Categories
Blogs and blogging Semantic Web Social Web

The Mastodon in the room

I read Patrick Hogan’s post about Mastodon titled “Mastodon makes the internet feel like home again” last week. It prompted me to install a Mastodon app on my phone again, and take another look.

The Mastodon.social timeline
Find me on Mastodon, if you want

Like many people, I’m not exactly in love with Twitter lately (except when I am). I’ve been on the lookout for something better for years (remember Jaiku?). I really like the idea of a federated update/micro-blogging service, and Mastodon has all the features you’d want.

What about the network effect?

The one feature that’s missing is the one factor that either boosts or kills any social service (again, remember Jaiku?) is the all important network effect. As Richard MacManus put it in his post titled “How social media fits into the Open Web” in AltPlatform.org (I can’t seem to load the site and provide a link):

I dip into Mastodon from time to time, but it just hasn’t managed to become part of my daily Web routine. Perhaps it will in future, but the old ‘network effects’ rule applies here: the value of a tool is ultimately in the strength of the community it builds.

This probably isn’t the platform I’d expect to see my friends on (and I don’t expect to). Still, if Mastodon is to be a viable alternative to Twitter for me, I’d want to be able to join communities that feature the people who I follow on Twitter. At the moment, I’m not sure most of them are even aware of Mastodon.

More importantly, what about my blog?

As interested as I am in a federated alternative to Twitter, what I really want is to be able to use my blog as my starting point for everything. Why can’t my personal site be the focal point of my presence on the web (at least one of my primary expressions of my self online)?

This takes me back to the work the IndieWeb community is doing to link all these sites together into a federated identity, and content network. How about extending that work to the point where I can use this blog as my identity that reaches into these federated networks?

This may be wishful thinking but I’d really like to see a future version of WordPress introduce this social connectivity that allows me to extend a unified personal presence to non-blog platforms.

On Mastodon, my identity is linked to the instance I am a part of. There, I am @pauljacobson@mastodon.social. I can use that identity to participate in other Mastodon instances (I think), so I have the beginnings of a distributed, social identity here. The challenge is that my nascent social identity is distinct from this site.

Update: I wrote too soon. Ryan Barrett pointed me to Bridgy Fed that seems to do what I was hoping I’d be able to do (pretty much). Barrett launched Bridgy Fed in October and it looks terrific:

Ryan Barrett's Bridgy Fed launch announcement.
Ryan Barrett’s Bridgy Fed launch announcement.

This is going to take a little time to configure but I’m looking forward to working through the process and connecting my site to the fediverse.

Categories
Coding People Social Web

Inspiring developers make Twitter worthwhile

Twitter has become a complicated digital space, to say the least. My “Inspiring developers” Twitter list is one of the highlights of my Twitter experience, and the developers on that list make Twitter worthwhile for me, despite all the cruft we see there.

One of the themes that Twitter has helped highlight is how women developers are routinely marginalised, dismissed, devalued. I decided to seek out inspiring women developers and follow them because I was interested in their perspectives on development, life, and other issues.

I’m glad I did. Sure, there are some men on that list (there are plenty of male developers who I admire too) but I wanted to be exposed to different voices.

I am continually inspired by the developers I add to my list, and there are times when I’m tempted to unfollow virtually everyone else and just focus on this growing group of smart, thoughtful, and innovative professionals. See for yourself:

I have learned so much from virtually every person on this list. The fact that this list began as an effort to focus on women developers has become secondary to how much I appreciate being able to subscribe to their shared thoughts.

By the way, if there are developers who aren’t on my list and who inspire you, let me know in the comments or on Twitter?

Photo credit: WOCinTech Chat, licensed CC BY SA 2.0

Categories
Social Web

How to switch back to Twitter 140

Type less.

 

On the other hand, if you’re willing to be a little adventurous, 280 characters could be a boost for your creativity too …

Categories
Blogs and blogging Miscellany

My blog-Twitter stats synchronicity

I just noticed that there is a little synchronicity between my blog stats and my Twitter stats. 4,022 blog posts alongside 40.2k tweets … See? 😁

Blog stats
4,022 blog posts already … boy, where did the time go?
My Twitter stats
40,2k tweets and more than a decade on Twitter. Where did that time go?

I doubt very much that there are any stars and/or planets in alignment for this one. Just the same, it’s a fun little thing for me.

Categories
Events and Life Mindsets Social Web

Jews, still trending after 2,000 years

Twitter_trends_-_Jews_and_IsraelisNow and then I look at the trending topics that Twitter presents me with. They usually have some variety based on current affairs in our region but two trending topics seem to be constant fixtures: #Jews and #Israelis.

Sure, Israel and Israelis are in the news a lot and have been for a few decades. We are a convenient target for a variety of organisations that are allied with Palestinians or just looking for ways to target Jews without actually referring to Jews.

