Reaching a wider audience or just creating an echo chamber?

For the past few weeks I have been using Digsby, a smart Trillian-style multi-protocol IM client. I’ve tried such programs before — Trillian, Pidgin and Meebo — but for one reason or another they all annoyed me. For this reason, before Digsby I stuck to having MSN, Google Talk and Skype all open at once.

Digsby is quite cool because not only does it unite your IM accounts but it throws in your email and social networking accounts as well. So updates from Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace sit alongside your buddy list. Neat stuff. I believe support for more social networks is in the pipeline too.

Having said that, the Twitter features leave a lot to be desired. I have since started using Twhirl which I think is fantastic, save for the fact that it doesn’t open automatically when my computer starts up.

Beforehand I updated Twitter using Google Talk. But once I installed Twhirl I switched IM Twitter updates off because of course I was getting duplicate messages. But even then the problem of duplicate (or triplicate) messages did not go away. It got me thinking about the increasing trend for stuff people publish on one website to be automatically re-published elsewhere.

A lot of people I know use a Facebook application called TwitterSync. I am among them because I was screaming out for Facebook to allow this for a long time. The app automatically updates your Facebook status with your latest Twitter tweet.

This is cool because enlightened people know how great Twitter is, but there are so many more people on Facebook who do not use Twitter but could still benefit from the wise words you post on Twitter. The Facebook status is the ideal way to give your Twitter account a wider audience.

But what about those people who are friends with me on both Facebook and Twitter? They get the status updates twice. This was not so annoying beforehand. But because Digsby is hooked up to Facebook and Twitter, I get two little pop-ups telling me all about it — and this is in addition to Twhirl’s alerts.

This reminded me of a post written by Robin Hamman a couple of weeks ago. He asked, “is auto-feeding links to Twitter spammy?”

My Tweet Cloud Then I came across a website called Tweet Clouds. This site produces a word cloud or heatmap of the words you use on Twitter. Three words tower above all the others: New. Blog. Post. Those three words appear at the start of each automatically generated tweet advising followers that I have just published something on my blog.

I do quite like it when people alert their followers on Twitter to the fact that they have just published a blog post. I think other people like it as well. I have just checked and over the past year Twitter has been this blog’s fifth highest referrer, bringing 888 visits. That is above Google Search and Google Search UK (although below Google Image Search and Google Image Search UK).

If you take out search engines and blog aggregators, Twitter is the second-biggest referrer to this blog (the biggest being Times Online’s blog platform, which is concentrated on just a few posts). Remember that this does not even include those who are visiting from the Twitter stream in their IM client or another application.

I often also click through when a new blog post is mentioned on Twitter if it sounds interesting enough. But I cannot stand it when other feeds are injected into a Twitter stream — people’s tumblelogs, Delicious links and the like. That is just overload.

If I was interested in someone’s Delicious links, guess what — I’d be subscribed to their Delicious feed. If I cared in the slightest about somebody’s tumblelog, I’d visit their tumblelog. Equally, however, you could say that if somebody really cared about my blog posts then there is already an adequate way to be alerted to new posts: RSS.

This problem is going to increase in the coming year as lifestreams and social aggregators such as Profilactic, FriendFeed and Socialthing! gain in popularity. In fact, these sites themselves demonstrate the problem itself rather nicely.

If you look at, for instance, my Profilactic ‘mashup’, you will see my blog posts appearing and soon afterwards the Twitter tweet announcing it. Then you will see my Delicious links repeated in a blog post (for vee8 at least). Jaiku had to be taken out because it is itself a pseudo-lifestream that already incorporates Delicious, Last.fm, Twitter and what-have-you.

Plus, Facebook has just begun to implement its own social aggregator-style features. If you already have the Delicious application installed then import your Delicious posts into your Facebook news feed, you will be getting the duplication in the Facebook news feed alone. (I tried it hoping that it would sync with Facebook’s ‘Posted Items’ feature — no such luck.)

This whole problem is summed up quite succinctly by Jon Bounds in a comment at Cybersoc:

The Facebook status, pulled from a twitter auto-announcing a blog post generated from del.icio.us links is not what I want form these services. And I get the feed of it at each stage.

It is probably time to step back, decide on which social aggregator I want to use, stick with it and stop republishing stuff on other websites. Still, I can’t help thinking that it just feels right to merge my Twitter account with my Facebook status, and it just feels right to publicise my blog posts on my Twitter account.

At the same time, it’s just not cool to read the same messages over and over again on several different websites. The internet is starting to feel like a giant echo chamber.

13 comments

  1. At present I have blog posts twittered and tweets facebooked. However using twittersync I’m able to ignore those starting with “Blogging:” thus avoiding too much of an echo.
    If it wasn’t for your twitter status, I wouldn’t have arrived here in the first place so I do think tweeting your new blog posts (note only new, not edits) is really useful.

  2. If I was interested in someone’s Delicious links, guess what — I’d be subscribed to their Delicious feed. If I cared in the slightest about somebody’s tumblelog, I’d visit their tumblelog. Equally, however, you could say that if somebody really cared about my blog posts then there is already an adequate way to be alerted to new posts: RSS.

    Yes. You would. Are you aware that the majority of bloggers don’t know what RSS is? Let alone the majority of ‘normal’ people. A bunch of people read my blog posts through the notes importer on Facebook, for example, and I’ve been known to tag them there if it matters.

    Thee (and me) are at the edge of the curve, trying new things and thus getting everything mixed up. I’d not want to see delicious ported into Twitter, what’s the point? And I also don’t auto send a ‘new blog post’ thing, but do link manually if I think it’s of interest. I’ve also posted other links of interest on occasions, and had wall posts thanking me for them, strange but it works.

    There is a danger of aggregation overload, but I signed up for Twitter in order to have the exportability, the site itself and the interaction with other users there is a minor extra really (theoretically).

    We need to work on a happy medium, and eventually I suspect Facebook will be just another friends aggregation service. We’ll see.

    Also? I came here via Twitter because I got to that tab first, hadn’t got to my aggregator (LJ friends page) with it on. It’s probably 50/50 which I’ll see first.

    (and surely you could put the twirl shortcut into your startup directory manually? I know not but you can get anything to boot automatically IIRC)

  3. Are you aware that the majority of bloggers don’t know what RSS is? Let alone the majority of ‘normal’ people.

    Yeah, but how many bloggers know what Twitter is either? Whenever I mention Twitter to my friends I get a completely blank look. It’s six and half a dozen here, although at least RSS has been around for much longer.

  4. You can force a program to load automatically at startup simply by putting a shortcut to it in your “startup” folder in your start menu.

    I think.

  5. Try turning that flow around if you have more facebook followers than Twitter followers. I use Twitter to aggregate and publish the pings from all of my interesting RSS feeds, Flickr, Dopplr, Plazes, blogposts AND my FB status. I use Twitterfeed to do that. Much nice to have independent control over both my auto and hand-coded Twitter statuses and well as keeping my FB status for another purpose.

  6. I’m coming to see the crossposting thing almost as a moral issue, each person has their own boundaries as to how much ‘echo’ they’re willing to create in order to promote their content most widely.

    Personally I’m happy for my stuff to take its chances, and hope that people who would like to find it can use the tools to do so.

    (and thanks for the link).

  7. I am a bit too modest to announce my postings on Twitter, although I may for some posts in the future. I hate with a passion the auto announcing of new posts, in fact I have blocked some twitterers, whose blogs I like to read, because their twitter stream was outrageous.

    Good post. I agree that we are heading down the path of more noise than signal.