Saturday, December 26, 2009

Social Accounts

We all have our own way of using the net and the services available on it. In this post I want to present my own current method of organizing my online activity. This doesn't mean that this post is about promoting yourself on the net. I do not have any problem with those who try to promote their content by networking with similar people and influencing the social networks, but the result that these methods give are the opposite of what I want. I suppose it is a bit surprising for you that I am writing about this practice from a negative point of view. After all, I have my own blog, accounts on some social sites as well as accounts on Digg and StumbleUpon. However, I decided long ago that I have no reason to try and promote my blog or any account I have. The reason for this is rather simple. I just don't have the time to do this or to manage a popular blog. Being in the spotlight is great and all, but it also requires time and concentration. I feel that I rather have a not really popular blog, but I will write about what I find interesting and I will spend only as much time working on my blog as I want to. Because of this I don't ask people to promote my posts, even if they offer it. With this cleared, lets move on to the actual post.

As you all know, there are lots of different sites and services available on the net that require opening an account to use (or at least have extra features for those who opened an account). As a result one can find himself with lots of accounts. Some of them are not even used anymore - but they are still there. Some accounts are even forgotten by those that open them. A few days ago I happened upon someones Google profile. It had links to his other accounts. The problem is that there were so many accounts that I didn't even bother to try and take a look on them. The question is, how many of those accounts are actually being used? Or an even better question - How many accounts can one person make use of?

Having accounts that are not used or used really rare is in no way a problem. I myself have accounts that I no longer use. I think I have about 10-20 such accounts. While I try to keep tabs on them, they tend to multiply almost on their own :). Actually, a few years ago I was rather surprised to find out that I somehow got an Yahoo email account when I am completely sure that I never opened one. It turned out that I got it automatically because of my flickr account.
However, if something is not being used it practically doesn't exist and as such is not a problem. But, unfortunately, some people believe that it is fine to use many low quality accounts in order to get the result that they want. In other words, they open lots of accounts on different social networks and then try to keep all of them active and use them mostly to promote their own content. This obviously end up with duplicated content and overall low quality account on all of the social networks. But, if such a user is active enough he may manage to attract people. Especially others like him. Since I own a blog, I am approached from time to time by such people. They usually ask me to review their posts or to digg them, and offer to do the same in return. As long as the amount of requests is small enough, I do not see this as a problem. While I do not ask people to promote my blog, I do not mind helping them - as long as I have nothing against their content. For example, there is absolutely no way that I will help promote anything about music or poetry. I hate music (I cannot really say why, this is just how it is) and lately I am starting to feel the same about poetry (don't ask why).

What follows is a story of how I came to use the current accounts that I have and what I am using them for. It is in a somewhat chronological order, but I naturally don't remember when I started to use what account. The accounts listed are not all of my accounts, but all the main accounts I have on social networks are mentioned.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly it all started with StumbleUpon. I installed the toolbar when I was looking for interesting extensions to add to Firefox. It proved to be interesting enough, so I started to use if a bit - at first I only used it to stumble on sites. After some time (about a year maybe) I decided to start adding some simple content to my SU blog. As a result people started subscribing to it. When I saw that what I did was interesting to other people I started to increase the amount of staff I posted. I also started to write reviews of other people and at some point even wrote some bits of advice about using StumbleUpon. I cannot say that I made any friends on SU, but it was and is a rather nice experience. Currently I use SU as a photoblog. I post photos that I find on the Internet with a short comment. At first I tried to post other staff as well, but as time went by I decided that what I want is to post photos only. After some time I decided that trying to post 4 good photos per day works best for me.

I got the account after reading posts about how great photobucket is. I wanted to take a look on it, so I got an account. Months later, I noticed that some photos on my SU blog were gone and others were loading slowly. So I decided to start uploading all the photos I post to photobucket and then link them from there. The free account is probably too small for some people, but I usually post only 4 photos per day and they are rather small. Who knows, maybe Photobucket will upgrade the amount of space it gives before I ran out. If not, I will just start storing photos on another site, probably Flickr.

