to 20 cm, demonstrating how different your face looks at each distance.

Searching Your Twitter History: Case of the Missing Context

One of the problems with Twitter’s search capability is that the results are isolated.

I’ve said before that one of the keys to making a social account feel like I own it is that I can find things in it if I want to go back later. You can search your old Twitter posts by adding your username to the query in the regular search form, but it only shows you the matching results, not other posts that might be connected.

If you click on it you can get an actual conversation thread…but only those tweets that are connected as replies, so if you didn’t thread a tweetstorm properly, or if you had a big sprawling conversation with lots of different people, sometimes replying and sometimes posting something new…you can’t see the rest of it.

Worse, if you go back far enough, Twitter doesn’t even have threading. You might see “@friend Inconceivable!” but have no idea what they were saying that you replied to. (And that doesn’t even get into old shortlink and image providers that have shut down, removing content from your post as well.)

I have similar issues with Instagram, which basically has no real search, only hashtag-based timelines to go along with the account-based timelines. In both cases, when you get to a specific post, it’s a dead end. You can’t see anything around it without going back to the author’s profile, even if that author is you. Though depending on how you clicked on the Instagram link, you might get back/forward links.

(This is true for Mastodon as well, but to be fair, Mastodon is still building its search capabilities.)

WordPress, on the other hand, not only usually has next/previous links on each post, but you can view archives by category, tag, month and (for some permalink structures) day. When you find a post, you can see what’s around it. You can get more in the admin interface, but even as a visitor, you can still get the context.

Ordering Photo Prints: Not Quite Interoperable

On the plus side: I was able to order photo prints while hundreds of miles from home on a business trip, and my wife was able to pick them up from the store the next day, which is pretty cool.

On the minus side: It was a heck of a lot harder than it should be by now.

  1. I went through Google Photos on my tablet and selected a bunch of photos by adding them to an album.
  2. I tried to upload them to the CVS photo website, but Chrome can’t upload photos from a Google Photos Album. This is on Google.
  3. I tried to install the CVS app, but it wasn’t compatible with my tablet. Not sure who to blame for this one.
  4. I installed the CVS app on my phone and tried to upload the photos from there, only to find that it had fewer options for uploading than the website.
  5. I got onto a laptop, downloaded a ZIP of the entire album, and uploaded it to the CVS website…only to discover during checkout that CVS is no longer offering same-day pickup at any locations near home — even though they’re plugging it all over the website and through the photo ordering process. So basically they’re lying about it. (Or maybe all the photo printers in a 10-mile radius broke down simultaneously. I mean, it could happen.)
  6. I finally set up an account with Walgreen’s, noticed their website clearly uses the same software as CVS’s, but tried anyway. I uploaded the photos, placed the order, selected a local store, and even put in my wife’s name as an authorized person who wasn’t me to come pick them up. Available the next morning. Done. Took maybe 5 minutes.

But it was a freaking pain to get to that point.