Social Media: Lighter Beats Heavier Every Time

Interesting tweet from Stanislav Shalunov regarding SocialThing:

Asking for my passwords makes SocialThing sound like a phisher. Won’t use for now.

His tweet expressed something that I’ve been noticing for some time. I am gravitating more and more to the “lighter” interaction social media apps.

What is “lighter”? It’s the flick of a wrist. Enter text + submit. One-click subscriptions. Here are three comparisons, including the controversial one of aggregator comments versus direct blog comments.

Twitter vs Facebook

Facebook is heavy. To build out your network, you have to:

  • Invite others
  • Request a connection and wait for the response

These processes make a lot of sense for what Facebook is about – true relationships. When your friend invite shows up in the other person’s inbox, what’s their reaction? That’s the key to maintaining the integrity of true relationships there. I have turned down friend requests there from complete strangers. It’s why I’m comfortable blogging about my kids there but less so elsewhere.

And it inhibits using Facebook for me.

Twitter’s model makes social network set-up a breeze. Find someone you’re interested in, click “follow”. Done. But Twitter does support Facebook-like controls:

  • You can block specific individuals
  • You can set your updates to be private, only available to those you approve

Most people just leave their subscriptions wide open on Twitter. Which is great for the user experience. I have made connections on Twitter that I would never have made on Facebook.

The other thing that’s easier – communications. I’m a voyeur a Twitter, jumping in when I want. I just use the @sign to respond to someone, or the occasional direct message . Facebook’s status updates post to the newsfeed and a few are shown on your home page. But those aren’t really conversations. To talk with someone, you use the Facebook message system. Again, that’s really cool – you don’t need to remember email addresses. But it also is heavier.

No surprise Twitter’s been growing like a weed.

FriendFeed vs SocialThing

FriendFeed and SocialThing have a lot in common in that they show the activity streams of friends across different services. But there are key differences, which are well summarized by Mark Krynsky at the Lifestream Blog.

Creating your network: FriendFeed has the lightweight Twitter model. Find someone, subscribe. Done. SocialThing imports the friends you’ve made on each of the services. This is also light. But you can’t add new users directly inside SocialThing. You’ve got to go to the individual service, add the friend and then SocialThing is updated. This is heavier than FriendFeed.

Importing your services: FriendFeed asks for your login ID for a service (Twitter ID, Flickr ID, ID, etc.). enter it. Done. Your updates start flowing. SocialThing wants your ID and password. This enables SocialThing to send updates back down to each service. But as Stanislav expressed above, getting passwords is heavy.

Interaction on the originating services: SocialThing lets you respond to a friend directly back on the originating service, like Twitter. FriendFeed is adding this capability for Twitter, and perhaps others. But if you want to comment directly on the originating service, for the most part you have to leave FriendFeed and go to that service. Socialthing’s support for direct comments is the lighter experience.

It’s still early. But FriendFeed has the edge in the “lightness wins” battle right now.

Friendfeed Comments vs Blog Comments

Man, do I really want to write this? Well, here goes. Comments on FriendFeed are a lot lighter than those on blogs. Which means it’s an easier experience.

Blog comments have these qualities:

  • You want to be pithy in your comment. The blog post addressed a weighty topic, and you want to comment in keeping with that.
  • You enter your name, email and website each time
  • You might encounter a captcha
  • The blogger may hold comments in reserve until they’re reviewed
  • If you mess up, you can’t change your comment

Meanwhile, on FriendFeed, comments have these qualities:

  • You can comment pithily
  • You can write more of a meta-comment about the post
  • You can talk with others via comments
  • You can click ‘Like’ to provide a quick, simple comment about the blog post
  • Comments are easy. Click Comment. Enter text. Click Post. Done.
  • You can edit or delete your comments

This doesn’t mean commenting on blogs isn’t worthwhile or valuable. Reaching out to the writer is an important part of the participatory ethos of blogging. Your comment also breaks the ice on a post, making it easier for others to join in.

But there’s no denying the lightness of comments on FriendFeed. Expect their volume to increase.

I’ll predict that FriendFeed comments are those that bloggers never would have gotten on their blogs in the first place.

So the lightness of FriendFeed comments won’t steal from bloggers’ on-site comments. They’ll add to them. And that’s a good thing for the conversation.

What do you think?


See this item on FriendFeed: