Mobile Twitter Client Request

Does anyone know of a mobile Twitter client (preferably at least one each for iOS and Android) that allows you to point to arbitrary sites that implement the Twitter API? I know of some that let you use multiple services, but I want to use this with a demo of how easy it would be to replicate the API on our system. It can’t be a predefined system the client knows about, I want to point to the top of a hierarchy with the Twitter API under it and have the client work.

Anyone have any ideas for this? It is a remarkably hard thing to Google for.

Also on:

TWTR

I know I am out of things but somehow I completely missed that Twitter was a public company. And they have a market cap of over $12 billion! That’s a lot for a company with almost no revenue and a product that converts spare time into outrage.

Also on:

By Popular Demand

I received a request to add a Facebook like button to the posts. I decided that if I was adding in a plugin, I might as well add one that did multiple services. Now every post gets a Facebook like, Google +1, a StumbleUpon and Tweet button. It was interesting to me to peruse recent posts and see how many already had counts under some of these services.

In social media, I’ve stopped using Twitter. I’ve just had enough of it. Most of my daily energy goes now to Google Plus. If you want to follow me on there, here is my profile. I quite enjoy the service. Anything that half-assed worked and had critical mass would have been enough to get me to switch off of Twitter. I’ll keep using Facebook because it’s where my family and old friends are but for serious stuff, it’s all G+ for me now. Until something comes along to change that.

Why Twitter is Becoming a Drag

Why Twitter Sucks Part 1

Here’s an example of why Twitter is becoming such a complete drag every time I use it. At 7:48 PM, I made an ordinary, standard type of tweet. It’s the kind anyone would make at anytime. I didn’t think twice about doing it.


Why Twitter Sucks Part 2

Within one minute, I got these @replies. That’s solely from using the keywords “basketball” or possibly “college basketball.” I get very similar action if I tweet using the words “poker”, “iPad”, “iPod” or any other of a number of ones that some douche might be trying to spam on. It’s a real serious bummer to have to see these reflexive spams off the use of these types of keywords. That’s for me with not many followers, no longer tweeting that much and not often using any of the biggie terms. I can imagine for a lot of more serious users it is even a worse problem.

A Life Without Twitter (Mostly)

I’m still readjusting to the new baseline of being a non-constant user of Twitter. It feels a lot like when I gave up drinking sodas earlier this summer. At first I thought about it all the time and had constant cravings for what was missing. After a while the cravings went away and now with sodas, I almost never miss them. I’m getting that way with Twitter.

I’m not 100% averse to ever looking at it. I did just a minute ago to look at what people were posting about BarCampCHS. That kind of use is fine with me. What I’m not doing is spending all day every day twitching every few minutes when updates arrive and what I’m not doing is trying to figure out how to boil what I’m thinking or doing into 140 characters. It’s a relief to not have to constantly monitor something that is changing effectively all the time, and it’s a relief to stretch out my cognition into longer thoughts at less frequent intervals.

I still see anything with the @geniodiabolico string in at in my Google Reader eventually. It might be a day or more so the real time aspect has gone away but I’m OK with that. So little of what goes through that pipe is really of an urgency to need my attention Right This Second so I’m happy to harmonize my life back with acdtual priorities.

All told, my new evaluation function for everything is very much the way the Amish examine technologies. Nothing is rejected outright but is examined in the context of whether the benefits it brings outweigh the cost to their society. In my case, it’s all about big picture, long term happiness. The truth of the matter is that Twitter makes me less happy in ways large and small when I use it constantly. Thus, it’s out. Look out Facebook, you are next.

Twitter’s Last Straw

I’ve never liked Twitter as a company. At points I’ve had some regard for the communication stream enabled by the company, but them as an entity at best I’ve tolerated and at worst I’ve wished them into the cornfield. I’m not sure of where this is all going but today I began noticing in my stream of updates from the people I have selected to follow Tweets with a special signifier that said “Promoted by Coca-Cola” and “Promoted by McDonalds.” That’s really the last straw from me. At one point I burned my own Twitter network to the ground, I worked out a way to get most of that value without touching Twitter at all and earlier this year I took a delicious month off from using it.

I don’t know exactly where this is going, whether this feature stands or what the backlash is. When Twitter began to get celebrity focused, when the primary ethic was that of having the most ginormous list of followers I cared less about it every day. When they have now turned the corner to take this stream and insert preferentially Tweets that big corporations want me to see, that’s the end of my ride.

