Why I’m giving up on Twitter conversations

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I love Twitter, have been using it for years, and my Twitter account is much more active than my LinkedIn or Facebook. I use it regularly to share my latest articles with my followers, share links to other scoops and articles that are worth reading, post amusing comments on others’ posts, or simply vent my frustration when a particularly complicated article is giving me a hard time.

But Twitter gets frustrating as soon as exchanges start to get technical and lengthy in nature. And my latest episode happened yesterday, after VentureBeat ran my latest article, which explored the intersection of blockchain and cybersecurity.

As is the case with every article I—or others, for that matter—write about blockchain, the piece was met with a lot of controversial and opposing opinion. Some called it insightful while others dismissed the notion of blockchain being able to secure networks any better than legacy systems can and called me off for even making such a suggestion.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m perfectly used to getting hate comments and offensive feedback on my articles, especially for people who felt like they were left out from a piece where they deserved to be mentioned. I read every mention and research every challenge that is raised on my writings. In many cases, I find well founded arguments that are worth writing about in future pieces.

However, while I skim through the replies and mentions, click like on the kudos and laugh over the amusing comments, every once in awhile I stumble upon a tweet that is worth answering.

Like this one, which asked how I thought blockchain could prevent ID theft. To which I answered that while you would still need to protect your private key, the transparency of the blockchain can make it easy to verify if someone is trying to spoof the identity of your interlocutor by publishing fake keys in their name (the answer was much shorter than that in reality).

But then @C1aranMurray (the Twitter user who posed the initial question) tossed me another challenge: “How do you know the key pair on the blockchain is legit in the first place?”

This is where cybersecurity enters the unending realm of philosophical questions. The truth with any form of identity security platform, establishing the origin of trust needs a human element and is beyond technical details.

I can say, “I’ll sign the keys with a hash of my fingerprint combined with a hash of my voice recording and my digital retina scan.” But then you can say, “How do you know the fingerprint and voice samples haven’t been stolen?”

This is an unending conversation. The real answer is that the origin of trust is there through public knowledge, previous conversations, a face-to-face meeting, or some other means. You already know the person you’re chatting with on WhatsApp is legit, you just want to make sure that it stays that way. Everybody knows I’m @bendee983 on Twitter—they just have to make sure that someone else doesn’t take hold of the account.

So there’s an identity you already trust, and you want to make sure it isn’t spoofed. Blockchain makes it possible by replacing secrets with transparency, replacing third party trust authorities with a distributed ledger where anyone can directly publish their keys, revoke them and publish new ones when the need arises.

But how could I summarize all that into a single 140-character tweet? I couldn’t, so I summed it up like this, trying to wrap up the entire philosophical topic in a chicken-and-egg analogy (which I’m not even sure is correct or not) and stating that blockchain can prevent man-in-the-middle attacks against established trust.

@C1aranMurray still wasn’t convinced, and continued the take the conversation further. But things had gotten so complicated that we were literally speaking in abbreviations to comply to Twitter’s 140 character limit: Blockchain became BC, chicken-and-egg became C&E, man-in-the-middle of course became MitM and Certificate Authorities CA.

Of course, none of these abbreviations are hard to figure out with someone who’s already well versed in the mechanics and jargon of blockchain and cybersecurity, but for the average user following the thread, it’s going to be useless and confounding. But what’s the use of having an open conversation on Twitter, when the only people who are making use of it are me and @C1aranMurray?

I really liked the conversation and think @C1aranMurray was onto something that was worth exploring and further discussing. But with all the limitations and disconnect involved in Twitter conversations, I lost heart for the debate and discontinued (and I did have this new TechCrunch piece I had to complete).

This is not the first time that I get frustrated over how limited Twitter conversations can get. But it’ll likely be the last time because I’m no longer engaging in conversations that have no use to be carried out publicly.

I’m not waiting for Twitter to lift the 140 character limit. I like Twitter how it is: Concise, to the point, and fast flowing. It’s just not meant for lengthy, technical conversations that span over tens and dozens of tweets.

I will continue with short acknowledgment replies and kudos mentions every once in awhile, and you’re welcome to commend or insult me as you see fit. But for lengthy and technical discussions (which I welcome, by the way), use other means for heaven’s sake.

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