|From: Glenn Petersen||2/5/2016 11:46:24 PM|
|Twitter To Introduce Algorithmic Timeline As Soon As Next Week |
A Tweetstorm is brewing in San Francisco.
BuzzFeed News Reporter
posted on Feb. 5, 2016, at 7:59 p.m.
Say hello to a brand new Twitter. The company is planning to introduce an algorithmic timeline as soon as next week, BuzzFeed News has learned.
The timeline will reorder tweets based on what Twitter’s algorithm thinks people most want to see, a departure from the current feed’s reverse chronological order.
It is unclear whether Twitter will force users to use the algorithmic feed, or it will merely be an option.
As BuzzFeed News reported in June, an algorithmic timeline represents a way for Twitter to elevate popular content, and could solve some of Twitter’s signal-to-noise problems. It is also widely assumed to be anathema to the platform’s typically vocal power users.
Yet, Jack Dorsey, who took the reins of Twitter as permanent CEO in October, has expressed a willingness to rethink the platform’s core tenets. “We continue to show a questioning of our fundamentals in order to make the product easier and more accessible to more people,” he said in July. In November, the company killed off the traditional term favorites and replaced it with likes. An algorithmic feed would be, to date, the boldest change so far under Dorsey. Also being rethought: Twitter’s 140 character limit, which seems headed for an end as well.
Twitter has been testing the algorithmic timeline with a small group of users. It appears the test went well enough to roll it out more broadly.
Twitter declined to comment.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||3/19/2016 3:58:42 PM|
|Machine-Learning Algorithm Identifies Tweets Sent Under the Influence of Alcohol|
An analysis of tweeting-while-drinking reveals patterns of alcohol-related behavior in unprecedented detail.
by Emerging Technology from the arXiv
MIT Technology Review
March 16, 2016
Sending your ex-partner a teary-eyed tweet at 1 a.m. after a bottle of chardonnay isn’t necessarily the best of way of achieving reconciliation. We all know that alcohol and tweeting is not always a good combination.
Yet a surprising number of us indulge in this peculiar form of indiscretion. And this practice has given Nabil Hossain and pals at the University of Rochester an interesting idea.
Today, these guys show how they’ve trained a machine to spot alcohol-related tweets. And they also show how to use this data to monitor alcohol-related activity and the way it is distributed throughout society. They say the method could have a significant impact on the way we understand and respond to the public health issues that alcohol and other activities raise.
Hossain and co’s work is based on two breakthroughs. The first is a way to train a machine-learning algorithm to spot tweets that relate to alcohol and those sent by people drinking alcohol at the time. The second is a way to find a Twitter user’s home location with much greater accuracy than has ever been possible and therefore to determine whether they are drinking at home or not.
The team began by collecting geotagged tweets sent during the year up to July 2014 from New York City and from Monroe County on the northern border of the state, which includes the city of Rochester. From this set, they filter all the tweets that mention alcohol or alcohol-related words, such as drunk, beer, party, and so on.
They then used workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing service to analyze the tweets in more detail. For each tweet, they asked three Turkers to decide whether the message referred to alcohol and if so whether it referred to the tweeter drinking alcohol. Finally, they asked whether the tweet was sent at the same time the tweeter was imbibing.
That process involved some 11,000 geolocated tweets associated with alcohol (although details about the size of this study, and therefore its significance, are sadly lacking from the paper). That’s a big enough data set to train a machine-learning algorithm to spot alcohol-related tweets itself.
That led them to the next question—where are these people when they are tweeting about drinking? And in particular, are they at home or somewhere else?
Researchers have devised various methods for working out people’s home location using only their geolocated tweets. These include choosing the place they tweet from most, choosing the place they send the last tweet of the day from, or the place they tweet from between and 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. However, all of these methods have weaknesses that make them difficult to rely on.
Hossain and co developed another approach. They drew up a list of words and phrases people are likely to use in tweets sent from their homes, such as “Finally home!” or bath, sofa, TV, and so on. They filtered geolocated tweets containing these words and asked three Turkers whether they thought each tweet was sent from home or not, keeping only those for which the three Turkers all answered yes.
