Micro-blogging: 3 years later… (5 years in)

It’s been three years since the last time I posted about micro-blogging. Since then Google Buzz has been killed off, Google Plus has taken its place, Tumblr has arrived on the scene, and Identica doesn’t exist in the same way as it once did. I’m also using KDE now, so I went from using Gwibber to using Choqok:

Choqok
Choqok

I used Tumblr for about a year but I abandoned it because it’s just animated gifs and curation of the work of others. Out of all the Tumblrs I followed (about 20) only about 3 of them produced original content. All the rest were just reblogs. Also, there’s too much porn on there to use at work.

I don’t really used Google+ other than to share videos of Scarlett with the family. I’d use it more if they finally came out with an API so I could use it with Choqok. Identica changed from Status.net to something else and Choqok doesn’t support it yet, so I’m not using it at this time.

Finally, I’ve gone from using Twitter only to gripe to using it to connect with other creatives. I’ve been able to have Twitter conversations with some of my favorite comic book creators. I also was able to use it to get that great interview with I Fight Dragons about their Kickstarter. So I’m really loving it for the ability to connect with people that, in the old world, could only have received fan letters and wouldn’t have written back.

What’ll the micro-blogging world look like in another 2-3 years? Will Google fold again or did they find a winner this time? What will I be using to interface with these services and what will I be getting out of it? Only time will tell.

Micro-blogging: 2 years later…

Almost exactly 2 years ago I started micro-blogging. Back then I signed up for Twitter, Pownce, and Plurk accounts. One month later I concluded that I really liked Twitter and that Pownce and Plurk were annoying. A few days later I discovered Identi.ca – a FLOSS version of Twitter and decided I would send frivolous tweets to Twitter and tecnological dents to Identi.ca. Then, a little while later Pownce was taken off the net. So what has happened in the intervening years?

Over the course of the those two years I have mostly micro-blogged via API. I just find it so inconvenient to go to a particular website to make a post. This is especially true since I have gone to programs that federate all my micro-blogging into one place. In the same way that I use Pidgin rather than AIM, Yahoo Chat, GChat, Facebook chat, etc, I like to have one problem to send out my micro-posts. I started off with Twitux on Linux and Tweetdeck on Windows. I didn’t like Tweetdeck because it was too dang slow, so I stopped using it. I used Flock for a while, but I quit that browser around a year ago and even uninstalled it a few months ago. Ever since taking my music collection off of my Windows computer, I completely only use it for photography and playing computer games. So I moved on to gwibber on Linux. The best thing about gwibber is that it works with Twitter, Identi.ca, and Facebook. Of couse, using gwibber means that I no longer make any distinction between what I send to Twitter and what I send to Identi.ca.

The interesting thing about using clients to tweet and dent is that I have no idea what the site looks like as well as some of the innovations they’ve implemented. I didn’t know until I clicked on someone’s twitter feed that you could change the background. Nor did I know that they had implemented “promoted tweets” or geolocation. With Identi.ca, I didn’t know they had implemented a tag cloud or a map at the bottom. Since Twitter just lets 3rd parties figure out how to hashtags, while Identi.ca actually makes use of hashtags, I have a very lopsided tag cloud because I’ve been using them inconsistently. Nor did I know Identi.ca had implemented groups. (I was wondering what the ! tag was for)

My tag cloud on Identi.ca
My tag cloud on Identi.ca

Also, in the intervening time, Google launched Buzz. Buzz is in a weird role. Mostly it just serves as an aggragator for my Twitter and flickr feeds to let my gmail-using friends know what’s up without having to subscribe to my different feeds. It also collects the statuses on my gchat account.

Content-wise, I’ve found micro-blogging to be useful, but I’m not as prolific as most. In fact, Identi.ca lists my daily post average as 1. Many days go by without my bothering to add a micro-blog post. Since I tend not to post about stuff like “I’m eating dinner” to keep my feed from being boring and I don’t post, “I’m at a party” so people don’t know when I’m home, I just don’t have as much to say as others. My posts tend to be expressions of extreme emotion: frustration at something going wrong or elation at something going right. Sometimes this has led to people offering solutions on how to solve my problem – mostly it just serves to help me vent.

