More thoughts about Micro.blog as an indie social network

Brad Enslen is doing some great work over at Micro.blog, spreading the word about this innovative service. He published a post titled “The Case for Moving Your Social Network to Micro.blog“, that’s pretty self-explanatory.

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.

Brad Enslen

There are two challenges, as I see it at the moment:

  1. 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
  2. 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 …

Twitter threads make no sense to me

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.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by drmakete lab

Birthday balloons on Twitter 🎈

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! 😁

Tweeting to preserve history

D Sami Reindeer 12

I suppose Twitter still has its good use cases. Tweeting to preserve history isn’t one of them. I came across this fascinating Twitter thread by Marina Amaral about the Sami people, who’ve been living in what’s now Finland for thousands of years:

The thread runs for several tweets, and it includes wonderful resources such as maps, old photos, and more recent photos that illustrate how these people have adapted to a modern world.

As much as I enjoyed reading Marina’s wonderful overview of these people’s history, I couldn’t help but wonder why she chose to tweet this, instead of blogging it? She has a remarkable blog that covers a range of historical events, and themes.

When it comes to digital preservation of these sorts of cultural and historical legacies, surely publishing it to a blog would be a far better medium?

Photo credit: D Sami Reindeer 12 by Michiel van Nimwegen, licensed CC BY NC ND 2.0

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.

Saying goodbye to Twitter

Liked It's time to say goodbye to Twitter | sonniesedge by Charlie OwenCharlie Owen (sonniesedge.co.uk)
It's time to say 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.

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”.