Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: social networking

Don’t tweet where you eat

Mike Monteiro has some good, simple advice for people who use Twitter:

Never, ever, talk about clients on Twitter. Ever.

I pretty much take this one step further — never talk about other humans with whom you have a personal relationship on Twitter. I talk to other people I know on Twitter, but not about them. I try hard not to even make oblique inside jokes about other people or the code they write. It’s unprofessional and rude.

If there’s one advantage to having been online essentially forever is that nobody had to teach me this stuff after I was a grownup. I came up through the world of dialup BBSes, so I had already confronted the implications of social media long before sites like Facebook and Twitter even existed. I was there when people started getting fired for things they posted on their blogs. In some ways, I feel bad for people who have never been online and jump right into it with Facebook or Twitter. The great danger of social media is that it creates the feeling of intimacy when you are, in fact, on a potentially global stage.

My basic philosophy on social media can be deduced from my old post on levels of candor.

Why do all those galley slaves seem so happy?

There’s a lot of talk these days about the users of social sites being “serfs” and “galley slaves.” Scott Rosenberg has a good rundown of these sentiments at his blog. What I find interesting is that these writers don’t seem to offer the basic value proposition of sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Posterous, or to an even greater degree, user blogs on sites like the Huffington Post and the Daily Kos.

Social sites enable you to exchange control for audience and convenience. Many people don’t understand this tradeoff fully, but they do understand that signing up for Tumblr or posting their links to Facebook is achievable for them in a way that building their own robust Web presence is not. And plenty of people have moved to positions of more control over the years as their writing gains popularity. Plenty of popular blogs started out under the blogspot.com domain and wound up on their own domains.

I’ve set up blogs in pretty much every way you can, including manually editing an HTML file and uploading it to the server when I created new posts, and for my most recent blog, a link blog for people who are interested in college sports at my alma mater, I set up a Tumblr blog on a custom domain. Why? Mainly because the Tumblr bookmarklet makes it so easy to post things to it. I can just read the news I’d read anyway and quickly turn the interesting news into blog posts.

In the end, most people are writing on the Web for fun, and they’re using the software that lets them keep it fun rather than turning it into work. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of social networking sites far better than the professional writers who see them as serfs.

Links for April 2nd

Actions in the stream

Mark Paschal at Six Apart has created a new Movable Type called Action Streams. The idea is that it compiles your activity on other sites into a single stream of data that you can use on your weblog as you wish. It’s an evolutionary advancement over other systems that provide similar functionality, but I think it’s important.

Sites like Facebook build these sorts of streams by tracking your activity on your own account and on other services that you attach to your Facebook account. If you run your own site, you can generally use widgets provided by other sites to include recent activity on your Web page. For example, there are a number of ways to display recent Twitter tweets, del.icio.us bookmarks, or Flickr photos on a blog. Beyond that, most sites provide Atom or RSS feeds, and there are plenty of tools that you can use to consume those feeds and display them on a Web site as well.

Action Streams goes a step further by providing a standard interface to the output of many different sites, and by allowing you to integrate with sites that don’t provide an API or a feed by scraping their HTML.

I’m for any tool that makes it easier for people who run their own blog software to take command of their social graph.

Wired’s Compiler blog has more on Action Streams, including a screen shot of the output.

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