For those of you (the few, the proud) who follow me on Twitter or are subjected to my Twitter feed on Facebook or Plaxo, you know that I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of ways to use Twitter with everything else. Given all the choices at some point to you have to focus for just long enough that you have a constant stream of thought. I think LinkedIn is a true Dark Horse here in that they keep adding features, staying at arms length from all the rest of the social tools and aggregators, acting like they are the serious older cousin of the rest. In fact there are certain things that I do look for only in LinkedIn and I think they do it really well…and with the addition of the new apps, they have a really tight presentation that looks like a place for solving the problem presented…getting and maintaining a professional contact network.
I think that Twitter is an interesting way to update people on what you are thinking, rather than your status, like on Facebook. I’ve pretty much relegated the facebook status to be another outlet of my tweets, but it’s not an efficient medium, since people respond to my tweets on Facebook, and then I don’t see them on twitter.
I think that Twitter is an excellent way to building up a list of people who you want to follow to get a “sense” of what is going on in web 2.0. Is it the only medium? No. It is a portal/window into more substantial thoughts and content that people have created. If you like what a person tweets, you’ll go to their site/blog and read more in depth stuff. Or you might find an interesting picture that they’ve taken in real time.
Twitter also allows you to make contact with people with whom you’d not be friends like on Facebook or LinkedIn. Facebook in its normal state asks you to focus your friendships to people you know (although how people can know 1500 people is amazing). Linkedin in its very specific way assumes you have business contacts and exploits the 6 degrees of separation concept by showing you how many steps away a particular person is from you. Twitter assumes neither of these intimacies. you follow a person like you’d tune in a radio station (except that all the other radio stations are on at the same time) and you see some very cursory information that they provide. They don’t agree to have you follow them. They are broadcasting. It does allow some security and lockdown, but most people don’t take advantage of it. If they look at your profile and you seem relevant or interesting, they might follow you too.
All these tools, through their API, allow the ability to build Rube Goldberg contraptions that have your thoughts in one space appear on another.
Eventually the Twitter home page seemed so static that I started experimenting with TweetDeck and Twhirl to see if they allowed me a different view. I was extremely impressed with both as conduits for Tweets. I think that Tweetdeck is a better aggregator and filterer, but is less polished than Twhirl. One limitation of Tweetdeck that I thought was interesting was that it cannot handle Armenian characters. If they appear in a tweet, Tweetdeck eats them and puts nothing (not even reverse ? in its place). Twhirl and Twitter native do handle it. Now for most of the world seeing Armenian in a tweet is probably not interesting, but it is a limitation in that it prevents me from a particular form of communication. դշբախդաբար…(that’s “unfortunately” in Armenian)
After playing with these tools for a while and seeing that I still had to go to Facebook to see some stuff, and LinkedIn was not connected at all I got frustrated. I’m a dashboard guy. When I was in Teradyne’s ICD team, it was my brainchild to create the Digital dashboard and tool synchronization. Of course others designed and implemented huge pieces of it, but the aggregation and synchronization of disparate tools was something that I was playing with back in 1997. So my tendency is to try and aggregrate my communication in the same way. RSS readers are ok, and MyYahoo was ok but those have a newspaper like feel to them meaning no way to do input. I tried igoogle/google reader and was not impressed.
Then in the last couple of weeks as it seemed everyone was discovering Twitter, I ran across a tool that I had avoided up to this point: FriendFeed. FriendFeed represents itself as the uber-aggregator. Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki were haggling over it, and there were some other nasty fights going on between Twitter people and FriendFeed people (Scoble being the leader of the latter). So I said, “what the hell?” I might as well try it and see if it can aggregate all the other things (including bringing in LinkedIn into the fold).
Well for all the jumping up and down about FriendFeed, I was once again underwhelmed. Basically, I want to have single control of all the social media sites, like a bunch of levers. post status on one or some or all depending on what I’m thinking at the time. See updates/feeds all in one place and be able to respond to one without having it reposted everywhere. From what Robert Scoble was saying, FriendFeed accomplished a lot of this. However, that was not what I found.
FriendFeed does allow you to cross post to Twitter, which is nice. But I got that with Utterli, so that was only an ok. FriendFeed allows you to sift through your email contact lists to find other people who might be on FriendFeed or allow you to suggest to them that they should. Where FriendFeed fails is that it doesn’t import your Twitter “following” list the same way it imports your email contacts, and so you have to add them one at a time based on suggestions or you manually typing through searches to get them. You’d think that if you want to subsume something you’d do everything to make it easy for people to use the tool.
FriendFeed does try to do the “suggestion” thing that started on LinkedIn and moved into Facebook later on where it suggests people you might know based on the 6 degrees thing. In FriendFeeds case, instead of suggesting friends, Friends of friends appear in your feed so that you can see them and then maybe select to follow them. I think though that this creates an enormous amount of chatter on your feed. And since every feed entry (from the outside or inside of FriendFeed) can have its own non published to the world (at least republished) conversations/comments you end up potentially creating a whole new level of data that is streaming by. The worst part of this is that the feed itself expands to show all the various attached conversations meaning that on my 1400×900 MacBook pro screen when locquacious friends have lots of stuff attached to their feeds, I only get 3 or 5 up on the screen at a time and I have to scroll. Contrast this to tweetdeck, where it uses the horizontal of the screen to allow you do filter certain groups or search topics. I guess what I’m saying is that Friendfeed looks like something very web 1.0 to me (with colorful little web 2.0 symbols all over the place to make you feel like your someplace cool).
So in order to get around this limitation, if you bring up the realtime view, it allows you to bring up a mini-feed. Cool. But now I both have a browser up AND a minifeed. I already have this with Tweetdeck and Twitter. There are times you need to go back to twitter itself to look at something (like a person’s followers list or something) and you have to have the browser up. So what have I gained (or lost) here?
FriendFeed does one thing really stupid. If you have set the preferences to have things reposted to Twitter from FriendFeed, if you update twitter from your phone or from twitter itself, or a client like tweetdeck, it reposts what you put in right back to twitter again. So you are spamming yourself. I mean you know you are getting a person’s twitter feed, you’re using the API, if something just came in from Twitter, why you would you send it back to Twitter? This is quite disconcerting if you have Facebook also get your Twitter feed because then both Twitter and Facebook status gets 2 copies of everything. That’s just dumb.
I’m going to continue playing with FriendFeed, but like Plaxo before it, I’m underwhelmed, and with FriendFeed also a bit annoyed.
Anyway, there’s my rant for the day and for the Year I guess. The next time I’ll probably write a blog entry will be in 2009, so…