This week’s newsletter has lengthy thoughts on Threads and the future of social media. Then I touched a little on the music and entertainment I enjoyed last week. As always, there’s a playlist of ten songs, and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.
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A Few Things
- We rolled out our “Best of 2023 (So Far)” lists early last week. It’s been a pretty solid first half of the year for music, and there’s still a bunch of stuff I’m anticipating for the rest of the year. I’m trying not to dwell on the year being half over already; instead, I’m going to try and enjoy the rest of these summer months and the continued nice weather.
- The week’s big tech news was the launch of Threads. I’ve spent much of my life thinking about and being around social media and communities. I’ll lead by saying I’ve been a pretty vocal critic of Facebook/Meta and their decision-making over the years. I think Facebook is to blame for many of the internet’s current ills. I also despise what’s become of Twitter. So, we have two social media companies run by insufferable billionaires with competing, largely text-based, platforms. Simple concept, one that’s proven popular and fills an obvious market. I signed up on launch; I’m already on Instagram, and the process was straightforward. And my timeline was already full of “stuff” to see, read, and engage with. This is a key (and likely killer) feature for onboarding someone into Threads. Like TikTok, you don’t have to do anything else after signing up to start seeing stuff. Is all of that going to be relevant to you? Probably not. But it removes the problem of most social media platforms: a user signing up and then going, “Ok, now what?” Building on top of the Instagram social graph removes a huge barrier and gives Threads a bootstrapping head start. It’s “valuable” to any Instagram user almost immediately. The app itself is fine. It’s not what I would prefer in an app for this kind of thing (Ivory is). But it’s fine. In my playing around with it over the past few days, I have two main thoughts, the first is on what works, and the second is on what needs to change. Let’s start with what works. The people are here. Joining Mastodon and joining BlueSky, I can find maybe 5% of the people I’m looking for. On Mastodon, it’s a lot of my tech and nerd friends. On BlueSky, it’s a few joke accounts. On Threads, I’d venture almost 90% of the people I’m looking for are there. Music people and bands that never joined Mastodon are there, and they’re posting. Many of the baseball and basketball accounts I follow are there, and they’re posting during games. This is a huge use case for me in a real-time app like this. Social media, and communities, are all about who is on the platform. The value a user gets is directly tied to the people who are there posting on it. I can love Mastodon as much as I want, but if I cannot extract the value I’m looking for from it daily, I’ll use it less. And that’s why I want Threads to succeed if they follow through on their promise to federate with the Fediverse. If that happens, it means I could follow all the accounts in my favorite Mastodon client. I could have the exact experience I want and be able to follow the people I want. This would be a win for a decentralized social network that has a massive number of people on it. Of course, there are downsides to this as well (community moderation at scale being the big one, something Facebook/Instagram have shown to be mediocre at best at). But, the idea of having a portable social graph that you can control has real potential. I listed out a few things I think Threads should focus on. There needs to be a Following Only timeline. It should be chronological. It should remember that if you’ve selected it, you want that and not switch back to the algorithm by default. It should remember your scroll position. Don’t send me to the top when new posts come in. Let me manage it, and I’ll dive into the algorithm when I want to explore and look for other things that you think I’d be interested in (so far, it’s pretty mediocre given how much data Meta should have about me at this point). Next, there needs to be a web interface. Being unable to use it on a desktop computer is practically a non-starter for me. They did launch with the ability to embed posts, and I was able to make minor changes to my Instagram code to get this to work in the forums (Blue Sky doesn’t have this yet, and I still can’t find a good way to do it with Mastodon posts because of their URL structure and multi-instance setup). But a workable website is a must-have. I want a blessed way to automate posting, some kind of an API where I can have Chorus blog posts post to the account. And then there has to be a better way for me to tell the algorithm what I want to see less of besides blocking or muting accounts. I blocked a bunch of right-wing shitheads immediately and have been muting virtually every annoying brand account that shows up. But there are a bunch of other weird accounts, mostly viral/clout/hustle-chasing culture crap, that I want nothing to do with. If you want the algorithmic feed to be valuable, you need to allow me to give it better signals to remove the large amount of noise. So far, the biggest test for me was to watch a baseball game today and see how often I wanted to flip over to Twitter to see reactions from the list I’ve curated there of good baseball follows. Something would happen, I’d refresh Threads, and there’d be 2-3 posts of baseball reactions from the accounts I follow. Then 2-3 posts from random stuff I don’t care about. Then a few hours, or day old, posts from people I follow, and then some baseball posts from 30 minutes ago. Then more people I follow posts. So, a mediocre real-time experience for seeing something happen and being able to react with it. If I were in charge, that’d be my first focus, fix that, and you can have the best of your algorithm feed, and your platform can also supplant Twitter as the place for live/real-time updates. I know this is a 1.0 product and a solid early entry. I’ll keep an eye on it, use it, and follow where they take it from here. What features they prioritize will give me a good idea of how bullish I am on their future. Oh, and another thing I’ve been thinking about over the weekend. I keep reading the Instagram/Facebook heads talking about this idea of a “town square,” it makes me cringe every time. This idealized world where we can have some space online where billions of people are all talking simultaneously and expressing their ideas is fiction. It will not work at scale. And no one wants to sit in a town square with a billion people yelling for attention, a percentage of them believing the other half eat children or shouldn’t exist. It’s a horrible premise. I firmly believe that social media should give people the tools to create the communities they want to engage with. The “town square” is the internet, not a platform on it. It’s not an echo chamber when I don’t want to hear someone screaming that my friends shouldn’t exist when I want to see a reaction to a home run. People that pretend everyone’s going to sit around debating in good faith are not living in reality. It freaks me out when I see people running giant social media platforms speak in the town square platitudes because it makes me think they have never actually seen what it’s like on the ground of a social media website and are insulated from the realities of the communities they are creating.
