So I am currently using Twitter, Identi.ca and Jaiku (ask for invites if you want them). Of course to get every microblogging site I probably also need accounts on Plurk and Pwonce; at least. In fact in the time I typed all this there are probably another two or three that started up and which I need to get accounts on.
The good news about all this fecundity is that each system actually has some distinctive features and there is a fair amount of innovation and imitation amongst the players. Twitter has pretty much defined the genre but its agonisingly slow progress towards stability has meant that its feature set is actually pretty sparse. It is real bare bones stuff. Only the recent election page gives an indication of what a future Twitter might look like.
Laconica is open source and Identi.ca is clear on the ownership of the material on the site. Collectively they represent the open source solution to microblogging. The service also has the idea of tags that create a new way of reading posts and actually encourage you to connect to people you do not already know. Tags are really Laconica’s special sauce and as people use hashtags anyway I am sure it will not be long before all sites recognise them (particularly as Ping.fm and the like broadcast the same message to all the sites). For the moment though I love tagging stuff in posts and then looking at who else has posts with that tag.
Jaiku is part of the Google umbrella of services and you really notice when the ads appear. It makes you think “How does Twitter get by from week to week?”. Jaiku’s take on microblogging includes two special features, comments and channels. Comments are simply the ability to reply to other’s posts. Ironically the comments have no message limit (unlike the original post) and therefore comments on a post can become more forum post like. It’s interesting because it allows you to expand on the original topic but it also feels like something that defeats the whole purpose of microblogging.
The other problem with Jaiku is that comments do not appear threaded in your personal timeline so your contact’s comments float there with no context and you have to explictly root out what the comment is responding to exactly. This is, officially, rubbish; comment threads should work just like Facebook’s new comment system with threads appearing in your timeline in order and regardless of who you are following.
Jaiku’s channels are also a mixed bag, they again allow you to connect to people who share interests with you but who you don’t yet know. Great, but currently there are simply not enough people on Jaiku, this will change when people can login to the service with their Google ids but until then a lot of channels are filled with RSS feeds which is technically nifty but also spammy and boring. Being able to comment on RSS feeds is only interesting if there is someone else reading your comments.
The other problem is that channels are much more formal than hashtagging. The nice thing about Hash Tags is that you can drop one into your post and see if there is anything else similar. With a channel you have to open and own one and the lack of people means you effectively create a channel with one person and no posts. At least the hashtags guarantee that there is always one post for each tag.
Right, that’s the technical side of things out of the way. One interesting thing about having multiple blogging accounts is the way you can now start to divide your posting. Previously I was probably over-posting to Twitter; I hate people who post their breakfast as much as anyone but it is easy to slip into trivial updates.
Now with multiple accounts I am starting to segregate stuff. Since Twitter was originally about keeping the pulse with the distributed beast that is The ThoughtWorks I am keeping technical/work stuff there. Weird observations about London and more esoteric stuff is going to Identi.ca. Partly because I hope to find new cool people who like esoteric stuff via tagging.
Jaiku has struggled to find a niche in my microblogging ecosystem but I am starting to think that if we take discussion and conversation to be the primary thing Jaiku is about then the logical content is actually contentious stuff and posts about games.
I will be curious to see whether people begin using their accounts in different ways as well or whether they just spam all their accounts with the same stuff via a cross-posting application or website. If they do, then I think Twitter suffers most and Jaiku gains as you effectively gain the ability to annotate and enhance posts in Jaiku in a way that you cannot at the moment in Twitter.