Seen This

I've joined a French microblog community called SeenThis with an active community of bloggers who share interesting articles. It's on quite a high level. Unlike my French. But it does include a translation engine for when I get stuck, and I'm strictly trawling, rather than actively participating.

Revisiting Gnu Social and liking what’s there

Gnu Social had grown a bit quiet the last time I used it. I changed identities a few times after trying twice to establish my own instance, and people got tired of trying to re-follow me and I can't blame them (that's one thing that works better on Hubzilla).

In general, because of its core users, GS brings a different and sometimes hopeful way of looking at many of the issues that concern me. I find views and opinions here that are hard to find on Twitter or Google+. The commercial networks have vast numbers of people, and still they worry about $.  On GS there is confidence regardless of the number of users and shaky platform it's all built on.

Now Mastodon seems to be having a good effect on the rest of the federation, and brings in some new voices, some of them more mainstream. Eventually, I think that federated social networks will prevail over the mega-capital dinosaurs.

Facebook

Just caught up with the Guardian post of Hossein Derakhshan, "Iran's blogfather: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are killing the web", from December last year.

All true, but the bloggers, and other "content producers" (horrible term) are also helping to kill the web, by playing along with the rules. I can't so much blame them for using Twitter. Facebook should be seen for what it is - the enemy of the open web. Facebook is evil in so many ways I need to breathe deeply whenever I think about it, so I'll let Derakhshan's article suffice.

Twitter is an evil mainly because the web depends on it too much. There are basic flaws in the way it is built, and it's always only "somehow" worked. My main complaint is still that it is centralized - and, as we know, Twitter deliberately killed off its ecosystem of third party clients, through control of its API.

It would be so beautiful if we could create a decentralized, federated system of social networking on the model of email; or early email - as we've let the big companies take over there too. The means exist - I've just brought back my status.net instance for the umpteenth time. But it's a pie in the sky dream, unfortunately. Mainly because we collaborate. Netizens unite; take back your power!

So long, Twitter

I deactivated my personal Twitter account two or three weeks ago because I did not like the direction the company seems to be moving in. I suppose I didn't want to become angry with a company whose service I have often found to be rewarding and useful, and wished to part on amicable terms.

I enjoyed Twitter more than Facebook or Google+, whose accounts I've kept.  But as a rule do not participate much in those networks.  For now, besides WordPress, GNU Social is where I put stuff.  I'm thinking to set up either a personal instance of GNU Social, or a Friendica or Red instance, on my new Raspberry Pi.

Twitter’s silent majority

The Wall Street Journal has an article "Report: 44% of Twitter Accounts Have Never Sent a Tweet" whose comment stream is particularly vile, though some of the remarks are valid.

Without solid statistics, articles like that can only speculate about the story behind the story.  Are people "quietly reading" other people's tweets or are they simply not spending time there? Does an absence of tweets indicate a lack of engagement?

I'm not one of the 44%, having sent thousands of tweets, while every so often wiping the slate clean to start afresh.  I actively read Twitter: it's an excellent source of news and views, and more effective than other news feeds as a discovery engine, for personalities and stories.

Though my tweet stream has a "high signal to noise" ratio, with many interesting links and retweets, its number of followers remains consistently low.  I mainly follow people with high authority in a given subject and if they, like me, want to keep their tweet stream fairly manageable, it's better for them to stick to primary, high value sources. It's true that they could keep Twitter manageable by assigning followers to lists, for selective reading, but in that case I could imagine being shoved on to a list named "Fans" or "Uncategorized".  That's the kind of dishonest behavior that caused me to abandon FriendFeed, once I cottoned on to it.

Unlike the 44%, I re-tweet constantly. I like to keep a record of what I've been reading and want to draw further attention to some of these tweets and links.  Favoriting tweets would work too, but would be less effective in spreading the word.

Just as there is no reason for celebrities and top influencers to follow my tweet stream, ordinary folks too would be better advised to stay with primary sources in a given field.

Twitter therefore allows the celebs to flourish, and lets everyone else feel resentful if they choose to be.  In which case they can head over to the Wall Street Journal to leave their peeved comments.

My favorite evil company

bird-smTwitter is still my favorite evil social network company. Evil mainly because of the way it upset developers a few years ago, for a couple of other things I vaguely recall, and for the inequity of massed capital in general.

But, compared to other social networks, there is still a whole lot to like about Twitter:

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How social networks ought to work

Note: this posting is still a work in progress

I'm tired of the multiple services through which we connect to people, and tired too of closed garden monopolies like facebook. It would be better if there were a single way to post our profiles and messages somewhere on the web, and for these to show up in whatever network we chose to view them: comments too would show up with the original post. There wouldn't be a need to join new services unless we wanted to do so, and we wouldn't need to fake interest and take membership in a certain network in order to find our friends. The appearance of our profile and postings on a given network would be up to our friends. Networks would be windows on the entire people web.

Friendfeed partly embodies this concept in its “imaginary friend” feature, though I have never really worked with this. The problem on friendfeed is that it is possible to add imaginary friends just one at a time. There is a posting on the subject of importing imaginary friends here. For Twitter Friends, some ingenious person has created an automatic script that imports all Twitter friends who are not already on Friendfeed: http://huddledmasses.org/convert-twitter-users-into-friendfeed-imaginary-friends/. I can't use that, since it works only on Windows and Internet Explorer.

Besides FriendFeed, it is possible to use other aggregators - though usually only for the main services. There is AOL Lifestream (formerly socialthing), Brizzly, Threadsy (which also does email), the Flock browser - and many others. It will be interesting to see if Google Buzz begins to add more services besides the few that it already offers.

The aggregation solution actually solves only one side of the problem.  In order to pull in friends, you still need to join networks.  In a way, it would be better if we were back in the era before social networks and everyone added their content to blogs (as I am doing now). 

There's another related issue that there is a certain meaning to the communities in which our friends "live".  In writing, they have in mind their network of people that cohabit their social network.  Kurt Starnes talks about this in a recent blog post "Going native in the age of aggregation".

We are often not interested in every aspect of our friends' activity on the web. We are interested to the extent that their interests overlap our own. We may follow a friend on Facebook due to a similar interest in social issues, but be dismayed to find that the majority of their comments are about family life. In conventional blogging, it is possible to solve this problem by assigning categories or tags to our postings. Then it should be possible to subscribe to an RSS feed on a certain topic. In Social networks, it is possible to join groups, subscribe to rooms, or create separate Twitter accounts, but most people are not very methodical about compartmentalizing their web activities. Perhaps in the future the Semantic web will find solutions to this.

Right now, if I want to follow a friend's activities on the web, there is no easy way to do so without visiting each of the networks in which s/he is engaged. Often people replicate the same content across multiple networks, though inconsistently. If I were able to centralize all of their postings in one place, such as by using Friendfeed, I would probably end up with multiple identical postings. The best is if they are using a well managed lifestreaming service, which brings together the many separate threads of their web activity. Then it would be possible to obtain an RSS feed of that page. But RSS feeds do not permit much interaction with the original content.