20 posts categorized "Walled Gardens"

Why does Facebook only let you import ONE blog/RSS feed?

Why does Facebook only let you import ONE feed from a blog or other site? Do they not think that you might have more than one RSS feed you want to import?

Forgetting for a moment Facebook's draconian Terms of Service (which can be summarized quite simply as "ALL your content belongs to us - forever and always." (I wrote about this a year ago or so.)), let's say you do want to import in posts from your blog. This is quite simple (once you can find the Import tab):

facebookimport.jpg

Click on the "Blog/RSS" link, enter in the URL for your feed and... ta da... your blog posts start being imported as Notes into Facebook. Now all your friends who view the world through the lens of Facebook can also see the content you are writing outside of the Facebook walls.

But what if you have more than one RSS feed you want to import?

Oops.

No can do. You get exactly one "Blog/RSS" feed to import.

So what if you are someone like me who writes in a half a dozen different places (also here and here)? Sorry, but you're out of luck.

Your options are really to either: 1) only import one of your various blogs, which is what I have been doing to date; or 2) create an aggregated feed of your blogs and import that.

For #2, you then must go off and create that aggregated feed using Yahoo Pipes, Friendfeed or any of the zillion other services out there. I recently decided to look at this again and immediately thought of my FriendFeed feed at friendfeed.com/danyork since I already use that service to aggregate my online writing.

The problem is that the way I use Friendfeed is as a giant fire hose that aggregates everything I write or publish publicly online. This includes duplicate items such as my twitter and identi.ca feeds (which are usually, but not always, the same). Pointing Facebook to my Friendfeed feed would wind up with all sorts of duplicate material entering Facebook (especially as someday in here I'll sort out the Facebook <-> Twitter infinite loop I've created and get the interconnect happening there again).

Now in Friendfeed you can "hide" certain items from a feed from someone else... but I've not figured out a way in Friendfeed to do that in a feed of your own. So, naturally, my kludgey solution today was to:

  • Create a second Friendfeed account and keep it a private account.
  • Subscribe it only to my main Friendfeed account.
  • Hide the various things in my main feed that I don't want to see (i.e. Twitter, identi.ca)
  • Take the resulting RSS feed from this second Friendfeed account and give that to Facebook to import.

Ta da... blog-only aggregation accomplished in about 5-10 minutes of mouse-clicking.

But what a kludge! (And yes, I could have probably done this even simpler in half a dozen other sites...)

Wouldn't it be so much nicer if Facebook was like Friendfeed and let you import any number of RSS feeds? Take a look at this view of my Friendfeed page:

friendfeedsubs.jpg

All the nice orange RSS icons are for various different feeds I'm importing. Why couldn't Facebook do something like that? It would be great if they would... and probably would result in more content being brought into Facebook (and helping in their continued battle for world domination. :-)

What do you think? What do you do if you have more than one blog or feed you want to import into Facebook? Or do you only have one blog? Or are you avoiding importing anything into Facebook because of their hideous Terms of Service?


If you enjoyed this post, please consider either subscribing to the RSS feed or following me on Twitter or identi.ca.


Technorati Tags: , , ,


There's still time to join the DataPortability.org video conversation/promotion effort!

dataportability.jpgThere's still time to join the DataPortability.org video promotion effort - the deadline has been extended now to March 31st!

Now you may be saying to yourself: "WHAT video promotion?" Well, if you haven't been following the work of the DataPortability.org project, earlier this month they launched a video conversation/promotion effort where they are asking people to record a video answer 5 questions:

  • What does DataPortability mean to you?
  • How do you imagine DataPortability might change the way you use the web?
  • How would you explain the value of DataPortability to Vendors - those that store the data.
  • How would you explain the value of DataPortability to Users - those that create and own the data.
  • Ideally, what would you like to see from the DataPortability Project in the next 12 months? 24 months?

The original deadine was today, February 20th, but, as previously mentioned, it's now been extended to March 31st. People are asked to upload a video to any of the video sharing sites with the tag "dataportabilityandme". Some results on YouTube are visible with the tag "dataportabilityandme" and also "dataportablity". Others are appearing on blip.tv, seesmic and also on private blogs. Here's one that I particularly enjoyed:

What do you want in the way of data portability on the Internet? Why don't you join the conversation?