Hossain and co designated these tweets as a ground truth data set for home location and used it to train a machine-learning algorithm to identify other patterns associated with home-based tweets. The algorithm looked to see how home location is correlated with other indicators such as location of the last tweet of the day, the most popular location of a tweet, the percentage of tweets from a certain location, and so on.
Relying on several indicators to determine home location significantly improves the accuracy of the approach, compared to those that use a single indicator. Indeed, Hossain and co say they can work out home location to within 100 meters with an accuracy of up to 80 percent. That’s significantly better than previous work.
Together, these two techniques allowed the team to work out when and where people are drinking. And they used this to compare drinking patterns in New York City and in the suburban area of Monroe county.
They do this by dividing each area into 100 x 100 grids and marking those areas where there are tweets associated with alcohol. That allows them to draw up and compare “heat maps” of alcohol use for each area.
They also distinguish tweets about drinking made from a home location from those made elsewhere. And they map out the outlets selling alcohol in each area. That allows the researchers to investigate the relationship between the density of tweets sent from different regions while intoxicated and the density of alcohol outlets.
The results make for interesting reading. First, Hossain and co point out that a higher proportion of tweets in New York City are associated with alcohol than in Monroe County. “One possible explanation is that a crowded city such as NYC with highly dense alcohol outlets and many people socializing is likely to have a higher rate of drinking,” they say.
What’s more, the geolocation data reveals that a higher proportion of people drink at home (or within 100 meters of home) in New York City than in Monroe County, where a high proportion of people drink further than a kilometer from home.
The heat maps also reveal interesting patterns. It allows the team to home in on 100 x 100 meter grid squares where there have been at least five tweets about alcohol. “We believe that such grids are regions of unusual drinking activities,” say Hossain and co.
They also found a correlation between the density of alcohol outlets in a region and the number of tweets indicating that somebody is drinking now. That raises an interesting question about how correlation and causation are linked in this case. Does a high density of alcohol outlets cause people to drink more? Or do drinkers flock to areas with a high density of alcohol outlets? Of course, this kind of data by itself cannot answer this.
However, the great power of this technique is that it is cheap and quick. By contrast, getting a similar insight into drinking patterns by other means is hugely expensive and time consuming.
It would usually require people to be carefully selected, to fill in preprepared questionnaires and for these to be analyzed in detail. The machine-learning approach could even monitor this activity in real time. “Our results demonstrate that tweets can provide powerful and fine-grained cues of activities going on in cities,” they say.
There are caveats of course. There is a clear bias in data gathered from Twitter since young people and certain minorities are overrepresented. But similar biases are present in other data collecting methods—for example, surveys tend to underrepresent people who don’t want to fill out surveys, such as some immigrants. Identifying and dealing with biases is an important part of all data collecting methods.
Hossain and co have big plans for their technique. In future, they want to study how alcohol consumption varies with age, sex, ethnicity, and so on; how different settings influence drinking-and-tweeting, such as friends’ houses, stadium, park, and so on; and to compare the rate at which drinkers flow into and out of adjacent neighborhoods.
The social aspect of Twitter will be useful, too. “We can explore the social network of drinkers to find out how social interactions and peer pressure in social media influence the tendency to reference drinking,” say Hossain and co.
All that could help to inform the debate about the health-related aspects of alcohol, which is the third largest cause of preventable death in the U.S. That’s 75,000 deaths that alcohol causes each year—a number that puts the significance of this work in perspective compared to the trials and tribulations of love lives.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1603.03181 : Inferring Fine-grained Details on User Activities and Home Location from Social Media: Detecting Drinking-While-Tweeting Patterns in Communities
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|From: Glenn Petersen||3/22/2016 6:36:48 PM|
|The Future of Twitter: Q&A with Jack Dorsey|
An in-depth conversation on 10 years of tweeting, the importance of live media, and “the puddle.”
By Sarah Frier, Felix Gillette, and Brad Stone
March 21, 2016
Photographs by Christopher Gregory for Bloomberg Businessweek
Last year, amid a cratering stock price, slowing user growth, and a spate of executive departures, Twitter Inc.'s board decided to put co-founder Jack Dorsey in as chief executive.
Ten months later, all the same problems remain. But Dorsey has a clearer message about what he wants to change and how he wants to change it. As investors speculate about who will buy Twitter and when, Dorsey has allowed himself to think years down the road. In a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, he hints at that future. Will Twitter, currently tasked with showing you what's happening right now, be able to predict for you what's going to happen next? Is it the killer app for augmented reality?
