Louise Mensch invents Twitter; shame Twitter already did it

Will you Menshn? Probably not.

The end result of Louise Mensch and Luke Bozier's side-project, MenschBozier, was revealed today by TechCrunch. It's called Menshn, and it's Twitter. Twitter may have already invented Twitter, but that won't stop MenschBozier.

The new site is focused around sending Tweet-like messages (of up to 180 characters, rather than 140, which is a crucial differentiator for some reason) about specific topics. The site will launch in the US only, and be focused around the American elections.

Mensch told TechCrunch:

I had a brainwave over Christmas about Twitter hashtags and the frustration of following one topic, especially in politics.

Then I got my husband on Twitter [Peter Mensch is the manager of heavy metal band Metallica, among others] and although he liked following people in the music industry and what they had to say, he hated the mundane tweets about people having breakfast. He wanted something on topic.

Menshn also aims to encourage quality with a rating system, similar to that on sites like Reddit, and by stripping out many of the features that make Twitter such a vibrant medium, like retweets and mentions (yes, the site's name is a pun on a functionality it doesn't actually have). The site still has its analogue of following someone, likely called something like "Mensching" them, but if your tweet is the top five per cent of tweets, then everyone will see it, whether they follow you or not.

Menshn seems to be the creation of someone who likes twitter but is annoyed that they don't have enough control over it. For Louise Mensch, it will most likely be a better experience; Twitter must be a horrible place for her to be, because the service simply doesn't deal well with people who set out to abuse celebrities and nothing else. But for most other people, all the functions which Mensch and Bozier seem to dislike so much – the "off topic" discussions, personal conversations, viral jokes and ephemerality – are precisely the important functions of the site. Persuading people to give those up for the chance to have their tweet seen by everyone (in a function that absolutely will not scale - can you imagine seeing the "top five per cent" of the 340 million tweets sent per day?) is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Nice website design, though.

Update

Well, we got on Menshn, and first impressions are that it has a bit of a troll problem:

 

Also, the rules are amazing:

menshn is for talking on topic. We're passionate about politics and we love debate. But if you harass, spam, clog feeds and so forth, we can delete your account without notice. So be like Fonzy and be cool.

menshn will grow and change. We can change what menshn does and the service it provides without notification to you or other users. See rule 4. We reckon you'll figure it out if we do.

menshn is not forever...

You can say that again.

The scoring system explained. Screenshot via Techcrunch.com

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Inside the progressive alliance that beat Zac Goldsmith in Richmond

Frantic phone calls, hundreds of volunteers, and Labour MPs constrained by their party. 

Politics for a progressive has been gloomy for a long time. On Thursday, in Richmond Park of all places, there was a ray of light. Progressive parties (at least some of them) and ordinary voters combined to beat Ukip, the Tories and their "hard Brexit, soft racist" candidate.

It didn’t happen by accident. Let's be clear, the Liberal Democrats do by-elections really well. Their activists flood in, and good luck to them. But Richmond Park was too big a mountain for even their focused efforts. No, the narrow win was also down to the fast growing idea of a progressive alliance. 

The progressive alliance is both a defensive and offensive move. It recognises the tactical weakness of progressives under first past the post – a system the Tories and their press know how to game. With progressive forces spilt between Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Women’s Equality Party and more – there is no choice but to co-operate, bring in proportional representation and then a whole new political world begins.

This move opens up the wider strategy – to end the domination of the City, and right-wing newspapers like the Mail, so Britain can have a real debate and make real choices about what sort of economy and society it wants. A pipedream? Well, maybe. But last night the fuse was lit in Richmond Park. The progressive alliance can work.

Months before the by-election, the pressure group for a progressive alliance that I chair, Compass, the Greens, and some Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs and activists, began considering this. The alternative after Brexit was staring into the void.

Then the Tory MP Zac Goldsmith stepped down over Heathrow. To be fair, he had pledged to do this, and we should have been better prepared. In the event, urgent behind-the-scenes calls were made between the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. Compass acted as the safe house. The Greens, wonderfully, clung onto democracy – the local party had to decide. And they decided to stand up for a new politics. Andree Frieze would have been the Green candidate, and enjoyed her moment in the autumn sun. She and her party turned it down for a greater good. So did the Women’s Equality Party.

Meanwhile, what about Labour? Last time, they came a distant third. Again the phones were hit and meetings held. There was growing support not to stand. But what would they get back from the Liberal Democrats, and what did the rules say about not standing? It was getting close to the wire. I spent an hour after midnight, in the freezing cold of Aberdeen, on the phone to a sympathetic Labour MP trying to work out what the party rule book said before the selection meeting.

At the meeting, I am told, a move was made from the floor not to select. The London regional official ruled it out of order and said a candidate would be imposed if they didn’t select. Some members walked out at this point. Where was the new kinder, gentler politics? Where was membership democracy? Fast forward to last night, and the Labour candidate got less votes than the party has members.

The idea of a progressive alliance in Richmond was then cemented in a draughty church hall on the first Tuesday of the campaign – the Unitarian Church of course. Within 48 hours notice, 200 local activist of all parties and none had come together to hear the case for a progressive alliance. Both the Greens and Compass produced literature to make the case for voting for the best-placed progressive candidate. The Liberal Democrats wove their by-election magic. And together we won.

It’s a small victory – but it shows what is possible. Labour is going to have to think very hard whether it wants to stay outside of this, when so many MPs and members see it as common sense. The lurch to the right has to be stopped – a progressive alliance, in which Labour is the biggest tent in the campsite, is the only hope.

In the New Year, the Progressive Alliance will be officially launched with a steering committee, website and activists tool-kit. There will also be a trained by-election hit squad, manifestos of ideas and alliances build locally and across civil society.

There are lots of problems that lie ahead - Labour tribalism, the 52 per cent versus the 48 per cent, Scottish independence and the rest. But there were lots of problems in Richmond Park, and we overcame them. And you know, working together felt good – it felt like the future. The Tories, Ukip and Arron Banks want a different future – a regressive alliance. We have to do better than them. On Thursday, we showed we could.

Could the progressive alliance be the start of the new politics we have all hoped for?

Neal Lawson is the Chair of Compass, the pressure group for the progressive alliance.

Neal Lawson is chair of the pressure group Compass, which brings together progressives from all parties and none. His views on internal Labour matters are personal ones.