P.S. And yes, I will be doing so soon...

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,


Don't understand why we NEED "data portability"? Watch this video...

If you don't yet understand why the walls need to come down between social networks, here is this great video from Michael Pick of Smashcut Media (first seen on Particls.Blog):
DataPortability - Connect, Control, Share, Remix from Smashcut Media on Vimeo.

Indeed... this kind of portability is exactly what we need. We need to have control over our own information and network. Join the conversation over at DataPortability.org....

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


May the walls start to come down... Facebook joins with Google and Plaxo in joining Dataportability.org

dataportabilitylogo.pngAs I've written about in the past, I continue to remain concerned that social networks are really just "walled gardens" that are isolated from each other. Late last week, Robert Scoble getting temporarily kicked out of Facebook brought the attention of many of us to "DataPortability.org" and its "dataportability-public" Google Group. Now, today brings word that Facebook, who has usually been a holdout in "open" announcements to date (like OpenSocial) will be joining in to the Dataportability.org project. The news can be found here:

The news is outstanding, really, for those of us who want this kind of data portability. To have basically all the major players working together will be excellent. It would, indeed, be great to have the walls start coming down...

The devil, of course, lies in the details... time will tell whether true actions will emerge out of the DataPortability.org initiative.

Still, it's a great way to start - and I've definitely joined the GoogleGroup mailing list to join in the evolution. Let's see if the walls can shake a bit, eh?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Somewhat reluctantly joining Plaxo's Pulse.... (and some initial thoughts about feeds, grouping contacts and lifestreaming)

image Somewhat reluctantly, I have now joined Plaxo's "Pulse beta".  If you are a Pulse user and I know you, please do add me as a connection.  It's precisely this last sentence that is why I have been reluctant to join Pulse, despite the many raves in the blogosphere of late - I have to rebuild my entire network in yet-another-social-network.

Now, granted, Plaxo makes it easy to find other people through importing various different lists of contacts: GMail, AOL, Yahoo... take your pick.  You can even buy the Premium version (or do the 30-day free trial) and import your LinkedIn contacts.

But I don't really want to go through the aggravation.  I've been a LinkedIn user for now about 5 years and have a nice network there of contacts.  In my daily life these days, it seems that Facebook, Twitter, and my various blogs are the communication tools/sites I use.  Do I really need another one?

Not really... but over time I admit to have become curious enough based on comments from people I know (such as Robert Sanzalone) to break down and open an account.  There's a couple of reasons.  First, with my interest in identity, I'm admittedly a sucker for a major site that allows OpenID use:

image

but that alone is of course no reason to try out the site.  More, I was intrigued by Plaxo's "PulseStream", which seems to be a much more open and useful version of Facebook's "Newsfeed".  With just a single glance at a page, I can see the information from the people I find interesting... what their latest blog posts are, what their tweets are if they use Twitter, new contacts they have made.  All aggregated on one page.  Simple and easy. 

I also do like that Plaxo allows a more granular segregation of "friends" than the other sites.  Right now, with Facebook, for example, people are either "friends" with full access to the site or you can make them a "friend" but give them only access to your "limited profile".  That process though is a bit klunky, in my opinion.  And you have basically one "limited profile" for all your "friends" (if I understand the process clearly).  However, in Plaxo, contacts are divided into three categories: Business, Family and Friends:

image

image Note that you can put a contact into multiple groups, which is nice.  As you work with the site, this segregation has a couple of benefits. On your "Pulse" page, for instance, as shown at right you can choose to only see updates from the appropriate groups (or everyone, or just yourself).  It is also extremely easy to only expose certain information to one of those three categories but not the others. image For instance, in the picture on the left, I am choosing to include my Flickr stream into my "Pulse Stream" and specifying that it is available to the public, but note the various choices that I have.  (I am assuming that if I choose "Nobody" it will only be available to me when I view my Pulse Stream.)