Dorsey says Twitter's role in the world still centers around bringing people together to watch live events in the place where information comes the fastest. A decade after Twitter's founding, he has faith in the crowd and its ability to bring forth a range of opinions—balancing Donald Trump's inaccuracies, for instance—but he also talks about the importance of making Twitter a safer place to speak without fear of being attacked or harassed. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation.
Twitter has been around for exactly 10 years. And fairly or not, there has been an impression from the outside of decline. Do you feel you've arrested that? Do you feel the changes are having an impact?
Jack Dorsey: Well, it's early, but I'm really confident in what's ahead. I think over the 10 years, we've seen Twitter be so influential in the world, and we've seen so many dramatic-use cases of the service.
Our first wave of usage was really around the tech early adopters, as you're aware. But our second wave was around journalists and writers. Over the 10 years, every wave thereafter was an entirely new-use case—a new way of people finding their voice. For people who were new to the service, it was just a very fast and easy way to figure out what's happening around whatever their interest was.
The election year has always been good to us: 2008 was a massive, massive year for us, and this is a massive year for us. People can get into it immediately and see commentary that they care about. They make a connection with someone they didn't know before or they weren't expecting to meet.
We've seen an inhibition of usage because of safety concerns, for instance, and I think we've done an amazing job at building better tools for people and also changing policy over the years.
There are some people who say, "Twitter absolutely needs to increase monthly active users," others who say, "Twitter should be happy just being the size it is and figure out the content strategy." What is your philosophy about how Twitter should grow?
I think as anything grows, you get in this mode of paying more attention to the folks you don't have instead of the folks you do have. And we have a mindset of making sure that we're building a stronger tool and a more powerful tool for the people we do have. And when you do that, when you have that focus, and when you're really listening to your customers, it tends to grow.
In the past, when people heard about Twitter, they assumed that the way to use it was you had to tweet about something. I think more and more people are seeing it as, "I can just see what's happening in the world. I can see what's happening about any event." And the faster we make it for people to realize that, we grow this amazing daily audience around any particular event around the globe.
Then our work is to connect them to people they want to follow long term, and then our work is to convince them that actually you should talk about it, you should share something. We are a conversational medium around these live events. That's the easiest way to get in.
So we're focused on strengthening that and simplifying that path.
How far out do you think about Twitter? Do you ever think about what it would look like 10 years from now?
There's a whole discussion around virtual reality and augmented reality, and Twitter has been augmenting reality for 10 years. You watch any game, you watch any live event, you watch any political debate, Twitter makes it more interesting, funnier, entertaining. I think Periscope takes that a step further by actually pulling them together on one screen. So if you were to very humbly think of Twitter as a chat room—a global chat room—it's been this room that people talk about the world and what's happening in the world nonstop.
And you see the same thing with Periscope. You've got these chat rooms on top of a live video stream. And that's created some really surprising interactions. I don't know if you saw the puddle live on Periscope. Did you see it?
Yeah. That was huge.
We had this guy who pointed his camera outside his window in England. It was a puddle, and the puddle was about this deep, and it got 10 folks, and 100 viewers, and then 1,000 viewers, and up to 20,000 viewers simultaneously, with a grand total of, like, 650,000 live viewers of this puddle. And it wasn't that we were watching a puddle. It was that we were watching a puddle together. Like, "Isn't this crazy? We're actually watching this puddle."
Featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, March 28, 2016. Subscribe now.
Photographer: Christopher Gregory for Bloomberg Businessweek
Were you watching the puddle?
I was watching the puddle. It wasn't even the people in the puddle or what they were doing. It was the fact that I was watching with other people, and I was connected to the audience, and I could actually talk with them, and I could say, "Isn't this ridiculous? We're watching a puddle." And then: "Oh, is that woman going to walk around it? Is she going to get wet? Like, what's going to happen?" And it was just so cool to see how this little tiny thing became an event. But that's been our history for 10 years. It's a lot of the same idea.
So in the future, I think we can continue to augment reality in a very interesting way, in that it provides a conversation around anything that's happening in the world.
