A completely unscientific comparison of my social media sites

Today I posted the same status across three different sites: Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Here’s the status as it appeared on Twitter:

HILARIOUS RIGHT

Anyway. I posted the status at approximately 9am. Here it is, just after 8pm, 11 hours later. How’d this plucky little status do?

  • Twitter: Absolutely no response
  • Tumblr: Absolutely no response
  • Facebook: 7 likes

To be fair, if the status had had anything at all to do with human rights or Welcome to Night Vale it probably would have gotten a couple reblogs on Tumblr. I know the audience there. (Look how many notes this ridiculousness has.)

I’m pleased but not surprised that people on Facebook liked the joke. The people I’m friends with on Facebook are people I actually consider friends, people I’ve known for awhile either online or in person. So there is actually a relationship there.

Twitter, I don’t know. I don’t think many of my followers actually follow me. Even if they did, there are so many other people posting things that are far funnier. I haven’t managed to make many real connections on Twitter, even though I’ve been using it the longest out of all three services. Maybe that’s why? Maybe I sort of learned how social media works from Twitter, but only applied that knowledge to Facebook and now Tumblr.

In any case, it seems like the best way to achieve interaction is to make friends with people (shocking), and I really haven’t done that on Twitter at all. It feels so public, it kind of embarrasses me to try to strike up conversations with people I don’t know. I have started to make friends on Tumblr, which has been a lot of fun. Nothing too serious yet, just reblogging and liking each other’s posts, and a few asks here and there. But it’s nice. I like friends.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I use Twitter, and what I even use it for. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, if anything—I do have a couple friends there. But I feel like I spend an awful lot of time on it, and I want to be sure it’s worth it.

Social media quandary

Some time ago, I reached a point of crisis with Facebook. I was (and am) terribly unhappy with the company’s lack of respect for its users. Facebook users are not the customer; they’re the product. Mark Zuckerberg has little respect for privacy and seems only interested in pleasing advertisers. While I realize Facebook needs to make money, I don’t think that should happen at the cost of people’s feeling of personal security.

However, despite that huge issue, I continue to use Facebook, because that’s where everyone is. Or, more specifically, that’s where a majority of my far-flung real life friends are. Facebook makes it simple for me to keep up with people I otherwise wouldn’t hear from for months, years, or at all. I have always been terrible with keeping up with people myself, so this has been a godsend. And through Facebook I have developed deeper friendships with people who were once simple acquaintances. I’ve planned travel. I’ve shared and received affirmations and support. Facebook is where I go for community. It’s not a paradigm that can be replicated.

Twitter, I’ve come to discover over the past few days of trying very hard not to use it, is also an non-replicable paradigm.

I never thought I would have to try and find an experience to replace what I have on Twitter. Unlike Facebook, where I reveal information only behind tiered walls of (questionable) privacy, my tweets have always been public. Anyone is welcome to them. I have very few real followers, but I have over the years since I joined in February of 2007 curated a following list of interesting, funny people and accounts, one that enriches my life with daily musings, links to important news articles, beautiful photos, and more. I’ve also enjoyed sharing my own thoughts and occasionally receiving feedback.

As Twitter works toward profitability, things keep changing. I had always believed Twitter was more interested in its users than Facebook was, that Twitter would ultimately have its users’ backs. But one thing always bothered me: Why, if Twitter still has all my tweets as it claims, won’t it let me have them?

Unhappy that my tweets were seemingly going into a void from which they could never be recovered, I recently set up a rule with If This Then That that saves any tweet I post into a text file on Dropbox. Doing that, I was confident that at least going forward I would have access to my own content.

But then Twitter changed its API terms for developers, directly affecting my solution. IFTTT sent me an email about it, directing me to the Developer Rules of the Road and specifically this paragraph under “Twitter Content”:

You may export or extract non-programmatic, GUI-driven Twitter Content as a PDF or spreadsheet by using “save as” or similar functionality. Exporting Twitter Content to a datastore as a service or other cloud based service, however, is not permitted.

This rather creepily makes it sound like my content, the stuff I write, belongs to Twitter, not me. And as the content belongs to Twitter, I apparently have no right to use a process to save it. I would have to manually copy and paste from the GUI, if I’m reading this correctly. They know no one’s going to actually do that.

I realize this section exists to stop people from cross-posting their tweets to other services (which also seems draconian, no matter how annoying I find cross-posted content), but it effectively locks me out of my own writing, again. Let’s say I instead decide to post on some other service that allows me full access to my content, and then cross-post to Twitter. I could save the original posts I write that way, but not replies. I also wouldn’t be able to save retweets, which, while secondary, provide context to what I’m writing and insight into what I was thinking about while writing.

