Elon Musk Aims for ‘No Remorse’ User-Time on Twitter

Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, has created his own metric to judge the success of the social media platform: unregretted user minutes. Though he has yet to define or explain how it can be measured, Musk has repeatedly emphasized that this is the metric he has in mind as he works to reinvent the company. He has also expressed the desire for the user experience on Twitter to be “fun and interesting and informative,” which he believes will make advertisers want to place their brands alongside his streams of content.

Musk’s new metric is more about the reframing of the conversation around Twitter than the math behind it. This is especially important as he faces criticism for the drama around his management of the platform and his outspoken tweets. Since advertisers pulled back with his acquisition of Twitter, Elon Musk has been trying to assure them that the platform isn’t turning into the “free-for-all hellscape” he pledged it would never become.

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When he took over Twitter, Elon Musk began mentioning his metric goal as he tried to position what his Twitter 2.0 would be like amid concerns from users, politicians, and advertisers over how social media in general uses secret algorithms to attract and keep attention. He has latched onto this still-undefined metric after taking issue with the metric that Twitter had in place at the time of its takeover: monetizable daily active users. Musk’s effort to get out of buying Twitter last summer revolved around that metric and how he created it. He eventually ended the legal fight when he went through with the $44 billion deal in late October.

Musk’s use of a new metric is not uncommon in the tech industry. At Tesla, where he is also the chief executive, the automaker has long highlighted the total cost of ownership when marketing vehicles that were selling well above the average price of rival gasoline-powered cars. Tesla focused on the potential savings to electric-vehicle owners over the vehicle’s lifetime, including tax credits applied to purchases and not having to pay for gas or oil changes.

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The concern among technologists is how metrics influence algorithms and skew outcomes. In 2018, Facebook tweaked its algorithm to boost “meaningful social interactions” between friends and family. While intended to improve well-being, the change was making the platform an angrier place as publishers and political parties reoriented posts toward outrage. In the following year, Facebook introduced user surveys that asked, “Is this post worth your time?” and used the feedback to inform how posts were ranked in news feeds. It has since rolled out more ways to customize content, through a “Show more or Show less” option. And Facebook no longer considers certain engagement signals, such as commenting or sharing, when ranking political content.

It is worth noting that people generally regret the time they spend on social media in life when they look at it reflexively rather than spending time with their loved ones. Therefore, Musk’s emphasis on unregretted user minutes seems to be an attempt to make the platform more valuable and less intrusive.

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