Showing all posts tagged: social media

Twitter 2.0 is not a start-up much as Elon Musk likes to believe it

25 November 2022

Tegan Jones, writing at Crikey, on Twitter owner Elon Musk’s… vision of the social media service being some sort of start-up, as of the minute he assumed control. Twitter was established in 2006, so we might be a little passed the development phase of the operation by now, no?

So no, Musk isn’t asking more of his remaining employees simply to improve the platform or make up for past financial woes. And it’s certainly not about overcoming the odds to build something together to change the world, which is oftentimes the north star of young start-ups. These employees are being asked, and in some cases coerced due to lack of options, to dedicate their lives to pay off a billionaire’s offensively large debt on a vanity project he didn’t even want. That is not start-up culture.

Despite Musk’s philanthropy, his wealth and privilege has bestowed him with a singular outlook of the world. While it’s unlikely he has much in the way of home duties, or family obligations — at least that’s the impression created — he could easily afford to outsource them anyway. Other Twitter employees are unlikely to be so fortunate. Instead, they’re simply expected to be hard core, and work until all hours of the night. Or be fired. Awesome.

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Seth Godin: Mastodon is a federation not a corporation

21 November 2022

Inconvenient. Difficult. Different. Resilient. Social network Mastodon — viewed by some as a Twitter alternative — as seen by American author, entrepreneur, and master of short-form blogging, Seth Godin:

It’s a network in the real internet sense of the word. It’s not just a network of users, it’s a network of servers as well. No one owns it. Like email, it’s a set of principles and rules, not a place. A federation is different than a corporation. It might not be as shiny, but it’s far more resilient. It’s inconvenient. You can’t get started in ten seconds. This leads to less initial stickiness. It means that the people who get through the learning curve are more likely to be committed and perhaps generous.

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Elon Musk shares whiteboard outline of Twitter 2.0

20 November 2022

Jason Cartwright, writing for TechAU, analyses a whiteboard image posted by Elon Musk following the recent contentious Twitter HQ code review. Long story short, coders who failed to attend would no longer be regarded as Twitter employees. Following the meeting though, Musk shared outlines of plans to rebuild the social media service’s platform, which is being dubbed Twitter 2.0:

It’s rare to see content from inside the company, especially anything to do with current and future development items. While Musk has hinted at potential improvements to the platform, the whiteboard photo does reveal some more information.

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Jack Dorsey regrets role via Twitter in centralising internet

19 November 2022

As Twitter teeters on the brink of collapse (I think there’s a lot of us hoping it pulls through though) founder Jack Dorsey, in a tweet from April this year (preserved here for posterity should the worst happen), says he feels partly to blame for the present centralised state of the internet:

the days of usenet, irc, the web…even email (w PGP)…were amazing. centralizing discovery and identity into corporations really damaged the internet. I realize I’m partially to blame, and regret it.

Twitter’s only part of this centralised “problem” though. Other giant tech companies, Google, Amazon, among many others, have also played a role. Nonetheless, I imagine some of us see an upside. As for Twitter’s woes? Maybe owner/operator Elon Musk ought to consider stepping aside from day to day management of the company, and leave it to better qualified people?

Yep, I can see that happening.

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Reports of the death of social media are greatly exaggerated maybe

14 November 2022

Ian Bogost writing for The Atlantic:

It’s over. Facebook is in decline, Twitter in chaos. Mark Zuckerberg’s empire has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in value and laid off 11,000 people, with its ad business in peril and its metaverse fantasy in irons. Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has caused advertisers to pull spending and power users to shun the platform (or at least to tweet a lot about doing so). It’s never felt more plausible that the age of social media might end — and soon.

The question is, what do we do next, if we don’t have social media? Go back to meaningful face-to-face interactions? What do content producers, who enjoy self-publishing do? Print a zine? I’m not sure that social media is about to disappear, even if some of the bigger players are having some trouble. Still, Bogost makes some salient points.

As I’ve written before on this subject, people just aren’t meant to talk to one another this much. They shouldn’t have that much to say, they shouldn’t expect to receive such a large audience for that expression, and they shouldn’t suppose a right to comment or rejoinder for every thought or notion either.