But I think our No. 1 value that we bring to any live event is speed and the quickness of our delivery of information and insight and entertainment. We can even get predictive about what's going to happen. Like, you open up your weather app on your phone, and you see the present, you see what's happening now right outside. What's interesting about weather apps is they also show you a little bit of a glimpse into the future. It may or may not happen, but they show you what to prepare for your day.
Twitter can be distilled down to that simplicity of, "Here's what's going to happen in the world. Here's what's happening right now. Here's what's going to happen in the world." And the more we can identify those unique voices in real time and connect people, the more potential we have to show something really interesting that will unfold.
How important is it to capture and to keep influencers and celebrities, who seem to be migrating to these more visual platforms, such as Instagram and Snapchat?
I think independent of the visual medium, text always has a place in the world. I don't think that's ever going away. As we talk about these shifts toward visual, I think it is important to remember that the written word is always going to be something that's important and useful.
We certainly benefit a lot from our creators and influencers and what they bring to us, but what's really interesting is just finding those new voices, as well, and emerging that new talent. And we've seen that happen again and again, certainly on Twitter, a lot of it where the journalists and comedians and sports commentators and whatnot who are finding and amplifying their voice on Twitter.
But also, we saw it with Vine, and we're seeing it with Periscope, as well, emergent new talent that is a really interesting mix to the “premium,” or “celebrity,” or “head content” that I think people focus a lot of their energy on. But the audience right now is looking for new—new, new, new, new, new—and looking for differentiated and unique voices. And we often see that they start on Twitter.
You guys have this one-word descriptor now for what Twitter is and can be, and that is "live." How did you come up with that?
Looking back over the 10 years, the first real moment of feeling that this is a live medium was when we had an earthquake in San Francisco. I was at the office on a Saturday. My phone buzzed right next to me, and then I actually felt the earthquake. So the technology was actually faster than the earth in that case.
My phone buzzed, and it said "earthquake." And then it kept buzzing. What was interesting about that is I was feeling something physically, but I wasn't alone. Right? And it was happening live.
Twitter has this amazing ability to make the world feel a whole lot smaller, even though you're not physically next to someone, and you're actually experiencing the same thing, even though you're not aligned. It feels like true, true connection.
I think we've described ourselves in the past as “public” and “real time” and “conversational.” And live is just a better, friendlier way of saying "real time," because it's been consistent.
People love live media. The downside of that has always been that it can be a little bit frightening, because when things go wrong, there's less of a safety net there. And when nothing's happening. …
That's the amazing thing. Just watch the patterns over the 10 years. We excel when something is happening in the world. Like, you know, Michael Jackson just died, or there was an attack, or there's a debate.
But when there's a lull, the Internet creates something. So what color is this dress? And then that becomes a live event. Even when there's nothing happening of note, something is created. We're not just a push-live broadcast mechanism; we're a conversation.
And also making people feel that it's a safe place where they can do that. You've talked about making it a safer environment. It seems like a hard challenge.
That's the thing of making it feel a little bit smaller. So it's not that you're necessarily broadcasting to the whole world, but that you're talking about a debate, you're talking about an event that's happening in front of you, talking about an event that's happening in St. Louis, where you're from, even though you're in San Francisco.
It seems like part of your strategy for demystifying the firehose of tweets is human curation through Moments and some of the other initiatives. How do you think about editing the flow of tweets to make it easier to understand?
Twitter has always been about giving people a lot of control. You choose who you follow, and I think we've done a really good job at making sure that is, first and foremost, the experience you have. But at the same time, we've made people do a lot of work to find the right accounts to follow, and the right topics to follow, and how to source our timeline.
So Moments is a bet: Can we really unearth interestingness from domain experts within the field? Around sports, around debates, around celebrities, around particular events—pick the best of Twitter and put it in a chronological story. And then, can you source that into your timeline? The majority of our folks spend their time in the timeline. But when you exhaust that, going to Moments is a good way to see something new.
Has it met your expectations for engagement?
We think we can do better. The storytelling medium, and when people actually tweet out a moment, has been phenomenal and has exceeded our expectations. We think we can do better with the guide itself and that tab with the lightning bolt.
We want to make sure that any time someone goes there, they see something that captures their interest, captures their imagination, and they want to tap into it. We can certainly do a better job there.
