I wonder if there is a remedial class available for Social Networking

December 4th, 2008

I’ve been using internet “chat” since it was invented.

I’ve been blogging for more than four years.

I’ve been known to text.

But I still can’t get the hang of Facebook and Twitter.

When should I use them? Why should I use them? Does it help if you have actual friends in the real world?

I’m so confused.

Entry Filed under: Internet

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nick  |  December 4th, 2008 at 10:46 am

    One of my favorite tech bloggers, Jeff Atwood, who writes Coding Horror, wrote about this phenomenon last year. Read the post and decide for yourself.

    The idea is that many of these latest technologies are taking private communciation, and making it public.

    Blogging = public email.
    Flickr = public photo sharing.
    YouTube = America’s funniest home videos
    Twitter = Public IM

    If you stop and consider many of the communications we make during the day to private individuals, there is nothing private about them, except we only decided to tell specific people.

    There is nothing private about saying you found a great new Chinese restaurant, or a funny video, etc., so why not share it? That is what blogging/Twitter is all about.

    Twitter is nice for me, because unlike you, I like my blog posts to be > 140 characters. For you, your blog is already like a Twitter log. ;-)

    Atwood also wrote about how email is becoming less useful, and that is also part of this. The one point I think he missed though, is that email is a push service, while Twitter and Blogging are Pull services.

    I don’t choose to get an email from someone. They force their idea of what I may like on me, whether I like it or not, and I have to filter through what I don’t want to get what I do want.

    Blogging/Twitter are ways to get information where I choose how and when to receive it. If people used Twitter/Blogging more for the less important things, then email could be reserved for truly private communications, where there is a greater chance I want to get your email.

    Thats why it drives me absolutely crazy when people email me blog posts, and activist information. If I wanted that stuff, I’d subscribe to your blog.

  • 2. elliot  |  December 4th, 2008 at 11:11 am

    I ask for a class and I get a tutor!

    Thanks, Nick.

    You do see the contradiction here, though, don’t you?

    In one post, this guy is complaining about not being able to handle his mountain of email because people don’t scale, but in the post about Twitter he praises the idea of documenting everything no matter how trivial.

    The only reason Twitter has been better than email so far is that so many fewer people were using it.

    It has the same scalability issues as email because the scalability problem isn’t inherent in the medium it’s inherent in the human.

    And really, Twitter is interesting, but the hierarchy of power in communication goes like this:

    In person.

    On the phone.


    SMS text.


    Blog/Facebook/Twitter (in their standard functions, for the purpose of this discussion, the parts of Twitter or Facebook that function like IM or email belong further up the hierarchy)

    The reason I place them in this order is specifically about specificity.

    A physical conversation between me and you is of the highest priority for me because it’s aimed right at me. (In the most primitive sense, I need to pay attention to you because you could physically hurt me).

    By the time you get to the bottom of the list, the burden is almost entirely on me to figure out if the communication has relevance to me or not.

    While Twitter or Facebook makes the sender’s life much simpler, it makes the receiver’s more difficult.

  • 3. Nick  |  December 4th, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I disagree, for one important reason. You don’t consider the social conventions behind the mediums.

    With Twitter/Blogging, and even Facebook, there is no social convention that one need reply. I put the information out there, and if you want to reply, great. If you even miss reading it because you have a ton of people on your follow list… fine.

    But with email, there is often times a social convention that you need to reply to the message. Every time I get the email, I need to take an affirmative action.

    And even if some emails don’t require a reply, they still add to the noise which surrounds other emails which do require a reply.

    Your ordering is correct, but you also assume that there are communications in Twitter/Blogging which are critical. I assume that if you put it in Twitter, then its not critical, and therefore I don’t need to care. If I see it, great, if I don’t, then oh well. If you put something critical on Twitter, and don’t get an answer, then its the sender’s problem, because they chose the wrong medium.

    So to sum up, in order to get the most out of Twitter, you need to first accept the idea that you can’t and shouldn’t have to read all of it.

  • 4. elliot  |  December 4th, 2008 at 11:36 am

    The social convention thing is a great point.

    I actually do get some use out of Twitter. Not so much as a broadcast medium, but as an aggregator. I’ve found it to be a wonderful way to keep with breaking news.

    On the other hand, I really, really have a hard time getting value out of Facebook (or Linkedin for that matter).

  • 5. Nick  |  December 4th, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I agree with you regarding Facebook, Linkedin and Plaxo. In fact, I canceled my accounts on Linkedin and Plaxo. I honestly only signed up for Facebook b/c Ally was on it, and at the time, she was using it a lot.

    The reasons I don’t like them is because

    A.) They duplicate much of the functionality behind Blogging/Twitter/Email, so they don’t provide any NEW value to me.

    B.) They are “Walled Gardens” (Seriously, starting reading Coding Horror ;) )

  • 6. Cindy  |  December 4th, 2008 at 11:48 am

    I don’t get as much out of Twitter as I do Facebook. I started on it as a way to monitor the youngest’s account. My friending her was a precondition.

    The content has grown, though, so now it’s more of my own. I still have connections with the kids’ friends, but I’m keeping up with my own kind. :) I’ll even admit to being friends with Bud Travel. I suppose if I can friend that not-real guy, I could friend you, too.

  • 7. Nick  |  December 4th, 2008 at 11:49 am

    In fact, if you look at how I use Facebook, you see that I barely use it at all. In fact, I’ve setup Facebook so that it automatically feeds from my other publicly available content.

    My Facebook status auto-updates based on my latest Twitter. I have my Facebook Notes automatically feed from my Blog. I even have Delicious and Flickr setup to auto-import pictures and links.

    Facebook is really just a one stop shopping ground for things that already exist on the internet. They have a photo album of their own, and a blogging platform, and something like Twitter.

    Its actual implementation of any of these things is poor however. Flickr is significantly better and handling photography. Twitter is faster and easier to use to update status.

    Blogging is more robust and formatable than Facebook Notes.

    The only “value” that Facebook adds is that it pulls them together in one place, and thats why so many people like them.

  • 8. John Foust  |  December 4th, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Blogging = public funny stories about your cat
    Flickr = public sharing of photos of your cat
    YouTube = America’s funniest home videos of their cats
    Twitter = Public IM updates on their cat

  • 9. John  |  December 4th, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Call them “the FaceBook” and “the Twitter” for maximum fogyism.

  • 10. Josh Schroeder  |  December 5th, 2008 at 2:14 am

    Bla bla bla. Elliot, here is what you’re looking for:


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