People have been over-talking since people could first talk. Ditto expecting a large audience for their rants. Social media only amplified the voice of these over-talkers. On the upside, anyone we don’t want to listen to can easily be ignored, blocked. Try doing that to an over-talker you don’t want to listen to at a family gathering.

Social media might not be about to roll over and die, but it is at a turning point. Yet as Twitter’s implosion shows, people are not quite ready to walk away from connecting online. Membership of Twitter alternative, Mastodon, has spiked in recent weeks. Billing itself as a social network, rather than a social media service, it has become a sanctuary for people seeking a place where they can hear themselves think.

Presently there are few brands, and — better still — influencers, and possibly over-talkers, on Mastodon. That some servers, or instances, forbid commercial accounts, helps in this regard. Instances are either owner funded, or member supported, meaning they don’t need advertising revenue to survive. Perhaps this means there’ll be more signal and less noise, but only time will tell.

If social media is about content creation and publishing to the widest possible audience, then social networking is about forging more meaningful connections with those in your network. No doubt some will welcome the demise of certain social media channels, but if the migration to Mastodon is any indication, people are still looking to connect online with others, both known and unknown. Or maybe a whole lot of us simply want to be part of the next (sort of) big thing. Only time will tell.

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Shlee admin of Aus Social Mastodon instance on radio RRR

10 November 2022

Shlee, admin and founder of the Aus.Social instance, of which I am a member, spoke on Melbourne based radio station Triple R, last night.

He was joined on the weekly Byte Into IT segment by Aurynn Shaw, founder of New Zealand based Mastodon instance, Cloud Island. Listen here to their chat with hosts Vanessa Toholka, Warren Davies, and Laura Summers.

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Mastodon clocking up some impressive milestones

8 November 2022

Eugen Rochko, creator of microblogging platform and social network Masterdon, highlights some recent milestones:

Hey, so, we’ve hit 1,028,362 monthly active users across the network today. 1,124 new Mastodon servers since Oct 27, and 489,003 new users. That’s pretty cool.

I think Mastodon is easier to use than it is to understand. What perhaps confuses many would-be Mastodon members is the federated structure of the social network. Whereas Twitter is centralised, Masterdon is a collection of thousands of individual servers, called instances. Each one is owner operated so to speak, and each has their own rules, and terms of use.

New members can pick and chose an instance best suiting their needs. Masthead, for example, caters for people with an interest in the journalism and blogging space. But if that’s not your thing, there’s bound to be one that is. Here’s a tool to help you find an instance you might like. You also have the option to create your own instance, if you want.

I ended up joining Aus.Social as it more of a general interest space, with, obviously, an Australian leaning. That said though anyone, anywhere, is free to join if they want. The federated timeline is also accessible, meaning everything happening across the entire so-called fediverse, is there to be seen and interacted with, making Mastodon more like the classic Twitter experience.

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Rocket science may be rocket science but Twitter is something else

5 November 2022

American author Robin Sloan’s thoughts — written in April of this year — couldn’t describe the Musk acquisition of Twitter any more succinctly:

An industrialist might soon purchase Twitter, Inc. His substantial success launching reusable spaceships does nothing to prepare him for the challenge of building social spaces. The latter calls on every liberal art at once, while the former is just rocket science.

I don’t know that rocket science is just rocket science, especially reusable rocket science, but running a social network, particularly one the size of Twitter, has to be another matter all together.

Via Clive Thompson.

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Mastodon isn’t Twitter but it can be Twitter like in good ways

5 November 2022

I’m not quite sure what to expect at Twitter, but I have no plans to depart the platform for now. In the meantime I’ve been looking at Mastodon, a highly geeky alternative to Twitter. To say there’s a learning curve to Mastodon is an understatement.

Once you get used to the differences though between the centralised domain that is Twitter, and the decentralised realms of Mastodon, the experience can be mostly Twitter like, while still being a breath of fresh air.

One thing to bear in mind is most Mastodon instances, or servers, such as aus.social, are operated privately by the individuals who set them up. So if you think Mastodon is your thing, and you’re going to be hanging around, you could consider making a contribution to help with operational costs.

