October 23, 2012
★ Social Media Shift: Twitter>>>App.net & Sharing Media via Micro-Blogs again

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It’s so hard to use social media. It’s simple to download the latest app that connects you to the latest hot social network and invite a ton of friends, make a post and attach a photo of your burrito. That is an easy thing to do. Using social media like a diary is not. To make a social media network that allows you to share with the world what you’re doing while you retain ownership of all of your entries and the power to take those entries with you at any time is very hard. Twitter was supposed to be this. They failed and decided to stop serving users and instead serve advertisers. I’ll still syndicate my entries to Twitter but I’ll no longer be a part of Twitter. I don’t see the value in supporting a network that squeezes developers and looks to monetize every last dime out of the eyeballs of a user base that’s very small compared to Facebook. 

This isn’t the feeling that I knew the band before they went Platinum. This is the feeling that I spent a lot of time and faith in Twitter with the assumption that they would do the right thing but they have let me down. 

I had a great conversation with my Dad on Sunday. We discussed the value of a dollar. My family isn’t rich. Dad has basic cable and a flip phone. He’s very frugal and doesn’t splurge on fancy things. Yet, he felt my sentiment when I explained the IKEA conundrum. I spend $200 on an 8″ kitchen knife. I keep it sharp and use it every single day. This knife is remarkable and holds an edge better than any other knife I brought previously. You know, the ones that come in those kits of 12 knives in a plastic block? Yeah, those knives. 

The knife argument I compare to apps. Path, Twitter, Instagram and Gmail never took my money. How was I to complain when they never allowed me to download all of my data or disable ads or if the service was down? I couldn’t. I was using the application on borrowed time and, if the service shut down, there was no refund and the developers didn’t owe me anything. Over the last 3 years, I’ve moved away from free applications. If the application is free, I check the developer’s track record. Does he have other applications? Does that develop actively use Twitter to help users and does the developer actually offer support via email and build in features users ask for? Most importantly, when a new OS update comes out, how fast does that develop re-work their app to work with new iPhones and new OSes? 

Most of the time, free app developers don’t do any of these things. The applications that cost as little as 99 cents do update things. They also respond to me on Twitter and genuinely care that I’m a happy user. The paid model affects my approach as well. If I pay, my use of the tool/network/app, etc will be more focused because I just spend $50 for a year of access. Of course I’m going to use it every day and report bugs and make the most out of it. 

From now on, I’ll pay for quality and, when I don’t get what I paid for, the seller of the product will get an ear-full and will never get my business again. I will only use services that work to serve the customer (who is not the advertiser or investor but the person buying and using the app/service). I will not support tools that don’t “Shut up and take my money” but I will not support tools that don’t continue to support and improve the product for the customer.

Marco Arment has been a very big supporter of this. He has written and echoed many times that there is something fundamentally wrong with developers who don’t allow their customers to pay for the product on day one. If you’re not paying for a service, application or tool, you are not the customer. It’s not always clear who the customer is if it’s not you but, if no money is changing hands, you’re sure as Hell NOT the #1 priority to that developer.

The track record of applications I pay for is remarkable. Looking at my iPhone home screen (discounting apps made by Apple), Every single home screen app costs money except for Foursquare. I wish Foursquare would take my money and offer a CSV dump of all of my checkins. Sigh.

One thing that will be misunderstood is that only rich people pay for apps. I’m not rich. Application purchases are not my biggest expense but I don’t download and purchase applications all day just to try them out. I wait and see if this is something that will work for me. When there’s a price tag, this is even more important but even for the free applications, I take time before diving in. My time is also valuable so setting up an account on a new social network is a waste of time. I spent 6 months on Path before realizing they will never ever let me download my data or take my money. This pissses me off and those memories are lost forever aside from the ones I posted to Twitter via path but Images are on Path’s servers, not mine. Path fooled me and is the last application that will fool me in this regard. It’s not about wasting money, it’s about placing a value on your time and your dollars and then spending both on things you believe will enrich your life from service providers who are in debt to you to continue to support the tool and improve upon it for a reasonable amount of time.

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I’ve been using App.net for a few months. I don’t post to Twitter anymore directly. I use IFTTT to cross-post my App.net content to Twitter. There may be a day when I no longer have those posts go to Twitter. Twitter isn’t installed on my mobile devices anymore. For now, I reply to people on Twitter but I can’t be certain for how long I’ll do this. It’s a lot of extra time. 

I paid $36 a year for App.net. It is Add Free, has an open API, fantastic applications already developing for it and will never sell my data to advertisers. There is also a promise that I will be able to download my data. This is why I’m paying for App.net. I’m paying App.net what I would have paid Twitter years ago. I’m happy to be on a network that allows me to post my diaries to the world and allows me to own those diaries forever. That’s what this is about and it’s why I’m paying for it. 

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A long time ago, I stopped using Twitpic and Mobypicture and other photo services. My great photos went to Flickr and my not-so-great photos and screenshots started going to Tumblr. Both services took my money and provided me with a service. I’ll continue to use these. I stopped posting photos to Twitter in the traditional method of open a new tweet box, take a photo and embed it and post. These were being saved on servers owned by AOL, TwitPic and others and I wasn’t allowed to download them at any time. My memories were being held hostage. I hated this. Therefore, I went through extra steps to post mobile photos to Twitter via the Tumblr application or to Flickr via my Mac and then tweeted out. Extra work but I could preserve control over my content.

Now, there is Cloud App. I paid $45 for 12 months. I can upload photos from any device with special software or via my web browser. Cloud App is also built into my Twitter and App.net publishing applications. The images are stored on Cloudapp with private URLs. These images also are linked to images.adam-jackson.net which is really just a DNS change I made to have a custom URL for my photos being shared. CloudApp supports URL Shortening, video uploads, photos and almost any other file. Finally, if I extend beyond 140 characters, CloudApp is where my followers click to see the full post. 

Because of Cloud App being a service where I own the data, there are no ads and no storage limitations, I am free to finally begin posting my favorite iPhone-photography to micro-blogs without feeling as if I’ve just uploaded the image to a black hole. 

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To most people, these things don’t mean anything. If Instagram goes away, the average user may post one thing to Facebook bitching about Instagram being killed off and then they’ll switch to the next free network with filters. I believe this is an issue inherently wrong with our culture and it goes beyond mobile apps. It’s the issue that everything can be replaced and since you paid little to nothing for it (kitchen knives), you just throw it away and go to whatever is next. 

My time is valuable so I would have a severe case of depression and grief should Twitter go away if I had no backup of my tweets and no portability at all with my thoughts. They would be gone forever and you’d see a very pissed off user. I have all of my Twitter data backed up so I don’t care now and that’s the case with everything I use. Every service I use has a local backup made every 24 hours. I avoid those emotions but I’m tired of hacking backups of these services. I’m ready to treat mobile applications and networks just as I do my kitchen knives. Quality isn’t cheap or free but you truly get what you pay for and that’s my approach going forward. 

I hope this post made sense and explained my weirdness more on how I approach networks and my time usage. You’ll see less of me on Twitter from now on.