Why do people post on [bad platform] instead of [good platform]? | Patreon

There's a class of comment you often see when someone makes a popular thread on Mastodon/Twitter/Threads/etc., that you also see on videos that's basically "Why make a Twitter thread? This would be better as a blog post" or "Why make a video? This would be better as a blog post". But, these comments are often stronger in form, such as:

I can't read those tweets that span pages because the users puts 5 words in each reply. I find common internet completely stupid: Twitter, tiktok, Instagram, etc. What a huge waste of energy.

or

When someone chooses to blog on twitter you know it's facile at best, and more likely simply stupid (as in this case)

These kinds of comments are fairly common, e.g., I pulled up Foone's last 10 Twitter threads that scored 200 points or more on HN and 9 out of 10 had comments like this, complaining about the use of Twitter.

People often express bafflement that anyone could have a reason for using [bad platform], such as in "how many tweets are there just to make his point? 200? nobody thinks 'maybe this will be more coherent on a single page'? I don't get social media" or "Come on, typing a short description and uploading a picture 100 times is easier than typing everything in one block and adding a few connectors here and there? ... objectively speaking it is more work".

Personally, I don't really like video as a format and, for 95% of youtube videos that I see, I'd rather get the information as a blog post than a video (and this will be even more true if Google really cracks down on ad blocking) and I think that, for a reader who's interested in the information, long-form blog posts are basically strictly better than long threads on [bad platform]. But I also recognize that much of the content that I want to read wouldn't exist at all if it wasn't for things like [bad platform].

Stepping back and looking at the big picture, there are four main reasons I've seen that people use [bad platform], which are that it gets more engagement, it's where their friends are, it's lower friction, and it monetizes better.

Engagement

The engagement reason is the simplest, so let's look at that first. Just looking at where people spend their time, short-form platforms like Twitter, Instagram, etc., completely dominate longer form platforms like Medium, Blogspot, etc.; you can see this in the valuations of these companies, in survey data, etc. Substack is the hottest platform for long-form content and its last valuation was ~$600M, basically a rounding error compared to the value of short-form platforms (I'm not including things like Wordpress and or Squarespace, which derive a lot of their valuation from things other than articles and posts). The money is following the people and people have mostly moved on from long-form content. And if you talk to folks using substack about where their readers and growth comes from, that comes from platforms like Twitter, so people doing long-form content who optimize for engagement or revenue will still produce a lot of short-form content1.

Friends

The friends reason is probably the next simplest. A lot of people are going to use whatever people around them are using. Realistically, if I were ten years younger and started doing something online in 2023 instead of 2013, more likely than not, I would've tried streaming before I tried blogging. But, as an old, out of touch, person, I tried starting a blog in 2013 even knowing that blogging was a dying medium relative to video. It seems to have worked well enough for me, so I've stuck with it, but this seems generational. While there are people older than me who do video and people younger than me who write blogs, looking at the distribution of ages, I'm not all that far from the age where people overwhelmingly moved to video and if I were really planning to do something long-term instead of just doing the lowest friction thing when I started, I would've started with video. Today, doing video is natural for folks who are starting to put their thoughts online.

Friction

When [bad platform] is a microblogging platform like Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, etc., the friends reason still often applies — people on these platforms are frequently part of a community they interact with, and it makes more sense for them to keep their content on the platform full of community members than to put content elsewhere. But the bigger reason for people whose content is widely read is that a lot of people find these platforms are much lower friction than writing blog posts. When people point this out, [bad platform] haters are often baffled, responding with things like

Come on, typing a short description and uploading a picture 100 times is easier than typing everything in one block and adding a few connectors here and there? ... objectively speaking it is more work

For one thing, most widely read programmer/tech bloggers that I'm in touch with use platforms that are actually higher friction (e.g., Jekyll friction and Hugo friction). But, in principle, they could use substack, hosted wordpress, or another platform that this commenter considers "objectively" lower friction, but this fundamentally misunderstands where the friction comes from. When people talk about [bad platform] being lower friction, it's usually about the emotional barriers to writing and publishing something, not the literal number of clicks it takes to publish something. We can argue about whether or not this is rational, whether this "objectively" makes sense, etc., but at the end of the day, it is simply true that many people find it mentally easier to write on a platform where you write short chunks of text instead of a single large chunk of text.

I sometimes write things on Mastodon because it feels like the right platform for some kinds of content for me. Of course, since the issue is not the number of clicks it takes and there's some underlying emotional motivation, other people have different reasons. For example, Foone says:

Not to humblebrag or anything, but my favorite part of getting posted on hackernews or reddit is that EVERY SINGLE TIME there's one highly-ranked reply that's "jesus man, this could have been a blog post! why make 20 tweets when you can make one blog post?"

