Before you ask, no, I don’t have any Bluesky invite codes. I’m sorry.
Or perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s cool, I got you: Bluesky is a buzzy social media platform funded by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey that is being hailed by some as a potential alternative to the troubled bird app.
Wait, weren’t we just talking about another buzzy social media platform being hailed as a potential Twitter alternative?
Yes, good memory. That was a platform called Mastodon. We’ve moved on to Bluesky these days. Next month, it’ll probably be something else. Apologies in advance.
Compared to its competitors, Bluesky has simplicity going for it. The app, which is currently invite only — hence the codes — is easy enough to figure out if you have spent any time using Twitter over the years. It feels familiar.
(My colleague Sheera Frenkel wrote a great Bluesky explainer if you’re looking for a quick primer.)
I joined Bluesky last week after tweeting a request for an access code. (It’s not lost on me that I got said code via the app Bluesky is trying to replace.)
Mostly, I’ve just been watching. I haven’t posted yet. Sorry, I mean I haven’t skeeted yet. Posts are being called “skeets” by users, despite pleas from the CEO Jay Graber to call them literally anything else. (Sky + tweets = skeets.) “Hear me out, call the QTs skee-balls,” skeeted Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among the most famous early adopters of the platform.
So far, it’s been fairly fun. My feed is a lot of memes and bits and gags.
Bluesky has a feed for people you are following as well as a general “What’s hot” feed. Here’s what skeets crossed my path during a ten minute scroll on Thursday afternoon.
A picture of a particularly good looking ice cream cone with no context. A screenshotted quote from Herman Melville about the cruelty of humanity. Jake Tapper skeeting a picture of Baby Yoda, and a fake account for the rapper Ice Spice skeeting a picture of real Yoda. (It was May the fourth.) Several pictures of dogs from Twitter’s @Darth. Random selfies. Someone excitedly skeeting about the iconic meme account @DaShareZ0ne joining the platform. Chelsea Manning suggesting somebody send Ted Cruz an invite and right below that a genuinely nice thread of people offering kind words and advice for a terminally-ill cat.
It has an energy some have compared to that of the early days of Twitter. Many of these comparisons are being made … back over on Twitter. It’s seems counterintuitive, but this is often how new social networks gain critical mass. Or at least try to.
But, still, I’m not terribly compelled to move from observer to active participant. Maybe it’s platform fatigue. Maybe it’s the fact that I first wrote about Mastodon as a potential Twitter killer [checks calendar] five years ago and fool me twice. Or maybe it’s just hard not to get cynical about the cycle of events that seems all but inevitable on emerging social platforms.
The things that initially make a platform weird and fun all too frequently end up getting weaponized by bad actors. And then there is, of course, the omnipresent question of what to do about content moderation. (Wired has an interesting piece detailing how Bluesky already has run afoul when it comes to nudes. And not in the way you might expect!)
I’m going to keep watching, though — waiting and hoping someone has finally cracked the code on building the platform to end all platforms. If you’re still interested in getting in early, I hear you can buy a code on eBay if you have $400 to burn.
Here’s what else is happening online this week.
Let’s talk TikTok
One of my favorite things about TikTok — and the thing that keeps me coming back for hours a day every week despite my better judgment — is the hyperspecificity of its algorithm. There’s a niche for everyone and everything. There are the familiar genres you might expect like Food Tok, Cleaning Tok, and Book Tok, but also ones you might not, like my newfound obsession, Hoof Tok. That last one is an oddly satisfying and occasionally disgusting world of videos of people trimming down horse hooves. Like I said, something for everyone.
But that’s my algorithm. I want to hear about yours. What dark corner of TikTok has you up scrolling into the pre-dawn hours? Are there micro-communities on TikTok you want explained? Send me an email to email@example.com and you might just read about it in a forthcoming installment of I.H.O.