Saturday, December 12, 2009

Goodbye Twitter

It's been about eight months since I decided I'd start microblogging. How has it turned out? Actually, you can probably guess from the title that I'm ditching Twitter and just sticking with Identica.

So what's the difference? I started with both of them basically cold, knowing very few people on each. Twitter has the advantage of being a fad right now, so all sorts of people are using it. It's nearly achieved ubiquity; the API is simple enough that you can integrate Twitter support into just about anything. Identica, on the other hand, has some really, really nice features:

* Groups: Twitter has hashtags, where you can tag a notice as being about a particular topic. Groups take that to the next level, and let you subscribe to a topic. Twitterers: imagine being able to follow a hashtag and you'll understand. This makes it tremendously easier to get started with Identica. Instead of having to find interesting people to follow, you can subscribe to a group that interests you, and find the people you'd like to follow as they post interesting stuff to the group. Or, another way they're useful: on Twitter, if you want to ask a question, you have to either address it to somebody you know is knowledgeable (and hope they're around), or ask the world in general, and hope that somebody following you knows the answer. With Identica, you can address the question to a group (or even multiple groups), and get a good answer much more easily.

* XMPP: In all fairness, Identica's XMPP support doesn't always work (it tends to lag during upgrades, for instance), but when it's working, it's a thing of beauty. People sometimes describe Twitter as realtime, but I'm pretty sure that's just because they've lowered their standards; the latency is still measured in minutes even under ideal conditions. Using XMPP on Identica, I can use the site through my existing IM client (pidgin, yaaay), and the latency is measured in seconds. That's getting down to the speed of instant messaging - you can have actual realtime conversations with people on Identica through a chat client! Yeah, it's pretty badass.

* Context: Twitter includes a link on tweets to the tweet you're replying to. That's cute, Twitter! Identica has a similar link on updates, only instead of showing you the update it's replying to, it shows you the entire threaded conversation. Seriously, head over to my profile, and try one of the "in context" links. It's not perfect, since it's not always possible to infer which conversation an update is part of, but it works something like 90% of the time.

If I had to try to put my finger on the biggest difference between Identica and Twitter, it'd be this: Twitter seems to be focused on people, while Identica is focused on conversations. Twitter's social dynamics are interesting in an abstract, six-degrees-case-study sort of way ("how far can we get using just the social graph?"), but it seems to be remarkably resistant to the formation of communities. Conventions like retweets and Follow Fridays help here, but they don't exactly constitute a solution. Instead, they just serve to outline Twitter's real problems.

So farewell, Twitter. It's been fun, but Identica is just more interesting.


Æther said...

Twitter also has a tendency to be down, which I've found annoying despite the fact that I rarely use it to actually post something.

Kiriska said...

Sadface. :(