CAUSE I CAN'T MAKE A BLOG POST, GOD DAMN IT. I have ADHD. I have bad ADHD that is being treated, and the treatment is NOT WORKING TERRIBLY WELL. I cannot focus on writing blog posts. it will not happen

if I try to make a blog post, it'll end up being abandoned and unfinished, as I am unable to edit it into something readable and postable. so if I went 100% to blogs: You would get: no content I would get: lots of unfinished drafts and a feeling of being a useless waste

but I can do rambly tweet threads. they don't require a lot of attention for a long time, they don't have the endless editing I get into with blog posts, I can do them. I do them a bunch! They're just rambly and twitter, which some people don't like

The issue Foone is referring to isn't even uncommon — three of my favorite bloggers have mentioned that they can really only write things in one sitting, so either they have enough momentum to write an entire blog post or they don't. There's a difference in scale between only being able to get yourself to write a tweet at a time and only being able to write what you can fit into a single writing session, but these are differences in degree, not differences in kind.

Revenue

And whatever the reason someone has for finding [bad platform] lower friction than [good platform], allowing people to use a platform that works for them means we get more content. When it comes to video, the same thing also applies because video monetizes so much better than text and there's a lot of content that monetizes well on video that probably wouldn't monetize well in text.

To pick an arbitrary example, automotive content is one of these areas. For example, if you're buying a car and you want detailed, practical, reviews about a car as well as comparisons to other cars one might consider if they're looking at a particular car, before YouTube, AFAIK, no one was doing anything close to the depth of what Alex Dykes does on Alex on Autos. If you open up a car magazine from the heyday of car magazines, something like Card and Driver or Road and Track from 1997, there's nothing that goes into even 1/10th of the depth that Alex does and this is still true today of modern car magazines. The same goes for quite a few sub-categories of automotive content as well, such as Jonathan Benson's on Tyre Reviews. Before Jonathan, no one was testing tires with the same breadth and depth and writing it up (engineers at tire companies did this kind of testing and much more, but you had to talk to them directly to get the info)2 . You can find similar patterns in a lot of areas outside of automotive content as well. While this depends on the area, in many cases, the content wouldn't exist if it weren't for video. Not only do people, in general, have more willingness to watch videos than to read text, video monetizes much better than text does, which allows people to make providing in depth information their job in a way that wouldn't be possible in text. In some areas, you can make good money with a paywalled newsletter, but this is essentially what car magazines are and they were never able to support anything resembling what Alex Dykes does, nor does it seem plausible that you could support something like what Jonathan Benson does on YouTube.

Or, to pick an example from the tech world, shortly after Lucy Wang created her YouTube channel, Tech With Lucy, when she had 50k subscribers and her typical videos had thousands to tens of thousands views with the occasional video with a hundred thousand views, she noted that she was making more than she did working for AWS (with most of the money presumably coming in from sponsorships). By comparison, my blog posts all get well over a million hits and I definitely don't make anywhere near what Lucy made at AWS; instead, my blog barely covers my rent. It's possible to monetize some text decently well if you put most of it behind a paywall, e.g., Gergely Orosz does this with his newsletter, but if you want to have mostly or exclusively have freely available content, video generally dominates text.

Non-conclusion

While I would prefer that most content that I see on YouTube/Twitter/Threads/Mastodon/etc. were hosted on a text blog, the reality is that most of that content wouldn't exist at all if it had to be written up as long-form text instead of as chunked up short-form text or video. Maybe in a few years, summary tools will get good enough that I can consume the translations but, today, all the tools I've tried often get key details badly wrong, so we just have to live with the content in the form it's created in.

If you're looking for work, Freshpaint is hiring a recruiter, Software Engineers, and a Support Engineer. I'm in an investor in the company, so you should take this with the usual grain of salt, but if you're looking to join a fast growing early-stage startup, they seem to have found product-market fit and have been growing extremely quickly (revenue-wise).

Thanks to Heath Borders, Peter Bhat Harkins, James Young, Sophia Wisdom, and David Kok for comments/corrections/discussion.

Appendix: Elsewhere

Here's a comment from David Kok, from a discussion about a rant by an 80-year old bridge player about why bridge is declining, where the 80-year old claimed that the main reason is that IQ has declined and young people (as in, people who are 60 and below) are too stupid to play intellectual games like bridge; many other bridge players concurred:

Rather than some wrong but meaningful statement about age groups I always just interpret statements like "IQ has gone down" as "I am unhappy and have difficulty expressing that" and everybody else going "Yes so am I" when they concur.