I am sure there will be folks who want more than three groupings.  And there will be undoubtedly some who say "I never use this site with family members, so why can't I remove that group?"    Allowing grouping like this will surely just invite people to say that they want more groups or want to create their own arbitrary groups.  (Which, to a degree, are we then getting back into groups like Facebook has?)

Regardless, it is nice to be able to group contacts accordingly rather than just labeling them all with the overloaded term "friend".

Now, it's intriguing to think that Plaxo's Pulse might be a tool for "lifestreaming". It certainly allows the aggregation of feeds (like Tumblr does)... but it's still a walled garden like Facebook.  In order to see the "Pulse Stream", one has to login to Plaxo Pulse.  Does this make it any better than Facebook's NewsFeed?  Not really.  Now I've heard rumblings that there may be an RSS feed in the works for your PulseStream, which would then let you pull it outside the Pulse Walls and do something useful with it like put it on your blog or in a widget.  We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm there on Pulse, at least for some period of time.  If I do know you, please do feel free to add me as a connection.


Facebook: All your email belongs to us! (Inside of the walled garden... and do your recipients know that the Facebook ToS lets them do anything they want with your email?)

Back in May, when I wrote my "Facebook is a walled garden" post, I wrote this:

We've gone from the closed communities of email services to the complete openness of Internet e-mail and now seem to be returning back to those gated communities, with email/SMS helping keep us aware of updates. 

I was talking at the time how Facebook let you only send messages to those within Facebook.

Well, today Facebook took an interesting step.  As noted as in the Facebook blog, you can now send email to people on the outside who don't have Facebook accounts:

If you're like most people, you may have a few stubborn friends who haven't joined Facebook…yet. This can make reaching friends complicated—there are some friends you can send a Facebook message, and others you have to email. Not anymore. Now, when you're writing messages, you can send the message to people on Facebook, and to people not on Facebook.

Now you can enter a friend's email address into the To: line when you send a message or share an album, and Facebook will email them the message. Your friends will be able to reply without signing up, and they will be able to see content you share with them. Keep in mind that all rules of privacy still apply; some Facebook content that you share (photos, groups, notes, etc.) won't be visible to your friend.

It does work, as you can see in the screenshot below (click for a larger image):

image
Over in my Gmail account, it comes out like this (click for a larger image):

image

The sending email address shown for my Facebook message is: "[email protected]".  I can reply back and the reply winds up in my Facebook inbox.

On the one hand, I applaud Facebook for allowing communication to go out through the walls and come back in.  However, two points:

1. You still can't forward messages from inside Facebook out to external recipients. Perhaps this is part of the whole "privacy" thing, but there are times when it would be great to get something from inside out to someone on the outside; and

2. Do your external recipients realize that anything they send in becomes the property of Facebook?  The Facebook Terms of Service are still dated as of May 24th, and that's well before I posted my note/warning about all your content belonging to Facebook.  Now I'm not sure what Facebook would realistically ever do with all the content... but I think it's fair to be sure that people on the outside realize that whatever they send in becomes the property of Facebook to do with it whatever they want (if they so chose).

 The Facebook blog entry concluded with this:

As we continue to make Facebook more useful for everyone, these changes mean that there's no need to switch between Facebook and email for your daily communication needs.

Translation:  Just use Facebook as your portal for everything.  No need to go out to those pesky Gmail, Hotmail, AOL accounts...

Luke, a Facebook engineer, is never using email again. Ever.

 But, of course, Luke is using email... just email inside of Facebook.  We've gone from walled gardens of email to open standards and then back into walled gardens of email.  Strange world we're in.


Facebook and the giant sucking sound of all your content coming in... and never leaving... forever... (and Facebook can do whatever it wants with it!)

