Monthly Archives: October 2015

Twitter

Twitter must reinvent itself as a public benefit corporation

Public Benefit CorporationTwitter announced layoffs last this past week. It caught a few people by surprise. But it didn’t catch me by surprise. That’s because I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with Twitter since its very inception back in 2006. Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder, was originally inspired to create Twitter as a dispatch platform system. It eventually morphed into a SMS platform allowing you up to 140 characters for every message tweeted. I recall when Twitter came out my first reaction was, “oh great, another social media tool.”  This was back when social media continued its explosive ways, inspiring the development of a multitude of social-oriented applications designed to further communication and/or socializing  among users (whether they actually wanted to or not). In the early 2000s, we were inundated by the likes of Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace, and of course, Facebook. The explosion of these social media applications astounded me because it seemed as if they appeared out of nowhere and I never imagined that so many platforms could exist for the express purpose of getting people to socialize more. The only one that truly seemed to serve a valuable purpose was LinkedIn as I saw the utility of professional networking.

Twitter made little sense to me because when it comes to “social,” I know no one in life who enjoys the constraints of communicating in 140 characters. Yes, there was a novelty with Twitter. And Shakespeare did write that “brevity is the soul of wit.” But after participating in a few Twitter chats, I found myself growing impatient and bored. On the flip side, some businesses that did take advantage of Twitter have found it fairly effective for customer service and increasing sales. But even with those success stories, Twitter struggles to become profitable. Worse, it’s not been able to find a way to generate sufficient profits from its advertising. On top of that because it accepted venture capital to build and develop itself, it was forced to go public even when it was not earning a profit.

To economize anything would suggest saving money and potentially time. Twitter forces you to express a message in 140 characters or less and messaging is done fairly instantaneously. However, I’m not using Twitter on a daily basis. And I’m not using it on a weekly basis. I spend more of my time on Facebook. Why?  The interface allows for an easier consumption of information AND I’m not restricted to 140 characters in my posts or responses. Editorial commenting is now the chief central way for the average person to interact with the news of the day. Pretty much every corporate media entity, from the New York Times to the Huffington Post has a Facebook presence which sends oodles of traffic to its web pages. People do click on the stories posted and more importantly, they are commenting on the stories via the platform, in this case, Facebook. Responding to comments on Twitter just doesn’t offer the same allure as on Facebook. Facebook offers more than a SMS. It offers real, substantive engagement.

My hope for Twitter is that it would ultimately change its mission and go from putting profit first to becoming an actual public benefit corporation.  Kickerstarter made a big announcement having just recently morphed into a PBC. It’s difficult now that Twitter is a public company beholden to its shareholders. Twitter was at its best as an emergency SMS. I ultimately would like to see a Twitter technology funded by taxpayers and managed by a government entity that is responsive and beholden to the public interest and not profits.

Golden State Warriors arena

Warriors Mission Bay Arena Must Be Stopped!

Here we go again! Back in 2013 I wrote about the Golden State Warriors  mission to build a new arena along the Embarcadero. Former San Francisco mayor Art Agnos helped to lead the fight against the monstrosity and the people won! Since then, the Warriors owners have continued their search to find a site suitable for their basketball complex and sure enough, all they had to do was put in a bid for some empty property along Mission Bay, about a mile south of the previous Embarcadero location.

And again nearly the same problems and criticisms that were raised against the arena being built along the Embarcadero apply to this new site, in particular, major traffic congestion. Something that in no uncertain terms will be an awful problem if this arena gets built. The traffic near SOMA during a regular SF Giants baseball season is in a word, dreadful. Nothing but vehicular traffic clogging the streets of Brannon, Embarcadero, King street, and more. Now imagine an arena built along 3rd street. As if Muni is even prepared to be able to handle the volume of people coming to see the Warriors play. It’s a very cruel joke.

