I had a conversation with someone recently about their site. They decided to give up their site, and their domain because they use social media for everything. I had to pause for a moment when I heard that.
As useful as social media is to so many people, entrusting your online identity, and content wholly to social media is quite a gamble.
There simply wasn’t enough room to have the kind of nuanced conversation the subject requires. It was symbolic of Twitter’s broader problem: It’s almost impossible to have a smart, healthy argument on Twitter because no one has the space needed to share their thoughts.
Anyone remember Friendfeed? Actually, perhaps a more interesting solution could have been Google Wave.
Neither of these options are around any longer, and their successors don’t have the traction or appeal for this sort of use case.
One of the challenges of being a parent in a time where we can share so much of our lives on social media is deciding how much to share about our kids. I decided to stop sharing much more than tidbits about our kids online a year or two ago. One of the reasons I stepped back was this:
One commenter criticized parents like the essay’s author for having “turned their family’s daily dramas into content.” Another said the woman’s essay surfaces a “nagging – and loaded – question among parents in the age of Instagram. … Are our present social media posts going to mortify our kids in the future?”
Of course part of the challenge is that our friends and family are likely on Facebook, and that’s where they share their lives. They don’t necessarily share publicly (as in the Public sharing option), but Facebook is their social hub.
Sharing our kids’ lives isn’t a modern phenomenon. Parents have been doing it for generations. What’s new is that we can share so much, across such vast distances, and at scale. Far beyond ye olde photo albums with printed photos. As Priya Kumar pointed out –
Unlike the diary entries, photo albums and home videos of yore, blog posts, Instagram photos and YouTube videos reside in platforms owned by corporations and can be made visible to far more people than most parents realize or expect.
I created a private family blog that is only accessible to family and close friends as a way to still share our lives with family and friends, and only with them. It hasn’t attracted much interest, though, and the reason seems to be that it’s not on Facebook, and therefore not part of that social hub.
It’s tempting to just go back to sharing this stuff on Facebook, and rejoin the collective there. The problem with this is that doing that is more likely to be harmful to our kids. And that doesn’t justify the convenience to our friends and family.
So, I reconsidered the value of our family blog. Instead of its primary purpose being a way to share our lives with friends and family in a way that better protects our kids’ privacy, I see it as a great way to document our lives for our kids.
I’d love to see our friends and family interacting with our family blog, but I’m not expecting to see that for the time being. Facebook has too much of a hold over our digital, social interactions (at least in my circles).
WhatsApp is a pretty prominent platform too, but sending a WhatsApp message to a family group isn’t the same as a blog post with photo galleries, a story, links, and maps that I use to document our experiences.
There are definitely more private options available for sharing our personal lives online. I’m partial to blogs but there are adoption drawbacks.
Still, given the choice between fewer visits from Facebook (and other) hold-outs, and committing our children to a degree of publicity they won’t want as they grow up, I’m comfortable adjusting my expectations of how many people will visit our family blog.
I think there’s certainly merit in shifting your social network over to something like Micro.blog, in the near term at least. As Enslen explains –
As the name Micro.blog implies the primary thing you can do on it is write short form posts like Twitter and Facebook. But you can also post long form posts just like you would on a conventional blog, just keep typing and when you hit 280 characters in a post a Title Field appears and you are long form posting – effortlessly. There is no friction or barriers between you and just writing.
Posting is easy, like posting on Twitter and the blog just auto-generates itself. You can post, “I like pizza.” You can post a picture of your cat plus a poem about your cat. You can post a 600 word essay about the Chicago Cubs. Whatever you want, however short or long you want. It’s one of the features I like the most. Posting photos is very easy on MB. There are quite a few dedicated photoblogs there.
And you can move. If you decide to move you can export all your posts and import them on a different blogging platform. This is exactly why MB strongly encourages you to use your own domain it makes moving easier.
There are two challenges, as I see it at the moment:
If your social graph/network isn’t using Micro.blog, it’s value for you may be pretty limited (or you can create a new network!); and
I worry that shifting over to another, single service is repeating the same mistake we all made focusing our social streams into a small number of social networks that we don’t control. Micro.blog is certainly more open than Twitter or Facebook, and you don’t even need to host your blog there to participate, so it’s better in that respect.
I’ve been using Micro.blog as a pseudo-Twitter for a little while now. My blog posts publish there automatically, and I’ve discovered some fascinating people there along the way.
The syndication aspect is why I think there’s definitely something to adopting Micro.blog as a social network, even if it’s more of a stepping stone to something else. I’d love that “something else” to be a distributed social fabric that’s informed by posts on our personal sites/blogs.
