Mothership Connection

Dylan Tweney, Executive Editor of Venture Beat, runs through recent kerfluffles on our social networks, from their ever changing terms and conditions, to restrictions on how you can access your information, to the whole wall garden-ness of them.

"It’s time," he writes, “to take back our social networks.”

To do so he recommends going back to a platform many have left behind, the blog, and turning it into a mothership of sorts.

[It’s] a bit of a retro suggestion, because blogs have taken a back seat to other forms of expression in the past few years. The RSS feed never engendered the kind of reciprocal sharing and commenting that a well-designed social network does, and as a result, many people have migrated away from blogging.

“I’ve used many social networks. Friendster, Facebook, everything. But they come and go. But my blog has always been my home on the web,” Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, told me last week. ”What’s changed in the past few years is that blogging started to feel a bit more lonely, because it wasn’t connected to these social news feeds.”

Like Mullenweg, those of us who have had blogs for a decade or more have been using them less and less, drawn to the ease of tweeting and the warm, friendly responsiveness of Facebook.

But now it’s possible to circle back to the blog without giving up the social networks. In fact, it’s increasingly easy to use a blog as the center of your social universe.

That’s because, while social networks like Facebook and Twitter are reluctant to share data out, they are eager to bring your data in. (This is why Twitter no longer lets you update your LinkedIn status from Twitter, but you can do the reverse and update your Twitter status from LinkedIn.)

So if they won’t share, fine: Make your own website the source, and share it out to various other networks as a way of staying in touch with your friends there.

In other words, with a few simple hooks, your blog becomes the mothership of your online activity.

For example, Tweney points out that WordPress users can use a part of the Jetpack suite of plugins to push your content to networks like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and LinkedIn. IFTTT is another great resources for managing content flow online.

This is a good start to maintaining control of your content but here are three quick — and related — caveats to think about as you do so:

  • Social networks are social because of our interaction on them. They shouldn’t just be repositories of our publishing exhaust. You have to go to them, and interact on them within the cultural norms that have evolved on them. Or at least use tools that allow you to do so. One I’ve recently started playing with is Engagio. It basically presents your social interactions across platforms in a Gmail-like interface.
  • Yes, we’d like people to come see how shiny and bright our motherships are but that’s not really the point, is it? We’re trying to engage audiences wherever they may be which means it is not just about sending out a link and asking people to leave the space they’re currently in to learn what might be behind that link. Again, remember the social and think of a real life gathering. You wouldn’t approach people at a party and say, Hey, I have something I want to share with you but we have to leave here in order for me to give you the lowdown.
  • Sometimes — perhaps oftentimes — we need to customize and/or prepare our content for different platforms. Take photos, for example. Tumblr has a great way to present them, and allows you to order them in particular ways and with different layouts. Facebook handles photos different. Ditto Flickr and Google. By merely pushing content from the mothership to the social network without paying attention to the nuances of each platform we lose an opportunity to tune that content in the best way for the audiences that will view it on that platform.

Despite the caveats, knowing how to maintain control and “ownership” of your content is important. And it’s not just for us little people.

Last week the Guardian announced that it was killing its Facebook social reader in order to regain control over the user experience people have with its content.

Somewhat Related, Part 01: Anil Dash, The Web We Lost: A look back at how just a few years ago the Web was much more interoperable.

Somewhat Related, Part 02: Bernard Meisler, Why Are Dead People Liking Stuff On Facebook?: Exploring fake likes across Facebook and how/why they might be happening.

(Source: Spotify)

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