Eugene Wei wrote something good about TikTok. Part of why I think it is good is that it engages with the idea of annotation. I recently set up to be able to pull annotations from Hypothesis to my blog (see this there , click “see all”) so what a great post for the concept! I think if you don’t have as much time you can get a decent amount of value out of just reading the excerpts and commentary, but if you think you’re going to read his piece, do that first.


…cally in a long scrolling feed. This piece is long, but if you get bored in any one section, you can just scroll on the next one; they’re separated by horizontal rules for easy visual scanning. You can also read them out of order. There are lots of cross-references, though, so if you skip some of the segments, others may not make complete sense. However, it’s ultimately not a big deal. If I had more time, I might hav…

One interesting thing about this is that experimentation with form is limited by reader habits. If years of university made me uncomfortable skimming I’m not going to engage in the intended way. I am remembering something apocryphal about Erik Satie’s furniture music, the audience attending politely and having to be encouraged to treat it as the background sound it was intended to be. Apps and interfaces are scary when they cue us with dark patterns, but it’s also possible to use that power to coax your audience into new forms.

…as it is, this is what you get. By network effects of creativity, I mean that every additional user on TikTok makes every other user more creative. This exists in a weak form on every social network and on the internet at large. The connected age means we are exposed to so much from so many more people than at any point in human history. That can’t help but compound creativity. Various memes and trends pass a…

I am idly curious if it would be possible to measure how much the availability of content to consume detracts from one’s inclination to create. “I wanted to write the kind of story I didn’t get to read” – a motivation to prompt new creation even if that “kind” had existed inaccessibly.

…f the dialogue in a two-hander. Knowing that TikTok has a Stitch feature, you can also post a question in a video and expect that some number of people will use Stitch an answer to your question and distribute that as a new video. A popular prompt is “Tell me you…

One interesting thing about the opacity of the attention algorithms is that you are always posting for no one and for everyone. On Tumblr it might have a tone of self-importance to survey a small group of followers in some vague way. On TikTok your vagueness can be justified: you might be talking to millions, after all.

…eginning of the response video. This is another of the nested feedback loops within the global feedback loop that is the FYP talent show. Once one example of this went viral, then the entire community adopted this as one of the norms of the community. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart …

(more or less obviously) thereby increasing one’s inclination to engage in the comments if you believe you might be deigned with Interaction. Senpai, notice, etc. etc.

…formative indignation, and then the camera would cut back to Stewart, his face frozen in some emoji mask of shock: eyes wide, mouth agape. Social networks, and entertainm…

One interesting aspect is how much the form relied on pairing the feeling of “is anyone else seeing this??”/”DAE object to this injustice” with a single witty line. The line wouldn’t be good enough to justify the joke if it hadn’t been the punctuation on the viewer’s relief, ah, yes, we are having the same emotional reaction to this together, I am not alone.

…ork of democratizing reactions. Yes, there’s no reason you need to react to everything. But it’s human nature. This is the social contract of the social media era. If you dare to shout your opinion or publish your work to the masses, the masses can choose to shout back. Gossip litigates and fleshes out…

I don’t think you can call this human nature when app creators spend so, so, so much thought / effort / time / money on training people to engage in this way.

…asses can choose to shout back. Gossip litigates and fleshes out the boundaries of acceptable behavior within groups. Whereas gossip used to be contained, social networks now give it global distribution. This is one reason of many we’v…

A historian should weigh in here. Scandals of the past fascinate me because of how they were important as opportunities to publicly litigate moral boundaries, the boundaries people more privately encountered (violated?) in their own lives.

…ists copy, great artists steal? TikTok enables, for video and audio, the type of combinatorial evolution that Brian Arthur describes as the underlying mechanism of the tech industry’s innovation. How many truly original ideas a…

Short-form, though! We can’t underestimate how bound up TikTok’s whole thing is with the fact the videos just aren’t allowed to be that long. It’s possible for everything to iterate at a very different pace; your audiences don’t mind a bad recommendation when it takes seconds to get past it (something quite different than “you need to watch a couple of seasons of this show to get into it”).

…ometimes it’s a cultural shift. Most of the best ideas in tech first appeared in science fiction books in the 1960s, and many of those are still waiting for their time to come . This is why rejecting companie…

This makes me queasy to read for reasons I think ought to be more or less obvious. Is it true that those are the best ideas?

