Stick around – this one gets heavy into philosophyAlso on:
The indie web, its called. Made up of the people who got tired of talking about these concepts and decided to start doing something about them.
I first heard about them on one of my weekly must-hear podcasts, In Beta (episode 90). Then a guest on another webcast I enjoy regularly – This Week in Google #241 – brought it up near the end. (TWiG actually just dedicated most of an episode to it – #266.)
I always viewed blogging (at least my blog) as a spot for thoughts that skewed toward longform writing, that could not be fleshed out in a short snippet. The indie web, however, encourages tweet-length thoughts as well as longer posts, which can then be syndicated to whatever social network you choose. The point is to not keep those thoughts siloed somewhere that may eventually shut down or change their policies, but to control your online identity, on your own terms. You can build your own tools, or you can browse the IndieWeb site to find something pre-built to use on your site.
But how will people see these posts if they are on Facebook or Twitter? Well, they thought of that too. POSSE stands for Post (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. By syndicating, your non-IndieWeb friends will still get to see what you are up to. And using the webmention protocol, comments and replies will be pulled back into your own site as well.
If you are feeling less brave, one of the higher-profile indie web tools just launched a beta. It is called Known, and it has been treating me well so far. I look forward to their hosted/beta service adding a WordPress plugin. But if I did my work right, you should see my Known post about this article down below.
TL;DR: if you see anything oddly formatted posts on my site or one of my social profiles, it is probably an attempt at implementing one of the Indie Web projects. Maybe if you are getting wary of Facebook and you’re looking for a technically-inclined side project, you should check it out too.
Kind of what I’ve been trying to avoid
So, I hadn’t been on Facebook directly for about a month until a couple nights ago (not counting one post from Spotify, where I tried to post to Twitter instead of FB but did the opposite – stupid share buttons). Man, the nostalgia wave was intense. I enjoyed my sojourn into the internet wilderness for a month, but this one relapse visit just made it feel lonely.
My renewed interest was piqued by their announcement of Facebook Home. It is an intriguing concept. The cynic in me knows they just want to put one less layer between you and them (and their ads). The pragmatist in me knows that Android has been dying for some kind of integrated messaging ala iMessage, and this looks like a great solution (until Google announces their own at I/O next month). It is another great way for them to leverage their user base and practically inevitable since their introduction of their own app system. Facebook is the only social network robust enough to attempt something like this. I will try it out of morbid curiosity, and will probably start sharing things there more often. At least until I want control again.
But, that aside, it was very easy to function without Facebook. There was more time to read important things, like literature. My phone locked up less often, honestly. I could find updates in other places if I needed to know how someone was doing.
Coming back was even easier, though. One picture posted, 5 likes by the end of the night. Churning out content is fairly easy, but without a built-in audience, what is the point? I guess when the average user is ready to drop out of there and go somewhere else, I know that I will be ready too.
via Tumblr http://craigpilcher.tumblr.com/post/47205579648
Twitter dug itself into a deeper hole with its power users last night when it axed the non-web versions of Tweetdeck. It is somehow both totally uncalled for and long overdue. Twitter purchased Tweetdeck in mid-2011, when it was easily the best mobile Twitter client and arguably the best Facebook client at the time as well. As the picture illustrates, Twitter updated Tweetdeck only once, to remove its native picture sharing service, and it has languished in the Google Play Store ever since. In that time, Twitter has moved to a newer, locked-down API and has a new official app on most platforms. However, Tweetdeck arguably still has a better interface, as well as far more features.
I cannot make sense of this. I don’t think I would be mad if they integrated Tweetdeck’s columns into the default app’s interface, because it would greatly improve tracking conversations. Twitter has list functionality, but on mobile they are buried so far down they are practically useless. And why did Twitter sit on this app for a year and a half if they were just going to shut it down? They could have updated it, or just removed Facebook from it if that was the issue. Pushing an inferior version of your own product just to get people to look at ads is not the way to win the tech crowd.
I finally uninstalled the Facebook app on my phone about two weeks ago, mostly because it sucks. I checked back a few nights ago via the browser, and I had not missed much of anything (except an old friend getting engaged – congrats!). The next logical step is to stop sharing things on Facebook. For the better part of a year, I have prided myself on doing my sharing almost exclusively through third-party avenues (because I want control over my data, and I am a social network hipster), and the only step left is to stop.
