Twitter Drops Its Egg, The Unintended Avatar Of Harassment

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Since 2010, the default avatar on Twitter has been an egg. The idea apparently was that a new user was like a gestating bird, soon to make its first tweet. It was designed to be playful and cute.

But over time, Twitter’s eggs came to symbolize something different: users who remain shadowy on purpose, to harass their fellow tweeters.

Today, Twitter announced that it was doing away with the egg as its default avatar, opting instead for a nondescript person-shape figure. No more bright colors, either — the new avatar is all gray.

What Should We Make Of The ‘Tweetstorm’ Or ‘Thread,’ Or Whatever You Call It?

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“Threading” is the practice of repeatedly replying to your own tweets on Twitter, without mentioning yourself, in order to create a (usually rapid) series of tweets “threaded” together that can weave a longer narrative than 140 characters ever could. In her piece, Levinson defined manthreading as when men, usually obnoxious men, do it. “They are typically ‘intellectual’ dribblings from men who love Explaining Things To Me (essentially a subtype of Online Mansplaining),” she wrote.

Are threads changing the way we talk?

This is the strange thing about threads, and the good thing, depending on who you ask. They are their own art form. Threads and storms straddle a certain fence, existing somewhere in that space between spoken and written word, often fully punctuated, but just as often full of traits meant to mimic the way we sometimes speak (or yell), like all caps. Jeet Heer, another “manthreader” called out in Levinson’s story, says threading (and really all of Twitter), allows print language to move much closer to what he calls “orality.” For Gretchen McCulloch, an Internet linguist and podcast host, threads are “a new-ish kind of discourse style,” not as stylized as a speech or an essay, and not as fragmentary as a conversation. “They bridge the gap.”

And with that, we end with some tweet thread best practices, from Mignon Fogarty, the podcast host:

1) Take the first tweet very seriously. “The first tweet is the most important,” she says. “In my mind, the first tweet is kind of a combination between a headline and a lede. It has to grab your attention.”

2) Edit yourself. “Like all other writing, it should be as long as it needs to be,” she says, “but usually that’s shorter than the writer thinks.”

If You’re Going To “Quit Twitter,” Don’t Hang Around To Fave

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You know the guy. He is Over Twitter. He swears off Twitter because it’s full of shit opinions, breaking-news terrorism, and puns everyone thought of but no one wanted to be the one to actually say. In other words, it’s an agora full of fools. (Guess what, you and I are the fools.) We don’t get to choose who shows up, but we can try (very often in vain) to filter out what we see. It’s far from perfect, but it’s what we’ve got, and you know, I can’t wait till it’s gone either! Just to see what’s on the other side.

But he is NOT one of those fools. He will not suffer us gladly. This guy is better than, above, superior. He sees Twitter for what it is: an amplifier for humanity’s least charitable opinions on everything from sandwiches to Chrissy Teigen. You know what? This guy is pretty much right. People suck, they say bad things, and megaphones make everything more annoying. So why does he still hang around here?

How to Run a Rogue Government Twitter Account With an Anonymous Email Address and a Burner Phone

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In response, self-described government workers created a wave of rogue Twitter accounts that share real facts (not to be confused with “alternative facts,” otherwise known as “lies”) about climate change and science. As a rule, the people running these accounts chose to remain anonymous, fearing retaliation — but, depending on how they created and use their accounts, they are not necessarily anonymous to Twitter itself, or to anyone Twitter shares data with.

To Tweet Is Human, to Delete Divine

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My creative process is simple. For example, say I am rushing to a meeting near Grand Central, bemoaning the fact that I’m not a morning person. I see a pigeon who has waddled in between two businesspeople waiting in line to buy coffee at a corner cart. Before the conscious part of my brain kicks in, the Twitter app is already open and my fingers are dashing off “A pigeon is waiting in line for coffee between two suits. I guess someone else also finally finished Lean In.”

Within seconds of posting any tweet, I’m checking and rechecking the screen to see what the favorability index is on my random speech bubble. If it’s in the double digits for likes, I tell myself that the West Coast hasn’t risen yet. My best tweet found favor with more than 40,000 people, the worst was deleted. The statistics are undeniably grotesque, yet compelling in their rigid judgment. It’s like a standup comedy set, except the feedback per joke is spread out over a much longer period, and you get specific detail on who responded and can adjust your delusions accordingly re: your “influence.”

It makes me wonder about Donald J. Trump’s Twitter origin story. According to his Twitter account, he has been a member since March 2009 and has tweeted more than 34,000 times. Did he get bitten by a radioactive exclamation point?

A short investigation into the mysterious tweets from press secretary Sean Spicer

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One possibility is that they are passwords, tweeted out as whoever is behind the account gets used to the new security procedures governing it. There are a lot of theories out there on how it might have happened. By far the most likely is that of the Guardian’s Alex Hern, who identified one possible way that could happen, if the @PressSec account has two-factor authentication activated.

Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security for password-protected accounts, and it would be good for the official account of the press secretary for the White House to have it. In fact, it would be good for anyone with a Twitter account to have it. According to a brand-new Pew report on cybersecurity, about 52 percent of Americans have used two-factor at some point to manage an account.

In case you are one of the 48 percent of Americans who haven’t used it, here’s how it works: In addition to entering in a password, two-factor requires users to enter in a randomly generated code that changes with each login, usually sent to your phone through either an app or a text message. For Twitter, those codes are sent via text by default, from a number that should look familiar to any longtime Twitter users: 40404.