Pownce is Dead, Long Live Twitter

As I mentioned in my post Micro-blogging:  One Month Later, I hadn’t really used Pownce much at all.  Even now, 4 months later, I haven’t touched it.  In fact, ever since that post in August, I only used it once to transfer a file to my brother.  I thought there wasn’t much room on the net for so many micro-blogging services.  Most people, including CNN’s Rick Sanchez, use Twitter.  And if you’re hard-core into libre software, there’s Identica.  So I didn’t see why anyone would use Pownce.  On top of that, Pownce was supposed to make money by getting people to pay for extra services.  I just didn’t see any value in what they were charging for.  So, I wasn’t too surprised when I got an email last Monday that Pownce was going to close shop.

Identi.ca, the free software micro-blogging platform

Another micro-blogging post?  What’s going on here?  Well, when I first did my micro-blogging post, Identi.ca had just gone public and I didn’t think there was a reason to join yet another micro-blogging service.  But two things came together to convince me to check out Identi.ca.  First of all, I’ve overcome my reluctance to using micro-blogging services.  Second, I heard an interview on Linux Outlaws with the creator of Identi.ca.

As you can see, it’s pretty much inspired by Twitter.  It has a very similar interface and reply mechanisms.  I got a good vibe from it – as I did with Twitter.  Something about the aethetics just made me want to use it – just like Twitter and unlike Pownce.  Of course, there are some negatives with Identi.ca being inspired by Twitter.  Chief amongst these is the reply functionality.  Only Plurk (with Pownce in a distant second) have correctly implemented replies in a way that makes sense.  Without a threaded reply, it’s pretty hard to correctly follow the conversation that may come out of something posted on Twitter and Identi.ca.  Of course, maybe that’s done on purpose.  Perhaps replies are an afterthought because that’s not what these micro-blogging services believe micro-blogging to be about.  I’d LOVE to see a mode in Identi.ca (just another tab, really) where posts could be viewed in a threaded fashion to be able to follow the conversation better.  That would help Identi.ca leapfrog over Twitter in useability and functionality.

Speaking of this, it appears that Identi.ca assumes the user already knows what micro-blogging is all about.  Unlike Twitter and the other services, the FAQs don’t have a lot of hand-holding “this is what a micro-blog is” talk going on.

I have found a lot more neat conversations on Identi.ca and I think that’s because a lot of the people on here are here because it’s open source.  Thus, open source conversations seem to dominate on the site.

So far there doesn’t appear to be functionality in Flock or any programs in the Fedora repositories that allow posting to Identi.ca from other programs.  You *can* post from GTalk, though, so that works out well.

What makes Identi.ca worth using, trying out, etc is that it’s open source.  They are using the AGPL which means that you have to share source code if you make changes and then deploy it publicly over the web.  But the most important aspect of the open-ness of this platform is that you can take the source code, install it on your own server, and then become part of the Identi.ca network.  In other words, you can make your own customized version, but still have friends, communications, etc with the main site and with other sites running it.  You no longer have to have an account on each of these sites, they can all just link to each other.  Think of it as being able to interact with your friends who have myspace while you only use Facebook.  It’s THAT revolutionary…potentially, anyway.  We’ll see where it goes.

I’m not sure yet what I want to do with Pownce and Plurk.  But I think Twitter will become my general thoughts blog while Identi.ca will be for Linux issues.  There may be some cross-posting with issues that are really important to me, but I think this keeps my thoughts in the realms where they are most likely to be read.  That’s the plan anyway, so let’s see what happens.

Micro-blogging: One Month Later

It’s been about a month since I signed up for a bunch of micro-blogging websites. So what do I think after about a month? Let me start off with Twitter.

In my first look at the micro-blogs I had some pretty good feelings about Twitter. That has basically carried over for the past few weeks. I added a Twitter plugin to my blog, using it for quick thoughts I don’t want to elaborate on with a blog post. I’m also using Twitux on my Linux computer for posting without having to load up the Twitter site. I haven’t really been using the Flock Twitter plugin because it doesn’t seem to update correctly or often enough. I’m enjoying using it for those quick thoughts. I’m definitely going to keep using Twitter for the foreseeable future.  So I feel the way about Twitter as I did a month ago – I like it.

Now onto Pownce.  I have barely used Pownce.  I’ve made perhaps somewhere between 15 and 20 posts and that’s about it.  I think part of the problem is that everyone I know is on Twitter or will be on Twitter in the near future, but no one I know or care about is on Pownce.  I mean, even NPR’s Talk of the Nation is on Twitter.  The reply feature is nice, but so far I haven’t been able to use it since no one is following me on Pownce.  I haven’t had a chance to use the fileshare or calendar features I was excited about in my review a month ago since I don’t know anyone on this service.  I may keep updating it for a little while, but if that account lapsed and they canceled my account, I wouldn’t care.  I’m also using a WordPress Plugin for Pownce and it looks exactly like the one for Twitter.  Just like a month ago, I am not that fond of Pownce.