Why do I go back, even to share? Because everyone else is there. Facebook has been around for eons in Internet Time. In the beginning, it functioned more like an actual “face book”, which people did not update daily. However, it was still people you actually knew and wanted to keep up with. Those roots continue to reinforce themselves over time as you build a digital archive of yourself, but what is left is a gargantuan filter bubble. It is much harder to break out of a filter bubble of people you know IRL, which Facebook knows. That is why the point of the site was lost somewhere between the immediate, actual, meaningful connections and “Your friends like Diet Coke, you should too!” (Of course, this could all change in a week.)
The laundry list of things Facebook actually does is pretty impressive until you consider that several other places offer the same service, usually better. General status updates work very well on Twitter; if it is longer than 140 characters, get a blog. Dropbox, Flickr, and Picasa all offer picture storage and sharing, with the added bonus of export. Instant messaging can be done with GTalk, iMessage, or the mother of all internet communique: email. Link sharing and other content curation are Tumblr’s forte. Foursquare has check-ins locked down. Personal moments meant to be shared with only close friends and family can be set up easily in Path or Google+. In fact, G+ does pretty much all of this, and shares it more intuitively than Facebook.
Lifehacker beat me to it, but the way Facebook has adapted their advertising is annoying, albeit nefariously intuitive. Ads themselves are not all that bad. The service has to make money somehow. Google is basically an advertising company, but aside from the search results page it is generally unobtrusive, and the service is good enough that it warrants forgiveness. Almost all the services mentioned are ad-supported, and the alternative to that is paying your own way with something like App.net.
So, for those visiting from my Facebook link, welcome to my page. You may see it pop up occasionally on my FB feed in the future, but independence has to start somewhere. One last cleanup of various outdated likes and other personal details, and I will be on my way. This is a break, not a full-on deletion (because how else will I occasionally use Spotify?). And if they change and improve somehow, I will gladly eat these words.
I keep wrestling with when and how to leave Facebook (and actually have a long draft in progress for when I finally do). But where does one go now? What are the other options?
Well, Twitter was my first thought. But I have almost always used third-party clients to access Twitter, and they have been dicks about that lately. In fact, the developers of my favorite Twitter clients (Falcon Pro and Carbon for Android) held a G+ hangout just yesterday to discuss the token limit situation. I hardly ever tweet from the desktop, but even that is better with third-party apps like Tweetbot (I’m not counting Tweetdeck, which was awesome until Twitter bought it and then totally neglected the Android client).
Google+ is another possible outlet. It manages to have all the features of Facebook (and does a few of them better) without the squicky feeling that they will always step on my privacy. That is an implicit issue with Google, but that has always been their modus operandi: fantastic services in exchange for advertisement. However, Google+ also feels like an endpoint. It is a place where items I share can end up, but I can’t take them and move them elsewhere, like WordPress. Twitter and FB suffer from this as well (I haven’t investigated Tumblr as much, but I fear the same).
But then yesterday’s App.net news came, and it is starting to sound better and better. Smaller community, great global stream, built-in storage, developer friendly, and user-first. It hits all the right buttons. I may have to give this a try.
There will come a time when we all host our own data and are able to share it however we choose. Until then, I will continue being a social network hipster.
Facebook is causing me major hipster backlash. I wasn’t there first, but I was damn sure there before they let just anyone use it. It was such a different place when you actually had a Wall, and the big addition was uploading pictures.
It has evolved into a hideous amalgamation of all the things you do on the internet, or at least it is trying to do that. I admit that this is the only way I use it now, but I’m almost ashamed to still use it, even in that way. People on Twitter are more interesting and up to date, and people on Google+ are more engaged. Foursquare does its one thing better than everyone else. Tumblr handles memes and things far better, and you can make it your own.
But Path is different. It is what people initially put into their Facebook profile before it spirals out of control. Poignant and personal. No more or less information than you need. Limits on your connections force you to choose who you share with. Its focus on design is so great that Facebook has no problem copying it outright.
I still do not have the courage to drop off of Facebook, but I am close. Shareholders and the new drive to monetize everything I put into it make me wary of putting anything else into it. But I am trying to find a reason past sheer disgust. I want others to share that disgust and subsequently make their own exodus. If they are worth it, I will find them wherever they end up.
Update (2/5): Looks like I wasn’t far off.