You might say, “Dave, what’s the big deal? The ones you saw weren’t even overtly promotional.” That, dear readers, is exactly the problem. If it was “Buy McRibs, the most delicious meatlike product we could formulate for $0.17 a pound!” I would have less of a problem. Having ordinary looking tweets elevated to “must see” at the behest of McDonalds, Coca-Cola or whomever else pays for that privilege is deeply flawed. I would have basically no problem with banner ads on the site and maybe even banners showing between tweets. I’m no hippy-dippy type, I understand that somewhere down the line the power bill needs paid. When you can pay to make tweets a higher priority communication than that of the people I chose to interact with, I’m done.

I’m not sure the final endgame of all this, but starting today I do not check HootSuite all day every day. I’m not deleting my account, possibly there is some value to be extracted from this. However, I’m now in it for myself. When I use Twitter it is purely for myself and to pimp and whore whatever I want. It’s not personal – it’s all business to me. I didn’t make it that way, Twitter did. I’m just rolling with the new rules.

Social Media Vacation Wrapping Up

Theoretically, if I hold to my original setup today would be the last day of my social media vacation. This is the 28th day since I queued up a bunch of “send later” tweets and Facebook status and then shut all that crap down. I did violate the embargo last week to announce the news about CREATE South becoming sponsored by the Horry County Arts and Cultural Council, and then shut it all down again.

Here’s the deal. While I acknowledge that Twitter has upsides, I believe they come at too high a price for it to be a tool to draw my attention all day every day. I don’t anticipate ever returning to my previous levels of usage. A lot of the Twitter critics from big media, the same people that criticized bloggers 5 years ago, focus on the unseemliness of the hoi polloi enjoying the same ability to communicate as them. Screw those people, they can bite my ass. My criticism is the opposite. I see value in ordinary people having the channel to communicate, however I find the act of following it closely all day every day to be detrimental to peace of mind. Operative word: peace.

To use Twitter anywhere like the intended pattern involves a twitchiness and jangliness, like the shakes you get after your 7th cup of coffee. Either you are scanning it over and over manually, or you have something that notifies and interrupts you when messages occur. Either way involves Twitter taking your attention at frequent intervals, and usually for ephemera.

I stand by my original statement that there are only really three use cases for when I need information from Twitter right now: 1) when traffic is backed up between where I am and where I am going; 2) when I’m looking for someone with whom to have lunch; and 3) when I’m at a science fiction convention and I’m trying to find the room party that my friends are at. Everything else can wait, and it is detrimental to my life to be notified frequently. The act of getting notified reduces my life enjoyment more than the information increases it.

So, even though I’m coming off of Twitter/Facebook prohibition, I’m retreating from ongoing usage. I’m not sure if that means I only look at them at certain relatively infrequent times, only on specific days, or if I just say screw it and shut it down most of the time until I just feel like participating in them. For years I’ve been arguing with Steve Gillmor (I’d link to him, but links are dead) about the value of real time data streams. He finds them amongst the most important and salient bits of digital life. I’m finding them amongst the worst aspects of my modern life. Most people, myself at the head of the list, flatter themselves by feeling the need to be this connected. Most things in the world don’t need you, you don’t need most things in the world. I now choose to sacrifice connection for peace of mind and the satisfaction of being present in my daily life.

I’m choosing to live at a slower pace. I haven’t looked at a 24 hour news channel in 6 years. I’m clamping down my social media usage. Somewhere between Cory Doctorow and Ted Kaczynski is a happy medium, and for better or worse I’m falling on the latter end of that compromise.

Social Media Vacation, Week 3

I’m well into my social media vacation. I’m so far in I’m starting to approach the far end of it. My original “30 days away” plan would put me at 9 more days. I’ll be honest with you, people. I’m not sure I’m ever coming back. At least, I am never returning to the level of use of Twitter I previously engaged in. There is a calmness and peace to my days that was sorely lacking in the previous few months.

I’m about to briefly break my vacation to post the news that the CREATE South conference is now under the umbrella of the Horry County Arts and Cultural Council. This means that future contributions are tax deductible! It should be good news for us and I’d like to get that in the Twitterverse today as opposed to two weeks from today. However, I’ve been dreading even opening up HootSuite again. I did look at it for about 45 seconds the other day just to see what was happening on the #createsouth hash tag. I was (pleasantly) surprised to see that Mr. Tee Morris is still whaling away on the official CREATE South Twitter account. It’s a pretty open secret that he’s our ghost writer (tweeter?) and has done 1000X better job than I did when I controlled that account. So there is value being created by all this, but my point remains: what is the personal cost of creating this value and am I willing to pay it?