Three vignettes to set the stage for the entry. First, Chris Brogan realizes that Facebook is a walled garden through his Twitter stream:

Facebook messages doesn't have FORWARD??? WTF??? You can't be an email product and not have the BASICS. 09:59 AM July 16, 2007
So, when you're *IN* facebook, using the messaging feature is cool. @Spin and I are having a video conversation and it's so cool! 10:09 AM July 16, 2007
but I just realized, I can't DO anything with the last video, that made me laugh and roar. I wanted to remix it. No download. No embed code. 10:10 AM July 16, 2007
Dan York wrote the article I was going to write tomorrow. Just read his: http://tinyurl.com/27jxxw 01:14 PM July 16, 2007
Sick of Facebook not letting out data. Mr. Zuckerberg : TEAR DOWN YOUR WALLS! 12:59 PM July 17, 2007

Second, a friend  and I are having an IM chat:

<name> says: I looked at your blog and noticed also the facebook entries
<name> says: Do you think that it is a cool stuff?
<name> says: I wasn' t quite sure.
<name> says: Whenever I looked at it I just didn't see anything where I could have said "That's really cool".
Dan York says: Facebook is... well... "interesting".
Dan York says: What intrigues me the most is that there is now a whole class of (typically younger) people who are basically experiencing "the Internet" through the lens of Facebook.
<name> says: That does not make sense to me.
Dan York says: Basically, they don't use "the web", per se, but instead use Facebook and have components of the web brought into them that way.
Dan York says: They are always logged into Facebook.
<name> says: Really?
Dan York says: Instead of email, they use Facebook messages.
<name> says: Why would someone want todo that?
<name> says: That's quite restrictive.

Third, Jeff Pulver makes the declaration in multiple blog entries, such as this one:

Facebook IS the internet portal of 2007. And it is where you will find me.

Let's face it... at the end of the day, Facebook is a "portal play".  If you want to use Facebook as your "lens through which to see the Internet", it has amazing capabilities and possibilities.  There are an incredible number of applications now being developed.  Facebook now reports having over 30 million active users.  They say their search engine is now among the top 20 on the web.

You would be completely and utterly stupid to not think about a "Facebook strategy".  With its growth curve and the sheer amount of content flowing into it, I think you ignore it at your own peril. 

To be honest, I like Facebook. I have an account there which, at this point, I am in pretty much daily.  I've been using "groups" there to see about building stronger communities.  There is now a "network" of employees at my company.  The "Facebook Platform" is quite intriguing and it's fascinating to see the apps that people are developing.

But...

The challenge remains that the walls around Facebook are actually open a bit - but only in one direction - inbound!  Through the "Platform", you can bring into Facebook all sorts of content.  On my Facebook profile page, you can find such things as:

  • Updates I've made through Twitter
  • Blog entries that have been automatically pulled in from an RSS feed
  • My Skype status
  • My latest del.icio.us links
  • My latest Pownce post
  • The status of my SIP phone connected to VoIPUser.org

And much, much, MUCH more... basically at this point I can pull pretty much anything in and display it on my Facebook profile page - and also have it in my "Newsfeed" that I can see and monitor on my home page.

image Ah, but wait, if you aren't a Facebook user, you couldn't see it, could you?  No, you have to login first in order to see any of that content.  Only once inside the Facebook walls can you see it all.  Naturally you could go to any of those services individually and see the information from a standard web browser, but if you want it all aggregated and displayed along with other content, you have to login and become part of the portal.

On one level, I definitely appreciate what Facebook is doing.  They are succeeding as a portal where things like Yahoo!'s personalized pages or Google's iGoogle or <pick your portal play> have not... in part because of the API that let's so many users in, in part because of the "social networking" elements of the site, in part because of the "News Feed" that let's you see what your friends are doing and contributes to the viral flow of information.  There's a really nice aggregation of various social services going on.

But what if I want to make content inside of Facebook visible outside?  As Chris said:

but I just realized, I can't DO anything with the last video, that made me laugh and roar. I wanted to remix it. No download. No embed code.

It can't be shared with anyone who isn't inside of Facebook.  It can't be posted to YouTube or made available as a blog entry.  Outside of widgets to show your status and the one single RSS feed that seems to be available for your friends' status messages, everything else is inside of Facebook.  If someone sends you a great message, you can't forward that outside of Facebook.  You can't share content you create with those on the outside.

