Whenever someone says “I don’t read RSS”, I actually hear “I don’t read Manton’s blog”. I could give plenty of reasons why they’re missing out by ignoring RSS — it’s still the best way to keep up with bloggers you like who aren’t linked or retweeted often enough to bubble up on Twitter — but some people won’t be convinced.
Over three years ago I stopped posting to Twitter. I know it was the right move on principle because there was a real cost in exposure, with fewer people actively keeping up with what I’ve been working on. As I’ve said before: it wouldn’t mean anything if it didn’t cost me anything.
And yet, many people get their news from Twitter. Since I started microblogging on my own site, I’ve had time to reflect on the role of indie microblogging and cross-posting. I think the IndieWebCamp has it right: publish on your own site, syndicate elsewhere. I wrote more back in July about cross-posting.
Most importantly, as I work on a microblog publishing platform of my own, how can I develop a solid cross-posting feature if I don’t actively use it myself? I’ve recommended IFTTT to beta testers, but only by using it myself can I know where the gaps in functionality are.
So I’ve been experimenting. All of my posts now go out to the Twitter account @manton2. This was an account I created 6 years ago for testing. Except for a few of the first tweets, I’ve cleared out the test content and given it a new life.
It’s worth noting some advantages and disadvantages to this:
- I can write at my domain name and own my content, but have it automatically sent to Twitter for folks who are there. Unlike how I’ve been treating these cross-posts to App.net, I’m not sure whether I will stay engaged and answer replies on Twitter. We’ll see.
- Most of my microblog posts are around 200 characters. These will get truncated on Twitter, with a link back to my site. Full essays get a nicer title and link. I’ll continue to improve this.
- I’m effectively starting over with zero followers, compared to the 5000 followers I left @manton with. I have no plans to resume using my original account, though. Think of the “2” in @manton2 as a reminder that this is a mirror of my posts, and an imperfect one.
You can follow @manton2 on Twitter. Thanks for reading.
As a follow-up on Twitter and links, I want to point to this great post from Rian Van Der Merwe about platform silos as “shortcuts”:
“The point is that publishing on Medium and Twitter and Facebook gives you an immediate shortcut to a huge audience, but of course those companies’ interests are in themselves, not in building your audience, so it’s very easy for them to change things around in a way that totally screws you over (remember Zynga? Yeah, me either).”
My current thinking on Medium is that it’s a shortcut to building an audience for a single post, but doesn’t really help build a true audience. In other words, you will get more exposure, and maybe one of your posts will be lucky enough to be recommended and included in Medium’s daily email, but after someone finds it they aren’t as likely to read your other posts and subscribe to your entire site.
We can’t talk about silos like Twitter and Medium without talking about cross-posting. Noah Read says:
“While it is relatively easy to post to a blog, syndicating that content to Twitter, Facebook, or Medium still requires additional configuration, which many users won’t do. I think it would be in blogging software’s interest to make these POSSE features a standard part of their core product. In order for the open web to not lose ground, ironically they will need to play nicer with closed platforms than they are likely to receive in return.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. For beta users of my new product, I’ve been telling people to use IFTTT to wire up cross-posting to Twitter. But that’s another step that will be confusing to people — an opportunity to lose interest and give up. Cross-posting should be a core feature.
When App.net was first taking off, many microbloggers struggled with how to decide where to post their short-form writing. Should they post some topics to Twitter and others to App.net? Should they cross-post everything to both services? At the time, there was an informal consensus that cross-posting was a cheat. It couldn’t take advantage of each platform’s strengths, and followers might often see the same post twice.
I now believe that cross-posting is a good thing. Photos, as one example, are frequently cross-posted to both Instagram and Facebook. Tweets can be sent to Twitter as well as our own blogs. Many apps like Instagram or Foursquare support and even encourage cross-posting. It’s good for developers because it helps spread knowledge of the publishing app, and it’s good for writers because it means there are multiple copies of our content.
It’s no secret that I’m building a microblog aggregation and publishing service. The goal is for us to get back to our roots with blogging — to write on our own web sites first, not as an afterthought to Twitter. Cross-posting is an important bootstrap for that.
If you don’t have a blog, start one today. It takes minutes to set up, and hardly any more time to wire up automatic tweeting via IFTTT from your RSS feed. Start with cross-posting and see if something interesting evolves from there.