I’m gearing up big time on the production of my documentary. Later this week I should have the first shoot of the film. This is an exciting point to be at, since I’ve been thinking about this for at least two years and probably longer. There might well be some value in creating and maintaining a Twitter account for the movie but I just don’t really feel like doing it. My hiatus has reinforced my feeling that Twitter interaction is junk interaction, and I’d do better making phone calls or visiting the subset of people I care about personally and letting the larger Twitterverse go. In reality, I’ll probably arrive at some sort of equilibrium where I hold my nose and use Twitter/Facebook/FriendFeed and whatever horrific future monstrosities become the next geek toy fad.

However, from here on forward I for sure will be adjusting the dial so that the time and energy I put into social media matches the value I get out of it. No more imbalance for me. The days of twitchily checking for new tweets all day long is over. Just like I try to never turn on the TV when there is nothing in particular I want to watch, I’m done with social media when there is nothing in particular I want to say or hear.

Notes from the Social Media Vacation Week 1

Here are some random thoughts from the first week of my social media timeout:

  • In the lead up to this, it was suggested that I would have a hard time saying away from Twitter et al. It is not hard, it is very easy. I’m wondering now if I ever really want to come back. I do find that is taking a long time to get rid of the twitchy feeling that comes from frequent checking of new tweets. I often feel like I’m forgetting something. When I realize it is Twitter, I’m always relieved.
  • Today at lunch I was reading from Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget. I was in the part of Chapter 3 where he discussed Facebook and Twitter and the potential for redefining in a reductive way what social relationships mean to us. I personally find a lot of resonance in this notion. Some of my Twitter and Facebook friends are people I love dearly and some are people I have met once at a party. The fact that this nuance disappears is a weakness of the system and as Lanier points out over and over again, it disappears because it isn’t important to the people who build and design these things.
  • I used to dread making phone calls and now I find that I’d much rather call than send a Twitter direct message. I’m thinking my primary use for FB and Twitter might become remaining connected enough to use them to keep up with mailing addresses and phone numbers.

There is more, but I think the other big insight needs its own post.

My Social Media Vacation Begins Today

Last night when I went to bed, I shut down Twitter (HootSuite, really) and Facebook and FriendFeed. I’m not going to look at or log in to any of those things for the next 30 days. There might be slight exceptions if I get a Facebook invite to something timely I want to accept but even if I have to sneak back in, I’m not reading and digging through status updates.

This is a mental health strategy for me. I have found that the always-on constant update of social media has worn on me more and more over the last year. When I turned it off for a weekend or to go do things around my town, it actually felt like a relief to me to be able to step back from that. Bear in mind, without any sort of smart phone I’m only a fraction as connected as most of my friends and still it wore on me over time. I understand the ways it can be useful but we need to think about what it does to us long term to be connected so much of our lives to these fast twitch update systems. You ignore the long term consequences of your productivity tools at your own peril. Even crystal meth is an effective productivity tool if you only consider the short term.

I still need to do my writeup on this year’s CREATE South conference (now one week in the past.) The only reason I didn’t start this vacation earlier was because of that conference. A certain bit of coordination and promotion was aided by Twitter and Facebook so I bit the bullet and stayed connected until the mopping up was mostly done. It made me feel like a bit of a fraud during the conference itself because a number of our sessions were about strategies for using social media to add value to your life or business while I was just counting the days until I could get social media out of my life for a month. This year the official CREATE South Twitter account was completely run by Tee Morris and that was a fabulous success. Not only did he do a job wildly better than I could have, it meant I didn’t have to stay locked in on that account. The result was better and I was happier.

I have a goal (not a death pact, just a goal) to blog at least once per day over this period. As I put more energy into the ephemera of social media, I put less into the more durable work on this blog and podcast. As I’ve said before, blogging for yourself in your own domain is like farming, posting your witticism into Twitter is like sharecropping. The work is the same, it’s just someone else cashing out most of the value. I hope to move my mix into things of lasting value to myself.

On top of that, my goal is to spend less time in front of the computer altogether. If there is one take-away lesson from CREATE South, it is that you get a lot of bang for your buck engaging with the people and the world around you and we geeks do too little of that. I want to attend the next Rivertown Social in downtown Conway. I want to start kayaking up the Waccamaw River. I can walk to the river landing, for pete’s sake. As I put it yesterday, “I want to spend less time with Facebook and more time with faces and books.” It’s shut down until May 23rd. We’ll see where it goes after that, but for now I am taking a well deserved break and it feels great.

My Favorite Tweet

My disinterest in Twitter has been pretty documented on this blog. I stopped using it some time ago. I still see people’s tweets via FriendFeed but I couldn’t care less if the service disappeared tomorrow.

That said, here is my favorite tweet of all time. It rolls up everything I liked about Twitter and everything I hate about it in one convenient package.

