Commentary: The Twitter CEO's live-tweeted #karajack interview was like a regular interview, but with EVERYONE! YELLING! AT! ONCE!
Imagine the Frost/Nixon interview, but carried out in a sack full of screaming badgers.
That's what it's like interviewing the CEO of Twitter , on Twitter, when anyone on Twitter is free to jump onto the thread.
Recode executive editor and seasoned journalist Kara Swisher set up an interview with Twitter chief Jack Dorsey on Tuesday to discuss the future of the platform, preparing for the 2020 elections (in light of the issues tech platforms have had in combating fake news) and, of course, the issues of trolling and banning problem users.
But while #KaraJack was a grand idea in theory (the medium is the message!), it pivoted quickly. Maybe Swisher's curtain-raiser tweet, showing a video of her screeching cat getting a rabies shot, was a grim portent of what was to come.
What followed was the online equivalent of a phone interview conducted at 2 a.m. from a sports bar where the bartender just announced they were out of Fireball.
KS: "So, if I can pivot the conversation to politics…"
JD: "Hold on I've just got someone yelling at me over here, can I text you back?"
KS: "I'm on the other line now, do you see me there?"
JD: "Yeah, you can have it!"
The @ replies ballooned out with pile-ons, threads got twisted and confused and even the interviewer and her guest ended up hopelessly lost.
"I am going to start a NEW thread to make it easy for people to follow," Swisher tweeted. "@waltmossberg just texted me that it is a "chaotic hellpit"). Stay in that one. OK?"
Even Twitter users (the one's who weren't trying to start their own impromptu interviews with Dorsey on the side) were confused.
If the medium was the message, then the interview served to perfectly illustrate just how many problems Twitter has right now -- problems that Twitter's own head honchos had to admit were on full display.
It was a textbook example of the ways regular users face issues with having civil -- or as Twitter calls them, "healthy" -- conversations on the platform.
Trying to have a reasoned debate? That won't stop someone jumping straight to Godwin's Law and @ing you with references to Hitler. Trying to follow a hashtag? Watch it become bloated with randoms trying to change the topic. Trying to have a conversation with one of the best tech journalists going around? Watch out. Your menchies are going to get hectic.
Both Dorsey and Swisher are no strangers to tough interviews -- @jack even showed off his journo cred with a well-placed copy of "The Invention of Journalism Ethics" on show in his home office setup (weird flex, but OK).
Still, with Twitter facing accusations that it hasn't fixed its problems with pile-ons and creating a conversational feel to exchanges, it felt like #KaraJack was doomed to fail. But props to Swisher and Dorsey for keeping it civil and being big enough to admit where it went wrong.
Now, if only they could fix Twitter for the rest of us.
If you want to see the full Q&A in some semblance of a rational order, Kara Swisher tweeted out a good list here.
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