For no particular reason other than I think it would be interesting to do so, here’s a current ranking of where I do my social thing online and why:
1. Whatever: I mean, this should be fairly obvious; this blog is the largest repository of Scalzi Being Scalzi anywhere online. I think there’s a general belief that the Blog Moment has passed, and to be entirely honest I think that’s probably accurate; as I’ve said before, for most people the thing that blogs did for them — kept them connected with friends online in a casual and fun fashion — is better and more efficiently done by the Facebooks, Twitters and Google+s of the world. But Whatever isn’t just a place where I tell select friends about what’s going on with my family and pets; it’s where a large portion of my existence as a public figure is generated. For my own purposes, I want to be the one in control of the presence, and not have Mark Zuckerberg or Sergey Brin and Larry Page mediate it or be arbitrarily changing the manner in which I am online, or telling me the maximum number of people with whom I can connect. Also, to be blunt about it, the person I want to see the most benefit from the eyeballs on the site is me. Mark and Sergey and Larry are doing well enough as it is.
The site has also been around long enough that it has its own community of people, evident in the comments section, where there is (as the masthead of Mad magazine would put it) “the usual gang of idiots” who talk amongst each other on a usual basis. The composition of that gang changes slowly over the years — people come and go, depending on their own interests, time commitments and whether I’ve pissed them off sufficiently that they decide to stop talking to me and others — but overall there’s a day-to-day consistency which for me as the proprietor is both nice and useful. Nice because a gang of regulars means we’ve gotten out sitcom-like timing down, useful because by and large everyone understands the community standards and are willing and able to impart the knowledge to newcomers. It’s why Whatever gets noted elsewhere online as a place where people actually have conversations about contentious topics, rather than just yelling past each other as they bellow cue card talking points out into the cloud. It makes my job as Malleteer much easier.
As I’ve also noted before, maintaining the site turns out to be a lot of work, and there are days when a) I don’t feel clever and/or b) don’t want to post about some contentious topic because then, community standards to not it still means I will have to babysit a comment thread and/or c) I’m just tired and don’t want to do anything here. Running a site that gets as many visitors as this site does turns out to be an actual job, whether it was originally meant to be or not. But what I get in return is usually worth it. So this remains the place I am most online, and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future.
2. Twitter: I really like Twitter now but I didn’t really get it when I first started using it, which I chalk up to blog tunnel vision, i.e., “if I want to post something short, I can just do it on my blog.” But the fact is I hardly ever post anything that short on my blog, other than to say something like “I’m not here today; see you tomorrow.” So it actually addresses an entirely different way for me to be online. It also, by and large, addresses a different audience; there are people who read Whatever who also subscribe to my Twitter feed, but my own anecdotal experience of it is that there are a large number of people who read the Twitter feed only and either don’t know about or have no interest in the blog. My feeling about this is: All right, read me however you like.
I do try to avoid having too much replication between what I blog and what I tweet, a philosophy that manifests primarily in two different ways. One, I don’t announce everything I blog in a tweet; I do it occasionally, usually for book-related things or for polls or entries I think my Twitter followers will find amusing, but by and large I don’t use the Twitter account as blog advertisement (I do, however, keep an entirely separate Twitter account for people who would like that). Two, I by intention keep my Twitter feed light and amusing, partly because I see it less as a “personal” and more of a “performance” space, which is to say I think people are there to read “John Scalzi, author,” rather than “John Scalzi, guy who blogs about what he wants,” and partly because for me at least, 140 characters really isn’t near enough to convey thoughts of any complexity on substantive topics. That’s really what the blog is for. Likewise, unlike on Whatever, I try not argue with people; the few Twitterspats I’ve had were enough to convince me that 140 characters also isn’t enough space to get into it with someone. Arguing by haiku is a specialized skill and I’m not entirely sure I have it, or alternately, want to develop it.
Because it’s complementary to what I do on Whatever, and because it’s also fun, I’ve pretty much integrated my use of Twitter with what I do on the blog, and consider it a reasonable substitute way of keeping contact with folks when I’m traveling or otherwise away from Whatever. It’s one reason why I keep a feed of Twitter updates on the site itself.
3. Google+: This particular social network has been around, what? Less than a month? But even so it very rapidly became my preferred non-Twitter social network because of its esthetic, its functionality, and because (at least for now) it doesn’t do all the annoying things that Facebook does. Google+ is definitely getting some mileage out of the fact that it’s not Facebook, but, hey, you go with what works, and it’s Facebook’s fault that its product is go aggressively mediocre that Google could come along, do what it does slightly less obnoxiously, and have people fall over themselves rushing to get to it.
I have friends who have philosophical and practical objections to Google+’s “no pseudonyms” policy, which I can understand, and I’d agree that Google has done a poor job of justifying and executing on that policy — wiping out someone’s entire Google presence because they use an alternate name that they’ve used online for so long that it’s become part of their actual identity is very n00bish of Google, and you’d think someone in that nest of nerds would know better. But it’s not been enough for me to part ways with the service.
For me, functionally speaking, Google+ slots in between Whatever and Twitter, and I use it mostly for casual socializing with friends and fans. As with Twitter I’m not generally going to use it to post deep thoughts about politics or social issues, although I find I discuss a little bit about writing and technology there. Seems appropriate, being a Google product.
4. Facebook: I’ve detailed my kvetches about Facebook before, so there’s no need to go over them again. I recently switched my account there to a page, which has been positive in that now all the folks who wanted me to friend them there can just click the “Like” button and it accomplishes the same thing, but has been negative in that now I have actual friends over there with whom it’s become marginally more difficult to stay in direct contact with — if they want to send me a personal message, they’ll have to send an actual e-mail, not a Facebook message, etc. Enough of my friends are on Facebook that it’s worth it to be engaged there, but it’s a distant fourth compared to the top three.
5. Everything else: Because there’s only so much time in the day. I have accounts at LinkedIn, Goodreads and other places but aside from occasionally updating my profiles there to stay current and (usually belatedly) answering mail from their proprietary systems I don’t do much. It’s why each of my profiles on places there I usually note that if people really want to talk to me, they should visit this blog and/or send me actual e-mail.
Which, really, is always good advice: Hi, this is where I usually hang out online. Nice to see you.