Posted on Mar 28, 2008

onesize.jpg

Recently, there has been a rash of one-size-fits-all services that aim to provide a solution to “managing” various sites like Twitter, Pownce, Tumblr, Jaiku and Facebook all at once. As with most of my rants, they begin on Twitter and then trickle their way into a blog post – and if you’ve seen some of my tweets, you have seen my personal distaste for these services and the people who use them.

There is definitely an increased need to edit down the information influx we receive everyday via email, IM, web apps, etc. There is also definitely the stress of joining all the new sites your friends keep joining. However, just as a recent blog post pointed out the potential resurgence of separating public and not-so-public content, there is also arguably a need to cater which content resonates most with which audience.

A quote from 2006 that I often refer back to and has always resonated with me is “the internet favors infinite niches, not one-size-fits-all fare“.

So, why I think one-size-fits-all services like HelloTxt, Ping.fm, Twhirl, and Mahalo Share are missing the mark:

Spam
The one-size services assume your followers and friends are only following you on one site. In reality, most of us go between various different sites as much as we would go between kissing partners at a game of spin the bottle (as Sean has stated, I have a non-proprietary crush on Twitter and Pownce). This mass broadcasting may help you spend less time catering to each site, but will end up filling up all your friends’ social inboxes two or three times over with the same content. Undoubtedly, this will annoy them – especially if they really didn’t need to see that you’re broadcasting live on Qik in 3 different places every 5 minutes.

Rudeness
Worse than a wish-I-could-be-there video award acceptance speech, it’s centered around broadcasting without valuing interaction. Almost all people I’ve observed who use these services to cross-post, rarely ever login to the individual sites to see the replies, nor does it seem like they care. As a result, the content suffers significantly – as people learn to not click through or respond to things where they know their opinion won’t be heard.

Poor Catering
If not interacting with a community and spamming your friends didn’t hinder you enough, the services completely overlook the most important aspect: the content. On Pownce, seeing your 5 latest 140 character @ replies you had on Twitter is completely useless, annoying and a total giveaway to the fact that you’re probably never going to take the time to send me that new song you like or point me to a video you wanted to talk about outside of the 5,000 YouTube comments it received. As such, I’ve most likely already stopped following you.

To quote myself from 2006 in reference to advertisers, “So what if you reach a larger … audience? Did you reach the right audience? There’s so much talk about demographics, but in the end, people only care about numbers instead of the effectiveness, no less defining effective influence.

Have these microblogging sites given rise to an advertising-like mindset of reaching numbers rather than niches?

27 Comments

  1. Doug Clinton
    March 28, 2008

    Hi Arial. Can I invite you to try my attempt to deal with this situation, MultiTweet? Rather than broadcasting your status updates to your accounts on all sites, MultitTweet was developed to let people manage multiple accounts on multiple services and lets you choose which id on which service to send your update to. It also aggregates all your friends’ updates into one stream.

    It’s still in invite-only beta and unfortunately paid work is preventing me from making some enhancements that I’d like to, but I’d be very interested in your views on it. I’ve sent you an invite which you can choose to use or not.

    Doug

  2. Jon Lister
    March 28, 2008

    Hey,

    I think swallowing that last point about it being more valuable to reach the right audience is pretty hard. We’ve grown up with mass broadcast, advertising and fame as being inextricably linked. You can see the effect on Twitter with people that follow thousands of people – maybe I’m missing a trick, but I don’t see how parsing that and interacting with that many people in any meaningful way can be possible.

    J.

  3. The Modern Journalist » Here’s My Social Media. Eat It. Gh
    March 28, 2008

    […] Waldman has a great take on this […]

  4. Clintus McGintus
    March 28, 2008

    You make an excellent point Ariel. I remember your Twitter update about that and since then have almost stopped mass updating with one tool. I didn’t think about it until you said the line about us being on the same networks. I then realized that if I looked at twitter along side Pownce that a lot of the updates were the same and therefor it was harder for me to find the “Pownce only content”. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

  5. Dave Levine
    March 28, 2008

    I completely agree. For me it is also important to recognize that these different “networks” have different functions.
    My email communications, my twitter updates, my blog posts and my pownce updates serve different purposes. While I am a relative nube, I recognize that diversity in communication options adds value not just for me, but for the various people I come across along different platforms.
    Collapsing communications back to one pipeline is like reverse evolution. Specialization in industries and functions in society always seems to produce diversity – it would be surprising to me if our modes of communication on the internet would be any different.

  6. Guillermo
    March 28, 2008

    I’ve also stopped using MoodBlast, HelloTXT and the like. I think it’s a waste of Pownce’s and Tumblr’s capabilities to just post tiny, poorly-worded 140-character messages when you can use them to post files, events and so on, which are probably of more interest to your followers.

    I find much better value in apps like socialthing and FriendFeed, where I can centralize the different services I use while allowing me to respond on each one individually.