UCSF recently gave their approval for the arena because they reached a deal with the city of San Francisco. The deal calls for a $10 million Mission Bay Transportation Improvement Fund, which will be dedicated to controlling the flow of traffic in the neighborhood, particularly during evening arena events. I, for one, do not believe for a second that any amount of controlling traffic will do anything to LIMIT the amount of traffic that will flood China Basin if this arena gets approved for building. The amount of traffic already in existence will only be exacerbated by this arena. Why must the owners of the Golden State Warriors be hell-bent on building their structure in the city of San Francisco?

I am strongly urging my supervisor, Malia Cohen, to reject this arena. While the full environmental impact report has yet to be completed, I believe it will show that traffic will be inordinately bad for China Basin and will become a significant cause of gridlock, road rage,  and accidents. Not to mention the excessive amount of carbon pollution coming from drivers around the Bay seeking to watch the Warriors play.

The Warriors can have their arena but only if it is built back in Oakland. Oakland is in desperate need of more business and enterprise and there exists a serious fan base for basketball. On the other hand, does a sports arena actually benefit the economy of a city? Read this story on the Pheonix Coyotes in the Atlantic magazine about the economics of sports stadiums, and learn about who wins and who loses!

I support the Mission Bay Alliance and its quest to derail the Warriors arena. I urge my readers to sign the Change.org petition to stop the proposed Warriors arena and entertainment center in Mission Bay. As a San Francisco native, I decry what has become of my city. The “Manhattanization” of San Francisco is making it impossible for working class people to live here.  It’s becoming nothing but a playboy town for the Uber wealthy.

Tobias Jesso Jr. at the Fillmore

Tobias Jesso Jr. fails to impress at the Fillmore in SF

Tobias Jesso Jr. at the Fillmore
Tobias Jesso Jr. at the Fillmore

 

I scored a ticket for this past week’s performance of Tobias Jesso Jr. at the Fillmore in San Francisco. He’s getting lots of attention for his debut album, Goon. The reviews I’ve come across for this album include such descriptions as “an indisputable triumph” or “Goon surpasses any suggestion of mediocrity by a significant margin.” With these types of accolades, I had high hopes that Tobias Jesso was going to impress me with his sophisticated musical chops. And lo and behold, he failed.

My impressions of Tobias were that he’s not a very advanced piano player. The majority of his songs are simple chord arrangements. I was expecting to witness piano talent the likes of Billy Joel, Elton John, etc…Instead, Tobias doesn’t do much heavy lifting at all on the keyboards. His songs are very simple in structure.  He played all of his hits from Goon, like How Could You Babe and Without You.  I’d also describe Tobias’s music as laced with a good dose of schmaltz. I was hoping that Tobias was going to rip it up on the keyboards and really take his songs to new levels of musicianship, where his band jams for 10 minutes or more on the majority of his tunes. But that was not the case. Tobias performed for a little over an hour and then called it a night. The sound mix was OK but I never felt his piano playing moved me.

He came on wearing a jacket that had the words, “San Francisco” spelled out on it. He loves the food on Valencia street but less so on Market street. Overall, Tobias “failed to launch” at the Fillmore and his performance leaves me wondering just how big Tobias will become. Is Tobias the next John Lennon? Billy Joel? Randy Newman? Elton John?  No. Not unless he transforms himself and his piano chops into something more memorable. The level of talent just isn’t there. Yes, I know it’s those simple chord changes that will make some listeners swoon but that’s not enough for me. I like to see a musician who really knows their instrument, inside out and backwards. And I just don’t see that with Tobias. Yes, he can compose songs and you don’t need to write complex songs. They can be simple. But I like to be challenged, now and again. And Tobia’s songs don’t challenge you. More importantly, Tobias isn’t breaking any new musical ground. He could have come out smack dab in the 70’s and fit right into the music scene. I guess some will appreciate that because the 70’s did produce a great deal of good, quality pop music.

The audience loved Tobias but I frankly feel that San Francisco audiences are very forgiving to just about any entertainment and  just clamor for it in general, even if it is sub par. I didn’t get the name of the opening act. It was a three-piece. The women vocalist was losing her voice midway through the set. But the fans ate her up along with the band.

Tobias Jesso Jr. playing the Fillmore in San Francisco
Tobias Jesso Jr. and his band