The other challenge for Mastodon’s ability to scale is that it has very scarce resources compared to Twitter. Rather than relying on investors, Mastodon survives on donations, crowdfunding, sponsorships and grants. The platform is free of ads and thus doesn’t collect any of its user’s data. But, its frugality has meant it also has no real way to gain revenue the way other platforms do right now.

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Elon Musk takes control of Twitter, fires CEO and CFO

29 October 2022

After much back and forth, Elon Musk has completed his takeover of social media service Twitter. CEO Parag Agrawal and CFO Ned Segal have already left the company, and I imagine they’ll be followed by more senior managers.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is now in charge of Twitter, CNBC has learned. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and finance chief Ned Segal have left the company’s San Francisco headquarters and will not be returning, sources said. Vijaya Gadde, the head of legal policy, trust, and safety was also fired, the Washington Post reported.

Doubtless more changes are on the way, though Musk is trying to assuage the concerns of all, especially advertisers, regarding their extent, in a recent tweet:

That said, Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences! In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.

It seems to me a lot comes down to the definition of “desired experience”. If hate speech and misinformation did return to the platform, does “desired experience” mean users will be able to block out such content? Is that the answer then? Content producers meantime will delight in Musk’s perspective on advertising: “highly relevant ads are actually content!”

I also very much believe that advertising, when done right, can delight, entertain and inform you; it can show you a service or product or medical treatment that you never knew existed, but is right for you. For this to be true, it is essential to show Twitter users advertising that is as relevant as possible to their needs. Low relevancy ads are spam, but highly relevant ads are actually content!

Revenue from adverts puts a roof over many a head, but an advertising experience that will delight, entertain, and inform? That I look forward to seeing.

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Why destroy Instagram when Meta could clone TikTok instead?

22 September 2022
TikTok app on smartphone, photo by Antonbe

Image courtesy of Antonbe.

Why is Meta so intent on mutating photo-sharing app Instagram (IG) into their answer to riotously popular video-sharing service TikTok, when that obviously is not the answer?

Instagram and TikTok are fundamentally different, but Meta doesn’t seem to know that.

Why doesn’t Meta opt to reinvent the wheel instead? Why not simply build their own version of TikTok? With the design talent and engineering resources Mata have at their disposal, they could do so instantly. And by leveraging their almost three billion Facebook members, and over one billion IG users, it wouldn’t take long for a clone to achieve critical mass.

But Meta appears to be reluctant to foist another app on users. They are apparently already overloaded with the likes of Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and of course, IG. Their only choice then is to butcher IG beyond recognition. Even if the reaction of IG users suggests that’s a bad idea.

How long will it take Meta to see the light here? Build your own standalone video-sharing service app which we can choose, or not choose, to use, and leave IG the way it was.

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Peiter Zatko’s whistleblowing Twitter report may not help Musk

27 August 2022

Earlier this week a whistleblower complaint to the United States Congress made by Peiter Zatko, who was head of security at Twitter until his departure in January, was made public. Some commentators saw Zatko’s report as a damning insight to the management of the social media service, which supported Elon Musk’s decision to abandon his takeover bid for the social networking service:

The disclosure, sent last month to Congress and federal agencies, paints a picture of a chaotic and reckless environment at a mismanaged company that allows too many of its staff access to the platform’s central controls and most sensitive information without adequate oversight. It also alleges that some of the company’s senior-most executives have been trying to cover up Twitter’s serious vulnerabilities, and that one or more current employees may be working for a foreign intelligence service.

Mike Masnick, writing for Techdirt, in a detailed analysis of Zatko’s complaint, suggests the report in fact backs Twitter’s position, and may not be the legal leg-up Musk is seeking. Musk, who claims Twitter did not reveal the true extent of spam accounts on the platform, launched legal proceedings against the company in July.

But, as Masnick points out, Musk’s lawsuit has nothing to do with spam accounts on Twitter:

The first and most important thing to remember is that, even as Musk insists otherwise, the Twitter lawsuit is not about spam. It just is not. I’m not going to repeat everything in that earlier story explaining why not, so if you haven’t read that yet, please do. But the core of it is that Musk needed an escape hatch from the deal he didn’t want to consummate and the best his lawyers could come up with was to claim that Twitter was being misleading in its SEC reporting regarding spam. (As an aside, there is very strong evidence that Musk didn’t care at all about the SEC filings until he suddenly needed an escape hatch, and certainly didn’t rely on them).

