Why I Backed App.net And I Hope You Will Too

Lame title, I know, but I wanted to title this very clearly as to what this post is about. As you may well know from talking to me in person, on Twitter, or by reading this site I've been a big advocate over the past year of switching to services that allow you to be the customer and not the product. I came to this decision a year ago when I switched off of Gmail to Fastmail, off of Google Calendar to iCloud, Google Analytics to Mint, Google Reader to Fever to name just a few big ones. I used to be a big advocate and user of Google, but the way the company has been ran over the past 3-4 years has rubbed me the wrong way. I liked Google during the days which they cooperating with Apple and didn't seek to undercut them at every turn.
Turning to Facebook, I was an early user. In college, I signed up when you still had to have an .edu email address to join. It was fun & useful for a few years until Facebook allowed what they call "apps" & then it went to shit. You couldn't log in without being spammed to death with utter crap posts. I began to use it less and less. And then in January 2007 I joined Twitter. Twitter was perfect. The design was clean. The content was simple. I liked the constraint of 140 characters. As time passed, I began to rely on Twitter more and more for everything. As a result of Twitter, I check my RSS reader apps about once a week, now getting most of my daily news through Twitter sources. Many of my local friends are on Twitter and I've met so many wonderful people across the web that I would not have known otherwise because of the service. People that I have great respect for are on Twitter. In short, I really enjoy Twitter. And then came the Dickbar. And the veiled threats against developers to quit making 3rd party Twitter clients. And the design decisions that made Tweetie into an abomination of its former self. And the lack of updates for Twitter for Mac for over a year. These things combined have let me worried about the future of Twitter. The consistent lack of good decision making by the leadership of Twitter leaves me anxious for a Twitter alternative in which users are able to pay the service for access to it so that service can continue to develop the service for the users and not for the advertisers in order to pay for it. And that's the key isn't it? Twitter's bad decisions derive from the need to pay for Twitter. Twitter has taken hundreds of million in venture capital money, and because Twitter is "free", advertisers have to pay Twitter to keep it going. So what is Twitter to do? They must make the advertisers happy. To make more money, they must put more focus on their advertisers needs. Meanwhile the users are the product. That makes me very nervous. I just want to continue to use iPad, iPhone and OS X clients to access the service that I truly love. I do not want to be force fed Twitter's bad UX decisions so that they can monetize their service off of my eyeballs. I've told you all of this in order to explain why I've backed App.net. What is App.net? In short, App.net is a Twitter clone with a classic business model. The users pay a fee (50$ initially) to join the service. Users must pay this fee annually. By doing this, the service is able to pay for itself and focus its development and design resources on the users and not advertisers or what their venture capitalist sugar daddies want them to. Some people have said this idea will fail. Some people have criticized App.net for a few poorly made marketing decisions early on when they first announced their intentions. I've given them a pass on all of these things because I desperately hope they will succeed. If they do not succeed, then who will? If any of this makes sense to you, I suggest you check out join.app.net. App.net is trying to start their initial funding via kickstarter-like campaign. They cannot use Kickstarter because Kickstarter's own terms of service forbid companies from using it to start a new company. So they've setup the equivalent off of their own website. A lot of notable people have gotten on board and contributed their respective $50 as well. App.net already has an early alpha version online for you to take a look at. If you email join@app.net once you've backed the project and ask, they'll go ahead and activate your account which they're doing for people manually. If you back the project and are let in, you can find me there @joel. As of this writing, App.net sits at $325,400 of their $500,000 goal. There are 4 days left to contribute. As of yesterday, it looked as if App.net's campaign would fail miserably short of its goal, sitting at around $245,000 committed. But then, John Gruber posted about this on Daring Fireball yesterday evening. Since then they've picked up over $80,000 since. If this rate of contributions keep up they might just meet their goal by Monday. I hope this succeeds. Update: Less than $60,009 to go! Just over 48 hours to do it.

Is Google Plus's Problem One of Design?

Nick Bilton, at The New York Times' Bits blog:

We skitter around the world with our smartphone cameras, taking pictures of leaves and sugar cubes and sunsets, then applying filters and making even the mundane look beautiful. Clearly, design is becoming increasingly more relevant to people. Google Plus doesn’t seem to understand that. Google’s iPhone app, for example, looks like a sketch that was never finished. And if you think the iPhone isn’t important for a good social network, just ask Instagram, an iPhone-only photo app that has more than 27 million users. That’s a quarter of Google Plus’s users, and Instagram didn’t need the Google homepage to get there.

How Facebook Tracks Users and Non-Users Alike

Ben Brooks, writing on Brooks Review:

Byron Acohido reporting on Facebook tracking cookies:

Facebook thus compiles a running log of all your webpage visits for 90 days, continually deleting entries for the oldest day and adding the newest to this log. If you are logged-on to your Facebook account and surfing the Web, your session cookie conducts this logging. The session cookie additionally records your name, e-mail address, friends and all data associated with your profile to Facebook. If you are logged-off, or if you are a non-member, the browser cookie conducts the logging; it additionally reports a unique alphanumeric identifier, but no personal information. Later Arturo Bejar, Facebook’s engineering director, is quoted as saying: “But we’re not like ad networks at all in our stewardship of the data, in the way we use it, and the way we lay everything out,” Bejar says. “We have a very clear and transparent approach to how we do advertising that I’m very proud of.” So I guess the real question is, do you trust Bejar, and therefore Facebook, in general when they say these things? What about now: Adding fuel to such concerns, Arnold Roosendaal, a doctoral candidate at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and Nik Cubrilovic, an independent Australian researcher, separately documented how Web pages containing Facebook plug-ins carried out tracking more extensive than Facebook publicly admitted to. I just don’t buy anything Facebook is saying these days. Ben has been on a roll with good commentary. I quoted entirely to much of his piece, but did so anyway because I didn't know how quote just one part without leaving out the main point of his piece. Therefore, please please go to his site and subscribe to his RSS.

