Why do I have to repeat myself…?

The other day I was on a quest to connect a blog to Twitter. The idea is simple; Make a blog post, and have it automatically tweeted.

Now, doing this isn’t all that easy. WordPress has a few plugins to choose from, and you should at least choose one that make use of an API, to avoid providing actual Twitter account credentials such as usernames and passwords (because The Internet is a foul and bad place who lives for stealing your credentials).

In order to make use of Twitter’s APIs, you need to apply for an application in Twitter’s developer section. Doing this requires you to answer a number of questions, such as:

  • The core use case, intent, or business purpose for your use of the Twitter APIs
  • If you intend to analyze Tweets, Twitter users, or their content, share details about the analyses you plan to conduct and the methods or techniques
  • If your use involves Tweeting, Retweeting, or liking content, share how you will interact with Twitter users or their content
  • If you’ll display Twitter content off of Twitter, explain how and where Tweets and Twitter content will be displayed to users of your product or service, including whether Tweets and Twitter content will be displayed at row level or aggregated

So, being a good Netizen, I answer these questions. Oh, I should mention these questions are available in a form when you apply for an application. In a textarea. On the Twitter’s website. It says that one should answer these questions as thoroughly as possible, with as many details as possible, or the review may take longer. Ok, sure. So I did that.

A couple of hours pass. An email comes in. And in that email it says that Twitter are happy to see my application, but that it needs additional information about my use case. Here are the questions I should answer as thoroughly as possible:

Hmmm…. Those topics look awfully similar to something I’ve already responded to!

I’m just going to leave with this; Why the hell is anyone, ever asking questions up-front as part of a process, when the exact same questions will have to be answered a second time, even if they were already answered???

I’m not disappointed. I’m annoyed, on the brink of pissed off.

NEXT!

MeWe – “public” posts

As a long time Internet and Google+ user I’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of, let’s call it outreach, when it comes to who can access the content I willingly and openly share.

In Google+ I had the choice of creating, or engaging in, public posts. What that means is that they’re searchable and reachable on The Internet, without requiring an account. Kind of like Twitter posts, if you will.

MeWe doesn’t currently have this feature or concept of it. There’s work being done that’s going to add the concept, but it’s still not going to embrace it in its entirety; they’re going to make it possible to set the status of a post to public, but it’s public within the walls of MeWe.

And here’s where I’m not gel’ing too well with MeWe. We’re essentially, by design and in purpose, creating content and having it kept within the confines of a service, with no way of sharing it to the world from that service, unless someone wanting to access the content has an account.

Some people will say “Use a blog for that!”, or “At least the data isn’t easily harvested and stolen this way!”, etc. But I don’t want to have to do that. Let me control what I want to put out in public. Let me decide that I want everyone to know that I own a bottle cap collection the size of a tanker because one day they’ll be worth all their weight in cryptocurrency the world isn’t flat!

I am using a blog now, but that’s not so much by choice than the force of hand because I don’t find another community having the tools and service provided that I need and want to use. I guess this is how the internet of communities work now; walled off pretty gardens or freely open not-so-pretty ones and tons of blogs in between.

*sigh*

Next!

MeWe – the first week with Android

MeWe. The, in my opinion, closer G+ alternative in general if choosing between this or Diaspora. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better on all counts, just that it mimics more the G+ I’ve grown accustomed to.

When I first signed up to MeWe I was surprised by the lack of content showing up. Granted, I was in the mobile app and not the website, so things might have been different had I gone through the website.

I actually went and checked again on my phone, just to see if there was anything worth noting that would be different from the website. It just so happened that the UI is so different, that I took the time to take screenshots of at least 80% of the onboarding process to have something to compare to! So, you get even more content to read now (yay…?)

Android onboarding and first impressions

This almost became somewhat of a second unboxing experience for me, because I found the first round being slightly confusing, that I had forgotten half of what it was like.