  7. clayton
    March 28, 2008

    Great post. I’m curious what you think of Flock (assuming you’ve used it since 1.0 was release last November). With Flock 1.2 due out shortly we have Pownce integrated as well as a number of other goodies too. A lot of what we are trying to do is directly related to what you are calling out as needed and important. The ‘All’ view of your People sidebar, for example, is a way to monitor all your contacts across the various services. You have the control in Flock to opt for a broadcast or a more intimate conversation using any one of the other channels (SNS messages, webmail, status updates, etc).

    It seems to me that what we’re building and what you are calling out are fairly well aligned, and if you have any views I would love to hear them.

    If you haven’t used Flock post-1.0, there’s no way to answer… the product really only became meaningful (in this conversation at least) in November ’07.

    Clayton

  8. Nick
    March 28, 2008

    Hi Ariel! I’m opposed to crossposting between microblogging sites. It ruins my experience when I see the same message on Twitter, Pownce, Facebook, and a blog post.

    Great blog, just subscribed! Thanks!

  9. Tim Letscher (let5ch)
    March 28, 2008

    Amen, Ariel. I recently installed Twhirl and have been kicking the tires on SocialThing! and I am likewise annoyed by the repetitive posts from peeps I may follow on both Pownce and Twitter. I gave the simultaneous posting a shot with these apps but I find I want to say different things depending on the vehicle. In my head, I delineate the utility of Pownce and Twitter, so why should I consider posting the exact same message to both? “Convenience” is just a euphemism for “laziness.”

    Thanks for the great post.

  10. Dr. Zoidberg
    March 28, 2008

    Indeed, Ms. Waldman. Indeed.

    But the real problem with these “meta” services that sit on top, is that they just don’t work. They *think* they are providing simplicity, but they are actually just adding in another layer of complexity. You’ve got a dozen different services, and you are addressing them all in the same way. If that actually worked, then you wouldn’t need a dozen different services—you’d only need one. The problem is that they are different, and so you can’t address them in the same way. It fails, and for the reasons you mentioned.

    There are two solutions to this: (1) is to create services around open standards for identification like OpenID, which would allow for a single identifier across all services and allow people to “follow” the services of others a la Twitter; or (2) is in line with the previous commenter clayton suggested—Flock. You can essentially push the advantages of OpenID back onto the user, instead of trying to make it the developers problem as to how they are going to interact with other services. This may be one area where pushing things back onto the desktop actually makes more sense than trying to do it through the web. To me, this is the only feasible solution going forward, because OpenID has it’s own set of problems, and no one is really using it in the way outlined above. It’s questionable as to whether or not it even could be used in that way, in its current form. A new standard may emerge in the future.

    And with respect to, “Have these microblogging sites given rise to an advertising-like mindset of reaching numbers rather than niches?” I would agree. But it’s not just microblogging sites, it’s the internet as a whole. Advertising is what’s fueling the Web 2.0 bubble, and publishers and developers are so busy trying to get users and eyeballs, that they aren’t thinking about retention, long term monetization or, as you said, whether or not they are getting the right users.

    But it’s the same for advertisers! They are spending buckets of money on advertising, and that’s translating into massive traffic, but they haven’t stop to properly statistically regress that traffic on revenue, and perhaps more importantly—profits. At some point the bubble will burst, and everyone is going to realize the same thing: traffic only matters if it provides utility.

  11. Chris Grayson - GigantiCo
    March 28, 2008

    Navel gazing. Most of this stuff is social media for social media professionals, in a never ending cycle of perpetual beta. Sure, I join it all. Have to stay on top of the new “new thing.”

    But this is social media blogging about social media channels to social media marketing professionals.

    Don’t really care for micro-blogging anyway. That’s just me.

    I do aggregate the feeds from all my own postings in a feed-reader, and place that feed on my Facebook page.

    cheers,
    Chris

  12. Ariel Waldman
    March 28, 2008

    @Chris Grayson – I feel compelled to argue your points. The majority of people who follow me on Pownce and Twitter are not social media professionals – they’re typically content creators in one form or another. While I am a “social media professional”, I got into the career because I had a personal obsession with it, not because I thought it was where the market was going.

    Take a look at the discussion on Pownce – http://pownce.com/ariel/notes/1654847/ – most of the responses are from people who *use* microblogging, not social media professionals.

    And now I think I am done using the term ‘social media professional’ ever again… so stale and corporate sounding – yuck.

  13. Eric Poe Miller
    March 28, 2008

    Your right… it’s the quality, and not the quantity of our messages that is important. These “One Size Fits All” utilities cater to content feeders who’s total audience spreads across the social media platforms. Our use of these platforms is as varied as # of different restaurants we all eat @. I personally like to gather/filter information from emails, RSS feeds, Twitter, Pownce & Digg and push it out to my Tumblr or Facebook. Effective Influence is about consolidating audiences to 1 or 2 outlets so we don’t need to use megaphones to broadcast across the room. Only when our ideas feel intimate will audiences reciprocate.

  14. Adam Debreczeni
    April 6, 2008

    I couldn’t agree with you more on everyone of your points. Great post.

  15. Chris Paul
    April 10, 2008

    You are the brick! Reading stuff like this written in the way like this is a great pleasure for me.

