Okay - the title is a lie. Skyline is a client I made for Bluesky, not Twitter, because Bluesky was briefly a promising competitor with an open API. And conveniently, all my friends had just decided to migrate over. But for all intents and purposes, Bluesky is a Twitter clone & this client would theoretically work just as well for Twitter.
On Skyline, the central feature is customizable algorithmic feeds. Algorithmic feeds wouldn't be based on likes, retweets, or other engagement metrics, but purely on the contents. It was rather simple: (1) load all the tweets we might want to show the user, (2) run GPT-3 embeddings on each one, and (3) filter out the ones that don't match a given vibe.
Here's the form users could use to configure their feeds:
We shipped one pre-configured LLM feed, which was the "Wholesomeness" feed - mostly based around what I personally wanted to see more of on social media. The prompt was:
+ "Wholesome tweets, kindness, love, fun banter"
- "Angry tweets, like tweets with politics, dating discourse, or culture war"
This was one of the first posts I saw there, which made me think we were really on to something:
Over the last year or so, I've derived tremendous value from being an active Twitter user. It's led to new friendships (which I no longer know how I would live without), being able to travel America for a month, going to Vibecamp, brand new ambitions for what I want my career to focus on, becoming a better writer, learning to meditate and increasing my baseline happiness wildly, and so much more.
Being on the timeline has also led to a lot of anxiety, frustration, and resentment however. My interest in wholesome-only feeds, and other ways to curate the experience better comes down to wanting two things for the future:
- A world of more connection, more opportunity, more writing, more sharing (basically Zuckerberg's vision)
- A world where we don't climb the memetic gradient descent into the valley of Tiktok-zombiehood, in terrible mental health yet unable to put down our phones (an Infinite Jest type of world)
I don't know exactly how to make sure we get there, but I wanted to see what was possible. So I launched it on April 20th 2023, and ended up having a couple thousand visitors over the next few weeks.
From using it myself + reports from friends, it actually did seem to work. If Twitter had a similar client, I would certainly make this my daily driver.
Algorithms being synonymous with engagement seems like one of those things that were contingent on the simple order in which the internet developed - it was really hard to find a clearer signal to optimize when e.g. Facebook launched their algorithmic feed in 2009.
I wonder whether this would be the case if LLMs (and cheap ones at that!) were a thing back then. Maybe we would have defaulted to content-based, or preference-based algorithms instead of engagement based algorithms? Maybe this is wishful thinking. There are certainly other reasons, for example how engagement tends to mean usage, and usage tends to mean more ads. But then again - maybe that's also just an artifact of the time in which the internet developed. Nowadays, we have Twitter Blue, YouTube Premium, and countless other services that we're happy to pay for. And when we pay, we should be fine with less usage if we enjoy that usage more.