Originally I started using it because of its ability to find all the photos you have on your computer and then present them and organize them rather well. Later I started to use Web Albums to keep an online backup of my photos. The only problem I have is the storage limit. Picasa cannot be used to store all of your photos online, but it gives me the ability to keep backups of photos I found on the net. While some of these photos I also have on my SU blog and therefore on Photobucket, Picasa allows me to keep an organized collection of photos I found on my computer so I use web albums to backup these collections. Eventually, when I will run out of space to use, I will start uploading photos to Flickr, or maybe some other site. It obviously depends on my activity on the net, but I think that I will run out of space next year.

If I remember correctly I got the account because I was bored. Even now I admit that I do not see what is so great about it. The only really good thing is the way it is connected to other sites. For me it means that I for example can post an YouTube video on Facebook with just one click on YouTube. Frankly this is also the only real use I have for this account. I have been trying to think ways to use Facebook to do something that I do not already do using some other site, but the only thing I came up with is to use it to post some random interesting staff I found on the net. However, it appears that Google reader shared staff is doing it better. While it makes some sense to have similar content in Google reader shared items and my Facebook account, I am not really sure if this is what I want. I hope that I will find some permanent use for this account eventually. Maybe I will use it to store photos, they seem to have some fair support for this.

I don't really remember why I opened this account. I think it was because I hoped that having it will help me to stay on top of the current news. If so I probably forgot that since I am not really interested in news I will not use this account unless I have some sort of motivation to go to it. As a result this account was left alone for some time. Eventually I found the correct motivation - all those nice people who ask me to help them promote their sites on Digg. By doing so I visit the main site and as a result I see other popular posts.

Google Reader and FriendFeed
These two sites as well as Facebook can be considered an activity feed. Their main purpose is to show my activity collected from different sites. In other words, it is a mix of updates. These sites work with different services and differ in quality. Somewhat surprisingly, the best one by far is Google Reader. But all three of them have their uses. FriendFeed is totally overloaded because of my StumbleUpon activity and I noticed that it misses some entires I have made on other sites. However it provides the most information out of all three services. Facebook provides an option to put FriendFeed into a tab in your account. This means that all of your activity can be seen from your Facebook. In addition to this it also allows to post links to different pages on the web, somewhat similar to SU. However, the format in which it is done is more fitting for a status update than a blog.
Google Reader is much more like a blog any of the other two. While it allows to post status updates, the format it uses is more suited for longer posts. It also deals well with showing videos that I added to favorites on YouTube. Basically it is an activity feed that doubles as a blog. As I already said it is the best one of the three. However, it lacks visual polish and unlike the other two there is no obvious community around the service.
I really don't know what will happen with activity feeds in the future. It is obvious that they are here to stay, but it seems to me that it is rather possible that I will find it reasonable to have more than one activity feed for a long time.

This account is currently in the making. I have some plans for it, but it is probable that they will change as time goes by. Right now I am considering making it into a collection of math\science related videos. I am not really planning to upload anything at this time (although it is possible), but from what I have seen there is more than enough content on YouTube already - it just waits to be found.

This account I opened so that my really rare edits to Wikipedia will be attributed to me. I doubt that I will ever use it for anything more than this, but time will tell. Right now it is just an about me page with some links to my other profiles.

Google profile
This particular profile is a good example of the recent attempts to provide centralized account and identity on the net. Google is not the only one who is trying to do so, but it will come as no surprise if they will be the ones to actually make it happen. While the profile is rather simple, this is actually a good thing, because it doesn't encourage users to overload it with information. Instead it allows one to focus on main function of this profile - provide a centralized gateway to all your other profiles.
I am not really sure that it would be a good idea to have one profile for all sites, but as long as we can provide different information on any site in addition to what is written in our main profile, the idea itself is something I have been waiting for for a long time. Right now my Google profile is just a description of who I am and what I do with links to my profiles around the net.

As you can see from this list I have a rather small number of accounts. My activity is divided between two blogs - SU and Math Pages. In addition to this I also keep two activity feeds updated - Facebook and Google Reader shared items. All the rest of my accounts are either updated as part of my activity on the mentioned sites or are rarely used, if at all. However, as you probably noticed, sometimes I don't update my blogs and activity feeds for relatively long periods of time. Maybe if I had less of them it would be easier, but I doubt it. Right now my activity is divided rather well between my interests, so if I fail to update it just means that I am to busy or have some other reason that prevents me from updating.

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