artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
There's a flap going around Twitter at the moment about the possibility of "algorithmic", which is to say, non-chronological, timelines.

People are unhappy and upset about this because it takes away from them, the users, control over who they interact with. That has a pretty disruptive effect on the community; it's a bit like going to a pub where the landlord tries to guess which sentences people say that you will like, and somehow only lets you hear those.

what's actually going on? )

So far, so theoretical. What are we supposed to do to help our social networks survive, to maintain viability (with some kind of convenience) for those relationships we treasure and continue having access to new relationships online?

There isn't, I'm afraid, an easy, convenient answer: no matter what you do, some people you'd desperately like to stay in touch with are probably not going to stay in touch, because using some other means of communication is more effort than they want to put into the friendship. I remember when this happened to me on a small scale: someone I had been conversing with a lot via Gmail Chat (remember that? Before the whole Google+ thing) stopped using it, and... it turns out that e-mail isn't a good way for that person and me to converse, and they don't have that much time for Twitter these days either. I still feel abandoned and forlorn about it, but the truth is, if the person really wanted to keep in touch with me at the level we were in touch, they would have taken the time to do it. And yes, that does hurt, even though I know there's no ill-will, just not enough hours in the day.

Losing a platform, either suddenly or gradually, will highlight a lot of that. It's going to hurt. There's a lot we can do to mitigate the effects, though, so that when (not if) Twitter (or some other network) becomes unusable, it feels more like "one of the local pubs is closing, that's sad" than "the only pub I could ever go to has become uninhabitable and I have no other way of contacting my friends".

Step 1: Have another point of contact. That might be here on Dreamwidth, it might be giving your e-mail address to people, it might be the Book of Face (yuck), it might be somewhere else. But have it, and make sure people you want to stay in touch with know about it.

Step 2: Seek out and maintain other networks. This always feels a bit like a betrayal, and it requires a change in habits, but maintaining some kind of a presence -- even a post once or twice a week -- is probably a good idea.

Step 3: Cultivate closer ties with a smaller group of people. There are people I try to see regularly offline if I can. There are people I e-mail regularly. I'm a lot choosier about who gets to see my locked Twitter account and my not-this-username Dreamwidth account than I am about the public, artsyhonker-associated accounts.

I think where a lot of people are falling down is at Step 2: if you've mostly only used Twitter and Twitter is easy to use from your phone and Facebook is terrible, where do you go?

Here are some suggestions:

GNUsocial: This is an open-source federation of servers ("instances" or "nodes") that are a lot like Twitter. There's a 140-character limit. The protocol they use is called Ostatus. I use it as @artsyhonker on the quitter.se server, the public timeline of which is a bit scary to see at the moment. All of the whack-a-mole problems with abuse and spambots and unwanted porn exist here, but one strength is that you can set it up so that it cross-posts to Twitter: if I post a 'queet' or notice or whatever it is, it also appears on my Twitter timeline. So there's a bit of continuity there, at least. I know of two Android clients that support it: &Status (or AndStatus) and Mustard. Neither of them are amazing, but there may well be others in existence.

The main weakness of GNUSocial, other than just not having the critical mass of Twitter, seems to be a lack of coherence of things like direct messages and private groups over instance/node borders. I don't use DMs a lot on Twitter so I'm not sure this is a huge problem. And there's other stuff that's different on different instances... apparently the Rainbow Dash instance has no character limit, but I don't know how that works with displaying things on, say, quitter.se. If you're looking to keep a close-knit group together it might make sense to all migrate to the same instance. If you're sure you'll keep in touch with one another in other ways anyway, you might want to each check out an instance and find out which one will work best for your needs.

Dreamwidth: You're reading this post on Dreamwidth. It's an online journal system that sort of forked off of Livejournal several years ago. As you can see, it doesn't have a 140-character limit! It does allow for the use of cut tags for longer posts, though. And you get a 'reading page' (see the public posts on mine here) which is... in reverse chronological order! Hurrah! Comments on entries are threaded nicely and don't turn up as entries/posts in their own right, so it's a little bit harder to join in unless you want to, but also easier to not get bogged down in conversations you don't really want to be part of. And -- get this -- you can decide on a post by post basis which posts are public, which are access locked to just people you've granted access to, and which are only visible to people on particular filters. You can decide whether to allow comments from anonymous users or just people with Dreamwidth accounts. You can also use it as an RSS reader, so if you're still kindof missing Google Reader from your life, this is a really good thing. It's community-led and community-funded: the revenue model is that you can have a paid account, which has more bells and whistles. But the free accounts are definitely very much enough to be getting on with.

The main weakness of Dreamwidth is the lack of a mobile client. The Android client 'EllJay' will post to Dreamwidth, but it's pretty limited. I understand that [personal profile] marnanel is working on an Android client with more functionality.

Streetbank: This isn't so much an online social network as an online way of meeting your geographical neighbours, a cross between Freecycle, skillsharing sites and a tool library. The idea is that you can loan people actual things, or given them away. You can tell it how far away you want to see requests from (I think the radius can be 1 to 4 miles) and your own address is kept private. I'm including it here because I think getting to know some neighbours can be a good thing.

Weaknesses/unknowns: I have no idea if there's a mobile app and I have no idea how to get it up to a critical mass in a local area; it almost needs deliberate, strategic adoption by a small group of people in an area to work, I think. As things stand, I don't get reminder e-mails often enough that it's a big part of my life, but if everyone within a one-mile radius of me posted three things per week (for lending or give-away) it would probably get spammy (there are 134 of us). I'm not sure what the revenue model is, which makes me a bit uneasy.

None of these are a replacement for Twitter; all of them are worth checking out. Other suggestions are welcome.

I'll see you around.

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