Thursday, April 03, 2008

That Pesky Social Web

Longtime readers here may notice that my entries here have been getting longer and less frequent. I tend to think of Brain Squeezings as more of my long-form expression space, and it seems to take an increasingly long time to contribute to the poor blog with every entry.

Sadly this has robbed the site of one of its main functions, that of apprising friends and family of what's going on in my life. I've been in a "reestablish contacts with friends" mode of thinking for a while, and so I figured I'd investigate some of the vaunted "social web" sites like myspace, Twitter, Facebook, and the like. A brave new world indeed!

Facebook and Twitter have seemed to fit me the best, so I'll post links to my pages in my sidebar to the left. (Caveat: in order to view my full Facebook page, you'll need to have a Facebook account yourself, and to be marked as a "friend." Such "sticky" membership requirements are common these days. Ah, well.)

Twitter is the prototypical "microblog"; basically for every "tweet" you're given 140 characters to express oneself, so quick status updates and pithy comments are about the best one can manage. 140 characters also fits neatly within the 160-character limit of the SMS text messages sendable from almost any cell phone, so of course many Twitter users use text messages to tweet all day long.

Twitter's real magic, though, is that one can also follow others' tweets. Presidential candidates, tech luminaries, pop stars and of course one's own friends can be kept track of this way. Twitter's text-message immediacy has led to some impressive emergent behavior, too, like massively Twitter-interlinked crowds summarily abandoning boring presentations for more engaging ones at the recent South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, or even texting VIPs in content-lacking interviews with more interesting questions than those being asked by the rent-a-journalist.

Facebook started life as a way for college kids to keep in touch with one another between and after classes. It's since expanded to a way for anyone to keep track of anyone--provided they'll "friend" you.

Facebook is (potentially) as elaborate as Twitter is simple: if there's a political affiliation, singing group, special interest or ad-hoc gathering, you can bet it's on Facebook, and can be "joined." If there's a high school, college or corporation, there's a Facebook presence wherein one can network, touch base, and give props or diss those involved.

Where Twitter is the moment-by-moment microblog, Facebook might be seen as the total-picture macroblog: it's a way to say, very splashily and in great detail, "this is what I'm up to, involved in and associated with." It's even got a Twitteresque "status" that you can update for people to see, and means of trading friendly "pokes" with one another to rouse someone who... hasn't updated their Facebook page in the last 20 minutes.

Facebook is also great for trading videos and photos, and other bits and snips of interaction. It really must be seen to be comprehended. It's also a bit much for many people--your mileage may vary.

Lots of "social web" applications like these wind up able to talk to one another, so I can do things like have my Twitter "tweets" update my Facebook status, and even carbon-copy messages to the blog here.

It's a bit more work to keep all my online-presence plates in the air this way, but with luck I'll be able to sync everything together with clever programming.

Me on Twitter
Me on Facebook