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Fine, I admit it. I'm sad about Twitter.
Also, I'm pretty p**sed. Plus: sports teams leaving cities and some weekend sci-fi! Warning: this post contains some swears.
I know it’s not de rigeur to have feelings on the Internet these days, and I’ll confess I’m not one for online vulnerability myself. (Because, Twitter.)
But here’s the thing. I am legitimately sad and angry about Elon ruining Twitter. I loved it and visited it every day for 16 years. YEAH! For real! I got on This Hellsite in 2007, at the behest of one Veronica Belmont, who at the time, was still the producer and emerging talent on our lil’ old podcast, Buzz Out Loud.
I finally took it up in May of 2007. I was on maternity leave, and I figured 140 characters was the absolute max I could handle, and it was true. But Twitter quickly became a lifeline of consumable fun and communication and news. I loved it and I met people on it and I participated in a global community that was, at times, absolutely magical. It made sports and Oscars watching more fun and yeah, then it got pretty terrible and toxic but it was still like breathing for me, like muscle memory every single day.
Then this a**hole came along and bought it. For his ego and his politics. It’s not a grand plan, it’s not some genius business move. He shot his mouth off and got stuck with a $44 billion whoopsie and it’s just that stupid and lame, which makes it somehow so much worse. He’s been a disrespectful jerk to the people who built Twitter and the people who use it, and it sucks. And I’m mad. And I miss it. And I’m allowed to feel that way, and I know I’m not alone. He broke this thing, personally, because he felt like it, and leaving aside that it’s a disturbing fact of Adventures in Extreme Wealth, I don’t want to pretend like I don’t care. I do.
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And ok, let’s talk about the blue check thing. Tom Merritt and I were reminiscing about how we got our blue checks on the same day back in the ‘aughts, and we talked about it and we laughed because we didn’t know why it had happened, but ok, then, thanks, I guess?
There’s a lot of talk now about how people didn’t “earn” their blue checks and it doesn’t make anyone “better” than anyone else, and complaining about losing it is silly and elitist. You know what? Screw that, too. The blue checks were a recommendation engine—which is just about the most foundational thing on the Web.
In a sea of information, people and algorithms and Yelp reviews and share buttons and even likes are the literal basis of how we sort. You can hate it if you want. You can say it was capricious or the mechanisms for the recommendations were arbitrary. Sure, fine. I’d challenge you to prove whether blue checks were handed out more arbitrarily than any single thing Elon has done since.
The blue check said, “This account makes good content. You might like it. It’s not the only account making good content. Maybe there’s something we, at Twitter, have missed. But if you’re looking for a visual shorthand for Some Shit You Might Like, this blue check is it.”
And I’ll tell you what, and I’ll die on this hill: I did make good content. I did it for free, for fun, for validation, for promotion, to talk to my friends, to work out feelings and thoughts and opinions, to share other good content that I thought would be worth reading. All kinds of reasons that had nothing to do with being an elitist jerk and had everything to do with participating in an experiment and a community that was fun, and wonderful, and rewarding, and interesting.
I was part of what made this site valuable in the first place—as was everyone who was on it before this guy came in and started acting like everything that came before was garbage. We built this. We did. And so yes. I do think it’s galling that he’s taking away blue checks and trying to blackmail people into paying for them and yes, I do take it personally because my blue check was right. I made good content for the hellsite for almost TWO GODDAMN DECADES. And I won’t be doing it anymore.
Ok. I feel better. Sort of. Not really though because my god. What an asshole.
While I’m already mad and sad …
I’m also heartbroken about the Oakland A’s leaving Oakland for Las Vegas. I’ve been going to A’s games for almost 25 years. I’ve been taking my kid to A’s fireworks games since he was an infant, and I’ve got a lot more A’s gear than Warriors gear, and I still get excited when I see Stomper at a school playground or the Oakland marathon or wherever else. This sucks.
