plus, the groverhaus

Last week, Twitter announced an innovative, high-tech feature was available to all users: you can now restrict who is able to yell at you online.

Here’s how it works. Before you Tweet, choose who can reply with three options: 1) everyone (standard Twitter, and the default setting), 2) only people you follow, or 3) only people you mention.

Large platforms like to talk about deploying stuff at scale as some excuse for not being able to introduce basic features, but, speaking as a computer expert (someone who was admitted to a 15-week, immersive software engineering course earlier this week), there’s no reason this couldn’t have happened sooner. This features seems like a pretty basic “if” check. Just my two cents.

(Clearly, the reason this feature hasn’t existed before now is not technical, but rather that letting users control and restrict who can call them slurs reduces overall engagement and, subsequently, ad impressions.)

What is funny to me about this is that the interaction restrictions that Twitter is trumpeting as some incredible development was invented years ago on Tumblr as an informal feature. The way Tumblr works is that users can reblog other peoples' posts and that’s the primary form of interaction. Imagine a Twitter where 90 percent of the posts were quote-tweets. That’s Tumblr.

For years, at first seriously and then as a joke, Tumblr users have been placing DNI banners at the bottom of their posts. “DNI” stands for “Do Not Interact.”

Anyway, I came across a big collection of DNI banners this week and this is basically what Twitter rolled out. I couldn’t tell you which of these are serious and which are ironic.

The DNI banners aesthetically remind me of an ancient artform known as the forum signature, which is exactly what it sounds like. Online bulletin boards let people attach images and text to the bottom of every single forum post they made – a consistent throughline that users could change to suit their needs. Like an email signature but funnier. They were usually song lyrics or a picture of Sephiroth from Final Fantasy.

I’d say that Twitter should adopt the idea of a forum signature too, because I miss the old web and it’d be really funny, but Twitter sort of already has this. It’s in the display name, which users can change at will and is displayed above every tweet belonging to that user. Now that Twitter users have 50 characters to work with in their display names – far more than most people need for their full names – they are using them to add other messages and signifiers, whether that’s a statement about social justice or an emoji, like a blue wave or a donut, that allies them with a certain political movement. Here are some people who want to save the USPS.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. Just wanted to point out that what’s old – DNI features, forum signatures – is new again. Every new feature on a megaplatform is something that web users developed years ago, and which centralized platforms obliterated. Now they’re rediscovering basic quality-of-life updates and rolling them out as if they’re innovative.


Microsoft is launching the newest Flight Simulator this week and it looks rad. I’d love to be one of those guys who does not use social media or plays other video games but goes up to my attic after work and gets out my flight stick and pilots a virtual 747 from Tucson to Milwaukee to let off some steam. Man, that would rule.

A cool thing about the newest Flight Simulator is that it harnesses the power of the cloud to stream in satellite imagery below a flight. So instead of just modeling certain landmarks, any building — even nondescript houses — appear in relatively high detail.

What you are looking at seems, at first glance, like a regular house. You are wrong. What you are looking at is the Groverhaus, one of those legendary internet tales that formed a years-long saga. The kind of thing that, now, would be a one-day Twitter thread.

The Groverhaus is a house built by a Something Awful user named Grover. He and his wife designed and built it themselves, and it is a catastrophe. The original thread is behind both a paywall and all of the images are broken, but the Groverhaus was so infamous that the pictures still float around in places like this Imgur album. The extremely helpful artist/internet historian Eliza Gauger outlined some of the many Grover catastrophes in a thread a few years ago.

Thanks to the magic of the cloud, you can now kamikaze the Groverhaus, if you so choose.

Buckingham Palace, however, is a different story.


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