My Online Social Profile, 2011

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.

31 thoughts on “My Online Social Profile, 2011

  1. Me wants Google+. Though I too find their nom-du-keyboard policy numbskullish. I mean, I’ve been Bearpaw in various online contexts for, um … [counts on fingers, runs out, decides not to remove shoes] … many years. To whatever very modest extent I’m known online, it’s as Bearpaw, not as whatev happens to be on my long-form birth certificate.

  2. I like Google+ as well. Between it and Twitter I’m pretty well set online. I have a blog bu it’s not as dedicated as this one and it’s something I try to keep casual.

  3. I am incredibly lukewarm about G+, because I don’t have the time (or, more practically speaking, the inclination to make the time) to tune it to my interests, and so it just kind of sits there and accumulates annoying strangers who are circling me for no real purpose.

    Twitter, by dint of being unfettered by the day job, has sort of assumed an IM-like quality for me, in addition to providing a convenient way to see what more distant acquaintances (that is, people of more remote acquaintance, like our host) are up to.

    I should post to my “real” blog more often, whether that’s LiveJournal or my wordpress page or what have you.

  4. John, when you posted about your new Facebook fan site, I asked whether I should bother following you there. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. I expected a simple answer: “yes,” “no,” or “if you feel like cluttering your FB stream”. Instead, we get a well-written, 1400 word answer with details and everything. Awesome.

    And for what it’s worth, I totally agree with you on the pros and cons of FB and G+. I don’t post much to my own blog so I can’t comment on that one. Although, I did post my Unicorn Pegasus Kitten story there and several Whatever viewers actually read that post (or at least went to it once).

  5. John, I first knew you as an author as a recommend from a friend on slashdot. I posted about re-reading Starship Troopers and he said if I liked that I’d probably like The Forever War and, of course, Old Man’s War. He was correct on both counts, but for the most part you were just a gifted author to me.

    Then came twitter and I started following you and found, lo and behold, your humble denizen here. In fact, as times have changed and the community sthat grew on slashdot has slowly scattered to the winds, I find I actually come here now more than there. The conversation is more interesting and I enjoy your humor and mindful stances on things controversial.

    Long story short, glad you’re here!

  6. I’d be interested in how much time you spend on email. I am not a public figure with a huge number of friends, and I still spend a lot of time on email. We could debate whether email counts as “where I do my social thing online” the same way we debate whether Star Wars is fantasy or science fiction, but either way I bet you spend a lot of time online doing it.

  7. #1 Bearpaw,

    I have a friend who had a similar issue with his user name. Google+ initially banned him, but after some email back and force they let him continue to use his online handle. I’d go ahead and email them, especially if you’ve built up an online presence int hat name.

  8. Matthew in Austin:

    I spend rather less time in e-mail now than I did even a couple of years ago. A lot of that has transferred over to Twitter and Google+.

  9. Add me to the list of people far better known on the Interwebs by my handle rather than my name. Haven’t even tried to get on G+.

  10. That isn’t what I expected to hear. I am going to guess it is because fan correspondence often doesn’t need to be private and is often repetitive, so putting it out on Twitter/Google+/Blog comments not only takes the place of emails, but reduces future correspondence by giving other fans a chance to see what the answer would be to a question before they ask it.

    I’ll give that a try. I’ll tweet “Just told me daughter I’m out of cash for the month, don’t ask” and see if that keeps my son from asking too. #notreallygoingtodothat

  11. I can so imagine you as a costumed superhero called “The Malleteer”… Sort of Thor-like, but wittier and with less hair.

  12. @12 K.W Ramsey : Better that than the alternative “Prepare to taste my Mallet”

    Could be confusing… just sayin’

  13. As someone who follows you on multiple services, I really notice and appreciate that you don’t repost from one to another. My heart grew very sad when I noted some of my G+ friends talking about how they might be able to repost from twitter and facebook. It’s very tiresome to open up facebook and have to wade through a hundred messages reposted from Twitter that I ALREADY SAW. Yes, there are ways to suppress reposts, but why should I have to do that work? Also, some people mix fresh content and reposts, making it impossible for me to eliminate or manage the duplicates. And from where I’m sitting, it’s not really that hard to post what you need to each site.