Social Media on a Timeout

I’m an impulsive guy and unlike a lot of people, I do better at cold turkey than tapering things. One day last spring I just decided to stop drinking diet coke and went from 3-6 cans a day to drinking maybe a dozen in the last year. Last fall I decided to stop using Twitter pretty much all at once, based on their treatment of the I Want Sandy acquisition.

Today, out of nowhere I decided to taper down my use of FriendFeed quite a bit. From my hiatus message and comments:

I’m thinking hard about taking a FriendFeed timeout. It feels like I have a big imbalance between the time I use it and the value I receive from it. I also really don’t like that I used to blog 10 times a week and now I do it once or twice a week.

I used to build value for myself, now I do it for FriendFeed. Others are doing it for Twitter or Facebook or whatever. This is the ugly underside of Web 2.0. We feel like we’re conversing but we’re really sharecroppers to make a few millionaires into billionaires. I’m having a 2.0 burnout/meltdown/rejection.

In fact, I’m closing the web page right now. For the time being, my only interaction with FF will be through the ~ 1/10th of my subscriber list that goes to IM (mostly locals with whom I might conceivably have lunch.) Time to start following my gut, and this feels right.

I really do feel like I’m getting played by social media in general. FriendFeed is without a doubt the social media that feels like I get the most value out of it and it isn’t enough. I’m tired of strangers who come in via friend of friend relationships giving me smack. (It’s already happened on my post above.) The whole enterprise feels like a time suck that doesn’t give me enough back to warrant my time.

I’m already gotten pushback on my paragraph #2. This is absolutely something I believe and have been talking about for some time. Tim O’Reilly and other Web 2.0 utopists talk about the upside to users. I’ve been noting that Web 2.0 and the Long Tail have a seriously dark underbelly in that while lots of people are doing bits of work and hopefully receiving requisite value back, the people who cash in are the aggregators and big players while the rest of us are just hamsters in their wheels. While we are running around and crying “Wheeeee!” for getting to ride in the wheel, they have wired us to the grid and are selling the power we generate. The real winners are Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Rose and Evan Williams. People think I’m nuts for this attitude, but it’s the truth. This is happening right now. I mentioned I Want Sandy above. Rael Dornfest sold his company to Twitter and the reason he could is that 50,000 or so people used the site. We created the value, someone else cashed the check. That’s what Web 2.0 really is.

So, I’m withdrawing somewhat from the social media world. I’m going to take that energy and try to post more to this blog. I’d like to record more podcasts. Perhaps I’m being a selfish prick but if I’m taking my time, I’d like to accrue the value. I have control of every post I’ve ever made to this here blog. I can’t say that about any social media site. I’m tired of building things in other people’s house. Let’s do some of it here or on your own site, in ways you control. Take back your time, rise up and stop your tweets and super pokes and what have you. I want to be in charge of my own identity, to own my own stuff and I’m tired of building someone else’s house 140 characters at a time.

How I Would Have Merged Twitter and I Want Sandy

I’m not a brilliant internet entrepreneur or much of any kind of entrepreneur, really. I’m not a strategist or business expert or pundit or guru. All I have is guesswork and barely healed stubbed toes and a general feeling around of my way in this online world. However, even with my lack of chops it is hard to imagine a worse way to deal with the purchase of Values of N by Twitter and how they dealt with the aftermath.

I can understand that mostly what Twitter wanted out of the deal was Rael Dornfest. I have been part of acquisitions where one company bought another mostly to get an in-place development team. However, this was at the height of the dot-com boom when hiring was difficult and people were expensive. I sure don’t understand how that makes sense when there are a lot of people looking for jobs, the labor cost is under downward pressure.

What really fails to make sense for me though is why Twitter would acquire a company with working, extant and deployed products and get zero value out of them. Sure, they bought Values of N to integrate the team into Twitter but I Want Sandy and Stikkit are already out there. How does just shutting them down help anything? It creates a lack of trust in cloud based services in general, if a solid and useful service like I Want Sandy can just disappear with a few weeks notice. I’ve already posted about how the only defense ever offered is that the service was free, which I think is insufficient a defense. Being a free service does not relieve a company of its responsibilities in being stewards of their users, particularly when like Sandy they asked to be an essential portion of the workflow of ones life. To say “Hey it was free, what do you expect?” is exactly akin to saying “Hey, you were stupid enough to trust us. What do you expect?”

Assume I was somehow involved with either Twitter or Values of N. This is what I would have wanted to happen with the acquisition:

Step 1: Before announcing the situation, I would have set up an exit path for the users. Dornfest put together some export tools only after public outcry and 1 week into the original 2 week notice. That’s weak tea.

