Eddie’s Oracle People Map got me thinking about what I like about social networks and why some are more valuable to me than others. Data visualization is cool, and seeing where people are geographically is a trip.
I had coffee with Rick Turoczy, the Silicon Florist, today to talk about the tech scene in Portland, and to put flesh and blood with the zeros and ones. Rick found me over Twitter, not sure how, and his tweets about our coffee meeting immediately brought me six new followers, all Portlanders. Pretty cool network effect.
Over the last few months, I’ve warmed up to Twitter, and we used it pretty successfully at OpenWorld. Twitter is as much social network as it is communication (sorry, “micro-blogging”) mechanism, which is why I like it. You can be as active or passive as you want and still reap the benefits of the network.
What I initially liked about LinkedIn is what eventually caused me to stop using it proactively. By that I mean, I’m basically in maintenance mode; if someone adds me, I accept, but I don’t search for people or add very many anymore. LinkedIn is a great Rolodex, and it’s a pretty good resume tool. It’s not that interesting, though, so aside from the collector in me, I have no reason to build that network. The only interesting piece of LinkedIn is reading people’s resumes. I know LinkedIn has added more features, but eh, I’m over it for now.
Facebook is interesting. I rebuilt my network, and the News Feed helped me grow it. The News Feed helped me find applications, and it got cooler as I added more friends. Until one day, I just stopped caring, and this was before they release Project Bacn. I have too many applications, none of which is very useful. I have so many friends that my News Feed is cluttered, and I’m too lazy to throttle the settings. Oh, and the ads and spam have gotten worse.
IMHO Facebook hasn’t delivered on its potential yet. They don’t offer enough syndication or an API to get data out, so I’m always refreshing their slow site. Consequently, I don’t always catch useful stuff because it’s mixed in with a lot of zombie bites and other noise. Sorry if you’re mad that I ignored your request to bite me, update my mood (assume it’s bad) or add Fun Wall. I do like Facebook’s communication, i.e. wall and inbox, but that’s about it lately.
Plus, I know I’m not the only one who wants to know why Facebook is so damn slow. Seriously, spend some of that cash on power, ping and pipe already.
I’m not giving up on Facebook. I still like it better than LinkedIn, but it’s no longer my primary network.
Twitter is. Twitter suffers from an image problem (i.e. it’s perceived as trivial), and you really don’t see benefit unless you follow the right people. The good news is that you can find people much more easily now than a few months ago. Adding search was huge.
So, what’s the big deal? For one, Twitter constrains you to 140 characters, so you don’t get all long-winded, like some people do in blogs (d’oh). Twitter also builds Tiny URLs to allow links in tweets. This is huge because now I can get what is essentially a live RSS feed from my network, complete with commentary.
Twitter adds a human element too by asking “What are you doing?”. Several people I know only virtually have tweeted about family deaths and bad news, and their followers, including me, have expressed sympathy over Twitter.
But as I said before, participation is optional. You can lurk all you want and just read the links that bloggers like Scoble, Jeremiah, James Governor, Dennis, Eddie and others throw out onto Twitter. Plus, bonus feature: the Twitter API allows third party tools to build apps or add-ons that make it super easy to follow your network, unlike the walled garden that is Facebook (and LinkedIn).
I follow using the TwitterFox add-on for Firefox, which has a little unread icon on the footer bar. It pops open a small, optional window when new tweets arrive, and the new version has tabs and color-coding for my tweets, replies @ me and direct messages. Its text entry window counts the characters as I type, and it suggests when I type a reply, i.e. @someone. All very cool and totally easy. I don’t have to go to Twitter ever, unless I want to follow new people.
There are tons of Twitter tools though, for any and all operating systems and browsers.
Yeah, there’s spam. I have seven silversurfers, a spiderman and a MittRomney following me. Sounds like the 12 days of Christmas. I try to follow everyone who follows me, but if that’s not your style, you can always block or stop following transparently. Easy break-up, no mess.
So, what’s my conclusion? I guess I want interesting features in just the right amount from the network. I want the network to entertain and inform me, with minimal effort.
If you agree, check out Twitter, and expect these types of features in Mix as I push Rich and Anthony to Twitterify it.