Inside Twitter’s Obsessive Quest To Ditch The Egg

Once upon a time, the designers responsible for Twitter’s look and feel reveled in the service’s association with birds. For instance, they not only stuck their winged mascot–known at the time as “Larry the Bird”–into the interface itself, but gave him a field of clouds along the top edge to soar through. And when they unveiled a major redesign in 2010, they provided every new user with a default profile picture that depicted fresh beginnings in a decidedly Twitter-esque way: as an egg.

The idea was that “eventually you’d crack out of an egg and become an amazing Twitter user,” says senior manager of product design Bryan Haggerty, who worked on the project and recalls toying with the idea of even showing the hatching in progress.

A lot has changed since the Twitter egg debuted almost seven years ago. For one thing, the company’s design philosophy has evolved. Quirky is out; straightforward is in. Nowadays, “the playfulness of Twitter is in the content our users are creating, versus how much the brand steps forward in the UI,” says product designer Jen Cotton.

More significantly, the egg has taken on cultural associations that nobody could have anticipated in 2010. Rather than suggesting the promise of new life, it’s become universal shorthand for Twitter’s least desirable accounts: trolls (and bots) engaged in various forms of harassment and spam, created by people so eager to wreak anonymous havoc that they can’t be bothered to upload a portrait image.

Advice for real life often works equally well here on Twitter. For example: never argue with an egg.

— Ken Armstrong (@kenarmstrong1) March 19, 2017

The egg’s unsavory reputation has been hard on Twitter’s image. It also hasn’t done any favors for users who stuck with the default avatar out of innocence rather than malevolence. Some members have grown emotionally attached to their eggs or want to maintain a low profile; others simply haven’t gotten around to changing them, or have had trouble figuring out how to do so. (Uploading a profile photo is enough of a stumbling block for newbies that Twitter removed the step from the initial sign-up procedure last year.)

“These regular users would be using a troll’s clothing in some ways, not realizing that they probably should be changing that,” says Haggerty.

Twitter Egg and New Default Avatar
A Twitter egg (with one of its seven background-color variants) and the new image that will represent a user who hasn’t chosen a profile picture.

Starting today, however, the egg is history. Twitter is dumping the tarnished icon for a new default profile picture–a blobby silhouette of a person’s head and shoulders, intentionally designed to represent a human without being concrete about gender, race, or any other characteristic. Everyone who’s been an egg until now, whatever their rationale, will automatically switch over.

Now, if Twitter ditched the egg in isolation, critics might reasonably take the move as an unserious response to the serious problem behind the visual. Troublemakers, after all, can hide behind the new human silhouette just as freely as they’ve used the egg as a cloak of anonymity. But the timing of the new image isn’t random. Twitter chose to roll it out only after taking multiple steps in recent months to deal with its abuse issue. The company has implemented technology to make it harder for suspended users to open new accounts, and to prevent abusive tweets from spreading virally. It also lets members hide tweets sent by people who are using the default profile picture–an option that will remain useful even though that default is no longer an egg.

“Our safety team has done a lot of really meaningful work in this space,” says Cotton. The new default profile picture “is one effort that design can play a part in.”

Dear Non-troll Twitter egg users

Get a picture. Any picture.

Not having one makes you look suspicious and you'll get blocked a lot.

— 5'7 Black Male (@absurdistwords) March 27, 2017

Unlike the egg, which was originally meant to be eye-catching and appealing–it even came with a variety of candy-colored backgrounds!–the new avatar aims to be an anodyne placeholder that users will recognize as representing themselves, but quickly want to eliminate by uploading a personal image. “We put words to design to: generic, universal, serious, inclusive, unbranded, and temporary,” says product designer Jeremy Reiss. “An empty state, essentially, is what we wanted it to be,” adds Haggerty.

Designing something to look generic and temporary, it turned out, was surprisingly tricky–especially given that Twitter wanted to be generic and temporary in a way that would make sense to almost anybody. Though the amount of real estate the default picture consumes is tiny, the design team spent about a month figuring out how best to use it.

The default profile pictures that predated the egg.

How Do You Represent Nothingness?

In its early years, Twitter cycled through a variety of images as the default profile picture. At first, it showed a clip-art drawing of a man with a briefcase–a decision that’s less mysterious if you remember that even the beloved Twitter Fail Whale originated as an existing drawing licensed from artist Yiying Lu. Briefcase guy eventually gave way to a googley-eyed emoticon-like face, who was displaced by Larry the Bird himself. And then the egg.

Alternative egg replacements
Some of the graphic directions that Twitter explored as egg replacements.