The trending topic amazes me, though. Clearly some cultural fixations don’t wane. Despite numbering in the tens of millions (I believe there are less than 20 million Jews in the world), we remain a popular topic of discussion after more than 2,000 years.

That being the case, is it still appropriate to have as a trending topic on Twitter? If we are a constant subject of discussion and debate, surely we should be elevated to something along the lines of “Constant Source of Consternation” or “Given Topic of Conversation”?

If we have been trending for so long, surely we have transcended merely “trending”?

In the meantime, here is the latest news about “Jews” on Twitter. I’ve filtered out what Twitter regards as not being “Top tweets” in the hope of achieving some measure of quality control:

Categories
Mindsets People Social Web

A story about leaving life-long extremism

Megan Phelps-Roper related her story about leaving life-long extremism as a member of the Westboro Baptist Church that is worth watching and listening to.

She credits Twitter for exposing her to very different perspectives on the extremist positions she championed since childhood as a member of this church and her ultimate decision to make a break with these ideologies.

You may also want to read a 2015 article in the New Yorker about her too. I have saved it to read later and only just glanced at it. It should be a very interesting read.

Twitter has been under fire for some time now as an enabler for trolls and its failure to protect people targeted by those trolls. This story touches on Twitter’s positive influences and while Twitter has a lot of work to do, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that so many of its users have benefited positively from the service.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web

RTFBP is RTFM for blog posts

How often do you find yourself responding to a tweet or Facebook update linking to blog posts only to realise, after responding, that the answer you seek or point you make is contained in the blog posts you were in too much of a hurry to read?

TL;DR your blog posts but, hey, I commented!

I seem to do this often. Given the low click through rates I see in my social media analytics, I suspect the majority of people who respond to these social shares do it too.

After all, it is so much easier to just reply to a tweet or comment on a Facebook post and have your say than it is to click on the link, load the site and read the article that was shared.

As someone who shares stuff on Twitter and Facebook fairly often, it’s certainly my hope that people will click through and read my posts but that happens relatively infrequently compared to the “engagement” that takes place within Twitter’s and Facebook’s walls.

What is Twitter good for?

Twitter, in particular, is supposed to be this terrific platform for sharing stuff with people. What I realized is that when Twitter and Facebook talk about how their platforms are so effective as engagement drivers, they’re really talking about engagement on their platforms. This certainly comes across clearly on Twitter where you have analytics about your tweets available.

This isn’t surprising. Social networks make money from people using their services, not clicking away and going elsewhere. Still, many of us still suffer from this delusion that sharing our stuff on social networks will, necessarily, send more visitors to our sites.

Introducing a new acronym: RTFBP

So, assuming that this trend is only going to continue and relatively few people will actually click on those links we share and visit our sites to read our blog posts, I have come up with a snappy acronym: RTFBP. It stands for “Read The F$&king Blog Post” and it has the benefits of being short and easily hashtag-able.

RTFBP is intended for content marketers who find themselves answering questions and responding to seemingly insightful comments made by people like me who took the TL;DR approach to social media shares. As silly as that is, considering that I know that the point of social shares with links is to direct me to the blog posts that contain the information I seek, if only I RTFBP before tapping “reply” or “comment”.

So, as a self-confessed lazy follower, I both apologise and offer my newly minted acronym to all the marketers whose eyes I cause to roll, yet again. I am working on clicking through more often and reading before I trot out some pithy response. Promise.

Featured image credit: Pixabay

Categories
Events and Life Mindsets People Policy issues Social Web

The fundamental problem with @Twitter

The fundamental problem with Twitter is that it doesn’t give victims of abuse effective tools to fight the trolls. Sure, it is still trying to work out how to persuade people to sign up and help them understand what to do with Twitter but the lack of effective tools to fight abuse is eroding the service from within.

You probably heard about the troll who was banned from Twitter after leading vicious and vindictive attacks on Leslie Jones. She left Twitter for a short while and tweeted this:

This morning I was going through my Twitter feed and I saw these tweets from Jessica Valenti. Same issue:

https://twitter.com/JessicaValenti/status/758348786959781888

“Leaving social media” has become a euphemism for “stop using Twitter because I don’t have an effective way to fight trolls and monsters who use it to terrorise me”. As a relatively unknown man, I haven’t been exposed to the bile that high profile women are often exposed to.

I believe that Twitter is important to protect free expression but that free expression must be deserving of protection. Gleeful and malicious attacks on women and threats of violence to children are not forms of expression that deserve protection.

Mike Elgan, Jeff Jarvis, Stacey Higginbotham and Leo Laporte discussed this issue on This Week in Google recently and Elgan had a suggestion for how Twitter could help stop trolls. It is an interesting discussion. This video should pick up a few minutes into the discussion (about 45 minutes and 20 seconds):

Protecting free expression is difficult because when you create tools to protect activists, you also enable trolls to take advantage of those tools. I don’t know what the solution is but every time a person “takes a break from social media” because the abuse was just too much, Twitter has failed profoundly.