  14. D. Paul Angel @ 7:

    So I’ve heard, but given that I wasn’t one of the first-blessed it’s a moot point right now. I’m hoping they’ll change their policy for the full roll-out.

    (Ideally, Google+ could handle the fact that I’m known by different names in different circles or — failing that — be OK with me having multiple accounts. Maybe the latter is already true, it’s not clear to me.)

  15. I’m fascinated by this idea that blogs are passe, and have been replaced with Twitter and FB/G+. More specifically, you stated that you largely agree with this premise, then go on to detail exactly why it’s completely wrong (IMO): blogs work for longer thoughts/essays/screeds, while Twitter and social sites do not.

    I read Whatever (and several other blogs) daily, but I have no interest in Twitter, because I want thoughtful articles in long form, and the commentary that comes with them in a comment thread. Twitter doesn’t do that at all, and FB does it poorly. I’m not sure why anybody would think that either of these is a suitable replacement for the blog, unless they’re trying to say that long-form, thoughtful articles are themselves passe- I hope not. Perish the thought.

  16. The Other Keith @ 16:
    … unless they’re trying to say that long-form, thoughtful articles are themselves passe- I hope not. Perish the thought.

    So to speak.

  17. Nice because a gang of regulars means we’ve gotten out sitcom-like timing down…

    Will you be commissioning Paul and Storm to write a theme song? Something like “Where everybody knows your screen name”?

    No, I doubt you’d stoop that low.

  18. John, I LOVE the way you use Twitter. Maybe because it’s the same way I use it. :)

    Honestly, I tend not to follow authors on Twitter who fill their timeline with *nothing but* book promos. A couple here and there, I understand, but I don’t need a stream of advertisements all day long.

  19. The funny thing being that your posts on Google+ have highlighted a major functionality problem there for me, John. Not your fault, of course, but hopefully they’ll implement something to address the issue. I did post a feature request…just wish they didn’t make it seem like you were posting a bug.

  20. I’m curious as to how you decided on a niche for your twitter posts. I have a twitter account, but I still can’t figure out what to do with it, other than posting my daily blog posts. It seems like a lot of authors try to tweet witty or pithy comments, but most of those comments seem neither witty nor pithy.

  21. @Lunamoth “Honestly, I tend not to follow authors on Twitter who fill their timeline with *nothing but* book promos. A couple here and there, I understand, but I don’t need a stream of advertisements all day long.”

    Ditto.

  22. I must most strenuously protest our being labeled “the usual gang of idiots”; we are, in fact a most unusual gang of idiots. Look at our behavior, I beg of you!

    Google+ Still waiting for an invite. I’ve been “htom” or “HTom” since 1966, and I didn’t create the name. Most of the Googlefolk were not even born then.

  23. And for the time being, there’s at least one more place where you hang out online: your video interview at BuzzyMultimedia.com:

    Thanks again for taking the time to chat at what I know was a very busy Nebula weekend.
    Jean Marie

  24. This interesting & very thoughtful post has inspired me to join Twitter! I think I’ll leave Google+ for the time being though; it seems to be a choice between Facebook & that, and at present my friends are Facbeook-based.

  25. John, I love your blog and read it often. Lately I’ve been hitting the random whatever button and having some fun with that. I’ve been thinking about Facebook but only because my oldest son posts photos on his Facebook page he wants me to see. Right now I just follow his blog and yours. Between the Detroit Free Press, my work, the honey do list, and barely keeping the house from falling apart, I’m pretty busy. And trying to read the books you mention or that I find through your blog and some other folks I read on line.

  26. What are you thinking of tumblr?

    I am using it quite a lot, but it’s more collecting interesting and inspiring references instead of generating content. Later usually happens on my blog or twitter.

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