Sharing Is Broken

I have a big pet peeve on the web. I know. It’s another rant of mine that may or may not turn into a good idea. (Queue appropriate XKCD reference xkcd.com/386/). Here it is: There is no good way to post something in one place, and share it everywhere else automatically, in whatever format is best for the site it’s being posted too.

For instance, I’m sitting here writing this blog post, and I want to share my verbal tirade with the world. Specifically, I want to post it on my blog, which happens to be based on WordPress. WordPress has this nice clean RSS feed feature that cool people like you can use to subscribe to my blog updates. Now, I’m half in half out of this whole ‘Social Media’ thing, and I have accounts on most major sites, apps hooked up on my phone and so on, but it’s a pain to update everything at once. All I want to do is share this awesome post with the world in whatever medium the rest of the world is using, and keep control of my data so that if Facebook accidentally pushes out an update that melts every single hard drive in every one of of there servers, I still have a backup. But that’s another discussion. Unfortunately, RSS feeds don’t cut it because the rest of the world is uncool and doesn’t use Google Reader or some similar app. So, once I post my blog, I put the title and a link and post it on Twitter. Put a mini excerpt and put it on Facebook. Put another excerpt on Google+. Email the parents. Print it out for the Grandparents and mail it. You get the idea. Twitter I can automate. Facebook I can kinda automate via twitter. And Google+ is the awesome social media site without a programming interface in the corner. Damn you Google+. Why do I love thee so much?

We live in the modern age. So why can’t I have a service, or an app, or a tool that takes my post, and cross posts it across the “Big 3”? Heck. I’ll write my post in markdown so the app doesn’t have to strip and process out all the simple html tags out of my post incorrectly. So, until some smart person comes up with a GOOD solution, I’m going run this show on intern power. Good ‘ol human labor.

Service Integration and Mashups

As we move forward in our world of technological inspiration and development I’ve seen the explosion of not only social networks, but of internet services, open source software, and powerful content sharing and distribution mechanisms. Services like Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Smug Mug and the Suite of Free Google Services and so on are growing at a mind boggling rate. I still remember sitting in a cubicle about two years ago in the Winona State University tech department at my first job trying to design websites to be fast and optimizing each image and layout to be as small as possible so that they would download quickly on a modem. I remember how small my view of the vast amount information and the petty prejudices I would have against various ones, not seeing ahead to the measures that would be taken to distribute and organize that information. I believe the information age is no more and that the information itself has become expected and transparent but the networking and organization of that information has and will continue to surpass it as the primary commodity in the world today. As I’ve moved out of my little world, gone to college Utah, and am now five weeks away from graduation I’ve seen Google go from a small beta company to the biggest and most well known company on the planet, I’ve seen Facebook go from a little personal networking site to one of THE leading social network today in the US (Not sure how the foreign market for social networks is going).

What does it all mean?

I spent most of today re-evaluating MANY of my online priorities and ways of doing things. These last two months has seen me extensively pick up my networking and social skills and apply them in ways I never have before. I’ve spent more time updating, writing, and networking than I ever have in the past, the simple fact that you’ve been seeing blog posts here that are over 200 words on a regular basis is something that I’ve never done before. I’ve moved into the world of Twitter, a micro-blogging and status service and took the leap of getting a pro account at Flickr so that I could integrate large versions of the photos here on this site.

But why?

As you look at the conglomeration of things I’ve mashed together, there are several things that I’ve begun to be able to do. The problem is that I have hundreds of people spread over an entire spectrum of networks, locations, and mediums. I have a friends on Flickr, different friends that watch my blog feed, personal friends on Facebook, random followers on Twitter. The trend that I have begun to noticed is the integration of one service with another. With a twitter update I also update my status on Facebook and my blog, with a new post on my blog a new note gets automatically written on Facebook and anyone who watches my feed also gets updated. A new image on Flickr now shows up in my Facebook story feed and is now accessible for me to use on my blog with a link to the Flickr photo for comments and discussion. Not only do I now have all these services at my finger tips, but common users have created links between these applications with whole markets sprouting up around these links because of the efforts of the developers to create easy to use interfaces allowing others to link the services.

I’ve spent the last few days experimenting and working out the kinks in many of these network linkages. About a month ago my twitter account became linked to my Facebook status, about that same time the RSS importer for Facebook allowed me to import my blog posts as notes in Facebook, even pulling thumbnails of the images that are in the posts in. About two weeks ago when I went live with a new design to this site I added my twitter status to the top of my blog. Today I went through, tested out and have begun using even more service links, I redirected all my RSS feeds to FeedBurner for tracking and analytics, I added an application to Facebook to show any new photos in Flickr on my Facebook story feed, I even added a plugin for WordPress (The blogging engine this site runs on) that allows me to now insert photos directly from Flickr into my blog, because the photos are displayed full size by default on my blog they now will link directly to the Flickr photo page allowing for much more commenting and discussion on the images outside of the scope of this blog. Something else I may do is add a Flickr album importer into Facebook so that I will no longer have to upload photos to both Flickr and Facebook simultaneously.

The point is, this environment is changing at a rapidly and exponentially increasing rate, as I’ve grown in my networking savvy I have no longer been turning to the network with the most people or services, but I rather look to see what best allows me to integrate these services with each other and access them simultaneously. I don’t have time to go and browse each location, or to update every place separately. This mix and mash of services is allowing to do one thing once, across multiple platforms simultaneously and update everyone quickly and without hassle. Personally, it’s cool when you realize the sheer scale of things, almost to the point of being scary as to how efficient I can mash up an entire system of services together in a way that suits exactly what I need to do and that allows me to reach hundreds of people, each in their own preferred medium.

With that being said, good luck to you all in your social-network-service-mashup-mix-and-match endeavors and I look forward to hearing the thoughts of others on this.

– Paul Rohde