(Anti)Social Networking

Got a website? Nobody cares. The new big question appears to be “Do you have a MySpace page?”

That drives me nuts, because MySpace is a clunky, ugly monstrosity overloaded with obnoxious ads. When asked about MySpace, I still call it the Mos Eisley of the Internet. But enough people asked me if I had a page that I bit the bullet and set one up. Then even more people asked me where to find it, so now I’ve bitten the bullet and I’m simulcasting my main blog to my MySpace blog.

Which leads me to my next MySpace gripe: no API. They force you to do everything through their clunky, pain-in-the-ass site so they can make you watch ads and crash your browser a couple times. There’s a WordPress plugin that is essentially a hack to automatically cross-post a WordPress entry to MySpace, but it doesn’t work consistently; maybe one in ten posts actually made it through to MySpace. So I scrapped it, and now I get to play the cut-and-paste game.

Ah, well. At least MySpace has more uptime than downtime anymore.

Next we have the microblogging/presence/social networking sites. At the moment, I’ve got accounts with Pownce, Jaiku and Twitter for evaluation. They’ve all got their pros and cons, and I’m still not convinced they’ll be as useful as I’d like.

Pownce seems like an IM client on steroids. Sure, you can post microblog-style entries, but you can also share files and links quickly. You can do the same over IM, but in this case you can broadcast a message to entire groups or the public, not just to one person or to a small group that may be sharing a chat room with you. I also found a handy WordPress plugin that grabs my Pownce posts and cleanly puts them on my website. However, I have to visit Pownce’s website or use their client to post. (By the way, I do have a few Pownce invites if anyone wants to take it for a test drive.)

Jaiku is so far my favorite. I can post to it and follow others’ posts through an iGoogle widget block thingamabob, so I don’t have to visit their site. Also, Jaiku can pull in RSS feeds, so my blog posts and Flickr pics are automagically posted with my Jaiku updates. Very slick. On the down side, Jaiku is sometimes a bit slow and, at times, the pages don’t load at all. Also, the existing WordPress plugin simply doesn’t work on my site, and the web page widgets Jaiku makes available are a little too big for my page format.

Finally, we have Twitter. It’s very simplistic compared to Jaiku and Pownce, and it has some performance issues. There’s a good WordPress plugin for it, but the posts are a bit messy for my page format. I can write tweets from my WordPress blog with the plugin, but I can also find some iGoogle widgets to do the same. I was using the plugin to send TinyURL links to new blog posts out as tweets, but I found that obnoxious after a while. That’s a lot of buts, and overall I find Twitter to be the least interesting of the three. Even their new blocks feature seems pretty pointless.

At the moment, all three are fairly useless. Sure, it’s cool to post a short, quick update, but when it comes down to it, if I have to be online to post I may as well just suck it up and put those same short posts on this blog. Said posts wouldn’t show up on the social services, but at the moment I only have a handful of real friends (people I actually know versus random social network users subscribing to my feed) and not a one of them lives close enough to respond if I say I’m headed out for a beer.

Which brings me to SMS. The moblog thing is kind of cool, and posting short items from the road to a microblog makes a lot more sense than doing it from my own blog or a website. For example, live updates from the Wizard World floor are better than having to wait until the con is over for a lengthy review. A combined public feed to a website and show floor monitor would be even better, kind of like the Twitter feed I heard about at SXSW. A live SMS post saying “Brian Keene just mooned the crowd at the Gross-Out” is a lot more interesting than summing it up three days later, after the rumors have already spread through the message boards.

There’s only one problem: I can’t post via SMS. Pownce just doesn’t support it, and neither Twitter nor Jaiku accept messages from my provider, US Cellular. The short code for Twitter is unrecognized, and sending messages to the full Twitter phone number doesn’t work. On the Jaiku side, they send you a message to activate your phone, but I never receive it. Most users seem to think US Cellular is blocking these sites, and I tend to agree given Jaiku is doing the sending. I emailed US Cellular support, but they claim it’s the other way around:

Thank you for contacting our Online Customer Care Department.
Unfortunately, we do not have an affirmative answer at this time as to
whether or not the two particular social networks will add us to their
provider list. Please check back at periodically to see if we have been
added.

That puts me in a holding pattern until one side or the other gets their act together. Changing providers really isn’t an option, and even if it were, SMS updates is the least of my criteria for selecting a cellular provider. It’s all a pointless exercise until I can find a way to determine its effectiveness, anyway. Until then, I’ll keep on rolling with the blog and experimenting with MySpace. With at least 40,000 unique visits a month, I must be doing something right.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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  1. As far as posting to myspace, short of an API, I’ve found the best answer is to use scribefire. You can add multiple blogs (including myspace) and simply post to each one without having to cut and paste :)

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks for the tip, Marti! I’ll have to check Scribefire out.

  3. […] and Pownce for me, for the time being. With that active, it may be worth coping with some of my other gripes, because I still believe real-time SMS is the only really useful application for the […]