But the truth is, the A’s have been assholes, too. In fact, I just read that it was the A’s lease that may have prevented the Oakland Raiders from improving the Coliseum, partially prompting their move to Las Vegas. Now, sure, easy for Mark Davis to say, and big grain of salt there. But the real crux is this: every professional sports team that has left Oakland has asked this beat-up, underestimated, flightless bird of a city for hundreds of millions of dollars, minimum, to make them stay.
Oakland had already come up with $300 million to help out the A’s owner, a Gap heir who’s worth something like $2.4 billion, and he balked when we couldn’t get $180 million more. And I know it’s probably more complicated in a million different ways, but the city said no and I’m fine with it. (Plus, owner John Fisher has spent years tanking the team in ways Mark Cuban could only dream of, driving down attendance and interest, and then making it seem like it was the fault of Oakland citizens for not caring about their team no matter what indignities he inflicted on them. How Elon of him.)
It was the same with the Raiders, who ran away with a $189 million taxpayer loan and also demanded something like $600 million from Oakland. The Warriors tried to run away from about $140 million in bonds that Oakland and Alameda County raised to help pay for arena renovations, but a court stuck them with at least $40 million of it.
And much has been made of how the Warriors self-financed their stadium, but there’s no way they weren’t asking Oakland to pay for improvements or a new stadium as a condition of staying. And as it happens, San Francisco also refused to finance the new stadium, but the Warriors were able to rustle up a sweet deal on land from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, a massive Chase sponsorship, and other tailwinds from tech-rich San Francisco.
Either way, fine: I’m glad neither Oakland nor San Francisco spent any or any more taxpayer dollars enriching a basketball team, no matter how much I root for said team. Because sure, a professional sports team might give us a nice Saturday at the ballgame and a shared sporting experience and fun Stomper sightings, but it doesn’t do much for the city proper. Economists are pretty much unanimous on the fact that paying for sports stadiums almost never works out in favor of taxpayers, almost always works out better for the team, and you can bend over as far as you want, but the team might still up and leave for a bigger public bond. Sports is a business, and business doesn’t love you back.
So good job, Oakland. Focus on the potholes and the smash-and-grabs. And as for the A’s? Have fun being surrounded by fans of the opposite team, which is apparently the fate that’s befallen the Raiders in Las Vegas. HARRUMPH.
Viewing: I just heard about this new show on Peacock called Mrs. Davis that sounds just weird enough that I am definitely in. I also showed my son the original Independence Day, his first viewing, and that’s a rewatch that just never gets old.
Reading: I started re-reading Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age—if you’ve read it, you’ll recall that the subtitle is, “Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer.” I keep thinking about the Primer, which is basically just a super-advanced ChatGPT. It’s a personalized educational tool that provides a constant stream of information, education, guidance, Neo-in-the-Matrix like plug-in education like martial arts, that kind of thing. A personal agent, that knows all and can retrieve all and can be a constant companion and teacher.
I forgot that it’s also this sort of bonkers collection of super-wild nanotech stuff, global overthrow, Stephenson-esque millions of pages … I’m not 100% sure I’m going to keep going with it, I just wanted to make sure I remembered the Primer part properly, so that’s what I can name my eventual AI assistant. You’re never too old for a Young Lady’s Primer, after all.
And you may recall that earlier this week, I announced my new side-hustle podcast, Futureverse, where my friend Ramanan and I interview climate sci-fi authors. Well, that caused my friend Brad Berens (who writes a very good newsletter on Sundays!) to tell me that he actually wrote a science fiction book called Redcrosse! I downloaded it immediately and will very likely be dumping Neal for Brad.
Speaking of side-hustle podcats, I don’t know how many of you know about my other decade-old side hustle, the It’s a Thing podcast. But it’s the perfect Bits and Bobs recommendation (see? We all do it), so I thought I’d start including the things that are things this week in the B&B drop just as a teaser. This week:
Full episode here, if you like. Ok, there. We ended happy. Enjoy the weekend!
Molly Wood Media is a reader-supported publication. To receive all new posts and support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber. Bits and Bobs is always free!