Finally, onto Plurk.  I think Plurk was the Internet addiction I was quickest to get over.  Previous addictions include Facebook and Flickr.  I have met a lot of people on Plurk that seem to be pretty neat people to talk to.  There’s also a huge knitting in the Plurk constituency.  At least, everyone I click on from the “interesting plurkers” links appears to be into knitting.  It’s a pointless fact, but a strange one.  Plurk was a very interesting ride when compared to last month’s review.  The action items in Plurk turned out not to bother me that much and I eventually came to like them and tried to always format my answer in the third person.  And, there was the option to pick a blank option and just put whatever you wanted in there.  So instead of annoying me, it ended up forcing me to be creative.  I didn’t like that there was only a line for typing – but the line dynamically becomes a box if you type more in.  I was also excited about the karma.

So, interesting, the karma did what it was supposed to do at first – get me to come back and do lots of commenting on other people’s plurks.  It also got me to befriend a bunch of people.  But then the karma ended up getting me more and more pissed off.  Now I’m at the point where the karma is actually what is causing me to consider just getting rid of Plurk.  I absolutely had the feeling that I’m being forced to Plurk.  I’ve never liked people forcing me to do things and I’ve always left any organization where I had to be forced to do something.  The most annoying part is they expect you to plurk from work instead of actually working.  At a lot of jobs, like mine, this is against the computer policy and people have been fired over it.  So every day when I got home, my karma had gone lowered.  This was made even more annoying by the fact that you get more abilities on the site as you get more karma.  Also, if the others are right, then by not using smilies and dancing bananas, I’m limiting my karmic growth.  I don’t want to be forced to use smilies if I don’t feel like it.

Also, as more and more people did more and more plurking, it became harder to keep up if I took some time off to spend with my family or others in the real world.  I would come back and find hundreds of plurks for me to look over.  If I don’t look them over, it’s hard for me to find replies to my most recent plurks.  So they need to somehow fix that – I can’t think of the best way to do it right now, but it certainly doesn’t work well.  People are constantly claiming plurk bankruptcy.  Also, when I’m skipping through these hundreds of plurks it makes me feel bad that I’m not reading what others are saying, but I expect them to read my plurks and respond so we can have a conversation.

So, in the end, I really enjoy Twitter – the original.  Pownce is just there and I haven’t found a compelling reason to stay with it.  Plurk has annoyed me so much with the karma and bad reply interface that I’m thinking of quitting it.  I’ve been purposely boycotting it for the past 48+ hours and just spending time in the real world instead of the 20+ minutes it’s going to take me to get through all the replies.  I may go back to Plurk, but I’d probably just end up ignoring the karma.

A Macro-blog Post about Micro-blogging

I’ve known about micro-blogging for 1-2 years now – ever since I first started hearing about Twitter. Up until now I’ve been vehemently against the whole micro-blogging trend. To begin with, it requires anyone who wants to keep up with my writing to check yet another website! On top of that, I just can’t see a point to it. I even told my brother last weekend, why can’t I just have nice, short posts on my blog? But recently I’ve been hearing more and more about these micro-blogging services. It keeps being mentioned over and over on the net, in podcasts, pretty soon I’m sure CNN will be doing a piece on it. I know I’m late to the party when, according to Wikipedia, Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton have Twitter accounts. But, still, I hear all these complaints micro-blogging overload and people talking about ridiculously inane things such as what they just ate for lunch.

But a few little factors have led me to check out this whole micro-blogging thing.

1) I’ve recently been getting my blog syndicated in digg and LinuxToday and figured perhaps I should save my blog for longer posts so that people don’t have an uneven experience with the blog. In short, small posts look bad.

2) I resisted podcasts for a long time and regret it. I’ve been very entertained and learned a lot from the podcasts I’ve been listening to. I wish I started a long time ago.

3) I’ll try anything legal at least once.

4) I have this sense that perhaps I’m missing out on a form of communication that I may end up loving.

5) I’ve already been doing it with Facebook via the status updates. Ever since they changed my profile page so that it logs all of the past status updates, it’s basically become a micro-blog of sorts.

So I’ve decided to do a review of the main micro-blogging services: Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and Plurk. I’ll sign up for all of them (if possible) and see which one works for me. In the end I’ll keep accounts on one or two of them and delete the others (or let them languish to be deleted when the service does its periodic purges). Here’s what I know and the preconceptions I come to to table with.