If you adapt David Kok's comment to complaints about why something isn't a blog post, that's a meta reason that the reasons I gave in this post are irrelevant (to some people) — these reasons only matter to people who care about the reasons; if someone is just venting their feelings an the reasons they're giving are an expression of their feelings and not meant to be legitimate reasons, the reasons someone might not write a blog post are irrelevant.

Anyway, the topic of why post there instead of here is a common enough topic that I'm sure other people have written things about it that I'd be interested in reading. Please feel free to forward other articles you see on the topic to me

Appendix: HN comments on Foone's last 10 Twitter threads.

I looked up Foone's last N Twitter threads that made to HN with 200+ points, and 9 out of 10 have complaints about why Foone used Twitter and how it would be better as a blog post. [This is not including comments of the form "For those who hate Twitter threads as much as I do: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1014267515696922624.html", of which there are more than comments like the ones below, which have a complaint but also have some potentially useful content, like a link to another version of the thread.

Never trust a system that seems to be working

One of the first comments was a complaint that it was on Twitter, which was followed not too long after by

how many tweets are there just to make his point? 200? nobody thinks "maybe this will be more coherent on a single page"? I don't get social media

Someday aliens will land and all will be fine until we explain our calendar

This would be better written in a short story format but I digress.

shit like this is too good and entertaining to be on twitter [one of the few positive comments complaining about this]

This person hates it so much whenever there is a link to their content on this site, they go on huge massive rants about it with threads spamming as much as the OP, it's hilarious.

You want to know something about how bullshit insane our brains are?

They'll tolerate reading it on twitter?

Serious question : why do publishers break down their blog posts into umpteen tweeted microblogs? Do the engagement web algorithms give preference to the number of tweets in a thread? I see this is becoming more of a trend

This is a very interesting submission. But, boy, is Twitter's character limit poisonous.

IMO Foone's web presence is toxic. Rather than write a cogent article posted on their blog and then summarize a pointer to that post in a single tweet, they did the opposite writing dozens of tweets as a thread and then summarizing those tweets in a blog post. This is not a web trend I would like to encourage but alas it is catching on.

Oh, I don't care how the author writes it, or whether there's a graph relationship below (or anything else). It's just that Twitter makes the experience of reading content like that a real chore.

Reverse engineering Skifree

This should have been a blog or a livestream.

Even in this format?

I genuinely don't get it. It's a pain in the ass for them to publish it like that and it's a pain in the ass for us to read it like that. I hope Musk takes over Twitter and runs it the ground so we can get actual blog posts back.

Someone points out that Foone has noted that they find writing long-form stuff impossible and can write in short-form media, to which the response is the following:

Come on, typing a short description and uploading a picture 100 times is easier than typing everything in one block and adding a few connectors here and there?

Obviously that's their prerogative and they can do whatever they want but objectively speaking it is more work and I sincerely hope the trend will die.

Everything with a battery should have an off switch

You forgot, foone isn't going to change from streams of Twitter posts to long form blogging. [actually a meta comment on how people always complain about this and not a complaint, I think]

I can't read those tweets that span pages because the users puts 5 words in each reply. I find common internet completely stupid: Twitter, tiktok, Instagram, etc. What a huge waste of energy.

He clearly knows [posting long threads on Twitter] is a problem, he should fix it.

Someone points out that Foone has said that they're unable to write long-form blog posts, to which the person replies:

You can append to a blog post as you go the same way you can append to a Twitter feed. It's functionally the same, the medium just isn't a threaded hierarchy. There's no reason it has to be posted fully formed as he declares.

My own blog posts often have 10+ revisions after I've posted them.

It doesn't work well for thousands of people, which is why there are always complaints ... When something is suboptimal, you're well within your rights to complain about it. Posting long rants as Twitter threads is suboptimal for the consumers of said threads

I kind of appreciate the signal: When someone chooses to blog on twitter you know it's facile at best, and more likely simply stupid (as in this case)

There's an ARM Cortex-M4 with Bluetooth inside a Covid test kit

Amazingly, no complaint that I could see, although one comment was edited to be "."

Taking apart the 2010 Fisher Price re-released Music Box Record Player

why is this a twitter thread? why not a blog?

Followed by

I love that absolutely no one got the joke ... Foone is a sociopath who doesn't feel certain words should be used to refer to Foone because they don't like them. In fact no one should talk about Foone ever.

