Tag Archives: twitter

Original social media needs still unmet

My friend Peter Rukavina blogged how he will no longer push his blogpostings to Facebook and Twitter. The key reason is that he no longer wants to feed the commercial data-addicts that they are, and really wants to be in control of his own online representation: his website is where we can find him in the various facets he likes to share with us.

Climbing the Wall
Attempting to scale the walls of the gardens like FB that we lock ourselves into

This is something I often think about, without coming to a real conclusion or course of action. Yes, I share Peters sentiments concerning Facebook and Twitter, and how everything we do there just feeds their marketing engines. And yes, in the past two years I purposefully have taken various steps to increase my own control over my data, as well as build new and stronger privacy safeguards. Yet, my FB usage has not yet been impacted by that, in fact, I know I use it more intensively than a few years ago.

Peter uses his blog different from me, in that he posts much more about all the various facets of himself in the same spot. In fact that is what makes his blog so worthwile to follow, the mixture of technology how-to’s, and philosphical musings very much integrated with the daily routines of getting coffee, or helping out a local retailer, or buying a window ventilator. It makes the technology applicable, and turns his daily routines into a testing ground for them. I love that, and the authentic and real impact that creates where he lives. I find that with my blog I’ve always more or less only published things of profession related interests, which because I don’t talk about clients or my own personal life per se, always remain abstract thinking-out-loud pieces, that likely provide little direct applicability. I use Twitter to broadcast what I write. In contrast I use FB to also post the smaller things, more personal things etc. If you follow me on Facebook you get a more complete picture of my everyday activities, and random samplings of what I read, like and care about beyond my work.

To me FB, while certainly exploiting my data, is a ‘safer’ space for that (or at least succeeds in pretending to be), to the extent it allows me to limit the visibility of my postings. The ability to determine who can see my FB postings (friends, friends of friends, public) is something I intensively use (although I don’t have my FB contacts grouped into different layers, as I could do). Now I could post tumblerlike on my own blog, but would not be able to limit visibility of that material (other than by the virtue of no-one bothering to visit my site). That my own blog content is often abstract is partly because it is all publicly available. To share other things I do, I would want to be able to determine its initial social distribution.

That is I think the thing I like to solve: can I shape my publications / sharings in much the same way I shape my feedreading habits: in circles of increasing social distance. This is the original need I have for social media, and which I have had for a very long time, basically since when social media were still just blogs and wikis. Already in 2006 (building on postings about my information strategies in 2005) I did a session on putting the social in social media front and center, together with Boris Mann at Brussels Barcamp on this topic, where I listed the following needs, all centered around the need to let social distance and quality of relationships play a role in publishing and sharing material:

  • tools that put people at the center (make social software even more social)
  • tools that let me do social network analysis and navigate based on that (as I already called for at GOR 2006)
  • tools that use the principles of community building as principles of tool design (an idea I had writing my contribution to BlogTalk Reloaded)
  • tools that look at relationships in terms of social distance (far, close, layers in between) and not in terms of communication channels (broadcasting, 1 to 1, and many to many)
  • tools that allow me to shield or disclose information based on the depth of a relationship, relative to the current content
  • tools that let me flow easily from one to another, because the tools are the channels of communication. Human relationships don’t stick to channels, they flow through multiple ones simultaneously and they change channels over time.

All of these are as yet unsolved in a distributed way, with the only option currently being getting myself locked into some walled garden and running up the cost of moving outside those walls with every single thing I post there. Despite the promise of the distributed net, we still end up in centralized silo’s, until the day that our social needs are finally met in distributed ways in our social media tools.

Conversational Symmetry and Twitter

In the past few weeks I have seen several discussions on how to deal with an increase in Twitter follower requests stemming from unknown people or from ‘spammy’ sources. I think finding your own guidelines in how to deal with following and followers can be straightforward if you look at how you want to interact through Twitter.
For me social media is all about conversation. True conversation in the definition of Habermas, but also by everyone’s experience, is symmetrical. It is an even exchange of ideas, views, where both have the same level of effort to be able to take part, and the same power within the exchange. I bring that notion of conversational symmetry to tools like Jaiku and Twitter.

Large antenna array profile type in twitter

It means that my postings there are not public, but only visible for contacts thus ensuring that we can see eachothers postings.
It means that if you request to follow me, and there is a large unbalance in your number of followers and the number you follow, I will deny your request.

Spammy profile type in twitter

If you follow orders of magnitude more people than follow you, one on one interaction is not your goal apparantly. You’re building a phonebook, or you’re soaking up a large collage of everything that’s being posted, as a large antenna array. It’s a way of usage, but it’s not conversation.
If you follow orders of magnitude less people than follow you, you’re someone others like to keep track of. Kind of like the A-list bloggers of old. It’s the celebrity profile so to speak. You can use it as mass media then. If you also want conversation as a ‘celebrity’ it might be useful to keep a seperate, non-public, Twitter account for that, while maintaining a public one to inform people of your public actions.

A-lister profile type in Twitter

If the number of followers divided by the number you’re following is near 1 chances are you use Twitter for conversation style exchanges. It’s what I do.
I respond to what others write, and write stuff that might trigger conversation. Much like particles that help freeze water quicker, or create more bubbles in your soda.
Also I seem to have different circles of people active in Twitter compared to Jaiku, different circles of conversation.

Conversational symmetry profile type in Twitter