When you fire up the Android MeWe app for the first time you get to choose between creating an account or logging in. I didn’t take a screenshot of that, because you can easily just install the app and launch it to see what it’s like.

Passing that step by having logged in, you’re greeted with the following screen:

Screenshot of MeWe dialog with thinking hand, the phrase "Here's what to do next" and multiple choices of buttons

You get a few options to guide you on your way to happiness, engagement, videogame death, progressing in the app. The topmost one says “Invite your friends”, but since none of my personal, in real life friends, have any clue as to what MeWe is, and the Internet Of Friends are using direct links to their profiles, I’m going for the second option: “Explore Open Groups”. A thing to point out here; When you choose something out of the list of buttons presented to you, this dialogue is forever gone as far as I can tell. So you need to figure out how to get to the other options by yourself from here on.

Exploring groups

The Explore Open Groups button will get you here:

This is pretty straightforward; browse through the list of groups presented and choose one that you fancy. I chose MeWe Favorites because I was curious about what they curated.

A handful of choices show up, I can’t really tell what the criteria is for getting added to this group, but they’re non-controversial, covering dogs, cats, tech and coffee maker talk.

I went for the Awesome gifs group, because 1) it was at the top, and 2) they’re claiming awesome gifs so there’s gotta be something good in there, right? I got nothing to lose. 🙂

What surprised me was the following screen:

I assumed joining would be a similar experience to following something on G+; click a button, and now you’re getting access to content.

However, you get two questions that you should answer, and while I get that they’re younger in cheek, they’re still strange things to ask, if the answers don’t mean anything. Maybe they’re for preventing spam bots or something, I have no clue.

So I just answered “yes” and “no”, because I couldn’t be bothered thinking up anything witty. I guess that makes me not-awesome, but I couldn’t be bothered.

Now, what happened after I replied to the questions was the following:

I will very much assume this isn’t the fault of Awesome gifs team of Awesome, but instead the MeWe UX team’s. Throwing two models at you on top of eachother is just silly. They could have done a something better to improve this strange behaviour. I didn’t dig into the top most one, because I already knew how to navigate within.

So, I dismiss the top one and have the bottom one challenging me with:

It’s not easy getting into (or rather what I’d prefer instead; just following) a group, is it?

I skipped writing anything, even though I was unsure if it was a requirement. Come to think of it, it’s really vague whether or not any of these require an answer or type-in. But it didn’t seem to mind when I just tapped “Next”.

I’m in! And here’s what it looks like!:

Oooof. Seems as if this group have had their fair share of spam/lewdness/non-solicited matchmaking and other things to have to put up two huge warning signs as their first pinned post! Unfortunately, it certainly doesn’t make for an inviting first look into a group.

So, this was a small intro to what joining a group could look like in MeWe’s current incarnation of the Android app.

Exploring the Home tab

There are a couple more tabs at the bottom that could be worth a short mention; the Home tab:

This is where your connected friends’ stuff end up. The more you connect with, the busier this tab will be, showing content and post of what they share.

Exploring the Communities tab

Another one is the Communities tab:

Some of you hawk-eyed people may notice that the “Awesome gifs” group is back! That’s because the “Communities” tab contain the groups you’re a part of. It also holds a list of suggestions for other groups you might want to browse through, or join.

Exploring the Chats tab

And lastly, for this post, there’s the Chats tab:

Chats are areas in which either your connections converse with you directly, or it’s connected to a group, which means messages are shared with multiple people in that same group. Not much to it than that; if you’ve used any kind of messaging/chat app before, this isn’t any news to you.

Wrap-up

First off, the experience in general isn’t a disaster. There are bits and bobs that could do with a bit more work, but it’s not difficult navigation. But it is different compared to Google+. That may not come as a surprise because it isn’t self-proclaimed to be a Google+ competitor or replacement. But it is very much talked about as a replacement from Google+ refugees, and as such there’s got to be something with this that make it so similar.