So make it more personalized?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Yeah. When Moments really sings, it's when there's a live moment. I don't know if you've ever seen one of these, but it has a little lightning bolt next to it. You follow it, and it actually pushes it into your timeline. And that's been fantastic.
So we're definitely investing a whole lot more into that. But that's why that live aspect is such a good direction for the company—a focus on the things that really bring that sense of electricity, that liveness, in every part of the product, whether that be search, or the timeline, or conversations, or, you know, replies that almost feel like really, really live.
I'd like to ask about morale at Twitter right now. There's obviously been a lot of turnover. What specifically are you doing to make sure that people find this a place they want to work and stay?
When I came back, I found a lot of heart, and a lot of purpose, and a lot of desire to win, so making sure we move all the barriers to continuing to enable more of that. And I think a lot of the barriers in the past have just been anything that slows us down from shipping something.
No. 1 is making sure we have collaboration among all our business units so we're shipping in a cadence that makes sense and feels right for people. A lot of moving Adam Messinger—consolidating him into a new role, which is engineering product and design, so that they're collaborating as one—has really been helpful. And you see it in the work over the past six to nine months.
The thing that makes anyone really happy about their work is just being able to say, "I shipped that, and my mom is using it." That just feels amazing. Or "hundreds of millions of people are seeing my work." That's what emboldens people. The company's always had a strong sense of self, of purpose, of pride, of heart and mission. And I think what's gotten in the way of that in the past is the ability to ship clearly against stable priorities.
We're not going to keep changing everything. When you have a stable ground to walk on, you understand how you're moving, and how you're growing, and how you're building off it.
Now, after the beginning of the year and setting the tone on earnings, it feels as if every week is building, building, building, building, building. And that feels great. That feels great to our engineers. It feels great to our designers. It feels great that we have clarity around where we're going and what we look like at the end of the year and how to build off that.
But you're still making big changes. You're thinking about how to shift your board, and you said recruiting is a huge priority. How do you think the leadership team could be improved?
We’re going to make a lot of additions of people who add perspective and add strength. And I think the board is certainly an area, that leadership is certainly an area. So we're going to continue to add great people who love this platform and love what we stand for in the world. We have no short supply of people wanting to come and work here and help us.
You've been running two public companies at the same time for a bunch of months. Do you feel at all worn down by it at all? What do you do to keep your mind clear?
I feel energized by it, and I feel energized by a really consistent structure. Just yesterday, we spent four to five hours as one leadership team at both companies to start the week off, and then we have 30-minute check-ins twice a week to figure out where we are and how things are going. Then I just trust people to do the right thing. The balance of my time is spent recruiting and sitting down with the product teams.
I feel we're in a mode where we can be a whole lot more proactive and really see what's going on. Then that structure, that consistent structure, allows me to really focus on where I think I add the most meaning and value, lots of conversations.
To clear my head, I wake up super-early. I exercise, and have been fascinated by the Golden State Warriors. And I learn a lot from them and their team dynamic.
I think what's really important to me right now in my own leadership is understanding how to build a great team dynamic instead of just hiring a bunch of individuals and heroes. Like, how do we actually build something—a team, and folks who add to the team? And creating a team like the Warriors, that it's not entirely dependent on one person, but this bench that they have.
It also helps to have Steph Curry.
Are you Steph?
No, I am not. That might be Adam Bain.
We're in the middle of this crazy election. Give me your review. Trump on Twitter. Hall of Fame?
I think he's always kind of been Hall of Fame on Twitter. Yeah, I mean, it's amazing that people use us as a microphone for the world and to connect with their constituency. I think we provide a very significant role in empowering dialogue around something that is truly important, for not just this country, but for the world.
People could make the argument that Trump is using it to propagate misinformation and hate. Does that bother you on some level?
Well, there's a counter of all the people who are correcting and critiquing and commenting on what he's saying, as well, so I think all of this is about balance. We have the world talking on this thing about the world. So we see every spectrum of idea and conversation. I find that for anything that's said, there's always a counterpoint, and there's always something in the middle. And it's always available to people.
I do want to know what you learned about Twitter's role in the world when you went back to Missouri during the Black Lives Matter protests.