Twitter – All I know about Twitter is that it’s the most famous and the one that “everyone” is on. Also, it’s “always” down. At least, every single thing I read about Twitter on the net references how it’s always down. When I checked Wikipedia, it says that in 2007 it had a 97% uptime or 3 days offline. Of course, that could have been written in Wikipedia by a Twitter employee or Twitter enthusiast. It certainly doesn’t seem like a lot of downtime in a year consisting of 365 days. Either people on the Internet are engaging in hyperbole by saying that Twitter is “always” down (that would NEVER happen on the nets!) or the Wikipedia article is wrong. I guess I’ll find out during my review.

Jaiku – All I know about Jaiku is that it was created by some Finnish dudes and Google recently bought it.

Pownce – What I know about Pownce is that it was created by Kevin Rose of digg fame. Other than that all I know is that no one ever talks about Pownce. Is it under a Fight Club-like silence? Does this mean that no one uses it? Or are they just too new to the party? Everyone’s always talking about Twitter.

Plurk – I know absolutely nothing about Plurk. Well, I read an article about how “everyone” is deserting Twitter for Plurk. I think micro-blogging is still in an early phase and people are just afraid of being on the service that all their friends aren’t one.

I think I’ll go through the sign-up process and what the websites say about the services. Then I’ll blog my first experience making a post. After that I’ll probably do either another post that will focus on how I feel about them or I will do one post per service. Ok, so first up is the “original” – Twitter!

Twitter

Twitter has the most bubbly, Web 2.0 vogue site of them all. See for yourself!

Twitter Main Page

Let’s see what they say for the why:

Why? Because even basic updates are meaningful to family members, friends, or colleagues—especially when they’re timely.

  • Eating soup? Research shows that moms want to know.
  • Running late to a meeting? Your co–workers might find that useful.
  • Partying? Your friends may want to join you.
  • So, it looks like they’re encouraging that inane babble that everyone complains about with their twitter accounts. Still, they have a sense of humor and that’s always a good thing in a company. What about the how…Nothing of substance there. Ok…. The following quote appears randomly on the home page:

    If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, it is one of those things, like MySpace, that sounds totally ridiculous and stupid when you first hear about it. But once you start using it, you realize how much fun it is.

    Eric Nuzum, Author of The Dead Travel Fast

    That’s pretty much exactly how I feel about micro-blogging. But let’s see if I really do find it fun once I start. They have a video and I decide to watch it. Definitely watch the video. It really explains where they expect to fit in your online life. They want to fill in the space between blogs and emails. Good point. This is something I’m looking to do. Perhaps it’s a good match for me? At least the case for micro-blogging has been made, although I’m not sure if I want to do it on Twitter. Of course, I even if I like Twitter, if the Internets are to be believed and everyone had started the exodus, then the value goes way down. In fact, I’m a bit worried after I watched the video. My enjoyment of the site seems to be predicated on the fact that my friends are on. I don’t have that many technologically minded friends. Those that do follow technology, like my brother Dan, tend to eschew sites like Twitter. Oh well. I’ll sign up.

    Well, djotaku, my preferred online nom de guerre, was available. In an interesting move, it asks for permission to search your email contacts to find out if your friends are already using it. Interestingly, my brother was listed as using it. When I mentioned to him that I didn’t get Twitter, he didn’t mention having an account. It then asked if I wanted to send invites to others. I picked few friends.

    Well, here’s my Twitter page, or at least the page it dumped me to when the sign-up was over.

    Twitter after signing up

    Well, Twitter’s up right now despite what the detractors say. It’s pretty easy to use. Flock also has some Twitter integration, but that’s a post for another day. Here’s my page after a few updates and my brother’s page:

    Twitter - my page after some updates

    Twitter - Dan\'s Page

    Well, this micro-blogging thing is a bit fun! Also, it’s pretty darned easy. If I had a text messaging plan I might even update it more often. Wikipedia mentions a famous case where it saved someone’s life.

    Next I decided to give Jaiku a shot.

    Jaiku

    Here’s the main page:

    Jaiku Main Page

    I decided to “take the tour”. Then I clicked on “explore”:

    Jaiku Explore Page

    I can’t sign up for it now. I need to request an invite. You know what Google, this whole “invitation-only” BS is starting to get on my nerves. I think I’ll pass on Jaiku. So next up is Pownce.