It's there... inside Facebook.  In fact, if you take a look at Facebook's Terms of Service, basically anything you create inside of Facebook really belongs to them (down under "User Content Posted on the Site", second paragraph):

When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

Note especially the part in bold.  All your content belongs to us. Irrevocably. Perpetually.  "To use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute... to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works..."  Even after leave, they will have an archive of your content.  Forever.

Translation:  All your content belongs to us.

Now consider this... through the various applications, I'm bringing into Facebook my entries from this blog, my Twitter posts (tweets), my del.icio.us bookmarks.  Potentially videos and pictures.

It would certainly appear from the ToS that I'm giving Facebook a license to do whatever it wants with all of that content.  Forever.

Interesting.

If you are a Facebook user, are you aware that you are giving Facebook that right to all of whatever content you bring in?  (Do you care?  Perhaps not.)

And do you care that in order to really use Facebook to its fullest, everyone with which you communicate really needs to be a Facebook user?

Don't get me wrong.  I have no intention of not using Facebook.  With its incredible growth in terms of users and apps, I do believe you ignore it at your peril.  It may very well be "THE Internet portal of 2007".

But let's realize that that is what it is... a portal... a "lens" through which you can see Internet content and collaborate with friends.  Granted, it's a portal with a really nice platform for bringing in content from the rest of the Internet into its own private garden. But the walls around the garden are quite high... and no one can really play inside that garden unless, they, too, come inside the walls.  (And bring their content with them...)


UPDATE: There is some synchronicity happening on the web today... shortly after posting this article, I noticed two other posts today related to the same theme:


Ken Camp starts a new series of posts on Jaiku and the new client for Nokia S60 phones

(Originally posted over on my Disruptive Telephony blog... but I thought it made sense here as well.)

imageI have not really written about Jaiku here at all... I have been meaning to explore it a bit more, but just haven't had the time.  What limited time I have had lately has been more focused on Twitter, Facebook, Skype and the evolving mashups of all of those.

But Ken Camp has been writing and advocating Jaiku, and is starting a series of posts with his one today: "Unveiling the new Jaiku Client for Nokia - Part 1"  Ken is going to talk more about the new client for Nokia S60 phones.  But this part of his first post is perhaps more revealing:

First, if you aren’t a Jaiku user today, you need to understand that Jaiku is what I call a lifestream aggregator. When you build your profile, you have complete control over what you wish to share of your lifestream of information. For many, that’s simply their Jaikus. Using this approach, a used can share brief snippets of information - current status, pose a question, leave a thought - for others to see.

Digging more deeply into Jaiku, we find you can also import RSS feeds of all flavors into your lifestream. For me, this means if you read my lifestream, you see blog posts from three different blogs, Flickr photos, blip.tv video posts, even Twitter posts. I’ll explain more about why I think this approach is revolutionary and exciting in a post tomorrow or Friday. It’s taken me a while as a Jaiku user to develop an appreciation for just why this is apprach to aggregation is really important. I think it’s positively revolutionary from a social networking perspective.

I agree with Ken that this type of "lifestream aggregation" represents a direction in which social networking is evolving.  The challenge, I think, really comes back to where you do that aggregation.  Jaiku would like to be your aggregator.  So would Twitter (which can bring in RSS feeds through sites like Twitterfeed.com).  And so indeed would Facebook which now includes an RSS application as part of its platform.

So which do you choose?

All are, to varying degrees, walled gardens of some sort.  Ken can't follow my status updates because I primarily use Twitter.  Alec Saunders does most all his updates within Facebook.   We do need to have some kind of common aggregator.   We need to tear down the walls so that we don't wind up in isolated islands of communication.

But in the meantime, if you want to read about how pretty and nice it is inside of the walled garden of Jaiku, head on over to Ken's post to read more.  This is Part 1, with the others to follow soon thereafter, I would expect.


On the need to aggregate status updates, a.k.a. why do I have to update my status and check friends' status in so many #$@%@# places?