I agree that there’s an aura of Google+ in MeWe; there are groupings and the app isn’t very different from Google+ in terms of navigation. But there aren’t that many more similarities, and the app is super obnoxious (mostly due to difficult notification settings) in comparison. Here’s a list of procons that I’ve experienced having used MeWe for a week or two:

++

  • There is an app
  • The app feels Google+-familiar
  • Navigating within the app is fairly easy

– –

  • There is no central stream; every tab has its own purpose, which effectively split up the content
  • Notifications and their settings are difficult and confusing to figure out
  • You can’t follow anything; you either connect to another user or join a group
  • You can’t make collections for others to follow; instead you make a group, in which people will have to join to gain access to
  • You can’t preview a group’s content
  • The website and Android app are vastly different in their UX
  • No way to edit posts or comments (this is one of the top most frustrating things)

Having a few more social media options probably won’t hurt

WordPress logo and additional tools (pen, ruler, marker, etc)

Moving away from Google+ is a drag. There’s not really any well made alternatives yet that pick up the functionality and sense of community that defined G+.

So, I’m going to see what an age old technology such as a blog can do for me.

It’s if nothing else owned and run solely by myself, which means I can decide when and what to close down, add or modify.
The biggest challenge is engagement. There are of course features such as comments that can be enabled, but no-one wants to leave the comfort of their walled garden to go somewhere else just to read stuff. Also, so many clickbaits, spam and fradulent behaviours that’s been going on for so long make it hard to trust anyone linking anything these days.

However, it might not matter. This blog could still prove to be a valuable outlet. Maybe even the very thing that will survive the apocalypses that inevitably hit every community at some point.

I’ll be experimenting and typing out my findings.

Next!

Moving from one “social media” community to another – a journey

I started out with the intentions of writing one encompassing post about my currently ongoing search for a Google+ replacement, but very soon realised I needed to split this piece up in a few smaller chunks, because:

  1. Wall of text
  2. I would never finish the post

So, here’s the introduction, and I’ll follow up with a couple more as I write them. Gentlepeople, start your engines;

The beginning of the end (and another beginning… I guess?)

As a result of Google deciding to shut down their 10 year (or so) old ghost town Google+ for the general public (while still keeping it active for enterprises however weird that decision sounds), I’m looking for a new place to dwell/lurk/hide/move my spirit.

There are some reasons why I like Google+ so much:

  • The stream
  • The discussion format
  • Circles
  • Collections
  • Following things

Looking at these criteria, there’s at this point somewhere around 6 “viable” options:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • MeWe
  • Diaspora

Facebook has its moments but it’s heavily leaning towards catching up and keeping in touch with family and friends, and not so much about community and following in which there’s the deeper discussion topics. Their messaging format is also something I just find lacking. Lastly, they’ve had a more than fair share of weird business decisions driving their success, attached with equally weird justification for those decisions.

Twitter is a torrent of shout outs. Forget meaningful discussion. Or being able to edit things. It’s basically an outlet for tidbits of short blurbs aiming to reach as many as possible in as low an effort as possible. It’s ok for following things, but it’s gargantuanly shallow.

Tumblr. It’s like, a blog platform? Where you follow… Other blogs? And most are kind of in the shape of Twitter posts? Well, I’m confused and not gel’ing with it at all. Somehow Medium feels like the big brother to Tumblr, in a much more positive way.

If communication-by-pictures is a way to connect and engage, then I’m sure Instagram is the right choice. But, I’m not that much into photography that I’m feeling drawn to become a contributor to the extent that is required. Snapping an occasional photo with the phone and sharing that to some Facebook friends, doesn’t make an Instagram aficionado.

So, what about the (well) new kids; MeWe and Diaspora? I’m currently looking at that, and would like to describe what I’ve experienced while it’s still fresh in my mind, and what I see as strengths and weaknesses of each.

For the next posts I’m going to describe either MeWe or Diaspora, it’ll be a surprise which one gets published first. (Maybe Diaspora because that’s been a really short trip so far. We’ll see.)

Next!