Twitter doesn't need a paid tier. It needs a democratic verification policy.

Plus: communist smartphones; glitching pants; foodie cars; sarcasm detectors and more!

One problem with Twitter is the existence of a blue-check aristocracy. Verified users have special privileges, are more likely to be followed and interacted with, and their comments float to the top above the unwashed, unverified masses. To date, verified users tend to be celebrities, some but not all journalists, and people with extremely high follower counts. 

Verified users have an unfair advantage on the network. It’s unfair to the majority of users.

For the first years of the existence of Twitter verification, the process for getting verified was uneven and unclear. Some got verification without asking. Others had to ask. Many of those who asked were denied. And the reasons were inconsistent. 

So Twitter stopped verifying people for months. Earlier this month, they re-launched verification, and even retroactively un-verified users who don't meet the new criteria. 

Twitter says that the purpose of verification is to "help people distinguish the authenticity of accounts that are of high public interest."

This misguided purpose for verification misses a huge opportunity, in my opinion (more on that below) and creates a needless aristocracy on what SHOULD be a meritocracy. 

The problem with aristocracy is that it disincentivizes participation and creates resentment among the majority of users who cannot get verified because their accounts are deemed insufficiently "high" in public interest. 

Now, making the aristocracy problem worse, Twitter is on the brink of rolling out a $2.99-per-month paid tier called "Twitter Blue."

Here’s what Twitter really needs instead.

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Mike’s List of Brilliantly Bad Ideas

1. Communist smartphones

The Russian smartphone customizing company Caviar is releasing a custom Huawei Mate 40 Pro and an iPhone 12 Limited Edition smartphone to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China. Each phone has a gold frame with a relief portrait of the prominent Chinese dictator of your choice, such as Mao Zedong, plus a vapid communist slogan. Because nothing honors a century of genocide, famine, cultural destruction, authoritarianism, intellectual property theft, censorship and repression like a fun gadget. And nothing represents communism like a $25,000 smartphone. (I want one.)

2. Pants that look like they're glitching

The clothing company Le Je is selling pants that look like a glitch in the Matrix. They look super dumb, cost roughly $500 a pair and won't be available for months. Give me the blue pill. I don't want to remember nothing. 

3. Cars that function as picnic baskets

Rolls-Royce has come out with a car that is more than just a car — it's also a picnic basket. The new "Boat Tail" Rolls replaces the trunk with a flat, yacht-like flat wood deck. Press a button, and the deck opens with two doors to reveal stools, an umbrella, platinum-ringed porcelain plates, engraved silver Christofle Parisian flatware, a champagne fridge and champagne flutes, cool storage for caviar and a fold-out table. This is even better than my Prius.

4. Military sarcasm radar

DARPA, the US military research arm that brought us GPS, the graphical interface and the internet, is finally funding something useful — a sarcasm detector. Military intelligence would love to hoover up social media chatter by the terabyte and grind it through advanced AI analytics to discover terrorists hatching schemes. The trouble is: How can software tell the difference between serious threats and sarcasm, which is by definition the use of irony — often expressing a sentiment that is the opposite of what is actually states — as a form of criticism or satire. DARPA is funding the eggheads at the University of Central Florida who are working on the Computational Simulation of Online Social Behavior (SocialSim) program, which will include a sarcasm detector. What a wonderful use of tax dollars. (SocialSim: Are you detecting anything right now?)

Mike’s List of Shameless Self Promotion

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

  1. This Week in Tech podcast: Ask Shatner’s Ghost

  2. How to boost your health care data cybersecurity immune system

  3. How communication styles in the workplace are changing

  4. How holograms, deepfakes, and AR are raising the dead

  5. IoT Security: Be Aware of What You Connect at Home

CURRENT LOCATION: Silicon Valley, California