Over the weekend, Ross Mayfield posted "Status Contests and Attention Aggregators" which speaks to an issue I myself faced this morning.  As I have been talking about my impending trip to Stockholm for VON Europe/Podcamp Europe for the past while, I felt an obligation to tell folks that I was not going to be there.  So what did I feel I needed to do:

  • post a note at my blog Disruptive Telephony
  • post a note on my blog Blue Box: The VoIP Security Podcast (assuring people that tonight's dinner was still on)
  • post a note on my blog Disruptive Conversations
  • post a Twitter update
  • update my Facebook status
  • change my Skype IM mood message (for a little while, anyway)
  • send out email to various folks with whom I had discussed meeting while there

This actually was a good bit of work.  Now, granted, part of it was self-imposed by virtue of my splitting my blogging out from my single blog (curiously, the only one of my major blogs that I did not feel compelled to update).  I also did not update my other IM services because for most of the people with whom I was corresponding, Skype seems to be their IM client these days.  But let's just collapse this list and also drop out the direct email which is just kind of an obvious item - so here were my updates:

  • blogs
  • Twitter
  • Facebook status
  • IM mood/advisory messages

Still a good number of places to update[1].  And still a pain in the neck that takes a bit of time... perhaps not a lot, but still, a bit of time.  What I really want is a tool that lets me update my status once and then have it automagically posted across all my various "status services" and blogs.  As Ross posts:

Maybe they can work out a way to let you write your status once, publish everywhere, and remove dupes when aggregating.

Or to invert it, I need some way for all of those sites to pull my status from a central location.  Perhaps it's like the widget displayed on this page that pulls my info from my Facebook status... but, of course, that widget isn't integrated into my RSS feed for this blog so those who read by RSS will have no view of that widget and my current status in Facebook.

The challenge goes back in part to my previous discussion of the "walled gardens" of social networking.  Part of why I feel compelled to update my status in different places is because there are different "communities of interest" with whom I communicate in those different areas.  There are some who only read one of my blogs.  There are some who only read my Twitter stream.  There are some who live online inside of Facebook... while others really only pay attention to IM.

There are different audiences within different walled gardens.

I am the same way.  There are some people I only follow in Twitter.  Others only in Facebook.  For a good number, I see their Facebook updates, Twitter updates and their blog updates.  But they don't know that.  If they want to post a message that they want all of their various friends and followers to see, what do they have to do?

Post everywhere, naturally.

Breaching those walls - or at least running communication conduits through the walls - will become increasingly important as people continue to understand the utility of these various different "status services".  I agree with Ross Mayfield that new forms of status aggregators will need to evolved.  The walls must be torn down - or at least eased a bit - because the current situation can't really last long, especially if these services are to move up the curve into mass adoption.  (Either that, or one or two of the biggest sites will win out as the place that people use for status updates.)

[1] And yes, I could throw my MySpace page in there, too, but I don't really use it all that much and so have not attracted people who follow my updates there.


Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and the Return of the Walled Gardens of E-Mail

"Email? I only use that when I have to contact old people!"
      - frequent quote these days from teenagers

When I started using "the Net" back in mid-1980s, the world of "e-mail" was an incredibly fractured place.  There were the big services of CompuServe, GEnie, The Source, The Well... there were the thousands of small BBS's... there were "corporate services" like MCI Mail and IBM PROFS... and there were all sorts of others services in the middle (my particular focus in those days was EcoNet, given my involvement then in environmental activism).  They all shared one thing in common:

They were all walled gardens.

Users on the system could only e-mail other users on the same system.  CompuServe users with their (then) numeric accounts could only talk to other CS users.  GEnie users to GEnie users, MCI Mail to MCI Mail... and so on.

But a funny thing happened along the garden path... the walls started to slowly break down.  UUCP started interconnecting UNIX systems.  FidoNet started linking together BBS systems.  X.400 came out and had corporate interest.  And then along came SMTP, which ultimately became the "one email protocol to rule them all" (paralleling the emergence of TCP/IP and the "Internet" as the dominant network in the midst of all the network walled gardens). 

While the fight against the interconnection continued for quite a long time, especially with some of the largest services continuing to try to go it alone, eventually all the services succumbed to the inevitable and provided SMTP gateways that allowed their members to send messages to everyone else. 

