Farewell, Twitter

A screenshot of my first tweet on Twitter from my @kilbo account dated April 3, 2009. The text is, "Becoming a twit."

I’m done with Twitter and tweeted my last tweet in January 2023. Though I mourn the voices I’ve left behind, I celebrate the experience. While quitting Twitter cold-turkey has been rough, the time I used to spend on it has shifted to other activities, like reading, and I’m less anxious about world events–both positive outcomes.

With its global reach and endless ways to slice, fork, and forward conversations, Twitter always reminded me of USENET. It also shared a similar community dynamic of direct, unfiltered conversations with world- and lesser-famous experts in their fields while bad actors and idiots derailed things through malice and ignorance.

Twitter at its best kept me connected to friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, delivered nuanced and broad viewpoints on any topic that caught my eye, alerted me to important breaking news, educated me, and provided virtual communities to discuss the topics I was most interested in. At its worst, it was a catalyst to amplify the horrible behavior and voices of fascists, racists, bigots, misogynists, transphobes, and other dregs of humanity.

The good parts enabled me to curate lists of astronomers, astrophysicists, ichthyologists, writers, geologists, and local journalists, all discussing happenings in their fields along with a corresponding steady stream of amazing pictures. Automated Twitter bots delivered me pictures from the edge of the universe, the outer and inner solar system, the tops of mountains and the bottoms of oceans, and forests and deserts. Other bots sent me earthquake alerts and reports, first responder information, weather forecasts and warnings, gentle reminders to take care of myself, and my favorite bots, the just for fun ones like icon aquariums and meadows, hourly photos of lizards, and esoteric art.

The worst parts had me block hundreds of accounts and keywords in order to filter out hate and emotionally insulate myself from seeing endless, echoing reports of singular, tragic events. There were also people who were just fine with insulting or threatening me for daring to share or hold an opinion that was at variance with theirs.

Using filters and lists curated through the wonderful third-party app I used, Tweetbot, I had hammered Twitter into a community and information conduit that was mostly pleasant to interact with and minimized the negative bits. I was never a prolific tweeter, clocking in at over seventeen thousand tweets over almost fourteen years.

But then a billionaire asshole bought Twitter at the end of 2022. That sale prompted me to delete most of my tweets before the deal closed. I set up an auto-delete bot to purge tweets older than a month and I ramped down my tweeting. My intent was to add a minor speedbump to access my account data on the platform by putting the bulk of it into offline backups.

On January 12, 2023, third-party Twitter apps were disabled, which was the only way I interacted with Twitter. I haven’t tweeted since. That the asshole owner continues to exhibit behavior and espouse and amplify opinions from the worst side of Twitter makes them anathema to me and reinforces my decision. I can’t in good conscience provide my content or passive participation for them to monetize. It’s the “no assholes” rule in action.

I’ve looked at Mastodon as a replacement and I’m not convinced it’s a step forward instead of a step sideways and back so I’m holding off for now. Its architecture is similar to USENET with its distributed servers, each with separate content policies and admins. I was uneasy with the situation back then and it wasn’t until I set up my own server with my own domain and policies that I felt more secure in my participation. Mastodon falls into the same bucket for me and I have no desire to be a server admin again.

I remain hopeful Twitter crashes financially and is sold in a fire sale to better owners who will restore third-party API access with a subscription fee. I’d pay for that. I’m not holding my breath.

Farewell, my Tweeps, farewell.

Farewell Pierre Ketteridge, Prophet of the Great God Glub

Pierre was what any generation would call a Character and a world-class raconteur. He was what my grandfather’s generation would have called a pen pal and mine calls an Internet friend–someone I knew semi-intimately through their writing first on USENET and then later, on a private mailing list. I knew him for close to thirty years but only met him one time on a group video call.

The first adventure of his I recall reading about was his participation in a North African car rally. My faulty memory wants to believe it was the Dakar Rally and that he was engaged as a photographer, which was another one of his creative outlets. His dispatches then and until the end of his life had a Hunter S. Thompson-esque flavor and I recall his hilarious narration of mechanical breakdowns and the trials and tribulations of journeying in a desert where you don’t speak the language.

At one point he included a selfie shot of him and the driver in the desert. His thin frame looked dusty and dirty. His curly hair was an unruly windswept nest atop his head. Underneath his bushy moustache was the smile of a person who looked like they were having the time of their life. I’m certain he was.