Musk insists Twitter claimed only five-percent of accounts on the platform were spam or fake. But the five-percent number derives from so-called mDAU accounts, being monetizable daily average users, which Twitter defines as a “valid user account that might click through ads and actually buy a product”. The mDAU accounts sound like a rarefied group of members, but the spam count only applied to them, not the platform as a whole.

Except it’s Musk here who is using clever wordplay to distract and mislead everyone. As we’ve described over and over again, the 5% number that Musk repeats in these screenshots is about mDAU. The 5% number is what Twitter reports is the amount of spam they believe incorrectly gets counted in mDAU. It’s Musk who keeps pretending the 5% number implies spam across the entire platform, which Twitter has never said it does. As we’ve explained multiple times now, Musk is trying to distract by pretending that the 5% claim is about spam on the entire platform. It never has been. It has always been an estimate of the amount that makes it through and is still counted in the mDAU. That is clear to anyone who’s actually read Twitter’s filing (both in the Chancery Court and at the SEC).

Masnick’s article is a longer piece, but well worth the read for anyone with an interest in Musk vs Twitter.

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Rejected authors finding publishers, film deals, on TikTok

19 August 2022

TikTok is proving to be a fertile ground for new music acts looking for a lucky break, with the video hosting app kick-starting the careers of numerous musicians so far.

And authors are also cashing in. Many writers who struggled to find publishers previously, are sometimes finding themselves at the centre of bidding wars between rival publishing houses, after taking a novel idea to TikTok to gauge interest in the premise.

American writer Alex Aster is an example, and in 2021 signed a lucrative publishing deal, and later film rights, for her YA novel Lightlark.

Aster didn’t expect much, especially when she checked in a few hours later to see that her post had only clocked up about 1,000 views. Maybe the books world was right, she thought. Maybe there wasn’t a market for Lightlark, a young adult story she had been writing and rewriting for years, to no interest from publishers. The next day, however, she woke up to see her video had been viewed more than a million times. A week later, Lightlark had gone to auction and she had a six-figure deal with Amulet Books. Last month, Universal preemptively bought the film rights for, in her words, “more zeros than I’ve seen in my life”.

Aster conceded an element of luck was involved though, describing the TikTok algorithm that eventually propelled her to success as “finicky”. Here’s hoping the algorithm will favour other writers.

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Australian consumer watchdog to investigate Instagram

18 August 2022

Instagram’s recent efforts to mimic TikTok have not only angered users, but have also raised the hackles of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, who think the conduct of Instagram owner Meta might be stifling competition:

Australia’s consumer watchdog will examine whether social media behemoth Meta is throttling a potential competitor and entrenching its dominance by aping TikTok’s signature features on its own services, Facebook and Instagram. The next phase of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s long-running digital platform services inquiry will also consider the reverse scenario: whether the emergence of new platforms such as Chinese-owned TikTok and daily post app BeReal is reducing Meta’s power.

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Alternatives to Instagram: what about Flickr?

1 August 2022
Smartphone filming, photo by Pexels

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Has Instagram (IG) jumped the shark? You’d be forgiven for thinking as much, following the stir-up caused by the latest (in a long of line of) changes to the popular Facebook owned photo and video sharing service. Long story short, IG wants to become more like TikTok. Whether their users like it or not. If you’re a content creator, this might be good news. If you’re a user, maybe not so much, especially perhaps if you’ve been using IG since the early days.

The IG of 2011, when I joined, and the IG of 2022, are worlds apart. Checking my IG feed the other week, I couldn’t see a single photo from the people — many of whom I know personally — I follow. Instead the feed was littered with “recommendations”, content IG seems to think I “might like”. But reposted memes? Footage of some influencer I’ve never heard of walking into an elevator? Cats and dogs doing funny things? I wouldn’t mind, if I wanted to see that sort of “content”. Otherwise, no thanks.