In Case You Missed It
- The Best Albums of 2023 (So Far)
- Review: Mercy Music – What You Stand To Lose
- Review: The Darkness – Permission To Land
- Better Lovers Release Debut EP
- Mayday Parade – “Got Me All Wrong”
- Taylor Swift’s Emo Phase
- The Eras Tour: Taylor Swift’s Greatest Love Song
- Paramore to Join Taylor Swift in Europe
- MxPx Teasing New Album
- Carly Rae Jepsen Teases New Project
- Better Lovers Release Debut EP
- Albums in Stores – Jul 7th, 2023
- It was a slow music week this week. With last weekend’s long weekend, I only spent a little time with music (comparatively) this week. The Taylor Swift boulder on the calendar also made other new albums run and hide on Friday. I’ve enjoyed Taylor’s Versions of her records so far, mostly because I’m a big B-side lover, and it’s awesome to get all of this music and to expand on these albums in such a cool way. The vault songs have been what I return to the most so far. And this release has the obvious pull to me because we have Fall Out Boy and Paramore appearing. Given what we know about Taylor’s fandom and age, what are the odds she’s at least visited AbsolutePunk once in her life? Like, there’s got to be a half-decent chance that happened, right? The Fall Out Boy song “Electric Touch” is fantastic. I love Patrick’s feature, how their voices work together, and the entire song is a win. The Paramore one wasn’t as immediate. I was listening to the album while working on Friday and missed the Hayley feature on the first listen. I had to double-check the track list and go back and hit play again because her voice wasn’t as distinct as I expected.
- MxPx teased their new album. First impressions will have to wait a little longer.
- Atreyu’s last album ended up being my most-played album this week, which is kind of funny. But it’s a very fun gym album. I know they get a lot of gruff for leaning more into a hard rock vibe over the past two albums, but I still think the vocals rule, and they found a better balance on Babtize. I’m excited about the upcoming EP.
- KennyHoopla released three new songs with Travis Barker. I like them. I wish I knew if a full-length was on the way so I could decide how much I wanted to play these singles. If one was coming, and if they were going to be included in it, I’d be more cautious and worried about burning myself out. But if they’re not, I’d go nuts. Those of us that still like albums suffer in the weirdest (silliest?) ways.
The Stats: Over the past week, I listened to 36 different artists, 56 different albums, and 431 different tracks (456 scrobbles). My most listened to artist was the Foo Fighters, my most played album, the latest from Atreyu. Here is my Top 9 from last week, and you can follow me on Apple Music and/or Last.fm.
- Crush was a fun coming-of-age teenage comedy.
- The Bear was just so, so good.
- Next up on our nightly watch is Silo. I’ve read the first book the series was based on, but they’re taking this in a different direction in a few places so far. This story is so clearly in my wheelhouse; sign me all the way up.
- I have been trying to finally go through the massive backlog of books sitting around this house I haven’t read. During the pandemic, I went through such a huge Kindle (and library ebook) phase that I neglected so many books that have been wallowing on the shelves begging me to remember they exist too. Last weekend I read Dave Grohl’s book. I enjoyed it. They are good stories and a nice way to walk through his career. If anything, I wish it would have gone deeper into some of the songwriting and creation stuff. I’d read a hundred pages on the inspiration and creation of “Everlong.” I’d love to dive deep into the recording sessions for Nevermind or the thinking behind the double album. The book touched more on the life of being in bands and being in amazingly successful bands and what comes with that, than it did the music itself. But the love, the absolute love, of music is a huge theme that comes through from Dave in his writing. Definitely worth reading for any fan of the Foo Fighters and/or Nirvana.
Random and Personal Stuff
- The weekend went by annoyingly fast.
Here are ten songs that I listened to and loved this week. Some may be new, some may be old, but they all found their way into my life during the past seven days.
- Taylor Swift – Electric Touch
- Atreyu – Weed
- Little Hurt – Pineapple Pizza
- Joshua Ramsay – Perfect Mistake
- FRND CRCL – Kids
- Foo Fighters – Next Year
- Kelsea Ballerini – Just Married
- MxPx – Wrecking Hotel Rooms
- Knox – Hate My Guts
- Origami Angel – Kobayahsi Maru (My Very Own)
The trending and popular threads in our community this week include:
- Songs By The Letter – Your Top “U” Songs
- Atreyu – The Beautiful Dark Of Life (2023)
- Barney (2024)
- Citizen – TBA (2023)
- Current Joys – Love + Pop (August 4, 2023)
- Tour Prediction and Speculation Thread
- Men’s Soccer (Football) Thread
- Video Games : Game Harder JFG Edition
- Wrestling Thread 7: FTR Baldhausen
The most liked post in our forums last week was this one by St. Nate in the “General Politics Discussion (X)” thread.
Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.