I don’t think we’re quite there yet (wherever there is?), but I’m hopeful that we can move beyond a site as a static site or as a chunky blog, to a point where a site/blog can be a source of articles, and also simpler shares like status updates, Instagram-like photos, and so on.
Micro.blog is the closest to that, that I’ve seen. Here’s Manton Reece’s overview of Micro.blog. I think it offers a pretty good perspective on what this distributed social experience could look like:
I’m not really interested in moving my site away from WordPress, and that’s not because I work at Automattic. Overall, I enjoy using WordPress, and I think it’s one of the best options out there for publishing just about everything from a personal blog, to more complex publications.
Hopefully WordPress will evolve, and incorporate technologies that feed this loose vision of a federated social Web based on personal sites that talk to each other seamlessly. In the meantime, there’s a growing collection of plugins that add these pieces along the way (such as the wonderful IndieWeb plugins).
So, perhaps Micro.blog is a good candidate for an alternative to Facebook, and Twitter*. It’s certainly a couple steps in the right direction, while we figure out what a post-Facebook/post-Twitter social Web looks like.
*well, certainly Twitter given that Micro.blog doesn’t support privacy options you may want to use in a Facebook alternative, and assuming that the people you want to follow are on Twitter too …
It’s almost fashionable to bash Facebook at the moment. To a large degree, the criticism is well deserved. At the same time, we should maintain some perspective on the reports, and resist the urge to be carried away by the maddening crowds.
I read Jeff Jarvis’ post titled “Facebook. Sigh.” recently. He makes an argument that Facebook’s executives aren’t necessarily malicious, they’re just really not thinking through the implications of what they do, or even why shouldn’t do what they do.
None of this is to say that Facebook is not fucking up. It is. But its fuckups are not so much of the kind The Times, The Guardian, cable news, and others in media dream of in their dystopias: grand theft user data! first-degree privacy murder! malignant corporate cynicism! war on democracy! No, Facebook’s fuckups are cultural in the company — as in the Valley — which is to say they are more complex and might go deeper.
For example, I was most appalled recently when Facebook — with three Jewish executives at the head — hired a PR company to play into the anti-Semitic meme of attacking George Soros because he criticized Facebook. What the hell were they thinking? Why didn’t they think?
Why did the messaging partners have read/write/delete messaging access?
That was the point of this feature — for the messaging partners mentioned above, we worked with them to build messaging integrations into their apps so people could send messages to their Facebook friends.
Specifically, we made it possible for people to message their friends what music they were listening to in Spotify or watching on Netflix directly from the Spotify or Netflix apps (see screen shots below), to message links to Dropbox folders (like a collection of photographs) from the Dropbox app, and to message receipts from money transfers through the Royal Bank of Canada app.
In order for you to write a message to a Facebook friend from within Spotify, for instance, we needed to give Spotify “write access.” For you to be able to read messages back, we needed Spotify to have “read access.” “Delete access” meant that if you deleted a message from within Spotify, it would also delete from Facebook. No third party was reading your private messages, or writing messages to your friends without your permission. Many news stories imply we were shipping over private messages to partners, which is not correct.
James Ball tweeted a similar criticism of reports about the private message issue:
Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.
Twitter threads make no sense to me. I also find then to be pretty frustrating.
I’ve read some really interesting, and engaging Twitter threads (you probably have too). Every time I read one, I ask myself two questions:
Why is this person going out of their way to share this story/their thoughts on a format that breaks the flow with every tweet?
Why doesn’t this person value their ideas/content/thoughts enough to give them/it a dedicated home on the Web that others can return to?
Sure, Twitter is great for firing off missives on the go. It’s both a real benefit, and the reason why Twitter’s becoming the seedy part of the Web.
It’s also a space that you don’t control, don’t own, and have no guarantee will still respect you in the morning. Taking the time to formulate your thoughts, and share them one tweet at a time, over multiple tweets, reflects a degree of dedication, and a determination to share them with the world.
Why, then, would you do the digital equivalent of carving your thoughts into beach sand, only to see it washed out when the tide comes in?
There are so many opportunities to share your ideas in a more resilient format, such as a blog, or even a collection of static HTML pages on a server somewhere. You can even tweet the link, if you want to get it out to your Twitter followers.
The cost of setting up, and maintaining a blog, are almost negligible. Do that instead. Your future readers will thank you.
Oh, and on a related note …
I occasionally come across tweets that attach images of typed documents. Please don’t do that. See above.
Some platforms present a little something special on your birthday. Twitter has balloons that float up over your screen when you visit your profile page on your birthday. I get a kick out of seeing this every year! 😁