After pressing many x buttons, and silencing one recommendation after another, some normality was restored to my IG feed. But to keep up with the people I choose to follow, I often need to go directly to their IG page to see their latest posts. In doing this, I’ve found photos I’d not seen earlier, when previously they’d appeared in the main feed.

But recommendations, intended to “help you discover new and interesting things on Instagram that you may not know exist”, are here to stay, says Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, at Facebook/Meta. Recommendations “help creators reach more people”, and making them part of the IG feed, rather than lurking behind the explore tab, is necessary as IG “needs to evolve because the world is changing quickly.”

Mosseri is correct. The world is changing quickly. Video sharing app TikTok is encroaching on IG’s market share. Quickly, I might add. And this calls for drastic action. The solution appears to be, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Even if that means dragging a whole heap of IG users with no interest in TikTok, into a TikTok-like realm.

Accordingly, more video can be expected to feature in IG feeds, and precedence is now being given to creators, over users who just want to share photos with their friends. Like it or not, more content, in the form of recommendations, and other “interesting things”, you neither know nor care about, are coming your way.

That’s all well and good for the creators. Strictly speaking, I’m a creator. You wouldn’t be reading this if I wasn’t. But if you’re not an IG creator, and not interested in content from people you don’t know, what options do you have? If you’re looking elsewhere for an alternative free-of-cost, ease of use, IG copy, you’ll be disappointed. Even if an IG clone rose to prominence, it would likely follow IG’s path sooner or later. We might find a desert oasis far from the dark shadow IG casts, but not for long, alas.

Smartphone taking photo, by Yuliya Harbachova

Image courtesy of Yuliya Harbachova.

One possibility though may be Flickr, but there are a number of caveats.

Founded in 2004 by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, Flickr shared a trajectory similar to IG, being bought by a much larger company, Yahoo!, about a year after launching. One of the earliest online photo-sharing services, Flickr’s been around so long it pre-dates smartphones (as we know them) and smartphone apps. Like IG, the photos and videos you post to Flickr appear in a feed, which friends and followers can like and comment on. Unlike IG, you only see content from the people you chose to follow.

After early success though, Flickr suffered a near death experience several years ago. They were saved, virtually at the last minute, when California based image sharing company, SmugMug, bought them. Since then Flickr’s fortunes have been on the up. But does that make Flickr right for you?

For one thing, Flickr comes at a cost. While a free, ad supported tier, is available, members can only post two hundred photos or videos. To take advantage of Flickr’s full features, including, among other things, unlimited media uploads, you need a paid membership. A one-year plan costs about US$80. If you buy a two-year membership, the annual cost comes in at about US$72 per year. This works out to about US$1.45 a week, not even the price of a decent cup of coffee.

It’s worth noting the membership fee is not as expensive as it might seem. In a way, paid subscriptions can protect members. Should the company take a direction that upsets subscribers, they risk many leaving, and taking their money with them. Subscription free IG users meanwhile have no such leverage. You’re unlikely then to hear Flickr declaring the world is changing quickly, and they therefore must push tacky memes, and surely scintillating video clips of some self-indulgent influencer, upon you.

In that sense, Flickr is less a social network, and, while everyone is of course welcome, more a community of professional, and semi-serious amateur, photographers. Another difference is the size of the Flickr community compared to Instagram’s. IG is said to boast over a billion users. Short wonder content creators have an interest in the platform, and IG wishes to aggressively promote their work. Flickr, meanwhile, according to Photutorial, presently has 112 million members.

Chances are many people you know won’t be existing Flickr members, so you’d need to get your friends onboard, if you want to escape IG’s clutches. But if you’re looking for a place where you’ll only see content from people you chose, then Flickr might be worth taking a closer look at. Another option to consider is 500px. Like Flickr, it offers a free membership plan, allowing seven photos a week to be uploaded, to a maximum of two-thousand per account.

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Court battles loom after Musk cancels Twitter acquisition

11 July 2022

Few would have been surprised by Elon Musk’s decision to withdraw his takeover for Twitter, it seemed the writing had been on the wall for some time. But now the recriminations begin. Twitter directors have said they’ll commence legal action against the Tesla CEO to enforce the deal. At the least Musk may be slugged with a billion dollar fine. A billion dollars is probably coffee money for someone like Musk, but a slew of additional lawsuits may end up costing Musk far more than that.