Step 2: I would have informed the users before the general public about the situation. I would have sent it down the actual paths of notification, rather than posting it on the company blog. It should be noted that only today, 3 days before the original shutdown date, has any notification been sent to the users. That’s worse than weak tea.

Step 3: I would have said that effective January 1st 2009 there would be no more free versions of I Want Sandy. New users would get a 30 day trial, all users would effectively be on a trial until Jan 1. After that point, the service would be subscription only. Let’s say $10/month, $100 if you prepay for a year. That could be more or less, but within that general range.

Step 4: For any paid up I Want Sandy users who have a Twitter account enabled, I would turn back on IM access and track for that Twitter account. Both I Want Sandy and Twitter were more valuable when those features were in Twitter, so if you are a paid up user then you get those features back. This gives both Sandy and Twitter a basic revenue model. It might not be huge, but for every 10,000 users of Sandy flipped to paid users that’s $1M/year. I don’t know the user base of Sandy but because of the nature of the service, I’d suspect a higher than usual percentage of users would flip to paid, maybe something on the order of 30-50%. If Sandy had 100K users, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see 50K pay up. Rael cites the cost of maintenance of Sandy as rationale for the shut down, even if they do no further development. If it had paid users, you could hire cheaper admins and let them baby sit the site.

At that point, the conjunction of Twitter and I Want Sandy would have value above what either has alone. That’s synergy, used appropriately for the actual Buckminster Fuller definition, not the business wonk BS version that has been watered down to mean “anything I like”. The ecosystem of the two services would provide things the components do not. It would be monetized at the point of value creation. It would make Twitter more valuable even when not using Sandy. It would have prevented the hordes of angry users such as myself. I’m ceasing to use Twitter as protest of this stupidity. Once they’ve proven that they don’t care about the users and stewarding their data, I cannot trust them as any part of my communications infrastructure.

As I said, I’m not a business guru but it seems like all of this provides more value to everyone, keeps a valuable service alive in the Web 2.0 ecosystem, increases user satisfaction, and avoids buying a company and keeping the people but disposing of all its value creating assets. Am I just too stupid to see why scrapping I Want Sandy was a better move?

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for November 27, 2008 – “Thankful For You”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for November 27, 2008. I play a song from Camper Van Beethoven; I discuss what I’m thankful for; I talk about the fragile first few minutes of a podcast and how you can lose me in them; I talk about trying and failing to get organized with GTD and how Google and Android phones work into this; I play a breaking story from the Onion Radio News; I talk about how Twitter could have failed to screw up the I Want Sandy acquisition if they thought about it for 3 minutes; I talk about comic books and how they make the nerd in me really happy; I play a Siderunners song and then put myself in the oven for 3 to 5 hours.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

I Hate Twitter

I went for a long time resisting Twitter, then I joined and liked it for a good while. Eventually I grew weary about Twitter’s downtime and disingenuity and their rolling back of the feature set. Meanwhile, I liked FriendFeed from the first time I used it and the value of it has consistently gone up to me. At this point, I love FriendFeed and hate Twitter. In the course of two years, I have gone with Twitter from brand apathy to brand loyalty to brand contempt.

Now comes the news that Twitter has acquired Values of N – the company that built I Want Sandy – and will be shutting down their services on December 8th. I used Sandy and l liked it a lot. In fact, the main reason I stopped using it on a daily basis and started using Google Calendar and documents for that kind of work is when Twitter took IM access away. I’m highly pissed about this. It makes no sense to me why even if Twitter acquired Value of N they can’t leave the services up and running with a skeleton crew. This just reinforces the idea that you should be careful what services you commit your time and energy to, because Web 2.0 companies will screw you and make you waste your time building value that they cash out and leave you holding the bag.

I now loathe Twitter as a company and a service. I wish them the worst and hope they disappear, sooner rather than later. I’m happy that my Twitter network has pretty much migrated over to FriendFeed. I have the Twitter integration turned on but would gladly switch it off in a heartbeat. I don’t originate tweets there, FriendFeed is the central location for me. Nothing about Twitter makes me happy anymore. Not the service, not the company and not the way they do business.

Update: I kept building a slow burn on this until I decided I’m done. I had been pushing my FriendFeed updates to Twitter since they added that functionality but now I’m turning it off. I don’t want to do anything to that builds value for Twitter. I’m withdrawing my participation from them.

Update 2: Mark at Mashable has picked up on this post. Even though my goal is to “love loud and hate quiet”, it’s always the hating that gets any traction. Love isn’t as good a story. It should be noted that the only thing I’ve used Twitter for in the last 24 hours was to ask Twitter users to join FriendFeed – successfully at that. That’s the only thing Twitter is good for to me anymore.

Update 3: The people who are pushing back to my stance have only one shaky leg to stand on, and I address that in a new post – Free Services are Not Free.