…he room and champions the idea. Given we know innovation compounds as more ideas from more people collide, it’s stunning how many tech firms, even ones that ostensibly tout the value of openness, have launched services that do a better job of letting their users exchange ideas than any internal tool does for their own employees’ ideas. How many employees join a firm …

There is a particular internal thing with which the author may be familiar that I desperately want to talk about but can’t. Gah!

…ems to have no end in sight, but at least on TikTok there is a chance, with time stamps and some of the literal links the app creates between videos, to trace the origin of memes more easily. Richard Dawkins introduced the …

This shouldn’t be in a sidebar because I think it’s one of the more interesting aspects of the whole piece. By making its remix functionality first-class within the app, no semantic relationships need to be lost. This is huge. Soundcloud can let me hear remixes and works built from samples, but doesn’t let me navigate through those relationships. Photo editing apps can let you overlay one thing on top of another, but good fuckin’ luck getting back to the original ingredients. Mixel, mentioned, has that semantic aspect within it – but probably a better example would be browsing memes (“no you mean image macros”) from a particular format within a meme making tool. Maybe the reason why Mixel and sampled music don’t have the equivalent is that artists seeking out ingredients don’t benefit from these semantic paths in the way that someone trying to follow a conversation through a path of responses does.

…of natural evolution. TikTok is a form of assisted evolution in which humans and machine lea…

I know some people would argue they’re essentially the same, but I’m more comfortable thinking of TikTok in terms of a market than in terms of evolution. For one, it makes it clearer which parts are agents and which aren’t. For another, saying “assisted” glosses over some of the most interesting ways in which the design decisions of the app have their influence.

…edia, but it’s easily copiable. This is why TikTok’s network effects of creativity matter. To clone TikTok, you can’t just copy any single feature. It’s all of that, and not just the features, but how users deploy them and how the resultant videos interact with each other on the FYP feed. It’s replicating all the feedba…

I wonder if this is true. Don’t users experience the internet on a meta level with topics popping up on Tumblr screenshots on their IG feed, tweets screenshotted for Facebook groups… Is the micro-zeitgeist of a moment limited to an app’s walled garden? How do group chats fit into the answer to that question?

… interests of one Draco Malfoy. The Discover page acts as the Fed in the central economy of memes on TikTok, while the FYP algorithm is the interest rate on meme distribution. The Discover Page features hash…

This doesn’t feel like the right comparison to me. The Fed is an entity operating for the public interest and engaged in a careful balancing act. The TikTok discovery algorithms are the gatekeeper for most consumption on the app and have no counterbalancing interest beyond maximizing consumption.

Also, if I’m wrong about its interests, no one has any way to know because it’s entirely private.

I think I’m saying something like: TikTok is a company town with a company store where all economic activity takes place.

…ng aboard that trend. TikTok is a mix of a centrally planned economy and a free market , much like many multiplayer vid…

Only if we are entirely disregarding the actual economics of what TikTok is, though, right? The economy isn’t one of video game gold, but attention – and the attention economy of the app is something in which the market’s manager has an extreme interest.

…d more compact, obscure TikToks. TikTok comments are a form of distributed annotation. This technique of offloading th…

But terribly unsemantic, unlike the video combinations. This is probably for careful reasons mortals outside Bytedance have no ability to understand.

…and raced to post the solution. One measure of a platform’s power is the number of things people make with it that you had never been made before. Every week, I find videos on TikTok that I can’t imagine having been made on any other app. On TikTok, the comments have bec…

This is a really excellent insight, and inextricable from the power of the platform is the power of the cultural context that incentivizes this creation.

…case, always read the comments. Reading the comments on TikTok serves a communal function. It’s like hearing the laughter of the crowd at a comedy show. One of the existential challenge…

It’s interesting to me how much he emphasizes this because I hate reading the comments. Swiping through TikTok emulates the quick dopamine bursts of Twitter content without making me feel like I’m in a Comments Section as do Twitter, Facebook, etc., providing the same “just the videos, ma’am” experience as seeing a film in a theatre. When a comment is picked out for a video response that I end up seeing, four times out of five it feels like it was a staged / fake comment to begin with, so it doesn’t bother me.

… strong reaction to that video. That’s why opening the comments and finding that one of the first few comments perfectly encapsulates your reaction, then seeing it already has tens or hundreds of thousands of likes, is so comforting. This confirmation of a shared response creates, asynchronously, a passing score on a form of the Voight-Kampff test. It’s a checksum on your humanity. Many comments have begun using …

Again, really interesting because I have always hated this feeling when I’ve experienced it on Reddit or what-have-you.

