With some wickedly smart and prescient people having invested in Twitter and with Jason Calacanis having quit Facebook (high profile anti-hype is always an interesting sign), I’m going to invest some time in trying to figure out how to maximize the utility of these two applications, particularly for communicating on the web — Fred Wilson’s right that communication is a big part of what the web enables.
Currently, my principal platform for communicating on the web is this blog — I post ideas here and discuss them in the comments, or people respond on their own blogs — sometimes what I post is responding to an idea somebody else posted. Everything else comes and goes through email and IM, although a considerable amount of that is driven by the blog. Of course, Google Reader is the other key piece of my asynchronous web communications, keeping up with what other people post on their blogs.
So I’m going to use this blog as a yardstick to measure the value of Facebook and Twitter. The big obvious difference is the scale of my communication network. When I post on this blog, it goes out to thousands of people. On Facebook I have 41 friends. On Twitter I have 21 follows. So I can talk to thousands of people, or a few dozen.
Well, first of all, it depends on the type of communication. When I post here, it’s not intended as a private, one-to-one communication, as it is in email. It’s one-to-many (publishing, I think they used to call it). Facebook is not intended to be a fully open and public communication medium — it’s one-to-not-so-many. But currently, so much of the communicating I do is fully open and public — that’s how I have expanded my network.
Second, the majority of people listening to me here are anonymous, faceless feed subscribers — until I meet you at a conference or you email me or you comment on the blog or you link to me and I check out your blog — for me, that is the great downside of blogging, and the potentially great upside of social networking.
It’s such an odd experience to have so many people who “know” me through this blog but who I don’t know. Comments make blogs a two-way medium, but the reality is that most people still use it as a one-way medium. But what’s really odd is that, when I write here, I do my best to talk to everyone listening as I would if you were sitting in front of me, but for most of you, I can’t see your faces.
Lastly, I haven’t exactly made a great effort to expand my Facebook and Twitter networks to the point where their utility could start to rival that of this blog.
So let’s try to fix that.
Here’s my Twitter profile: twitter.com/scottkarp
If I can get a “critical mass” of followers on Twitter — I have no idea what that number is or should be, so I’m going to play it by ear — I will start posting there more often. The more followers I get, the more I will post. And if you follow me, I will follow you, so we can actually communicate. I don’t think I’m going to follow 4,000+ people like Jason Calacanis does, because that’s just crazy town, but I’ll do my best.
For Facebook, sure I could spam my contacts list with friends requests, like everyone else has, but instead I’m going to try using this same public invitation approach — it strikes me as a much more interesting experiment.
But to balance out my promiscuity on Twitter — and since, unlike Twitter, I have to approve every Facebook friend request — I’m going to try being just slightly more hard to get on Facebook, so that the notion of “Friend,” fuzzy as it is on Facebook, retains some meaning.
If you’re on Facebook and you and I have ever met, or you’ve comment here, or I’ve commented on your blog, or we have a friend of a friend of a friend, or if I’ll just recognize you from the blogosphere, then please add me as your friend on Facebook.
If you know me but you’re not sure whether I know you, then feel free to email me and introduce yourself before you add me as your friend. Or, if you’re into this whole public communication thing, then feel free to introduce yourself in the comments below.
So this highly scientific experiment in web communication will consist of expanding my Twitter and Facebook networks, trying to use them more, comparing that to blogging, feeding all the data into the UNIVAC, then reporting back here what I find. I already have a few hypotheses that I’m going to test, but I’m going to withhold comment until all of the data is in and processed.
In the meantime, check out Rex Hammock’s meditation on Facebook, telephones, and communication.