Update 4: The term I should have injected into this debate earlier is “stewardship.” I Want Sandy asked to handle information that was important to us, and asked for our trust. By getting acquired and shutting down the service, they have betrayed themselves as poor stewards of that trust.

Microblogs Need GUIDs

I’m listening to the 8/2/2008 episode of the Gillmor Gang where Steve is talking with Dustin Sailings of Twitterspy. As they are talking about Twitter and Identi.ca and such, a realization hit me. Because I know nothing about how any of these microblogs are implemented this might be naive and redundant but let me throw it out there.

Microblogs absolutely need GUIDs. Particularly if we are talking about federating together identi.ca powered services that exchange messages, it is highly important that we be able to uniquely identify them. Since every microblog post originated somewhere, I believe this GUID should almost always be the URL of the individual message on the originating service.

For example, I make a tweet on Twitter. FriendFeed picks that up and aggregates that in my feed. That FriendFeed message should have a GUID that is the original Twitter URL. If I have a ping.fm or TwitterFeed or any other reposting type service running, they should all pass in the GUID as they do the push from Twitter to other services. If I post originally to Identi.ca and it pushes to Twitter, just reverse that notion. Then in cases like where your blog automatically posts messages to Twitter, the GUID should be the permalink of your blog post. This would enable easy deduplication. For example, now FriendFeed could see that the Twitter notification of the blog post is something it has already seen from the blog itself. It can only show a single occurrence, not the avalanche of duplicate messages we now see.

The same basic principle would hold with Flickr entries that get posted to Twitter or similar services. Use the Flickr page as the GUID so that it is easy to tell that the notification from Twitter, Plurk and FriendFeed are all the same thing so whatever interface you are using should show it only once. I think the benefits of this fall out very quickly. This seems like it would be simple to add in if it doesn’t already exist, simple to add to every bit of message flow and simple to use at all the user interface ends. If the idea is that in the future these services will be distributed and federated, this sort of thing should happen sooner rather than later.

The Continuing Death of Twitter

So I haven’t a created an original tweet over on Twitter – one that wasn’t either housekeeping or a reply to someone else – in a month. That mode of interaction exists entirely on my Friend Feed account now. Any tweets that do happen are exhortations to get followers to move over to FriendFeed with me, or crossposted FF comments. I’m happy with that.

For a month of Steve Gillmor has been telling me that I was philosophically inconsistent for still having any Twitter in my life. He thinks I should hide it all on FriendFeed if I’m such a hardcore switcher. I’ve toyed with the idea but am not ready to pull that trigger. FriendFeed has a beautiful transition plan in place automatically so why not take advantage of that a little long. Now I heard on his show that Steve too has ceased to originate tweets, in his case choosing to use Identi.ca exclusively. If he’s getting fed up, then things are coming to a head. He’s been a die hard proponent for longer than is reasonable and a better friend to Twitter than it was to anyone else as it enters the fast part of the toilet bowl swirl. I’ve always wondered how much of this love of Twitter by Silicon Valley types even as it was sucking ass was for the service itself and how much is residual affection and loyalty for the founders? Odeo was winning awards for “best podcast startup” when all it had was a “under construction” page, so this dynamic of over-valuing their ventures is real.

Now, as if all the various unreliabilities weren’t enough, users are finding their accounts blocked for TOS violations and removed with no apparent cause. I’ve obviously been done with Twitter for a while, but this should be check and mate for everyone else. When the unreliability goes beyond website downtime, rollback of feature sets, intermittent unavailability of your account data into full fledged spurious lockouts from the account, it is time to bail. Twitter is like your drunk uncle, and now this is the 5th baseball practice in a row that he has failed to show up and give you a ride home. Are you going to trust it to be there when you need it? I don’t.

I’d suggest that everyone that still cares about the Twitter mode of interaction move to Identi.ca or FriendFeed (or both hooked together), leave a pointer in your Twitter account that you are moving over and shut out the lights. Enough is enough. I understand you once loved the service but if you continue to use it now you are entering the codependent enabling phase of the relationship. Don’t come crying to me when you get hurt. It doesn’t deserve your loyalty, so withdraw it. I’ll see you on the other side, as geniodiabolico at both FriendFeed and Identi.ca. Check and mate.

Epic Fail Whale

I hope this to be my last post about Twitter and FriendFeed for some time. My migration has finished and now I am completely on FriendFeed and completely off of Twitter. My Twitter social network has been completely disassembled. As I added people on FriendFeed I unfollowed them on Twitter and then as I added imaginary friends for those not yet on I did the same. At this point, I follow no one on Twitter although in true Twitter fashion it tells me my count is 2 as it shows me 0 friends.

