Reading Twitter updates, the world looks like a pretty dark place …

I don’t use Twitter all that much lately, and I use Facebook even less. My reasons for using each platform less are different, though.

I just scanned through my Twitter feed, and I closed the app feeling the world is a pretty dark place at the moment.

I’m not sure if that’s more about the people who I follow, or just the things that people tend to tweet lately.

Facebook really has become the primary social space online. Stepping out of Facebook is like going on a retreat in some distant land with no link to the rest of the world.

Is social media awful by design?

I’ve only just started reading Mark O’Connell’s article in the New Yorker titled “The Deliberate Awfulness of Social Media“, but this part stood out for me.

The problem is the business model based on the manipulation of individual behavior. Social-media platforms know what you’re seeing, and they know how you acted in the immediate aftermath of seeing it, and they can decide what you will see next in order to further determine how you act—a feedback loop that gets progressively tighter until it becomes a binding force on an individual’s free will.

 

Saying goodbye to Twitter

This is starting to feel like an apt description of so much social media these days:

Social media has become death by a thousand angry micro-posts. Maybe it’s time to get away.

“Held down by algorithms that are like axes”

Quoted

No matter where I go on the Internet, I feel like I am trapped in the “feed,” held down by algorithms that are like axes trying to make bespoke shirts out of silk.

Source: Om Malik

Deleted tweets on Facebook are a reminder about controlling your content

I noticed this story on TechCrunch about how cross-posted tweets were removed from Facebook, along with the conversations that formed around them.

Facebook users are complaining the company has removed the cross-posted tweets they had published to their profiles as Facebook updates. The posts’ removal took place following the recent API change that prevented Twitter users from continuing to automatically publish their tweets to Facebook. According to the affected parties, both the Facebook posts themselves, as well as the conversation around those posts that had taken place directly on Facebook, are now gone. Reached for comment, Facebook says it’s aware of the issue and is looking into it.

Axios published a post clarifying what happened:

Here’s what happened, according to a source close to Twitter.: Twitter had initially asked Facebook for more time to see if there was a way for users to continue joint posting to both social networks, but Facebook said no.

As a result, the Twitter app for the Facebook platform was essentially made useless earlier this month once Facebook officially removed the ability to cross-post. With the app’s sole function eliminated, Twitter decided to delete it from the Facebook platform, having no reason to think that doing so would remove old tweets that were cross-posted. It’s not clear whether Facebook knew this would happen, either.

Those tweets have apparently since been restored to Facebook, so the harm was short-lived. At the same time, this incident serves as an important reminder that you rarely have effective control over your content on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

It’s also a big reason why I prefer the POSSE (Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere),  approach to publishing my content. That said, moves like Facebook’s changes to their API at the beginning of August 2018 have the effect of frustrating this to a degree.

It’s affected people’s ability to publish to their Facebook News Feeds automatically using external services (although you can still publish automatically to your Facebook Page). That said, this just reinforces the importance of having your own space on the Web where you have considerably more control over your content.

Should Tumblr be the next Twitter? I hope not.

I can’t help but think that Jeremy Gordon’s call for people to return to Tumblr after abandoning Twitter misses the point a bit.

But on Tumblr, people could go on for at long as they needed to, a valuable tool for posters who could actually justify it. (And I use the past tense here in the context of my own experience; if you’re still doing this, bless you and yours.) Posts could be as short as necessary, but you could also find a historical deep dive, an interesting think piece (and not the kind derisively referred to as “takes”), a photo essay, or simply just a nice blog about someone’s life. The whole impetus behind following people on social media is, “Hey, I like this person’s brain, and am open to spending more time with it.” Tumblrs delivered the full, unrestrained range of someone’s head — funny, serious, and everything else.

Sure, Tumblr is an appealing platform, with a lot of good things to say about it. At the same time, one of the arguments for moving off the likes of Twitter and Facebook, and returning to personal sites is to regain control over your space on the Web.

Tumblr is another centralised, social space that’s vulnerable to the same threats that face its larger competitors.

People seem to be fixated on constraints, whether they are Twitter’s character count, or Tumblr’s engagement models.

Just create a blog of your own, on your preferred platform. I’m a WordPress user (since 2004), and you can choose another if you don’t like WordPress for some reason.

Whatever you choose, make it your space, at your domain, and keep it yours. If you only want to type short missives, great. If you prefer long, photo essays, that’s awesome too.

If you’re going to leave Twitter/Facebook because of the issues you see there, why replicate those conditions in another, similar service?

As Chris Aldrich put it, “support the web we’d like to have instead of the web we’re given”.

Elephants all the way down

I’ve been trying to follow discussions about a return to blogs as a preferred, personal publishing tool, and how they could integrate with Mastodon. One technology that comes up as a possible way to connect blogs to Mastodon is WebSub (formerly PubSubHubbub).

I read a bit about using Bridgy Fed to do this a while ago.

The Mastodon in the room

I’m curious if there are easier ways to connect a blog to something like Mastodon, and have status updates flow between the two.

One of the people who I try to keep up with (albeit superficially), is Kevin Marks. It’s worth reading his thoughts about Mastodon and Twitter that he published last year: “Mastodon, Twitter and publics 2017-04-24“.

One of the challenges is that the “fediverse” model is somewhat more complex and nuanced than the model we see in Twitter and, to a large degree, in Facebook. On Facebook and Twitter, we tend to have a binary choice: follow or don’t follow.

In a fediverse model, there are more layers, potentially:

The structure of Mastodon and GnuSocial instances provides multiple visible publics by default, and Mastodon’s columnar layout (on wider screens) emphasises this. You have your own public of those you follow, and the notifications sent back in response, as with Twitter. But you also have two more timeline choices – the Local and the Federated. These make the substructure manifest. Local is everyone else posting on your instance. The people who share a server with you are now a default peer group. The Federated public is even more confusing to those with a silo viewpoint. It shows all the posts that this instance has seen – GnuSocial calls it “the whole known network” – all those followed by you and others on your instance. This is not the whole fediverse, it’s still a window on part of it.

This sort of model may be a little more effort than most people would be comfortable with.