Twitter Moments: Still on the Fence

A few weeks ago, Twitter added a new section to their app and website.  Called “Moments,” it’s designed to be a place to keep up with things happening in the world.  Moments includes everything from political news to entertainment to internet trends.  The idea is that Twitter pulls together interesting tweets on a topic.  It’s meant to be a way of sorting through all the noise on Twitter and discovering good content.  If it’s coverage of a live event, you can “follow” it, and tweets will show up in your timeline just for the duration of the event.  Sounds cool.  However, my experience has been mixed.

Let’s start with the good.  After the attacks on Paris last weekend, Twitter had a moment showing the responses to that.  It was cool, and I genuinely feel like it helped inform me about what happened.  So after using Moments last weekend, I decided that I liked it and I would try to keep up with it.  And that’s where my interest began to wane.  When there isn’t a major breaking news story going on, Twitter Moments are kind of… boring.

At least the ones meant to be serious news are.  There are plenty of other silly ones – usually under the “Fun” tab – that are still, well fun.  Things like the trending hashtag #IWouldSleepMoreBut (spoiler: college and Netflix are prime offenders).  And some of the news stories are interesting, even if they’re not groundbreaking.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Twitter Moments needs to decide what it wants to be.  I thought it was pretty good for breaking news, but the problem is there isn’t always news breaking.  When that’s the case, it can just be a fun distraction to kill a few minutes while waiting on the bus.  I think it’d be cool if they had a Breaking News section that was truly only for breaking news.  What I mean is that a lot of the time, this would just be empty.  And that’s ok.  What I want them to do is to differentiate between keeping up with stuff that’s happening and just goofing off.  What I don’t like is them having a breaking news section that sometimes has breaking news and other times just has lame filler.  ••

Snapcash: Not Sure I Understand

Last week, the smash hit photo messaging app Snapchat unveiled a new feature: Snapcash.  Snapchat has partnered with Square to add money sending features to Snapchat.  To use this feature, you must be 18 years old, and you must link your debit card to your Snapchat account.  If you’re already scratching your head, I don’t blame you; I was also confused when I first saw this.  In my opinion, there’s two main problems with this feature.

The first problem is Snapchat’s implementation.  I haven’t actually used Snapcash, but from what Snapchat said, it seems all you have to do to send money is type a dollar sign and then an amount, such as “$20,” in a message.  This must be done from the text-only messaging screen, photo captions don’t count.  To me, this seems to make it too easy to send money.  Imagine you’re talking to a friend, and you casually say something like, “Today I was at the store going to buy such and such, but it was $100, so I decided not to.”  As far as I can tell, you’ve just sent that person $100.  I think the send button changes color to indicate that you’re about to send money, but in my opinion there should be at least one other confirmation prompt.  What this actually reminds me of is Amazon.com’s one-click ordering.  It’s convenient, but you have to be very, very, careful.

The other problem I have with Snapcash is a more basic one: it just doesn’t make sense.  Messaging is great, and so is sending money, but I don’t see any overlap here.  I’ve never thought to myself, “You know, it’d be really great if I could send money over Snapchat!”  I commend Snapchat for trying to add features to their service, but I think they may be looking in the wrong place.  Then again, maybe I’m wrong.  Who knows?  This could be good after all.  For now, though, I’m just not sure I get it.  ••

What Comes After the Internet?

Last week I would have looked at that title and laughed.  Nothing comes after the internet, of course; the internet is the future.  Or is it?  Didn’t people say the same thing about TV, and radio?  I just finished reading From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: Disruptive Innovation in the Age of the Internet (which I highly recommend, by the way).  In the book, John Naughton (the author), while admitting that we can’t know for sure where the internet is going, tries to postulate where it’s going by looking at another enormous leap for technology: the printing press.  Turns out, there were doomsayers for the printing press too (they thought an avalanche of books would cheapen their quality), much the same way there are doomsayers for the internet today.  Looking back, we scoff at those who scoffed at the printing press.  Will future generations scoff at us for being afraid of the internet?  Or is the internet so special, so new, and so different that our fears are justified?

I can’t answer that question.  But I can answer the first part of it.  The internet is not different.  It’s just another medium, the same way printing, radio, and TV were before it.  This was the light bulb that hit me this week, the one that made me change my mind about this title.  I’d always thought that the internet would just continue to evolve, never ceasing, never being replaced.  However, the odds of that now seem rather low.  When television first came, it was thought to be the death of radio.  Radio didn’t die, but its heyday was over.  Ironically though, it seems television is also nearing a decline.  The internet is slowly (quickly?) taking over as our primary form of entertainment, but there’s no reason to believe it will last forever.  On the contrary, history indicates that almost everything will slowly become obsolete.

But what will replace the internet?  That’s the flip side of my epiphany: I haven’t the slightest idea.  This seems odd that we know change is so imminent, so sure, but we don’t even have a glimmer as to what it might look like.  I’m sure that, for now, the internet will keep improving (in much the same way television did).  However, at some point, something totally new is bound to come.

That’s what makes the future so exciting!  As I follow the tech world, every day I’m more and more aware of what an electrifying time we live in.  Everything is changing so fast, and we have no way of knowing where we’re going.  But maybe that’s the fun of it.  ••