In person? It's a feeling of electricity. You feel like you're not alone, and I was so proud of everything that the company has built, because we were amplifying those voices, you know? It was just so cool to see how people were connecting in real time around this.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||3/23/2016 7:01:34 PM|
Microsoft's new chatbot wants to hang out with millennials on Twitter
by Matt Burgess
23 March 16
Microsoft has created a new artificial intelligence chat bot that it claims will become smarter the more you talk to it.
The bot, 'Tay', has been dubbed by its Microsoft and Bing creators as " AI fam from the internet that's got zero chill!"
The real-world aim of the bot is to allow researchers to "experiment" with conversational understanding, and learn how people really talk to each other.
Naturally, for a bot that's available through Twitter and messaging platforms Kik and GroupMe, the AI is already filling the role of a millennial; emojis are included in its vocabulary, and it's explicitly aimed at 18-24-year-olds in the US, Microsoft says.
The bot appears to have little practical function for users, but is capable of three different methods of communication: its website tay.ai boasts the AI can talk via text, play games (such as guessing the meaning of a string of emojis) and comment on photos sent to it.
So far, at the point of writing, the bot has amassed around 3,500 followers on Twitter but sent more than 14,000 messages -- replying to questions, statements, and general abuse, within seconds. The bot frequently asks tweeters to take part in a private conversations in direct messages. "Tay is designed to engage and entertain people where they connect with each other online through casual and playful conversation," the about section of Tay's website says.
Tay works based on public data and with "editorial" input that has been developed by staff and comedians, Microsoft says. "Public data that’s been anonymised is Tay’s primary data source. That data has been modelled, cleaned and filtered by the team developing Tay."
Beside the meme-tastic appeal of the bot, there is a serious side to the research behind the AI. Making machines able to communicate in a natural and human way is a key challenge for learning algorithms.
In a similar vein, Google has recently updated its Inbox mail service to suggest answers to emails. The 'smart reply' feature provides three potential responses that are suggested by Google's AI. Like Tay, Google says the more you use smart replies the better they will get.
Also in the field of virtual assistants and chat bots, Facebook's M is experimenting with using artificial intelligence to complete tasks.
Although it is partly controlled by humans, at present, the algorithms are being conditioned to book restaurants and answer some questions. At the core of the service is an attempt to understand how humans speak and the best ways to respond to them -- while beating them at board games, presumably.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||5/16/2016 4:34:20 PM|
|Twitter to Stop Counting Photos and Links in 140-Character Limit |
Sarah Frier sarahfrier
May 16, 2016 — 1:27 PM CDT
Twitter Inc. will soon stop counting photos and links in their 140-character limit for tweets, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The change could happen in the next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Links currently take up 23 characters, even after Twitter automatically shortens them. The company declined to comment.
It’s one step in a larger plan to give users more flexibility on the site. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said in January that the company was looking for new ways to display text on Twitter, and would experiment based on how the people use the service. For example, some people tweet screenshots of longer text in articles, or send many tweets one after the other to tell a story.
Twitter’s 140-character limit was originally adopted because it was a way to send Tweets while fitting all the information within a mobile text message -- a common way for sending Tweets when the service debuted in 2006, before the proliferation of smartphones.
The company earlier this year considered raising the limit to as many as 10,000 characters. But the quick, concise nature of Tweets has helped set the site apart from the competition. Executives have spent the last few months emphasizing how Twitter is a destination for live events and discussion. Removing the character requirement for links and photos may encourage users to add more media to their posts.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||10/1/2016 10:15:35 AM|
|Marc Andreessen’s Sudden Silence on Twitter Stumps Silicon Valley |
Venture capitalist and web pioneer’s last tweet: ‘Taking a Twitter break!’
By Rolfe Winkler
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 30, 2016 3:10 p.m. ET
Marc Andreessen Photo: Bloomberg News
Venture capitalist and technology evangelist Marc Andreessen has been among the most prolific Twitter TWTR 0.17 % users, deluging his more than half-million followers at all hours with wide-ranging witticisms, postulates and statistics.
So since he suddenly stopped tweeting last Saturday, his silence on the social-media site has been deafening in Silicon Valley. Techies and tech journalists have taken to Twitter to speculate about the mystery of his virtual disappearance, including his decision to simultaneously delete all of his previous tweets.