Pierre lived in the UK and was a keen observer of regional and cultural dialects and class distinctions as he travelled across the country for work. He had a knack for meeting or observing interesting people and I always envied his characterizations and ability to transcribe their patois. His missives through the years were a delight to read. A more memorable story of his from a 1994 trip to Brighton recounted witnessing some London businessmen out to dinner with sex workers:

They were loud, and brash, and drunk, and they were loaded – and wanted everyone to know it. … Sleazebag was trying very hard to look like John Travolta in his cream linen suit and dark open-necked shirt. His gleaming pate and greased-back remains of dandruff-encrusted hair spoilt the effect a bit, though. Both were dripping with ugly, chunky jewelry. … My main course, and a carafe of wine, arrived, and I got stuck in. I could still hear them though, singing and shouting and giving the restaurant staff hell. “Oy, Angelo! Gessanuvva bottla wine! An’ none of that fuckin’ Shyanti crap like before. Gessa bottla Valpollywotsit, pronto!”

The story unfolds in a way that would make Guy Ritchie blush and concludes with his vicious hangover the next morning.

Many of his stories orbited around alcohol-fueled behavior, either his own or others’. His last home was in a live-aboard in a marina surrounded by a cast of other characters who lived there and in the local pub. He recounted plumbing problems, bodies alive or otherwise in the water, motorcycle crashes, dating adventures, mentally ill neighbors, and the drama that would spill from the pub and end up on his boat and vice versa.

There’s no sugarcoating that his final years were rough, physically and mentally. It was distressing to watch from afar. He lost his high-tech career and worked a variety of odd jobs. He suffered from a number of physical ailments that caused him great pain at times and limited his mobility. The UK’s medical system has been trending towards the US’s for over a decade, and he was chronically under-treated.

His stories, which used to be torrents with hundreds or thousands of words, shrunk to a few sentences of tantalizing vignettes or cryptic hints of more to come that never came. When he was finally diagnosed with cancer and ended up in hospital, that trickle of words turned to drops until his tap ran dry.

One happy constant in his restless and unpredictable life was his love for his boys. He was very proud of the men they had become and it came through whenever he wrote about them. I send my heartfelt condolences to them.

Pierre’s is a peculiar grief to me. I have lost a favorite author and I grieve not only the loss of his life but the loss of his words. As much as watching him from afar could be maddening when he made sub-optimal decisions, I will miss the unbridled joy and piercing insight about people he shared through his stories, like when he was hired to photograph Grace Jones at a club and described her and her entourage in devastating detail or detailed the eccentricities and travails of local village inhabitants.

Farewell, Prophet, you mad motherfucker. Send a letter from the beyond, willya?

Did Twitter die?

I use a third-party app, Tweetbot, and it’s throwing this error stream. I’m seeing other reports of access issues, so this feels close to the end. 🥺😢

“Through the Mirror” is now available on Escape Pod!

An image of the Escape Pod logo with the text "Escape Pod" set above an escape pod flying away from a planet and its moon. In the background is a purple and blue nebula. Text at the bottom reads, "Edited by Mur Lafferty & S B Divya"

Escape Pod, The Original Science Fiction Podcast, has published my original short story, Through the Mirror for your listening or reading pleasure!

It’s a little under 3,000 words about the intersection of artificial intelligence, Christian nationalism, and resistance.

If you enjoy it, would you please tell a friend about it?

Thank you and thanks to everyone at Escape Pod, especially Mur Lafferty, for supporting this story and Eric Luke for his great narration!

(Image © Escape Artists, Inc.)

Heather Kilbourn is looking for work, December 2022 edition

Like many others in the tech industry this year, I received news this morning that my contract is ending at the end of December. So, I’m back on the hunt for a Principal- or Director-level role in people and business management, product/program management, customer experience analysis and optimization, or communications.

A flyer with tear-offs on the bottom like someone is advertising something. The top headline says, "Hello?" Below that is a picture of Lionel Ritchie. Below his picture is a sub-heading that says, "Is it me you're looking for?"

Each of the tear-offs is a line from his 1984 #1 hit single, "Hello".

I’ve been in tech for…well, a while, and offer a wealth of skills and experiences in the following:

  • People manager from executives to front line
  • Startup and Fortune 100 business operations experience
  • Product management for entertainment mobile apps/web with a 300M+ MAU
  • Website customer experience management and optimization for 75M+ page properties
  • Reactive and proactive communications (plus I’m a published author)
  • Datacenter operations, developer documentation support, project management, etc.

I get stuff done!

If any of y’all out there have any job leads for anything in the zone, I’d be most appreciative, thank you!

My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kilbo/