A 280-character Twitter is stupid

A lot of people place their hopes on tech companies to save the planet and make literally everything better. At least the tech companies like to pretend they will.

And then you realize how silly so much of it is and how poorly run many of these companies truly are, with so many of them desperately scrambling for their share of our attention paid via advertisements and tracking which we collectively despise.

Twitter is not as big as Facebook and will never make as much money. They don’t have as much data about you as an individual and thus cannot target you for ads with the same gusto. The growth solution, from Twitter’s thinking, is that the 140-character limitation is really holding the service back.

To the contrary, the 140-character limitation is probably Twitter’s only unique selling proposition. Twitter with longer tweets is just like a Facebook newsfeed with more strangers and fewer actual friends. The brevity and speed have been an integral part of the service since its inception. While the original limit was due to the technical limitations of text messages, it nonetheless became part of the character of the service (see what I did there?). It’s definitely a pro/con, but it is unequivocally a true differentiating factor. I’m sure this has been tested and debated for months if not years, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right long-term decision. Platform growth and health don’t always align. MySpace was doing “great” for a while too.

I wrote little stories crammed into tweets every day for over 7 years. 1 I started one of a handful of publications that feature and even pay authors for tiny stories that fit in a tweet.

For me, the constraint has always been the whole point.

This isn’t to say someone couldn’t start a compelling 280-character limit fiction venue, but would it really be Twitter fiction? Twitter was inspiring as a creative venue for the same reason that people enjoy (if are also occasionally aggravated by) the linguistic acrobatics required to fit their thoughts into the short form. It’s challenging and often surprising.

Of course, I will fully admit that most of the 140-grumblings surely come from longtime users with emotional attachments, particularly writers. I don’t doubt that most people will be able to simply say what they want to say more easily with a longer limit, and that such engagement may—potentially—lead to more usage and advertising revenue.

But I’ll leave it to John Dingell (91-year-old former Congressman from Michigan):

See? No constraints and this post is way too long. Which is another way of saying that @nanoism will always have a 140-character limit.

SmashUSMLE

Longtime readers know that I don’t do ads, guest posts, or push products. I do however share a coupon or referral code or two for something people might actually want if it results in someone saving money (and not just me making a few bucks).

Which brings us to SmashUSMLE. The bottom line is that if you’re interested, the coupon code BW10 saves you 10%.

I don’t think most people need to be interested at this point.

While SmashUSMLE has Step 1 and Step 2 CK qbanks, it’s essentially billed as a curriculum-replacement tool with hundreds of hours of video lectures. It’s got all the trappings: It has the FRED qbank software. It has accelerated video playback options. It has a phone app.

It’s competing with pricey options like DIT and Kaplan. And while it’s cheaper than both of those, it still costs a fortune ($395 for 1 month, $795 for 3 months). There is a 15-day free trial, however, so if you were planning on doing an expensive course, you wouldn’t lose anything by trying. 15 days is actually a really generous trial; you could get a lot of value for free if you remember to cancel it if you don’t think it’s worth the dough. The solo qbank product option is cheap ($59.99 for a month), but the competition on that front is really stiff.

From my brief review sampling, the qbank lacks polish. Questions use the clinical vignette format but do not ape the USMLE house-style particularly well. A UWorld replacement it’s not.

As for the videos, I would never ever personally be interested in buying a video course, so my intrinsic bias probably precludes a fair assessment. Like DIT, they follow First Aid. The style is pure casual whiteboard—like a friend trying to teach you in a room in the back of the library—which I imagine is nice and approachable for students feeling overwhelmed. But, again, these felt a bit on the unpolished side of the spectrum. I’m not sure I could imagine spending the 100+ hours it would take to watch them all even at 2x speed. The free sample online is representative, so you can make your own decisions.

 

 

Department of Education decides that loan holders aren’t really consumers and that students don’t need protection

Last month Betsy DeVos’ (Trump’s) Department of Education ended their cooperation with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, because, you know, the CFPB was “overreaching” in trying to actually protect student loan borrowers.

Shocking that the same DOE that wanted to consolidate the entire servicing industrial complex into one giant government contract with a shortlist that included a company currently being sued by the CFPB for defrauding students would now be cutting ties with the agency charged with dealing with exactly this kind of detritus.

Surprises All Around

A VA branch is under investigation for poor quality radiology care (and for firing the whistleblower in retaliation):

As many as four to five times a day, Leskosky said, he found serious errors in prior readings, despite just four other radiologists being on staff. In one particularly egregious case, a radiologist missed a 17-centimeter tumor in a patient’s pelvis.

In private practice, radiologists may miss key findings once or twice in a lifetime, Leskosky said.

A large part of the problem, Leskosky said, is some of the other radiologists on staff were flipping through 50 to 60 patient scans a day, instead of the industry recommended 25 to 30 and, as a result, missing critical findings.

Losing a 17-cm tumor is a pretty aggressive miss, but 1) people in private practice absolutely miss a key finding more than once or twice per lifetime and 2) there is no “industry” to recommend a work-level (let alone one that’s used in practice).

Firing the whistleblower, however, is a pretty egregious no-no, and I’m pretty sure I’ve done some online modules at the VA about that being against the rules.

All said, the “industry” does need better PR though, because there are a lot of radiologists in practice who would love to read just 25 cases a day.