American in Spain

Social Knot Working

February 19, 2011
Facebook Exclamation

The state of interconnectivity between social networking these days is a bloody nightmare. For me, anyhow. I've been trying for months now to find the right balance and how to use each service to best connect me to my peeps, allow me to share things I find and ideas that pop into my head and little things I do that don't warrant an entire blog post, but I've been unable to strum the right chord.

All the services I use can connect to one another and "cross post", except for Facebook, which, in its ironic privacy, only receives information. Twitter can post to Tumblr and Facebook and Google Buzz; Tumblr can post to Twitter and Facebook; Flickr can post to Facebook and Tumblr; Instagram can post to Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Facebook; etc. etc. etc.

The Services

First let me describe what I like about each platform:


Facebook beats everybody in both the breadth of users (164 friends out of 500,000,000 users, baby!) and in the comment threading. The way my blogger friends can interact with my high school classmates and coworkers is nice. And the organization is great. The problem is that, and my friends will attest to this, it's easy to be a little too prolific when going through your RSS reader reading funny and interesting news stories of the day. You can't share everything that you like, and I can never ever tell which items I share will garner the most appreciation among my friends.

The other thing is that the links and videos and photos shared to Facebook via my "FB This!" bookmarklet are very nicely formatted in Facebook, with a thumbnail and summary, etc. But stories and photos imported through automated processes from other services generally look like crap.


The succinctness and immediacy of Twitter are its biggest strengths. It's not a great link sharing system, but any Flickr photo I tweet about is bound to get more hits (human or bot?) than if I share it with any other service. At the time of this writing, I have 203 followers, but I'd be surprised if more than fifty of those were human eyes that see 90% of my tweets.

I also like the one-way-ness of the social connections. You don't need to know someone to follow them. Of course that means not sharing things too intimate, but then sharing intimate things on social networking is generally a bad idea.

Twitter is the ideal platform for sharing small, short thoughts about what I'm doing or thinking at any given moment, and every other social medial platform is integrated with Twitter.

Google Reader

I don't generally use Google Reader as an RSS reader; I use it as an RSS synchronization service. All my apps, NetNewsWire on my mac, Byline or NetNewsWire on the iPhone, and Flipboard on the iPad all sync with Google Reader. This is very important so that once you've read the news "in your inbox" on one device, you don't have to see it again on another device.

Google Reader has a link sharing service that makes it really easy, if you are using Google Reader or one of its clients that's not NetNewsWire, to quickly share the article in your newsfeed to your friends. The problem is that the service is much less popular. At the moment, I have 7 people following my feed. Google Reader also allows sharing via a bookmarklet, but the general level of control and commenting on shared links is weaker than Facebook, and possibly even Twitter.


If you are a regular reader here, you will have notice that I have recently replaced my Twitter feed on my left sidebar with a link to my "Tumblog", Mini Erik. I totally stole the idea from a Twitter followee of mine, Glark, who apparently has recently done away with his Tumblr blog for reasons related to what I'm moaning about here.

Although my wife doesn't, I really like the way the Tumblr Wordpress widget displays things on my blog, with the option to quote a bit of a web page, or choose to show any image of a web page as a thumbnail, or embed a miniature YouTube or Vimeo video for a brief preview and option to click through to view the video full size. That's the best thing about Tumblr for me.

The other positive thing is that videos and comics and things that I send to Tumblr are most likely going to be viewed by people, and shared by people, on my Tumblr blog, which is a domain I control. This is generally good for traffic and "brand building", which is a topic I'm really only curious about, but that has brought in triple digit advertising paychecks in the past, so should not be discounted.

The Dilemma

There are times when I have been traveling and posted something to Twitter, like a cute thing my daughter has done, and, having Twitter set up to auto-post to Facebook, seen a discussion form on Facebook from something I posted to Twitter. I like that.

On the other hand, there are things I'd like to post to Twitter without them clogging up my Facebook wall, which means I'd have to break that auto-post connection. Ugh.

I went a while with Tumblr auto-posting both to Twitter and Facebook with my Twitter → Facebook connection broken (otherwise there would be two copies of everything on Facebook). And then I tried to break all cross-posting connections and do everything manually, which was a big pain in the ass. At the time of this writing, I have Twitter auto-posting to Facebook and Tumblr only auto-posting to Twitter when I tell it to. I can't decide which setup I like best.

Another option would be to post only to Facebook, but then I'd lose any concept of a "mini activity feed" on my blog sidebar, but then I'd only reach people I know, and even then, I'm frankly dubious of just what percentage of my Facebook contacts actually pay me any attention whatsoever. An odd side note: I have one Facebook friend who I have no idea who she is, that I friended thinking she was someone else, but who comments or "likes" my posts about once a month. Weird.

I can't only use Google Reader, because no one uses that service and Google Buzz is ultimately going the way of its sibling, Google Wave.

What I Want

I want a bookmarklet and/or iOS app similar to those of Tumblr that will let me choose which services I want a given link or bit of text posted to. It would provide a count of characters so I'd know if I was within Twitter's 140 character limit. It would post properly to Facebook just like Facebook's bookmarklet does. Also in the list of services, would be a special flag that I could use to filter what is sucked into my blog sidebar.

Is that too much to ask? In theory, all the APIs are open enough that such a beast could be constructed. I have the programming knowhow to build it...if only I had an eighth day every week to work on it. Maybe if I didn't waste so much time on social networking sites...