None of these past works of design proved instructive when the egg-replacement project kicked off. The Twitter design team considered a variety of ways to convey the idea of a default image, says Reiss: “We looked at what other services did, what people expect.” A silhouette of a person was one obvious early contender, but so were tiny drawings of landscapes and patterns that didn’t depict anything in particular.

After pondering its options, the team came back to the silhouetted head as the most logical choice: Twitter, after all, is about people. And then the real work began.

Male and Female Restroom symbolsThe folks responsible for the redesign spent time pondering precedents such as the “man” and “woman” symbols used on restroom signs, which mostly served to show the pitfalls of grinding human beings down to iconic representation. The male symbol looked like the default; the female one, decked out in a billowing dress that made her shoulders seem narrower than they actually were, came off as “other.”

Twitter isn’t the only social network to wrestle with these sorts of issues: Facebook’s Caitlin Winner has written about her redesign of the company’s “friends” icon, which previously depicted a helmet-haired female lurking behind a male with a pronounced cowlick. But Twitter’s challenge was all the more thorny because the network doesn’t require members to disclose their gender. Rather than creating an avatar that was recognizably female or male, the company needed one that could represent absolutely anyone who might sign up for the service.

Instead of defaulting to the perfectly spherical head of a restroom-signage figure, the designers began playing with other approaches. They gravitated toward a gumdrop-like shape and found it had Rorschach Test-like qualities. “The second you start playing with head shape, you start thinking, ‘Oh, this might not just be a single gender,’” says Cotton. “Is that a man with a beard? Is that a woman with a bob?” Rounding off the shoulders, they found, also helped them create a symbol for “human being” that wasn’t freighted with any specific characteristics.

From round head to gumdrop head.

Color themes were another matter of debate. Instead of the egg’s expressive backgrounds, the design team wanted something utilitarian. It also couldn’t be interpreted as indicating a particular race. (Even emoji with screaming-yellow skin can seemingly depict a caucasian person.) The scheme the company settled on–a dark gray figure on a light gray background–had the bonus virtue of being easily discernible by users with impaired vision, accessibility being a current Twitter initiative.

Vague, Mundane, and Noticeable

The gumdrop-headed human passed one test when a variety of Twitter employees outside the design department split almost 50/50 on whether it was male or female. Popped into mockups of the app in place of the egg, it was even more effective. “The eggs were all these vibrant colors, and you didn’t pick up that something was missing,” says Haggerty. “When we put [the new image] in there, it really highlighted the absence: ‘Oh, this person doesn’t have a profile pic.’ Or ‘Oh, I probably should put my picture on here. I don’t look like I’m actually on this platform.’”

When Twitter showed me the final design of the new portrait picture, it occurred to me that the symbol’s head–an oval that’s pointier on the top than the bottom–could be construed as evoking the egg that it’s replacing. When I asked Haggerty, Reiss, and Cotton about that, they told me in startled unison that any resemblance was purely coincidental. Like I said, it’s a Rorschach Test.

Twitter's 2010 egg designs, and the revised 2014 version, which reduced the color variety and eliminated the 3-D shadow effect
Twitter’s 2010 egg designs, and the revised 2014 version, which reduced the color variety and eliminated the 3-D shadow effect.

The amount of care that Twitter’s designers put into finessing the new default picture may seem extreme, but they did so in hopes that they could build something to last. “We want to put this out there, and we also don’t want to have to come back and change it in a year or two years,” says Haggerty. “We want it to have longevity.”

Which is not to say that they want it to be anywhere near as recognizable and pervasive an element of the service as the egg has been. In fact, as part of the new image’s arrival, Twitter is launching a campaign to encourage members to get rid of it. “We’ll be prompting people who do have eggs to upload a picture of themselves, to show their best selves,” Cotton explains. In other words: The less we see of this new profile picture, the bigger a success it will be.

A Visual Guide to Vantablack, the Darkest Substance Ever Made

vantablack darkest substance ever made 1 A Visual Guide to Vantablack, the Darkest Substance Ever Made

 

Vantablack® is a super-black coating that holds the world record as the darkest man-made substance. It is the darkest material ever measured by the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, reflecting only 0.036% of the light that strikes it (measured at 700nm). It is currently available in two versions, either directly applied to surfaces using vacuum-deposition technology or by spraying and then post-processing.

Vantablack is not a black paint, pigment or fabric, but is instead a functionalized ‘forest’ of millions upon millions of incredibly small tubes made of carbon, or carbon nanotubes. Each nanotube in the ‘Vantablack forest’ has a diameter of around 20 nanometres (that’s about 3,500 times smaller than the diameter of the average human hair), and are typically from around 14 microns to 50 microns long. A surface area of 1 cm2 would contain around a billion nanotubes.