While posting to Tumblr, E and W keys just stopped working

Just hotkey detection gone wrong. Not that big of a surprise because implementing hotkeys on a website is a complete minefield. I don't think you can conclude that Tumblr is badly written from this. Badly tested maybe.

Because that comment reads like nonsense to anyone who read the link, someone asks "did you read the whole thread?", to which the commenter responds:

No because Twitter makes it completely unreadable.

My mouse driver is asking for a firewall exemption

Can we have twitter banned from being posted here? On all UI clicks, a nagging window comes up. You can click it away, but it reverts your click, so any kind of navigation becomes really cumbersome.

or twitter urls being replaced with some twitter2readable converter

Duke Nukem 3D Mirror Universe

This is remarkable, but Twitter is such an awful medium for this kind of text. I wish this was posted on a normal platform so I could easily share it.

If this were a blog post instead of a pile of tweets, we wouldn't have to expand multiple replies to see all of the content

Uh why isn't this a blog, or a youtube video? specifically to annoy foone

Yes, long form Twitter is THE WORST. However foone is awesome, so maybe they cancel each other out?

I hate twitter. It's slowly ruining the internet.

Non-foone posts

Of course this kind of thing isn't unique to Foone. For example, on the last Twitter thread I saw on HN, 2 of the first five comments were:

Has this guy got a blog?

and

That's kind of why the answer to "posting something to X" should be "just say no". It's impossible to say anything there that is subtle in the slightest or that requires background to understand but unfortunately people who are under the spell of X just can't begin to see something they do the way somebody else might see it.

I just pulled up Foone's threads because I know that they tend to post to short-form platforms and looking at 10 Foone threads is more interesting than looking at 10 random threads.


  1. Of course, almost no one optimizes for revenue because most people don't make money off of the content they put out on the internet. And I suspect only a tiny fraction of people are consciously optimizing for engagement, but just like we saw with prestige, there seems to be a lot of nonconscious optimization for engagement. A place where you can see this within a platform is (and I've looked at hundreds of examples of this) when people start using a platform like Mastodon or Threads. They'll post a lot of different kinds of things. Most things won't get a lot of traction and a few will. They could continue posting the same things, but they'll often, instead, post less low-engagement content over time and more high-engagement content over time. Platforms have a variety of ways of trying to make other people engage with your content rewarding and, on average, this seems to work on people. This is an intra-platform and not an inter-platform example, but if this works on people, it seems like the inter-platform reasoning should hold as well.

    Personally, I'm not optimizing for engagement or revenue, but I've been paying my rent from Patreon earnings, so it would probably make sense to do so. But, at least at the moment, looking into what interests me feels like a higher priority even if that's sort of a revenue and engagement minimizing move. For example, wc has the source of my last post at 20k words, which means that doing two passes of writing over the post might've been something like 7h40m. If I did short-form content instead, a while back, I did an experiment where I tried tweeting daily for a few months, which increased my Twitter followers by ~50% (from ~20k to ~30k). The Twitter experiment probably took about as much time as typing up my last post (which doesn't include the time spent doing the work for the last post which involved, among other things, reading five books and 15 or so papers about tire and vehicle dynamics), so from an engagement or revenue standpoint, posting to short-form platforms totally dominates the kind of writing I'm doing and anyone who care almost at all about engagement or revenue would do the short-form posting instead of long-form writing that takes time to create. As for me, right now, I have two drafts I'm in the middle of which are more like my last post. For one draft, the two major things I need to finish up are writing up a summary of ~500 articles/comments for an appendix and reading a 400 page book I want to quote a few things from, and for the other, I need to finish writing up notes for ~400 pages pages of FOIA'd government docs. In terms of the revenue this drives to my Patreon, I'd be lucky if I make minimum wage from doing this, not even including the time spent on things I research but don't publish because the result is uninteresting. But I'm also a total weirdo. On average, people are going to produce content that gets eyeballs, so of course a lot more people are going to create more hastily written long [bad platform] threads than blog posts.

    [return]
  2. for German-language content, there was one magazine that was doing work that's not as thorough in some ways, but semi-decently close, but no one was translating that into English. Jonathan Benson not only does unprecedented-for-English reviews of tires, he also translates the German reviews into English!

    On the broader topic, unfortunately, despite video making more benchmarking financially viable, there's still plenty of stuff where there's no good way to figure out what's better other than by talking to people who work in the industry, such as for ADAS systems, where the public testing is cursory at best.

    [return]