I have mixed feelings about automatic updates of one or more social networking sites from another social networking site. Like when you twitter something and your Facebook status gets the same string of words, or visa versa. I know a few people who do this on a regular basis, and it seems to work very differently depending on what the person tends to write and how the connection between her or his social networking sites is set up.
As background to this discussion I should tell you how I interface with the various intertubual entities.
Posts on Greg Laden’s Blog are automatically tweeted, and are automatically placed on Facebook as links, through two different services. The fact that the blog post titles are tweeted has changed the way I title them. Unable to assume that readers will see an excerpt or opening paragraph in a feed, I now do two things differently: I am somewhat more descriptive in the titles of the blog posts because on Twitter, all people are getting is the title and a link. This is, of course, foolish because fewer than one tenth of one percent of the hits on my blog posts come from twitter. The other thing I do is to more regularly use certain codewords in the title. If I write a post that is merely pointing to a blog carnival, I try to use the words to indicate that in the title. Same for “blogospheric” posts. (This second change in my titling strategy is of course a special subset of the first.) This is to avoid annoying people who may not want to come to the blog post to see a post on “How to please your man, ten easy hints revealed by ten easy experts” only to find that my post is merely pointing to a snarkily titled edition of the Carnival of the Vanities or something.
I hardly every look directly at my twitter feed. I do, however, regularly check a subset of my twitter feed, which includes the tweets of about thirty different people and no more.
I check Facebook regularly, so if I see anyone’s stuff I see it on Facebook. I have about 1,500 Facebook friends, but I only watch the feeds of a subset of maybe a couple of hundred. (See “Finding Facebook” for how Facebook has changed my life. Or not.)
I have a Friend Feed account. I don’t look at it and I don’t really know what it is.
So, the bottom line is that I watch Facebook regularly and see all this from a Facebook perspective.
One person I know twitters and each tweet becomes a facebook status update with a tinyURL link that is a link to the twitter feed. I’ve learned to not click on that person’s tinyURL no matter how interesting the status update is because all I get is the tweet, which is identical to what I already had. I’m not sure why that link is there.
One person I know writes extensive tweets (always using the maximum characters), often includes a link, and is always conversational, frequently asking for a response. Like “Tell me what you think about this old video of Carl Sagan.” (I made that up, but the person is an Astronomer). If I or anyone else responds to this conversation opener on Facebook, we are summarily ignored because this person is tweeting and the tweet is feeding over to Facebook, and I’m pretty sure she’s not reading Facebook feeds on any regular basis. So, really all I’m seeing is a replicate of a conversation going on somewhere else that I can’t participate in without changing my (above described) habits.
Another person I know produces a very large percentage of tweets that seem to be private messages or responses, and these tweets, once again, are fed over to Facebook. So I see a lot of “Oh, really? We’ll have to talk about that” and “No, I think you have to stir in the mayonnaise first or the hot tub jets will get clogged” and so on. I hardly ever have a clue what is going on. This person is also on my highly select twitter feed, and I still have no idea what is going on.
I do know one person who is a professional writer and who checks her very selected twitter feed regularly (she is not a slut like I am, with thousands of meaningless “friendships” and “followeees”) and regularly checks her Facebook account, and has her tweets become status updates automatically. I’ve not asked her but I’m pretty sure she writes her tweets cognizant of the fact that there is this mixed audience of tweet-readers and Facebook-checkers. So her tweets transmogrified into Facebook status updates are neither annoying nor ignored.
All of the above cases are females. Two guys I know seem to do something similar to what I do: Their blog posts become tweets, and that’s mostly it. One of them has his tweets also become Facebook status updates, the other does not, but does put links to his blog posts on Facebook, as I do, so the same result using two slightly different routes, is obtained. So there may be a consistent gender related pattern here where the females are being conversational in various ways, and the guys are just fucking mud, as it were, in an Internet sense.
I don’t like the disconnected conversation of my astronomer friend. I may have to stop stalking her on Facebook because she’s just taking up feed space that I can’t use. But she does have the occasional interesting link. I enjoy the tweets of the person mentioned above with the tinyURLs, and I’ve learned to ignore the tinyURLs (but I do think they should not be there to begin with since they make no sense). My writer friend who writes for the audience does not produce a lot of tweets or Facebook items, and they all seem to make sense. The two guys that I mention are redundant in that I check their blogs, get their tweets, and see the Facebook feed and it is the same thing over and over and over again. But that’s guys for you. Redundant.
The bottom line is this: Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, and other social networking sites are not the same thing as each other. If you want to use them all, either don’t automate or automate with the full knowledge of what you are doing on each feed, how it works, and how readers respond to it. I’m probably screwing up on Friend Feed. As I mentioned above, I “do” it, but I don’t look at it, don’t know how it works, and I’m not sure what it is. So there are probably people on Friend Feed who get annoyed at what I’m doing there, whatever that is. My two friends who spill twitter stuff over to facebook should probably not do that. Either write for both audiences or keep your conversation where it belongs. They sound like people talking loud on their cell phone in an airport waiting area. People who put their blog posts up on all these feeds are probably using a service, and if that is the main thing one is doing, people can understand that and decide to use that feed or ignore it.
I think maybe I’ll work on a bash script that converts a rudimentary feed-seed into appropriately developed text that reads right for various different feeds, with or without links as appropriate, and sends them out automatically to the appropriate social networking sites. I’ll make it available for other people to use. I’ll call it feed2feeds.
Check back later for that…