So how dark is it really? Video seems to capture its darkness best. Check out the four YouTube videos embedded below:

Lasers don’t reflect..

 

 

Surfaces look almost two-dimensional..

 

 

Objects literally disappear..

 

 

It might be the closest thing to a black hole we’ll ever see

 

 

Vantablack Properties

 
Ultra low reflectance: Vantablack absorbs 99.965% of light (750nm wavelength)

UV, Visible and IR absorption: Absorption works from UV (200-350 nm wavelength), through the visible (350-700nm) and into the far infrared (>16 microns) spectrum, with no spectral features

Very high front to back thermal conduction: excellent for Black Body calibration sources

Super hydrophobic: Unlike other black coatings, water has no impact on the optical properties

Very high thermal shock resistance: Repeatedly plunging a Vantablack coated substrate into liquid Nitrogen at -196°C and then transferring to a 300°C hot plate in air does not affect its properties.

Resistant to extreme shock and vibration: Independently tested, Vantablack has been subjected to severe shocks and vibration simulating launch and staging.

Low outgassing and mass loss: Independent testing to ECSS shows almost undetectable levels of outgassing, CVCM, WVR, RML and TML

Excellent BDRF and TIS performance: Even at shallow angles the levels of blackness outperforms all other commercial super-black coatings

Source: Surrey Nanosystems

 

vantablack darkest substance ever made 6 A Visual Guide to Vantablack, the Darkest Substance Ever Made

 

vantablack darkest substance ever made 7 A Visual Guide to Vantablack, the Darkest Substance Ever Made

 

Why is it so dark?

Light energy striking the Vantablack surface enters the space between the nanotubes and is rapidly absorbed as it ‘bounces’ from tube to tube and simply cannot escape as the tubes are so long in relation to their diameter and the space between them. The near total lack of reflectance creates an almost perfect black surface. To understand this effect, try to visualise walking through a forest in which the trees are around 3km tall instead of the usual 10 to 20 metres. It’s easy to imagine just how little light, if any, would reach you. [source]

 

vantablack darkest substance ever made 2 A Visual Guide to Vantablack, the Darkest Substance Ever Made

 

vantablack darkest substance ever made 3 A Visual Guide to Vantablack, the Darkest Substance Ever Made

 

How is Vantablack made?

Vantablack is actually “grown” in a specially designed Chemical Vapour Deposition chamber under an array of powerful lamps that raise the surface temperature to 430ºC or higher to allow the nanotube forest to grow. So light itself is used in the production of the world’s darkest substance! A sprayable version of Vantablack is also available, called Vantablack S-VIS. [source]

 

vantablack darkest substance ever made 8 A Visual Guide to Vantablack, the Darkest Substance Ever Made

 

vantablack darkest substance ever made 4 A Visual Guide to Vantablack, the Darkest Substance Ever Made

 

vantablack darkest substance ever made 5 A Visual Guide to Vantablack, the Darkest Substance Ever Made

 

I have so many more questions

Great! You can find a more scientific explanation of what Vantablack is here. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions like: Can I buy it? Is it safe? What does it feel like? Can I cover my car in Vantablack? etc. at the Surrey Nanonsystems’ FAQ here.

 

Picture of the Day: Banksy’s Classical Bust of a Protestor

bust of a protestor banksy classical resistance Picture of the Day: Banksys Classical Bust of a Protestor

Artwork by Banksy

 

On display in the Piano Bar at Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel (featured previously) is a classical bust of a protestor with a plume of tear gas enveloping him.

Banksy’s ‘Walled Off Hotel‘ (a satirized version of New York’s upscale Waldorf) is located in Bethlehem, a Palestinian town in West Bank, and is within arm’s distance of the 708 km (440 mile) barrier that separates Israel and Palestine. The 10-room hotel boasts 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day and offers the ‘world’s worst view,’ says hotel operator Wisam Salsaa

 

via Banksy

 

picture of the day button Picture of the Day: Banksys Classical Bust of a Protestor

twistedsifter on facebook Picture of the Day: Banksys Classical Bust of a Protestor

 

Getting Ready to Be a Groom

Image source

If we’re honest, most men aren’t all that interested in wedding preparations. Sure, we want to marry your sweetheart, and we want our big day to be a good one, but choosing the perfect wedding invitations and writing out a guest list aren’t exactly our idea of a good time. Despite that, it is important that we get as involved as we can, in the right way, to support your bride to be and help to ensure the wedding goes off without a hitch.