In addition to the fine for the failed deal, Musk could face serious consequences from the SEC for his antics, which have had major impacts on the several public companies he manages as well as Twitter itself. Musk is an executive at the artificial intelligence firm Neuralink, the electric car company Tesla, the space travel company SpaceX, and the tunnel construction firm the Boring Company. He has in the past faced lawsuits from investors over his erratic behavior and its effects on the companies’ stocks.

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Security of Australian TikTok users data queried by senator

5 July 2022

In the wake of a request from the United States Federal Communications Commission that Apple and Google remove TikTok from their app stores, James Paterson, an Australian opposition senator, has raised concerns about the security of Australian TikTok users’ data, in a letter posted on Twitter.

Even though TikTok servers are based in America and Singapore, there are fears Chinese government officials may have access to the data of Australian TikTok users.

Australian users’ data is stored in servers in the US and Singapore, which raises questions about whether that data is subject to the same security concerns. Liberal Senator James Paterson has publicly put it to TikTok to address those concerns. “Australian TikTok users deserve to know whether their private information is equally exposed,” Mr Paterson wrote on Twitter.

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Notes feature will transform Twitter to content creation platform

27 June 2022

Social networking service Twitter looks set to make the transition from microblogging platform to content creation platform, with the trailing of a new notes feature. Twitter notes — currently being tested by users in Canada, Ghana, Britain, and America — allows posts of up to two thousand five hundred words at a time to be written.

It reminds me a little of the notes feature Facebook used to offer, that I used early on, when I still used Facebook. It’s a smart move on Twitter’s part, as it stands to significantly increase engagement on the platform. Presently users need to direct followers to external resources, such as their blog, if they want them to read posts exceeding two hundred and eighty characters.

Writers who do not have a website of their own look to particularly benefit from the notes feature, should Twitter decide to roll it out.

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Anonymous PRGuy17 Twitter account owner reveals identity

25 June 2022

Jeremy Maluta, speaking to Australian political commentator and You Tube host Jordan Shanks-Markovina, has identified himself as the owner of the PRGuy17 Twitter account.

The moves comes as a result of legal action by Avi Yemini, a conservative journalist, and a recent application to the Australian Federal Court, asking Twitter to reveal details of who was operating the previously anonymous account.

Yemini believed PRGuy17 was in the employ of Dan Andrews, the premier of Victoria, on account of tweets supporting Andrews, and his handling of the COVID-19 enforced lockdowns, but Maluta has denied the claim:

“I’m just a normal everyday person. I don’t want to be a celebrity,” he said. “This has meant being really careful about what I put online.” “I’m OK with putting my name out there, but I just … want to have a bit of privacy too.” “I can confirm I don’t work for [Premier] Dan Andrews or any political thing whatsoever. Those theories are completely cooked.”

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Mars Junction, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ new band

14 June 2022

If you know the Facebook origin story, and or saw David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network, then you’ll know who Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are. Long story short, they once tried to hire a young Mark Zuckerberg to help them build a social network called originally called HarvardConnection, but later renamed ConnectU.

Short story really short, Zuckerberg liked the concept, but didn’t think much of the Winklevoss twins, whom he studied with at Harvard University, and quietly began developing Facebook. The Winklevosses accused Zuckerberg of stealing their idea, and launched legal action against him. But watch The Social Network, it may not be one-hundred percent accurate, but it’ll give you an idea of what happened.

Following the Facebook debacle, the Winklevosses went on to establish Winklevoss Capital Management in 2010, a company offering seed-funding to start-ups. Several years later they founded Gemini, a cryptocurrency exchange.

And in July 2021, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss formed Mars Junction, “a hard-hitting rock band”, and if this footage from a show recorded by Arch Nem a few days ago is anything to go by, they’re going off. The mosh pit is chock full of fans wearing Mars Junction t-shirts. Truly, how many other bands can boast similar such images from their gigs?

Between being at Harvard, their start-up experience, rowing for the United States in the 2008 Olympics, cryptocurrency, and now hard-hitting rock, it’s about time the Winklevosses were given a movie of their own…

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