The locals slag you off

After writing about aggregating all my online activity everywhere I’ve been checking my enthusiasm over the past week. While I’m still keen on aggregating everything in one place in a format that makes sense I’m less keen on shooting things out to all other sites possible.

Facebook has always made me a little uneasy. On the one hand I enjoy having so many “friends” in one place, far more than on any other site thanks to its audience reaching beyond the usual early-adopting geeks. On the other hand I never feel I get it. I don’t feel at home there and the way people post private messages for each other in public is plain weird (even for a compulsive Twitterer).

But after reading Roo mention piping his tweets to his Facebook status I thought I’d give it a go. The result mirrored my split Facebook feelings.

At first it was pleasant to feel more in touch with all those friends who, for me, only exist online in Facebook. Many ex-work colleagues and acting friends don’t Twitter or Flickr… they’re only on Facebook. So I enjoyed getting occasional comments from these people on my automatically updated Facebook status.

However, it also felt cheap and wrong. I wasn’t spending more time on Facebook; I was blindly firing stuff in there, occasionally receiving a gratifying morsel of attention in return. Maybe I’m old fashioned but this didn’t seem fair.

This became a real problem when one or two Facebook-only friends were upset that I didn’t respond to them. I don’t understand why people send messages on Facebook rather than email and I often end up not replying. This attitude must seem extra arsey if I’m still updating my Facebook status frequently. There was an imbalance between how much I seemed to be using Facebook (a lot) and how much I was actually using it (very little). I’ve now stopped my tweets being sent to Facebook so I can more comfortably ignore the strange place and all those weird normal people.

Automatic posting to different services is a tricky thing. Well, it’s easy to do but it’s tricky to do right. Several services, such as and Gyminee, allow you to copy messages directly to your Twitter stream about your activity. Easy to do but liable to drive all your friends mad as the messages always read like self-promotional spam. They’re of a different nature to the usual tweets.

Now I’m also looking at aggregators like my Jaiku page and my FriendFeed and wondering if I’m doing something similar. I never use either site and yet I’m pumping oodles of feeds and services into them both. This feels like owning a holiday home in a seaside town — you occasionally make a show of being involved with the place but you’re not really part of the community. And when you’re not around the locals are probably slagging you off for ruining the place.

A different solution would be to turn things around. Rather than you aggregate all your feeds together and I have to read them all, I should be able to choose which of your feeds I want to read on Jaiku, which on FriendFeed, which on Twitter, etc. It would probably be a nightmare of an interface and a struggle for anyone to keep up to date, so I’m not sure it’s the ideal solution. But I’m not sure the current way is ideal either.

I’d love to hear from anyone who actively uses sites like these and how they find the mixed flood of friends’ feeds.


  • FriendFeed has a fairly nice "hide this" feature on each item, and you can follow that up with "hide other messages on this service from this person". This means I can eliminate twitters or photos I've already seen while allowing them through for people who I don't already follow.

    Sadly, the UI is a bit half-arsed and it won't do some time-saving cleverness (like, say, seeing who I already follow on twitter and offering to hide their stuff) but it's better filtering than anyone else seems to offer.

    More generally, filtering is a big unsolved (in fact, almost untackled) problem. Meanwhile, people who feed Twitter into LJ into Twitter - yes, I've seen it happen - need a slap.

  • See, if I actually used FriendFeed I'd have known it already offered this features. Thanks Paul.

  • I specifically do NOT link Facebook to Twitter and have no desire whatsoever to do so. I use the two systems to communicate to different groups of people.

    Twitter is locked and private. When I post to Twitter, I have a picture of who is reading my tweets. I also use it for its direct message capabilities. In essence, I think of it as my shared SMS state of mind with a selected group.

    I have a ridiculous number of Facebook contacts because I began using it in 2005 -- I live on an American Ivy League university campus and thus was an early user. My students are on Facebook, so are my former thesis advisees, so are people I knew but didn't like much in high school who are now religious ultra-conservatives, so are my friends from my master's degree and my PhD program, so are my closer friends from San Francisco, New York and London, so are my former colleagues and professional contacts from my pre-grad school career. To post on Facebook is to post something to, effectively, everyone. More people read it than my blog, than look at my Flickr pictures, than really anything.

    I represent an extreme outlier in the number of contacts I have (my "small" group on Twitter is ~300, my big group on Facebook is ~1400) --it's an unusual Dunbar stack--but I think the walling behavior I follow could be replicated on a smaller scale by many others.

    Finally, this post made me realize I should sign up for FriendFeed. I did. I think I hate it. I don't want to know this much about everyone. Argh. Somewhere in here, I need to shut it off and get some work done!

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Monday 10 November 2008, 4:35pm

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10 Nov 2008 at Twitter

  • 10:35pm: Emmy the Great was great. Very much cheered after a blue Monday.
  • 9:13pm: I doubt there are many times in life that between-band musical sets will include a section of a prospective President's speech. Change.
  • 8:23pm: The ICA's theatre pre- show lighting hasn't got any less harsh or grim since last time I was here. Black room, bright lights = horrid.
  • 7:35pm: Off to the ICA to see Emmy the Great.
  • 3:37pm: Having to leave @stephenfry and @bowbrick. Very sorry chaps, love you dearly, but too many tweets for me.
  • 12:53pm: Rain's rubbish isn't it.
  • 10:20am: I appear to have missed out on the morning's dose of universal FAIL. Staying at home helps. My nose even seems to have stopped running.