An interesting development is that Steve Gillmor seems to be coming around. He has truly freaked me out in recent weeks by being such a staunch defender of Twitter even as the service gets worse and worse. Metaphors I have used or seen in recent days include:

  • Twitter dealing with their scaling problems being like the colonial marines in Aliens, sealing off room after room and falling back into smaller and smaller perimeters and still getting overran.
  • I’ve compared Twitter to having an alcoholic uncle that promises over and over again to give you a ride but never shows up.
  • Aron Michalski compared it to a car that you once loved that now you have to crawl in from the passenger side and use hand signals because the door is stuck and the electrical system shot.

I’ve heard that help is on the way to Twitter in the form of this SWAT team of bad ass developers. Good for them, but if they unveiled a system Monday morning that involved every bit of functionality turned back on at full nominal baseline, I still wouldn’t care. It’s too late for me. Twitter got me in to believing this form of communication was valuable, and then it convinced me it was too valuable to let them handle it. That’s why I’m completely done with it now. It now exists as a vestigial remnant of something that was, a third class shadow cache of data I originate other places. I have no network on it, I don’t care what happens to it. It was fun while it lasted and now it is done for me. Bye.

Twitter Migration Tweak

I updated my original post on how to leave Twitter to include this information, but I thought I’d make a new post as well so people see it. If you are pushing your FriendFeed entries to Twitter via TwitterFeed, you might want to use the feed of this format as the source to TwitterFeed: http://friendfeed.com/geniodiabolico?format=atom&service=internal . That will only push your original FriendFeed messages, not any of your other services. That can keep from overwhelming your Twitter account with things like Google Reader shares and such. The other beneficial bit is that it will prevent those loops when your Twitter account feeds FF and FF pushes back to Twitter.

There Must Be 50 Ways to Leave Your Twitter

Here are details on how you too can get the hell away from Twitter, increase the functionality available to you and still not lose your whole social network. I hope at this point I have some credibility as a late adopter and as a person who does not jump at every new service that comes along. It took 9 months of nagging for me to join Twitter in the first place and I’ve still never joined Facebook. I have the same process as the Amish about adopting technologies: I stay away until I see some evidence it will make my life better. It is with that idea that I have adopted FriendFeed.

I avoided FriendFeed as well for some time. The whole thing with 41 services that it integrates actually put me off. It gave me panic attacks. However, I knew that Twhirl had some integration with it so finally I said WTF and just did it. Right away – I mean within minutes – I knew it was at least at parity with Twitter and within a day I had no doubts as to its far superiority. Twitter is the basic proof of concept prototype that should have been thrown away, and FriendFeed is the real product that comes after. Even if Twitter’s downtime problems weren’t so pronounced, I’ve gotten tired of even how it works nominally. The 140 character limit around SMS, a technology that I have never once used, rankles me. Its very best feature is track and that has been turned off for a month, so at this point I’m pissed off enough to leave and motivated enough to do it.

Because of the very nature of FriendFeed, it contains in itself a nice way to taper down from Twitter (and Pownce and Jaiku too) into using FriendFeed exclusively, without losing your social network and without doing quite so much “new SNS busy work” (although there is some.) Here are some steps I have taken, and I’m serious as a myocardial infarction about turning Twitter off when the tipping point has been hit.

You just slip out the back, Jack

First, create yourself a FriendFeed account. If you can, get the same username as you had on Twitter. If you can’t we will all survive. When asked to hook other services up to it, you might be tempted to add Twitter but don’t. We’re actually going to go the other way.

Make a new plan, Stan

If you don’t have it already, download Twhirl. It was already the best front end to Twitter. I knew it had integration with FriendFeed and frankly the ease of using the two is part of what tipped me. In the accounts tab add in the information for your FriendFeed account. You can add in your Twitter too if you want to as a transitional strategy but eventually that is coming out. That’s what this is all about, Jack. Or Stan. Or Gus.

You don’t need to be coy, Roy

Update: There is an alternative to the steps below. Kreg Steppe has written a PHP script that will search on the same username and give either a link to that FF page or a convience link to search on that name. It’s still somewhat manual, but much easier with Kreg’s script than doing it by hand.

This step is the shakiest of all, I admit, and I wish there were better alternatives. I’m half thinking about trying to build that myself. Go get Internet Duct Tape’s Twitter to FriendFeed utility. Now this is a Windows console app which really sucks, so those of you who don’t have a PC or VMware or Parallels are left out of this one. I swear, by next weekend I will really try to code up the equivalent in a more portable solution. Worst of all, this step didn’t work for me but it does have a workaround.