  16. Ryan (Ping.fm)
    April 17, 2008

    Hey there. We are listening to everyones concerns and are looking for the right solution. We understand that posting to multiple services when having the same userbase on said services can be quite annoying for those who are on the receiving end. We do encourage our users to use the “triggers” we provide so users can post to as many social networks as they please (ie: @tt,fb — twitter and facebook) — I hope more users will start using these triggers to hit the social networks with the least amount of crossover.

  17. Denis
    April 21, 2008

    Ariel,

    The people who are cross-posting don’t get the point of multi-access services. And it seems that you base your opinion solely on their behavior.

    I just entering the micro-blogging arena after blogging on LiveJournal for three years and I am deciding on the best platform. I already know that not one of the services will satisfy my needs/wants requiring me to have multiple accounts. That’s where multi-access sites come in handy.

    Even with auto-login, it takes some time for each site to load. Let alone having to enter the credentials every time. Having a one-stop-post-everywhere solution is necessary. Then the abuse comes, about which you are complaining.

    It’s in human nature to abuse nearly everything. However, we must not judge services by the ways people are abusing them. We rather have to introduce people to other uses of the services, if we believe that there is some sort of misuse.

    If you really want to resolve this unfortunate trend, don’t bash the service providers, but talk how use them to create original content.

    Regards.

    P.S. Can you increase the comment field to more than three lines?

  18. nolandfone
    May 5, 2008

    Ariel – I can’t help thinking that [as so often with many cases, maybe this is a modern day Darwinism] the 80/20 rule will apply to the “outbreak” of social media sites. For most, the one size fits all is all they need or can “manage”. Then there is the 18% that use each social network with precise discrimination keeping their network of contacts in separate buckets with little or no overlap. The remaining 2% have login’s to everything out there, including myself, but even I have to admit many of my profiles lay dormant after a brief but glorious flurry of activity! Bet we can run a quick experiment to see if I’m right :)

  19. Alan Hogan
    May 22, 2008

    WELL SAID!

  20. does not fit
    June 2, 2008

    […] Doug Clinton Says: March 28th, 2008 at 1:06 am. Hi Arial. Can I invite you to try my attempt to …http://arielwaldman.com/2008/03/28/one-size-does-not-fit-all/Star-Telegram.com: 05/08/2008 Greg Ellis: Roy Williams believes he …… Ellis: Roy Williams […]

  21. Dan Thornton
    July 2, 2008

    I totally agree with the problems of people cross-posting, especially as there’s a large amount of cross over between those services amongst my contact group – meaning I can get the same message flagged to me about 4 or 5 times in the space of a day…
    There’s needs to be more integration/aggregation…

  22. Crossposting, more people are coming round - jon bounds
    July 2, 2008

    […] Ariel Waldman on crossposting with social media: Recently, there has been a rash of one-size-fits-all services that aim to provide a solution to “managing” various sites like Twitter, Pownce, Tumblr, Jaiku and Facebook all at once. As with most of my rants, they begin on Twitter and then trickle their way into a blog post – and if you’ve seen some of my tweets, you have seen my personal distaste for these services and the people who use them. […]

  23. Ari Herzog
    July 7, 2008

    After installing Mahalo Share today, I come to you via google, after searching for references to Twitter, FriendFeed, and Mahalo Share.

    I remember using the Web in its infancy, long before Google was even a tinkle in someone’s eye. I used search engines with names like Yahoo, Altavista, Excite, Metacrawler, Ask Jeeves, Netscape, and Mamma. Some of these engines still exist, while others have been swallowed whole whether by M&A or the passage of time.

    When you consider most people – throughout the world – only know Google and not the other search engines, perhaps one of the problems with Web 2.0 is there are so many instances of the same purpose; do we really need StumbleUpon, Digg, Pownce, Tumblr, and Ma.gnolia if they all essentially serve the same purpose? Or, like the search engine analogy, will time come to show only one being used on the tongues of everyone?

  24. markie
    August 12, 2008

    I like using SocialThing for my multi-micro-blogging. It lets me send my @replies only to twitter and decide where to push my posts to. Course I don’t understand linking it to Ping.fm which, as far as I can tell, does the exact same thing. Then again, it doesn’t matter how loud I shout. I am pretty sure no one’s listening.

  25. Obscura
    August 12, 2008

    Guess this explains why I haven’t developed a following on pownce.

  26. de-duping your social portfolio | cine + octo = boo
    August 21, 2008

    […] in a very exciting turn of events, the NASA CoLAB team stopped by Current HQ today for a quick walkthrough and a chat about a whole bunch of great stuff. in the process of giving the tour, a side conversation cropped up about syncing accounts on services like facebook, pownce, plurk and twitter. ariel waldman mentioned a blog post she wrote a while back on this very subject, and she raises some very interesting points. […]

  27. Ryan S (Hellotxt)
    March 26, 2010

    Echoing what Ryan at ping.fm added, we too at Hellotxt, try to avoid the pile up of redudency with our Tag feature, which allows you to send updates to groups of social networks that you label. See this video http://screenr.com/IJg