Get it All

I can say with certainty that I’m not alone on this: my inbox has slowly, almost imperceptibly, switched from my primary source of communication to my least-used spam trap. Not even my parents generation is necessarily using email for much these days. Without realizing it, I’ve allowed my FaceBook account to be the de-facto means of communication in my life for all but the most specific of topics and recipients.

But this makes things very difficult, doesn’t it? For one, my entire communication circle is entirely under the banner of one company who can do whatever they like with it. That includes just plain screwing it up and making the service unavailable through some inadvertent “whoopsie.” Another problem is that I have really no means of auditing this type of communication: FaceBook keeps its own logs of wall posts, messages, comments and status updates to itself and I cannot backup my posts to my own private store. This is not the height of concern for those “I just ate bacon and it was good,” kind of status updates, but what about communication from really important sources?

Because, believe me, this type of communication can only grow more common and robust. We have a danger, in embracing the up-to-the-minute web, of losing what happened five minutes ago.

Alternative solutions which mimic the FaceBook system are being developed, of course. I suspect they’re being developed in one form or another just about everywhere. My company is looking to integrate such a system into an eCommerce website. Google Labs is developing Google Wave. Mozilla is looking to hit it big with Rain Drop. Such experiments and projects are inevitable whenever the meme of Internet communication changes in some way. I’m certainly starting to work new projects around the idea of FaceBook Connect logins as a gotta-have component; meanwhile, everything I build has at least some air of “Social Web” communication to it.

I’m not sure that any of these really hit the mark, though. Rain Drop, as it has been explained thus far, sounds like something akin to a Tweetdeck/ hybrid. Google Wave looks interesting, but even with as much as communication has changed, I think it might be just a bridge too far for the majority of Internet users; the interface as it current exists is just too wonkish and geek-centric. Individual sites – both eCommerce sites like my company and service-based projects like I’m working on in my spare time – will inevitably include some very personal means of communication, but they hardly hope to replace email.

And the most distressing thing of all is that the one component lacking in these various systems is an open source protocol on which to build. What has to this point made email such a great option was largely the fact that the underlying system is an open protocol which can be and was adopted by myriad companies in their own ways. But an AOL user was never prevented from sharing information with a Juno user or a Hotmail user. As much as the good systems now include APIs to spread their influence, they don’t include open standards which allow free sharing across the networks.

Does anyone with influence step in to say something about this? Or have we sufficiently commercialized the Internet to the point where its foundations no longer matter? Open forum communication and status updates are a great feature of the modern Internet, but it will be a dark day when the primary means of communication becomes mired in proprietary warfare.

I’ve been struggling for the last couple weeks with a new plan to garner more exposure for my website and for the things that I do in the web design realm. Well, after much consternation and perspiration, I’ve achieved what I sought out.

Of course, we all know that working the social networking channels is fast becoming the way to professional success, regardless what your professional goals may be. It’s almost unheard of for someone not to have their own blog, profile, Twitter account and goodness knows what else. Getting those services to talk to one another is not as obvious, however.

In my case, I really want to be able to post articles on my various blogs and have them appear as status updates to my LinkedIn account. That way, when I’m active on my site, I’m active on LinkedIn, thus my status should be bumped to the top of my connection’s update roles.

My solution – which I’ve actually been using on my political blog for some time – is Ping.FM. Ping.FM takes the trivial update services of many major social network services and allows you to combine your updates in one location. Update your Ping.FM status and it cascades through your various networks.

Meanwhile, WPing.FM is a plugin for WordPress that allows you to update your Ping.FM status under a number of conditions on your blog, such as saving a draft of a post, publishing or updating that post. I’ve installed this plugin on the blogs I most want to be seen on LinkedIn. And after much consternation, I’ve discovered that it does indeed work, just with a wicked lag I can’t figure out.

I’ve checked my error logs and this doesn’t appear to be a problem on my site. I’m guessing that some of the services I’ve chosen to ping are relatively slow in responding. Ping.FM points out that until all services have responded, the ping is not considered complete.

So, maybe I need to trim my list of services to just LinkedIn, Twitter and But either way, this is going to be a huge improvement to my professional online persona which I recommend to all of you out there who are looking for a way to boost your profile. has a great article in it about the problems associated with what are the most popular social networking sites out there, Facebook and MySpace:

Slap in the Facebook: It’s Time for Social Networks to Open Up

Social networks like Facebook and MySpace are taking the web by storm because they make it easy to manage your personal data and keep in touch with people you know. But to get value out, you have to put something in — photos, contacts, appointments, lists of your interests and your blog musings.

Therein lies the rub. When entering data into Facebook, you’re sending it on a one-way trip. Want to show somebody a video or a picture you posted to your profile? Unless they also have an account, they can’t see it. Your pictures, videos and everything else is stranded in a walled garden, cut off from the rest of the web.

I use both services to promote my main website.  This is largely out of necessity, inasmuch as both services provide quick and easy ways to reach people in my target audience (young, liberal and living in Rochester, NY).  But the one-way communication that they present is only part of the problem.

With MySpace, it seems relatively inexperienced and unprepared techs put the site together without planning for the future.  When MySpace bloomed out of control, they started shutting down the ability to incorporate your own stuff because they can’t seem to control all the spam.  Rather than deal with spam directly, they restrict user’s ability to embed Flash, JavaScript or even a large swath of HTML into their own spaces.  Despite having made a play for musicians, comedians and politicians all to spend their time on MySpace and get the message out, MySpace’s engineers have done nothing whatsoever to help people using those services effectively manage their “friends.”

I mean, what is the point of inviting your entire 1000-person friends list to a concert in Buffalo if only twenty people on your list live in the Buffalo area?

My current experiments in WordPress MU land are directed at creating something social like MySpace, only social enough that you can do what you like with it.  I’m creating a site to allow users to blog on issues concerning Rochester, NY, each on their own private blogs, and then give them the option to rate other people’s blog articles to allow the most popular content to reach the top of the front page.  I’m also working on having “featured bloggers,” those being people of interest in the various content areas of the site that get their stuff featured throughout.

Many of the experiments happening on this site happen for the sake of the other.  Hopefully, if all goes well, people in Rochester will have something worth talking about and a model to be emulated elsewhere.

I’m wondering what XFN plugins are available for WordPress and what they do.  Perhaps with a little bit of thought, I might come up with one of my own. . . .

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