Writer. Warning: opinions. My lawyer advised a disclaimer, but didn't include any jokes to go with. Damned if I can think of any either.

What Would Twitter Be Like Without Names? Why The Uncertain Rainbow Makes Me Mad

At the end of most rainbows there is gold. This one has shame. PHOTO: Clive Darra

Every time I write an article, or a blog post, or a tweet, or draw a picture, or work on a design project, I am trying my best to crystallize everything I have learned about life so far and break off a piece of it.

Sometimes I get paid to do it. Sometimes I do it just because I’m inspired to or because I think people will like it. But every time it’s my face out the window, ready to get punched (ouch), kissed (thanks!) or, worst of all, no reaction whatsoever (disaster).

That’s the game, and I accept the terms. I’ll get ignored most of the time, beat up every now and then, and once in a blue moon, if I am really tuned in and I do good work, something nice will happen.

The Greatest Luxury

Here’s my most-retweeted tweet ever:

I think it was popular — albeit on my infinitesimal scale — because a bunch of other content creators like me saw it and related to it. We all know what it feels like to get ignored, and I think a lot of us also know what it feels like to obsess over how many people follow us or like us.

But I also believe that there are people, maybe even the majority, who only ever consume and/or regurgitate. Pop songs are basically the same thing over and over again. Internet culture is highly self-referential. Hell, a lot of television shows now are just reading out people’s tweets, or showing internet videos and commenting on them.

So, why not solve the problem by taking our names off everything and just letting the content be the content?

The Uncertain Rainbow

Well, a programmer has done just that. The Uncertain Rainbow is a twitter plugin that lets you enjoy your stream with the names and faces of the tweeters replaced by squares of color.

It is probably the worst idea I have ever heard, and it makes me mad. So mad that I want to tell the author “fuck you,” and he’s clearly an intelligent person and probably very nice as well.

His name is Chris McDowell (@fogonwater of twitter), and here’s what he says:

Connected life is kind of bullshit.

Social media apps constantly pressure us to perform. We yearn for the prized stream of ‘likes‘, the clutch of ‘favourites‘, the elusive mass ‘retweet‘. It’s ridiculous.

He’s absolutely right, it is ridiculous, but it’s also necessary.

When I create a thought, Chris, I stick my name on it. This does a few things. One, if people like it they know who to pay attention to in the future. If not, they know who to ignore. If I’m being violent or dangerous, they know who to call the cops on.

Surely you understand that people should be recognized for the work that they do, even in small, token ways, because you stuck your own name on the application that removes everyone else’s names.

We already know what happens to content without names, because we’ve read a million racist, illiterate, misogynist YouTube comments. Ever seen bathroom graffiti, Chris? I mean, some of it can be funny at times, but I wouldn’t retweet any of it. Well, not much of it anyway.

Are you working on an application next that removes all the URL information from web comic images so they’re easier for non-creators to rip off?

In Chris’s defense, I’m sure he’s just trying to create a perfect world where information flows freely or whatever, but speaking as someone who lives and dies by their personal brand, I’ll keep the names on my tweets thanks very much.

2 thoughts on “What Would Twitter Be Like Without Names? Why The Uncertain Rainbow Makes Me Mad”

  1. Jonathon Jaszcz

    I like you Jim. You really just speak you mind and that’s great. I don’t even have any subscription to anyone’s blog nor do I tweet. I think I was looking up Skrillex one (maybe around the Grammys) day because I despise the arogant shit and what he (and others) have done to one of my favorite music genres and I came across “why dubstep makes me feel old.” I read it and though I didn’t agree with all of what you said, I did appreciate the tone and bluntness that you throw out and relating to this story; you put your name on it. I was always told to own it. And you do. Thanks Jim

  2. jim

    Thanks, buddy. I try.