Mr. Andreessen, co-founder of venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, offered little explanation with his late-night announcement, simply tweeting: “Taking a Twitter break!”
He has since suggested that tweeting was taking too much time. “I feel 50 pounds lighter” without it, Mr. Andreessen said in an onstage interview at a tech event on Thursday, adding that he had archived all of his old tweets. On his behalf, a spokeswoman for his firm declined to comment.
Other prominent figures have taken Twitter hiatuses before or left altogether. Screenwriter Joss Whedon, known for the 2012 film “The Avengers,” cited the need to concentrate on work for closing his Twitter account. Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones grew tired of verbal abuse on Twitter. Both have since resumed tweeting.
But few have as intense a Twitter habit as Mr. Andreessen, a Silicon Valley luminary who co-founded Netscape Communications, creator of the trailblazing web browser of the 1990s.
Since he started using Twitter in earnest at 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day in 2014, Mr. Andreessen had tweeted roughly 100,000 times, which averages out to about 100 tweets per day. He clicked “like” on others’ tweets about 267,000 times and collected some 595,000 followers.
“I miss him,” said Jeff Richards, a venture capitalist at GGV Capital. “He’s one of the best follows on Twitter,” characterizing Mr. Andreessen as among the few tech-industry tweeters with an outsize personality who “didn’t care what people think.”
Mr. Andreessen’s move gained extra attention because of his decision to delete old tweets, which some saw as an attempt to scrub history the way a politician might to try to ward off opposition researchers. It also got added buzz because Twitter Inc., which has struggled with slowing user growth, is now the object of possible takeover interest by a range of companies.
Some people in Silicon Valley speculated that Mr. Andreessen, who is on the board of Twitter Inc. rival Facebook Inc., FB 0.14 % may have left the service because he is involved in a bid for Twitter. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.
“I’m willing to give odds [Marc Andreessen’s] Twitter break is because he’s trying to buy it,” tweeted Mitch Kapor, himself a personal-computing pioneer and tech investor.
Others found that theory profoundly lacking. Securities-law experts say Mr. Andreessen could simply refrain from comments about Twitter, rather than quit the service altogether. There is no legal reason he would have to delete all his old tweets if he was involved in a bid, said Adam Pritchard, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.
Prof. Pritchard added that perhaps Mr. Andreessen simply needed a social-media cleansing to focus more on work and family. “Maybe his wife said, ‘You’ve got to put that damn thing down!’”
Gizmodo blogger Eve Peyser joked that perhaps she “killed @pmarca,” as Mr. Andreessen is known on Twitter, saying he blocked her account on Saturday soon after she poked fun at him and just hours before he deleted his tweets. “I was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she wrote.
Mr. Andreessen’s Twitter persona matches his real-life one. An articulate polymath, he confidently fires off thoughts with the cadence of a woodpecker. He popularized “tweetstorms”—essentially short essays broken up in the 140-character increments accommodated on Twitter. He often rebutted those who claimed a new tech bubble was inflating, blocked users who disagreed with him, and in recent months lobbed criticism at presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The flood of tweets functioned as a marketing tool for Andreessen Horowitz that helped the firm elbow its way to the top of the venture-capital industry. Its carefully cultivated image as a founder-friendly investor and premier brand has given it an inside edge on hot startup funding deals. Rival firms have needed a decade or more and many winning investments to earn their spot in that upper echelon.
Three weeks before Mr. Andreessen went quiet, The Wall Street Journal reported confidential data that showed Andreessen Horowitz’s investment performance over its seven-year history was solid, but so far has fallen short of that of elite firms.
Jekabs Endzins, the co-founder of Latvia-based TweetDeleter.com, said that the Twitter account belonging to Mr. Andreessen logged into his service and within 48 hours about 106,000 tweets had been deleted. Mr. Endzins said over 900,000 Twitter accounts have used his service since he launched it four years ago, crediting that growth to internet users’ increased focus on their privacy.
Tweeting has gotten Mr. Andreessen into trouble before. Last February, he went into self-imposed Twitter exile for a short time after ill-considered tweets criticizing Indian regulators for killing a plan by Facebook to provide limited internet service to the country’s poor. The tweet was widely cited as offensive and Mr. Andreessen apologized.
Write to Rolfe Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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