All was good - and everyone could send messages to everyone else.

However... a curious thing seems to be happening more and more on this thing we call the Internet.  Increasingly, our messages are NOT moving over what is traditionally known as "email" but instead are migrating to other services.

You could argue that this started some time ago with the walled gardens of instant messaging.  Users of AIM, Yahoo!Messenger, MSN/WLM, Jabber, Skype, IRC, etc. all can have really nice conversations with each other... but no one else.   As IM has continued to grow in usage and replace "traditional" email (which we could argue about why but I personally think it has a lot to do with "presence", but let's save that for another post another day), we've moved to a different messaging paradigm where we write shorter, quicker messages.  And we've also become quite comfortable with our IM walled gardens.  It's routine for people to run several different IM clients (or use something like GAIM that works with multiple services).  Looking down at my task bar, I count 4 IM clients, and I know there are 3 more on my laptop that I could be running.  Now, the walls of IM are slowly breaking down... there's "federation" now between MSN/WLM and Yahoo.  GoogleTalk can work with Jabber.  Other interconnection services are appearing.

But looking beyond IM, so many conversations now are moving to "social networking services".  The quote I started this article with did not come from any particular place, but it's the kind of thing that I've seen repeated again and again in any interview with teenagers (or even those in their 20s).  The service we know as "email" is today just a "communication mode of last resort" or "least common denominator" to communicate with those too old or clueless. All meaningful communication occurs within the worlds of MySpace, Facebook or any one of a zillion other websites that seem to be popping up on a daily basis. 

And all those sites are chasing each other.  Facebook started out as something of a "college/university version of MySpace"... now it's added "professional" settings like LinkedIn.  LinkedIn has gone the other way in adding "college" features to attract the college/university crowd.   Orkut started out as more of a dating site and then added other fields and settings. MySpace continues adding new features.  Not a day goes by when there isn't some notice about a new service that has been launched.

Even Twitter, which I personally use more as a micro-blogging platform, is used as a messaging platform by many.  And the "status" format of Twitter can be found in Facebook as well as newer services like Jaiku.

What do they all have in common?  Simple:

They are all walled gardens.

Each one is a messaging world unto itself.  Facebook users can only see messages from other Facebook users - and only generally when logged into the site.  Ditto LinkedIn.... Xing... MySpace... and others.  Twitter allows the public viewing of messages, but you can also change it to give only updates to friends.  (To "reply" in Twitter, of course, one would need to be a member... and also be "followed" by the person you are replying to.)  Sites like YouTube and Frappr blur the lines by providing messaging as well.

The result, of course, is that like running multiple IM clients, we all have multiple social networking accounts.

How many do you have?

For me, I can remember at least:  LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Twitter, ecademy...  There's probably a dozen others where I signed up to try it out and then forgot about it.  In each one, I can send and receive messages to and from the other members.  I can post updates and see messages from my "friends".

Interestingly, most all of these sites fall back on that "least common denominator" of good old e-mail to let me know that I have messages waiting for me.  I have to go back to those sites, of course, to read the messages.  Yes, some sites do updates via SMS and some let you subscribe via RSS, but generally you have to go back into the site.

The other intriguing difference is that within those sites, you can generally only see messages from the people you choose to see.  Within Facebook or Twitter, you only see updates from people who you have added as a friend.  Your friends or contacts can send you messages in many services, but others can't until they are your friend.

We've gone from the closed communities of email services to the complete openness of Internet e-mail and now seem to be returning back to those gated communities, with email/SMS helping keep us aware of updates.  Given the amount of spam plaguing email, this may in part a reaction and a desire for purer message flow.

So how do you communicate with others within this space?   Or stay up on what someone is doing?

It's not enough even to follow someone's blog anymore, because they may be posting more updates to their Twitter, Facebook or other account.

Given that email may not be the best way, how do you best reach someone?  Which IM service?  Which social networking site?  Which ones do they use?  Which ones do they monitor the most?

In which walled garden do they spend most of their time?