I’m find myself intrigued by how others use the plethora of social media sites that dot the internet landscape. There are the Facebook only users, those that have branched out to Twitter, others that keep an external blog, even fewer who dabble in more than just a few sites, and then there are the elite that strive for that perfect interconnect that unifies their wide scattered online presence. I consider myself in the latter group and as such I feel the urge to share my setup.
Before we dive into the details I’d like to give a conceptual view of my setup. While some might be tempted to take the swiss army approach of trying to accomplish everything in Facebook or a single blog I find this limiting. In the case of Facebook, they have a wide array tools but none of which really stand out. In the case of a blog it quickly becomes obvious that, while possible, it was not meant to consolidate everything. Instead I like using a wide range of simple, single minded tools and then, through extensive use of rss, push and pull the content where it belongs.
Self Generated Content
When it comes to traditional blogging sites they tend to fall into two camps, the ones that focus on community and the ones that focus on the individual blogger. When I’m writing my personal musings and occasional moanings I like the feel of a community as well as a flexible set of privacy settings which is why I have my personal blog on LiveJournal. LiveJournal rose to ascension when I was in undergrad and as such its the platform where most of my friends still remain, as well as where many other people my age tend to reside. Additionally, given its nice set of privacy controls I can decide if the world, my friends, or only my closest confidents can see what I write.
On the other hand, when I started to consider blogging on a more professional level I was instantly drawn to WordPress. In the hosted blog space for individual bloggers the same three names tend to fly around; WordPress, Typepad, and Blogger. I wasn’t looking to pay so that quickly ruled out Typepad. As for WordPress vs Blogger the contrasts are pretty obvious. WordPress spends a lot of time on the fit and finish were as Blogger spends a lot of time on the advanced customization. At the end of the day WordPress’s clean interface and themes won out.
Finally, lets not forget micro-blogging. In keeping with my simple and and focused mentality the clear winner here is Twitter. Pownce has been gobbled up by SixAppart and end of life’d while Jaiku and Plurk both try and be too clever (with added rss stream imports for Jaiku and crazy timeline visualization for Plurk) and lack in a solid desktop client story. Interestingly enough the open source site identi.ca looks really slick but at this point I don’t think I can justify the cost of moving all my friends over to identi.ca and I have no interest in keeping a mirror of my twitter account.
When it comes to photos things actually get a bit trickier. For a long time I was a pro user at Flickr which I found fantastic as an amateur photographer. As one would expect, the social aspect is top notch, and since it has an overwhelming mind share I have been solicited on it a number of times by people wanting to use my photos which is quite nice. However, as I became more serious about my photography I realized I needed something more serious for my photos. It was at that point that I made the switch to SmugMug. At the time it was the only serious option for professional photographers short of rolling their own solution. Additionally its multi-tiered membership levels gave me room for growth as a photographer.
At the same time, I recognized the importance of setting up a photography blog to promote my photography beyond just posting them online. There are a handful of photoblog sites but they all work under the paradigm of uploading photos which gets annoying quick, they really need to work on SmugMug and Flickr integration. Instead, I prefer simply linking to them from my SmugMug account. Additionally, I couldn’t find one that can hang off my own domain. So, even though a few of them are pretty slick looking I was drawn back to my blog stand by, WordPress.
With my professional pictures safely on SmugMug I was left with the issue of where to put my random snapshots of friends and events. I could have continued to use my Flickr account but I have serious issues with Yahoo!’s ridiculous username/account name clusterfu*k whereby I end up with a different Yahoo! name from my Flickr name from my Flickr url, its abysmal for someone who likes to have a unified web presence. The solution was to go where the people are. For photos of friends I end putting them in Facebook. For photos of family I usually put them on Picasa. However, more and more my family members are finding their was to Facebook so Picasa might be on its way out of my toolbox.
Sharing Others Content
The flip side of all this content generation is sharing other’s content. There are many options in this space with a plethora of sites all jockeying for a share of the social-bookmarking space. However, I find the social-bookmarking paradigm a poor fit for sharing of user content since here is no easy way of sharing the actual content, just links to it. Google Reader, has a nice solution in this space where you can share items in your feeds and they end up on a public share page. However, this requires that the content you want to share be in a feed to begin with and the public pages are not the prettiest things to look at. In my opinion the stand out winner in this space is Tumblr. Using a simple bookmarklet I can post pictures, text, videos or links from any site to a nicely styled and easily configurable site that works for both the rss junkie and the casual web browsing friend. They also play nicely with using custom domains.
The last piece of this puzzle is social networking. At this point its damn near impossible not to be on Facebook, and of course I am, but thats not the only social networking site either. LinkedIn, is quickly becoming the social network of repute for the business world and the place to go for both job hunters and head hunters. Finally, there is Twitter. While it doesn’t try to be the center of your personal or professional universe like Facebook and LinkedIn it is still the go to place for connecting and communicating with friends and acquaintances, personal and professional alike. Its an invaluable, on going conversation.
So thats the survey of applications I use, but now comes the fun part, consolidation. I tend to group my generated and shared content loosely into two groups, personal and professional, which heavily influences where I pool my content.
For me my personal hub is Facebook and as such its the consolidation point for all of my personal content sharing and generation. I use the Tumblelog facebook app to bring in my personal Tumblr, the default notes app to bring in my personal blog, and the Picasa Tab app to bring in my Picasa photos. Additionally, I use the Twitter app to bring in my Twitter messages as status updates.
The professional piece took me a bit longer to figure out. It wasn’t until I finally purchased my own domain (bdarfler.com) that things really came together. As I alluded to before, I have my two wordpress blogs hanging off this domain as well as my SmugMug account, but how was I going to consolidate these as well as the professional content that I share? This is where Tumblr really shines, that domain is actually just a Tumblr page, and nothing more. Moreover, Tumblr can auto post content from any arbitrary rss feed, which allows my to consolidate content from my blog and photoblog as with the content that I post manually. The added benefit of all this is getting one rss feed for everything I do professionally online which I can then pull into LinkedIn using the BlogLink app.
So there you have it, the eventual evolution of my online presence. I’m sure things will continue to fluctuate but at this point I’m fairly satisfied with the whole situation. If I get ambitious again I’ll write a post exposing more of the details of my setup over at bdarfler.com. Its pretty interesting what you can do without actually hosting a single file and the Tumblr hacks I have are quite cool as well. If you have any feedback, ideas, suggestions, etc. I would love to hear them below.