…ke Frontierland or Tomorrowland. Of course, we’re all just in our FYP feeds, which just scrolls up endlessly, so it isn’t an actual space. But we trust the visible view counts as evidence FYP is doing its job getting many of us with the same tastes in front of the same videos, and so this evidence of common knowledge creates a liminal third place that exists [waves hands at the air in front of me] out there. I’ve tended to think of social networks as being built by people assembling a graph of people bottoms up, but perhaps I’ve been too narrow-minded. TikTok might not qualify by that definition, but it feels social, with FYP as village matchmaker. There’s been a lot written on W…

Terrifying, terrifying, terrifying! Why? Because the app points you to just let the algorithm make your choices – there’s no nudging-nudging-nudging to follow creators you like when it can detect you like them and serve them up to you anyway. Which then means the parasocial relationship you would have on a platform like YouTube now exists, but is entirely mediated by the discovery algorithm. If it’s a village matchmaker, it’s a matchmaker who has to come along on every date you ever have together. If it’s a third place, it’s a third place to which TikTok owns the title.

…hanical Turk notification bots. Another feature I wish TikTok would add is the ability to sort by descending popularity on any grid of videos, like on sound or profile pages. Please. TikTok’s needs to improve its se…

Why should it? It could rank them by how likely it thinks you are to like them. Objective popularity is not relevant in the little bubble world it creates for us.

I don’t think I mean that disparagingly. I like my TikTok bubble world. It has lots of houseplants and otters and lesbians. I don’t like the TikTok dance videos, so I don’t engage with them, so it doesn’t matter how massively popular they are – they don’t have to exist for me.

…sound or profile pages. Please. TikTok’s needs to improve its search ranking algorithm. Trying to find popular TikTok’s I remembered seeing back in the day was much harder than it should have been using TikTok’s native search. A couple that I wanted to use I just couldn’t locate, and even Google and YouTube didn’t turn them up (a thing you realize after trying to do it more than once is how hard it is to create a comprehensible search query for certain TikTok’s). Network effects are powerful, b…

This you can be sure it has no reason to do. Remember, it’s a company store – why would they want you to take control over your discovery?

…ack loops on all of that work. TikTok’s “OODA loop” is collective and distributed, and it spins thousands of times faster than that of big media. When I first joined the Amazon …

Uncomfortably connected to its sidelining of copyright: it spins uncompensated.

… trying to evoke in that scene. What Ricky Desktop talks about above is a different process in which he scores to visuals that only exist in his imagination, generic dance tropes like “pretend to play the flute”. This is a form of “inverted scor…

How does it impact culture when mechanisms of collaboration are so indirect? Do the connections have to thus be very generic?

…lize why they’re freaking out). Until later in life, children think you should know exactly what they’re feeling, and it takes a bit of coaxing to tease out their inner emotional state. Ironically, despite their illusi…

I don’t know exactly where this is going for him, but it’s interesting to me that in order to identify what was going on in my own emotional life I consumed media (books, really) by/for adults, with greater depth than I had. Is there some degradation in how we are able to find media matching our inner states provided by people just like us, without any greater understanding? Connection without insight.

… do you see in your mind’s eye? TikTok is the modern MTV because (1) it increases consumption of music tracks that go viral on its platform as sounds and (2) any number of songs will forever summon the accompanying meme and visual choreography from my memory. When Charli and other TikTokers…

The thing I find most interesting about this for TikTok is how it can bring back an old song with new visuals. The scene kid revival, Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, etc. Music of youth endlessly young.

…he TikTok editor. In one sense, it’s staggering to ponder how many more videos TikTok would have if its video editor were more usable. On the other hand, every video …

Instagram makes it very hard to get a picture and timelapse from Procreate, a very popular digital painting app, into a single post. This is because it would deform the careful ephemerality of its more social interactions–remember how long it took before you could post any prerecorded anything to a story?

…xed on proof of hotness, though. I still think Instagram is a more welcoming home for pure thirst trap content than TikTok, where, if you want to honeytrap the simps, you’re going to have to dance for it. Something about a feed that can…

YMMV. See: POV content.

…a algorithms just run amok, but I find some comfort sometimes when I find some TikTok that feels so catered to my tastes that it must be a micro-niche and then see it has millions of likes. The term binge-watching typical…

Pretty hollow relative to actual social connection over such things, right? Striking up a conversation at the plant nursery or such.

…nd start right into their joke. Someone told me that if you watch TikTok for over an hour it posts a warning asking you to consider taking a break. I’m not sure if that’s the case , but I’m glad I’ve never encoun…

lmao it is not, ask me how I know