Yesterday, Sacca posted an 8500-word essay titled “What Twitter Can Be.” It examines the current state of Twitter from a business and investment perspective, acknowledging some good, some bad. What his entire essay lacks, however, is the perspective of a user who is not Chris Sacca.
To wit, from Sacca’s post, his view on the bad:
What’s Not Going Well At Twitter?
- New user growth has stalled.
- Almost one billion users have tried Twitter and not stuck around.
- Direct response advertising has fallen short of hopes.
- Wall Street’s confidence in the management team has diminished.
- Twitter has been unable to convince investors of its potential upside.
This is an alarmingly one-sided perspective on the issues Twitter is facing, given that none of these problems are concerns that Twitter’s own users have ever expressed. What’s “not going well at Twitter” is, to Sacca’s view, only a matter of why Twitter isn’t making big bucks on Wall Street, and not anything that is actually a real problem with either Twitter the company or Twitter the product.
Throughout the entire 8500-word essay, the terms “women,” “harassment,” “abuse,” “minorities,” “racism,” and so forth and so on, appear a grand total of zero times. Combined. Now that may seem like a particularly social justice set of topics to focus on, but lest you forget, it’s only the actual human beings that are Twitter’s users who can provide value to advertisers, not the many indifferent and emotionless bots (who have no money to buy any advertised products with).
Not caring about the social and/or ethical integrity and health of your userbase will generally lead to its deterioration, and an unhappy userbase is not one that excitedly uses your product, or evangelizes it to others, or posts new content to it as regularly. And it’s not like Twitter’s CEO is unaware of users’ complaints; all the same, it’s been up to users themselves to fix Twitter’s product for them, generally without any compensation.
New user growth has stalled? Twitter’s global reputation for having become a platform that facilitates massively sexist and racist abuse and harassment probably didn’t appeal to people so much.
Almost a billion users tried and left? Maybe they weren’t white guys and still had opinions on things.
Direct response advertising has fallen short of hopes, and Wall Street isn’t confident in the management team anymore? Ever since last August, and the ensuing many campaigns of hate that Twitter is still failing to address, I can’t say I’m surprised in the least.
Sacca is a smart man, witty and funny at times, definitely an incredibly savvy investor, and ruthless at making his own portfolio successful. But you can’t be ruthless at being empathetic, and his essay shows this.
People may not volunteer the idea that Twitter’s easily-toxic environment has made it less appealing to them as a product, but the reality is that awareness of such things has a psychological effect even when you’re not conscious of it. And Twitter’s long series of failures has been very widely documented for the past 10 months on every major news outlet, and national television. Rarely directly attributed to Twitter’s management team, mind you, but you don’t need to explicitly say that Twitter should do better in order for you to know that. The same is true for knowing how toxic being on Twitter can be for people, usually those whose voices are already diminished in our society.
Who Chris Sacca could be is an investor with both a very keen eye for startups and an awareness of how social and ethical concerns that people are constantly repeating are indicative of very real problems that the companies need to address.
I would like to see that Chris Sacca very much, because he still has a lot of influence, and his voice on these matters gets heard far and wide. Sadly, perhaps, more so than the thousands, nay, millions of voices quietly asking Twitter to perhaps better consider how the service is damaging their lives, livelihoods, and relationships, and do something about that.
For their part, Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo has said they are aiming to address some of these issues. I’m still looking forward to seeing the results of that, especially less on paper and more in active changes.