Triggering the Social Chain

Illustrating our social dysfunction: a graphic from the website.

Social media is frustrating, but not for the reasons you are probably thinking. It’s frustrating because it’s disconnected. What happens on Facebook doesn’t seamlessly make it to Twitter; conversations on Twitter don’t seamlessly appear as conversations on Facebook. Twitter friends cannot talk to Facebook friends when discussing the same topic. Statusnet and Diaspora attempted to do something about this, but this problem has not been solved. I still feel like social media is more like running from one walled garden to another so you can talk to people. It’s exhausting.

Desktop clients like Gwibber attempt to aggregate all of your social streams in one river. But what happens when you’re using a compute (e.g. an iPad) that ISN’T able to run Gwibber or its equivalent? How do you deal with the fact the Seesmic on Android can talk to any Twitter API-enabled site, while Seesmic for iOS cannot?

The answer is: the web. It’s always been the web, stupid.

I recently went through another exercise to try to trigger broadcasts to my social media sites from a single location. I decided, this time, that it would be a web-based location. I was inspired by the blog post in Ref. [1].

The Center of it All: Friendica

I thought Diaspora would be the future of aggregating social media into a single site. I was wrong. Diaspora has been a crushing disappointment, with the outward appearance of the project being a focus on improving the interface without regard to improving connectivity. I still use it, I still run it, but it’s largely useless.

I accidentally stumbled on Friendica last year [2]. I gave it a whirl. It’s open-source and federated, just like Diaspora. I can run my own Friendica instance and connect to any other, just like Diaspora. What separates Friendica from Diaspora is that it can also talk (TWO-WAY!) to Facebook, one-way to Twitter (for now), one-way to a WordPress blog, via email (the most widely used social network of all), and one-way to Statusnet. It can subscribe not just to contacts on another social site, but to RSS feeds. That means I can import a public RSS feed from Statusnet, or import the RSS feed from the arXiv into my social stream. I don’t need a third-party app; this feature is built right into the “contacts” system of Friendica.

Because Friendica can broadcast to major social platforms and receive from a few of them, real conversations can happen. When I “Like” a Facebook post on Friendica, my “Like” appears in my Facebook stream so my friend sees it. When I comment, that comment  goes out to Facebook. Responses come back to Friendica. Friendica becomes an effective web-based social hub.

It even works on the iPad, though for posting media I recommend using the iCabBrowser instead of Safari.

The Trigger

Inspired by Ref. [1], I have now setup a trigger of events to post a single thing to multiple networks. Friendica can post to WordPress, and I already have a WordPress blog that is intended for content produced for public consumption (you’re reading it right now). Anything on this blog I expect to be polished enough to be available on a search engine or a social media site. Therefore, I am not ashamed to push posts here out to social media.

So if I write something on Friendica and push it to WordPress, then I can safely assume I want it pushed to Statusnet, Diaspora, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. So WordPress is setup to push to Statusnet (via the plugin [3]) and Google+ (via the WPGPlus plugin [4]). My public-facing Statusnet account, @drsekula [5], is setup to push posts to Facebook and Twitter. In a few seconds, this chain can be easily triggered and I can share content with a wide number of social services.


Feedback from Facebook comes right to Friendica. Twitter feedback will go to Statusnet, but right now Friendica doesn’t have two-way conversations with Twitter. That will likely happen, since Statusnet can do it already.


So I achieved something resembling balance with Friendica. I can post from iPad. I can post to all my social sites from WordPress itself, or use Friendica. Both interfaces work on mobile devices like Android tablets and iPads. There are even apps for WordPress for both platforms, although the web interface is just perfect. I can see conversations on Friendica from my Facebook streams.

The icing on the cake is the email connection in Friendica. My parents mistrust Facebook, and refuse to get accounts. I agree with them. However, they mistakenly lump privately run open-source social services, like Friendica, with corporate media like Facebook. But, they trust email (even though more damage has been done by email than by social media services because social media services are walled gardens and email is TOTALLY open). I can easily communicate public content from Friendica to my parents using the email connector.

Friendica is still under development, but it lets me poke holes between the walled gardens and at least start sharing more easily.






One Reply to “Triggering the Social Chain”

  1. Enjoy the interoperability while it lasts! My guess is that Twitter, Facebook, and Google (probably in that order) will block this feature, one by one.

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