Getting on the microblogging bandwagon

I’m usually a luddite when it comes to the latest Internet fads. I technically did not start blogging until 2003. I didn’t create a Flickr account or a Facebook account until 2006. I never bothered with MySpace. I turned into my OpenID in 2008. Given those things, I still hate YouTube (and all web video in general), and have yet to create a podcast or upload a video. I usually don’t think lolcats are funny, either.

Joining in the past year’s latest fad, I’ve started microblogging. Also known as “twittering,” microblogging revolves around the publication of little 140-character notes. The idea is that you share via these little notes news, thoughts, ideas, or whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. These notes are also known as “twits,” “dents,” etc.

Believe it or not, you’ve probably been doing a form of microblogging for a while. If you use an IM service and set “Away” messages, you’re microblogging. If you set your status on Facebook or LinkedIn, you’re microblogging as well. The currently accepted notion of microblogging is, started by the start-up company Twitter, a little different. Instead of messages being available to a select group of friends, your messages are global. Anyone in the world can read and respond to what you’re doing (that if, of course, if you have something interesting to say). Microblogging, Twitter-style, could be considered a type of global instant messaging.

Twitter, however, is a closed service. Your posts, lists of friends, etc live in a silo owned and controlled by them, and it’s difficult to extract data from that silo. They dictate how and when you’ll use their service, most evidenced by the frequent downtimes (it’s been so bad they’ve started a new meme, “the fail whale”). They’re also, unfortunately, a company out to make out to profit, and at this point, it’s not clear how they will do that—what if they disappear tomorrow?

Because of these and many other reasons, I’ve eschewed using Twitter and gone with instead. In it’s most simple description, it is an open-source Twitter clone, oriented around a new openly-developed standard for microblogging. You can download the software that runs (called Laconica) and run it yourself. Your data is also available in open formats: you can easily take your posts and friends lists with you. Best of all, you can still interact with other open microblogging sites in a large, distributed network, hopefully making reliability problems things of the past.

I’ve been microblogging since the beginning of the year. Most of my entries are about the same topics as this blog—Linux, open-source software, etc. I notice that I also tend to write a lot of things about New York City. If you care about any of these things, please subscribe to me on If you use Twitter, you can look read my cross-postings on my Twitter account too.


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