If you’re soon to tie the knot, here are some simple tips for preparing for your wedding as a guy:

It’s Your Day Too

A lot of men wriggle out of getting involved in their wedding preparations by telling themselves that it’s the bride’s big day and that planning a wedding is something that women love, so why not leave them to it right? It’s true that women get much more into the little details than the average guy, but the fact is, it’s your big day too and you need to remind yourself of this is you have a hope of getting into the process.

Weddings are a rite of passage for men and one of the defining moment of their life. Publically declaring your love for a woman and committing to spend your life with her is a big deal, so act like it.

Do Your Duty

As the groom, there are several duties that should be yours, from choosing the best man to picking the perfect suits for you, the best man and the groomsman. Make a list of these duties and start working on them, so that your bride-to-be has a few fewer things to worry about and you can start to get more into the process.

When it comes to your best man, it is important that you drum into him what will be expected of him, and ensure that he takes his duties seriously on the big day. It’s not all about planning the bucks night, although that is something you can both have a great time doing. Just make sure that he knows what you have in mind and how far he cannot go!

Organize Some Fun Things

So, you might not be interested in table settings and wedding favours, but if you want to help out your girl and make sure she doesn’t have too much on her plate, why not take charge of some of the duties that’ll probably be more fun for you? Thinks like choosing the perfect transport to take you to the church, arranging a great band for the reception and tasting the food are all important parts of the preparation that you can get behind.

Plan the Honeymoonme

Of course, planning a wedding is something that you and your bride should do together as much as possible and organising the honeymoon is the perfect task for this. You’ll have lots of fun, looking at all the great places you could travel too once you’ve said ‘I do’ and your girl will be pleased that you’re taking an interest in the arrangement.

There are lots of things you can do to make preparing for your wedding less of a drag and making an effort to do so will set you apart as a caring modern man who doesn’t just leave it all to the bride. Just know your limits and choose your tasks wisely.

Greats, Nick Wooster and Lardini Unveil More Exclusive Slip-Ons

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Brand: Greats

Model: Wooster x Lardini Slip-On

Key Features: Premium canvas uppers with smooth leather lining, 3M reflective polka dots and Margom outsole

Release Date: Thursday, March 30 at 3:00 PM EDT

Price: $280 USD

Availability: Greats (Both men and women)

Editor’s Notes: Following last year’s release, footwear label Greats aligns with menswear fashion icon Nick Wooster and Lardini for a fifth capsule this Spring 2017. With one pair rendered in a mismatched navy and white colorway, the second silhouette features a durable grey canvas decorated with silver 3M polka dots.

All carefully handcrafted in the Marche region of Italy, each pair is adhered atop an elevated Margom outsole, while finishing touches include Greats + Wooster + Lardini branding on its tan calf lining, along with Greats’ signature bar tack stitch in neon orange on the heel cup.

Now check out the cleanest Nike AirVapormax yet.

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RETROSUPERFUTURE Unveils New Tuttolente Series for Spring 2017

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Brand: RETROSUPERFUTURE

Season: Spring 2017 “Tuttolente” series

Key Pieces: Mona, Zizza, Lucia, Giaguaro, Panamá and Duo-Lens

Editor’s Notes: Marking as the fourth season for the Tuttolente series, the Italian eyewear specialists continues to offer superb traditional and modernized eyewear. An extensive selection of iconic designs are revisited in the full ZEISS lens concept. Feminine shapes with the Mona and Zizza are rendered in gold and pink versions, while the Giaguaro and Panamá maintain their defining metal structure. Finally, the Duo–Lens incorporates a lens-in-lens technique to simulate the structure of traditional eyewear that incorporates all the modern and technical properties of the Tuttolente line.

In case you missed it, view our exclusive editorial of the Gosha Rubchinskiy x RETROSUPERFUTURE’s NYC Launch Party from January.

ASICS’s Gel-Lyte III Receives a Timeless & Luxe Update

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Brand: ASICS

Model: Gel-Lyte III

Key Features: Black patent leather upper, split-tongue and Gel-infused misdole

Release Date: Available Now

Price: $110 USD

Availability: ASICS retail locations and online, including Feature

Editor’s Notes: The classic silhouette is elevated with more lifestyle flair for Spring. Straying from its traditional mesh/suede build, the runner is outfitted with a full black patent leather base, which is all adhered atop a crisp white midsole unit and cream-colored rubber outsole. Simple and elegant, finishing details consist of embossed branding at the heel and matching black laces.

In other footwear news, Nike introduces the new Kobe A.D. NXT

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