When I read the email from IFTTT on Thursday, I tweeted a little about it with shock and dismay, and then stopped tweeting altogether. It’s been about three days…but it feels more like a month.

In the meantime, I did what I could to get the content I enjoy on Twitter elsewhere. I went over to Google+ and added everyone I could find. I even pulled in news organizations I’m interested in and removed them from Facebook–but it looks like most of them post more to Facebook than Google+. Similarly, most of the people I followed on Google+ don’t post there much. The bulk of content is back on Twitter.

I’ve also been using App.net Alpha and the iOS app Spoonbill to participate in the new App.net-powered community that I’ll just refer to as ADN for simplicity’s sake. (App.net has the capability to support multiple communities, though I’m not sure that’s been done yet.) While that community is interesting, it’s sort of weird. (One conversation I witnessed, Person A: “Don’t you have a personal lawyer?” Person B: “Of course; I have several.”) There are a few people who, like me, talk about their lives, but for the most part I see people talking about tech trends, social media theory, marketing, and occasionally politics. It’s good content, but it’s not everything I want. Not by a long shot. There’s no @Lileks there. Little to nothing about journalism, photography, design, language, culture, or travel. @Horse_ebooks is there, but I hate @Horse_ebooks. The people I actually know who have signed up haven’t posted much of anything. It feels like a large number of the active people on ADN live in the Bay Area, adding to the sort of tech elitist ambiance. I have had very few conversations there.

So no, ADN can’t replace Twitter for me, at least not now. There isn’t enough adoption, I suppose. I even sort of feel weird posting there, like I’m spamming up a special place with my worthless thoughts. Rather the opposite of how I assumed I would feel about using a paid service that puts the users first.

ADN can’t do it, Google+ can’t do it, and I refuse to change the way I use Facebook (especially since that would give Facebook more data about me). So it would appear that I have no choice but to use Twitter, at least in terms of reading.

I’ve heard rumors that Twitter will start allowing users to download their tweets by the end of the year. But rumors like that have existed for awhile. I’ll believe it when I see it.

For now, I’ll probably keep reading Twitter. But I’m not sure I’ll be actually posting much there.

Small Settings Update

We’ve updated the Timeline to better reflect how folks are using Twitter. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people don’t read every tweet. However, receiving each and every tweet from the people you follow makes it hard not to read everything. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

The Importance of Discovery

Spotting new information in tweets is an interesting way to check out what’s going on with your friends. Despite this update, you’ll still see the most important information from your friends; you just won’t see it all. For example, you’ll continue to see tweets that Twitter has deemed relevant or accurate. We’ll be introducing better ways to manage your Twitter experience as we release more features in this space.

This post is a parody of this announcement from Twitter. For more information: #fixreplies

Why Twitter’s new link structure doesn’t work for me

On March 31, Twitter once again changed its look and feel for a select group of users. I posted a screenshot here. Here’s Twitter’s explanation behind the change. Now, whenever you search or click, the content you’re going for is pulled right into the white content area. It feels simpler, and in some cases faster, though I have noticed some lag on @mentions (formerly @replies) and DMs.

Slow loading times aside, the idea makes sense. It gives the information available on Twitter a more immediate feel and focus. However…it’s just not working for me.

I’m something of a curmudgeon. I have certain browsing habits, and I don’t like having to adapt them. I tend to keep certain websites open in certain tabs in a certain order. It annoys me if those websites aren’t the first sites in each tab’s history. In other words, the tab I generally keep open begins on the page I want; there’s no “back” available. That way, if I do happen to browse forward, I can hit the back drop-down and select the very first page to get back to my standard view.

In Twitter’s case, I like for http://twitter.com/home to be one page forward from my blog, so I can hit back to get to my blog quickly when nothing’s really happening on Twitter. And after clicking on my DMs or mentions, I click the back button on my mouse to get to Twitter home.

Unfortunately, that no longer works! When I hit back, the browser URL changes, but the page’s content stays on whatever I clicked last. I end up having to hit refresh to get the home screen back while keeping Twitter home as my second history item.

This causes me no small amount of consternation.

I’m accustomed to CMSes and other web apps working like this. If I had one tab that was just for Twitter, I suppose I could get used to clicking “Home” instead of hitting back. If I really make the effort, I could adjust to this.

But I don’t want to! I’m set in my ways. I like how I’ve been using Twitter since 2007. And who’s to say they won’t just change it again later, forcing me to adjust again?

Damn kids…get off my lawn.

Twitter search on homepage

It would appear that many of my Twitter followers do not see the Twitter search box in the top right-hand corner of their home pages. Thus, they do not believe that I do.

Well, nay-sayers, here’s what I see! (Click the image to see the whole page.)

Twitter search on home

As you can see, the Profile and Settings links have been moved down next to my username, making room for the search box.

I’ve already used search more thanks to this change!