The State of Twitter Spam

A Running CountAs many people have noticed, over the past year Twitter spam problem has become increasingly bad. [I decided today](https://twitter.com/joelhousman/status/91211190839164928) that I am going to start a running count on Twitter of each and every spam Tweet I get. Starting today.

There seems to be two types of spam tweets: replies and cold tweets.


With this type of Twitter spam, you only get spammed after you've recently tweeted. Send a tweet with many popular marketing-friendly words, such as iPad, iPhone, Apple, Mac, Loan, Money, Job, Bookstore, Cash, Gold, etc and you'll probably get a spam reply back trying to get you to click a link to some type of marketing related spam. This has gotten progressively worse in the past year. I feel this is the most harmful type of Twitter spam because it causes me to self-censor my tweets when talking about certain subjects to avoid getting spammed. I hate that. Twitter really needs to fix this.

Cold Tweets

More recently, within the past 6 months, I've started to get 2-5 of these a day. These "cold tweets" as I've taken to calling them is just an @reply with a link in it. I've never clicked on any of these so I don't really know what is on the other side of any of these links. This type of spam is annoying, but I get these whether I'm actively tweeting or not. My count so far (starting today): 1. What's yours? Tweet it. Yes, I know by my tweeting a number for each spam I receive is spamming, but I want to be active in complaining about this with the goal that if enough people complain, maybe Twitter will take a more active role in fixing the problem. I apologize in advance for the semi-spammy tweets from me counting upwards. Update: @joshtheoak, @macphotog and I discussed and came up with a normalized hashtag for these spam count tweets: #tootsagainstspam

Mr. President: What Twitter Users Asked vs What The Press Asks

Boston.com analyzed the Tweets sent by Twitter users from 2 p.m. on Monday and the transcripts from White House press briefings for the past few weeks and compared them. I think a lot of Twitter users do a better job than the press at asking questions. See the results.

The AppStorm Guide to Google+

Matthew Guay, writing at App Storm:

While Facebook and Twitter have tweaked their design and added new features over time, Google+ includes a beautiful design and an incredible amount of features from day 1. With extra touches such as the Huddles video chat and an option to download your Google+ data, it’s easily a step beyond what we’ve come to expect from social networks. That said, the birrage of features can be overwhelming, and Twitter’s 140 character simplicity seemed refreshing after spending a morning in Google+. Look for a guest appearance by yours truly.

Apple's Social Networking Choices

When Ping was first released last year, very briefly, it was possible to connect your Facebook account to your Ping account to share your Ping activities or find new friends on Ping. This feature was pulled at the eleventh hour due to breakdown in negotiations between Facebook and Apple. Ping launched without support of a major social network to piggyback off of for friend recommendations. Sometime over the past year, and I'm not sure when as I only noticed it recently - which goes to show how often I use Ping, Twitter was added to Ping. Under your Ping account, it is now possible to connect Ping to Twitter to have it share your Ping purchases & likes. Clearly this would not have happened if Apple & Twitter had not formed some sort of relationship and began working together. This brings us to yesterday's announcements where Apple revealed that Twitter will now be deeply integrated into iOS 5. Twitter now sits on the main settings menu alongside items like Mail, Phone and Safari. On the details screen of the Twitter menu, users can log into their Twitter account directly or, if they don't have it, click a button and install Twitter's official Twitter client. That is huge. Apple clearly has doubled down on Twitter. They've integrated Twitter on various send menu's throughout iOS such as in the Camera app or Maps app. Notice they didn't even mention Facebook once during the whole keynote. To me, this sounds a lot like what happened when the original iPhone came out. Apple knew they needed a carrier to launch the iPhone on. They approached Verizon. Negotiations fell through. They turned and found AT&T more receptive and went with their second choice. Apple approached Facebook. Negotiations fell through. They turned to the second biggest social network and found Twitter more receptive and went with their second choice. The only part of the story we don't know yet is, will Facebook come crawling back to Apple in 3 years asking for equal treatment that Twitter got? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not sure this is as an important issue as being able to carry a handset on your mobile network, but the whole situation just seemed oddly coincidental to me. I think if someone with proper sources could ever discover the details behind all of this, it would make for a good story.

Twitter Reveals Photo Sharing Feature

Jack Dorsey, writing on the Twitter Blog:

Millions of people share photos on Twitter every day. We’re going to make that easier than ever. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be releasing a feature to upload a photo and attach it to your Tweet right from Twitter.com. And of course, you’ll soon be able to easily do this from all of our official mobile apps. A special thanks to our partner Photobucket for hosting these photos behind the scenes. Services like yFrog and Twitpic are in trouble. Other services like MLKSHK who provide more value that just a dump for photos might be okay though.