    Pownce

    While Twitter seems to emphasize nice short messages about what you’re doing, Pownce appears to be attempting to be even more than that. Here’s the main page:

    Pownce Main Page

    Pownce seems to really emphasize sharing stuff (vs updating people on your life). Twice on the site it has a variation on:

    Pownce is a way to keep in touch with and share stuff with your friends. Send people files, links, events, and messages and then have real conversations with the recipients.

    I like the idea of being able to send files and events. It takes a lot of the tedium out of having to email attachments and deal with all that. Plus the events part sounds useful. I get a weird vibe from Pownce. I like something about Twitter a lot more. Perhaps it’s the color scheme? I don’t know, but something about Pownce almost has a sinister feel to it. Maybe it’s the name Pownce? I keep thinking of Pownage and dominating people. It sounds really aggressive. Anyway, I’m going to sign-up.

    It also has a friend import feature. Unfortunately, the site became incredibly slow and unresponsive at this stage. Pownce is also built into Flock, so if I like it, it will continue to be convenient for me to use. Here’s the main page for me to enter my posts:

    Pownce Main Post Page

    Interestingly, they appear to think people will be willing to pay for Pownce. People are always talking about how to monetize the read/write web (Web 2.0) and how there are all these companies providing services that are nice, but people wouldn’t pay for them. I pay for flickr because it gives me value – I can post more pictures, have a higher upload limit, and have access to all my pictures. But paying for a microblogging service? Of all the reasons they list to go pro, only the 250 MB limit appears to be worth it. But it depends, if that’s per file, then who’s sending files that big? If it’s total, then maybe it’s worth the money. Well, let’s try out Pownce.

    I tried to make a post and it keeps “freezing” on me. I click post and then it returns me to a completely blank – white – page. I finally get a post, and it expresses my frustration.

    Pownce after making a post

    I’m also going to test adding a file and and event.

    Pownce with some files and events added

    There’s one thing I like so far with Pownce – each post has a reply button. If the replies are kept with the original posts then I think Pownce has a one-up on Twitter. It means you can truly have a conversation with your buddies. So you’re combining micro-blogging with micro-commenting. Being able to share files sounds good, but I don’t know how often I’d use it. Alright, all that’s left is Plurk.

    Plurk

    As I said before, all I know about Plurk is that it’s supposedly eating Twitter’s lunch. (Drinking their milkshake, if you will) Here’s the main page:

    Plurk Main Page

    Honestly, based on the front page, I’m least excited about trying out Plurk. The front page screens out – “I’m trying too hard”. I don’t know. I just don’t think it’s as inviting as Twitter or Pownce. Well, let’s sign up and see if my opinion changes. This also had a friend finding/recruiting phase. I guess they all recognize how these services aren’t any fun without friends on them. Here’s the page it dumped me into.

    The page is interesting, but it feels a bit cluttered.

    Plurk posting page

    The timeline idea is interesting and different, but also a bit unnecessary. After all, all the post on your page in Pownce and Twitter are listed in reverse chronological order anyway. Also, I’m used to seeing lists in reverse chronological order, but not timelines. It took me a few seconds to realize that my post had appeared on the left and not the right. Before I keep going, let me say they have a weird and disturbing mascot/logo:

    Plurk Logo

    It looks like a little puppy with its head cut off!

    Anyway, another thing I don’t like about Plurk is that the posting interface is like facebook where it’s in the form of “username” action “something”. I find this to be more limiting than Twitter and Pownce where I can just type freeform. Here’s the items you can pick for your action:

    Plurk action choices

    But what do I like about Plurk? I like that it says it’s (time) and blah. I also think the karma points could be an interesting concept. Going back to stuff I don’t like, I don’t like that it’s a line for me to type in. Even though I only get 140 characters like in Twiter, I feel like I can’t say that much because it’s a text line instead of a text box and the font is so huge. I know I can keep typing, but I feel like I need to end by the time I get to the end of the text box.

    Ok, so – conclusions? I’m willing to try these suckers out for a few weeks and see how I like them. I’m already semi-addicted to changing my Facebook status and today I couldn’t wait to get out of bed to make a Twitter post (known as a Tweet). So I may end up liking micro-blogging. The only part of the micro-blogging culture that doesn’t call to me is the whole updated from your cell phone. Not only do I not have a text messaging plan, but (to borrow a term from the intel guys) it’s bad OPSEC. In other words, if you’re Twittering how much fun you’re having at a concert, then people know you’re not at home. They can rob you, kidnap your kids, rape your wife, etc. That’s why I never blog about my vacations until I get back.

    Anyway, stay tuned and see how this experiment goes and which service I end up favoring.