When you run it, you give your FF and Twitter credentials. It logs into each and gets your lists of friends/followed. It uses the Google Social Graph API to map the two together which sounded crazy to me but works alarmingly well. It is supposed to add your contacts to FriendFeed but in my case, all it did was give me three results: “is already your friend on Friend Feed”, “Not on Friend Feed”, and “Unable to subscribe”. I don’t know what is happening with the last (API change?) but as it is doing all this, it is writing a log file and that log file includes the FriendFeed account name that couldn’t be added. This allows you to still add the person, although it is much more of a pain in the ass than it should be. If they fix this tool it will help or if I can write an act-alike clone, that will help. Either way or the manual way, when you are done as much of your existing Twitter network as possible will instantly be set up on FriendFeed. In my case, I’d say about 40% were already there, and even in a few days that number is climbing.

The last bit is that you can create what FriendFeed calls “imaginary friends.” Even before someone signs up you can create a dummy account and add in their Twitter feed to it. Do that for all your friends whose tweets you can’t live without and then even without using Twitter you will continue to get their updates. This touch is the brilliant bit that really makes the whole exit plan work, in my opinion. Unfortunately, imaginary friends don’t seem to automatically convert to contacts. Maybe FriendFeed can fix this shortly or better yet, build in this important functionality so we don’t have to do ridiculous hacks to get more users into their system. You know?

Anyone that knows of or can create a better solution for this step let me know and I’ll replace this information with your upgrade. I fear this part is where we will lose people, particularly those with really large networks they currently follow.

Hop on the bus, Gus

The whole purpose of this stuff is that you are going to stop originating any messages in Twitter. In my case, the only ones that will ever go straight to Twitter again are ones to let people know that I’m leaving and how to keep up with me. In order to let the people that follow you ramp down, you will create a way that your FriendFeed posts will get set to Twitter. Create an account at TwitterFeed but rather than giving it your blog you will give it your FriendFeed atom feed: In my case it is http://friendfeed.com/geniodiabolico?format=atom but you will just substitute your username in there. Now your FriendFeed messages will post back to Twitter. You can add in a step of scrubbing that feed with a clone of my friend Paul’s Yahoo Pipe but I chose to just skip that step. It means that some extraneous stuff will end up in my Twitter updates but what do I care? I want to goad all my followers to leave the service anyway. This is why you didn’t add Twitter into your FriendFeed services. If you do, your original FF messages get retweeted and then your tweet comes back into FF and pushes back out (unless you remove it with the Pipe.)

You don’t need to discuss much

At this point, you can post messages to FriendFeed. People can comment directly on them which is a model 100X more sensible than Twitter’s fractured and fragmented @reply semantics. Twitter is getting your messages via TwitterFeed. The maximum of 5 in 30 minutes is the most the service will post, so you might lose some. However Twitter already loses my updates about 1 in 6 times so most Twitter users should be used to this by now.

Just drop off the key, Lee

The beautiful thing about all this is that the experience gets better, I have found. The only thing that Twitter has to offer anymore is the user base, and with a little effort you can take the user base with you. In my case, I’m now becoming an evangelist for the Twitter Exodus and urging everyone that follows me to follow my FriendFeed instead. I seldom link whore but if you could spread this meme around, I would love it. Of course the FriendFeed guys will also love it and the Twitter guys will hate it. On the bright side, if most people do bail on Twitter and only the hardcore lovers of it stick around, maybe the service will be usable for those who remain.

And get yourself free

And that my friends is how to extricate yourself from the Twitter hairball without losing your whole network and all the energy you put into it. The one detail that I haven’t yet figured out is what to do with Twitter @replies during the transition. Unless I figure out a solution for that, I’ll check them every day or three and reply back in FriendFeed with my own @reply. My last Tweet will one day just be a pointer over to FF and a notice that I won’t see anything in Twitter anymore.

When you get to FriendFeed you can join the Twitter room and commiserate with other expatriates from that service. At first you’ll be a little sad and then you’ll think “Holy crap, FriendFeed has rooms!” and you’ll get happy again.

Trust me on this, our lives will be better. Of course if FF takes a Twitter-style performance dump after a mass migration I’ll look like an ass but I’m willing to risk it. I’m a poker player and on this I’m willing to go all in. Who’s willing to call that bet?

Update: This post seems to have lit a number of firecrackers, which is, like, awesome. Scoble pointed out that when using the FriendFeed comment box on a post that was originally from Twitter, you can check a box and have it posted back to Twitter. Also, I have found out there is this WordPress plugin to show FriendFeed comments on posts. I have now installed it on this blog, so if you look at any post with FF comments you should see them. Steve Gillmor, how does this fit in with your definition of “silo”?