Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

A Modest Proposal for a New Social Medium

Twitter’s strengths are its limits; its weakness is that it isn’t limited enough.

  • October 31, 2011

What if there were a Twitter and Facebook alternative that only allowed its users to post once a day. Let’s call it Bulletiner.

bul·le·tin /ˈbo͝olitn/


  1. A short official statement or broadcast summary of news.
  2. A regular newsletter or printed report issued by an organization or society.

Synonyms: report - communique

Maybe the logo looks like this, at least until the first notice from Twitter about ripping off their trade dress comes across the transom.

The point of Bulletiner is simple – inevitably, all social networks become overwhelmed by oversharing. The signal to noise ratio is just too hard to manage, and the utility of that network drops as the people on it shove more and more content our way. That’s why Twitter took off – its short missives increased the signal to noise ratio.

The problem with Twitter is that its incentives remain perverse. To gain attention on the service, it pays to post often, so that you’re more visible in other users’ streams. Past a certain point, of course, they stop following, but the incentive is to post right up to the limit of other users’ tendency to become annoyed with you. That makes Twitter simultaneously supremely useful and annoyingly overwhelming.

Ditto Facebook, which has tried to deal with this problem by giving users the option (on by default) to only see the more important missives from their friends. But it’s an imperfect solution.

Bulletiner eradicates this problem in one fell swoop – everyone gets to post just once a day, so it better be good. Maybe that post is a link to a blog post containing a Storify of the day’s tweets; fine. But the incentive is more or less exclusively in the direction of quality.

So let’s say I’m following hundreds of people on Bulletiner; an entirely reasonable prospect given the once-a-day limit. Maybe there’s a view that shows me everyone’s most recent post, rather than a chronological stream of all of the most recent posts from my entire pool of follows, further prioritizing my ability to hear from the people I want to hear from most, rather than simply the people who post the most often. The site could have a messaging system or just an email contact system, maybe even “comments” on individual bulletins to retain the discussion format that Twitter offers (but to keep it from polluting your stream).

The possibilities for additional features are endless, but the core functionality is what counts. It’s high time that the realm of social media was shaken up by an even more draconian attempt to increase the quality of our online interactions by putting hard boundaries around them.

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