Blog logoMatthew Lang

App.net

A 14 post collection


The Distant Observer

 •  Filed under Social Media, Twitter, App.net, By Me

It's close to a couple of months now since I stopped being an active user on App.net. The only time I'm posting updates now is when I want to reply to any mentions I get about my blog posts and shared links. That's as active as my timeline gets these days. I'm still getting notifications of people unfollowing me as they realise that I'm not that active there anymore. In the past that might have been a big deal but not anymore. I'm just not spending as much time on social networks anymore.

App.net isn't the only social network I've chosen to distance myself from. I got fed up with the Twitter service over a year ago and decided to stop tweeting. At the time I was questioning the value I was getting from Twitter and whether I could afford the time to participate as often as I could.

The problem I have with any social network is the incessant checking of your timeline that becomes an hourly ritual. With every spare few minutes I had I was checking timelines, replying to people, favouriting posts, posting pictures and everything else that social networks bring.

Being active on any social network and getting work done requires discipline. I just don't have that discipline and rather than fight a continual battle against getting stuff done, I've opted to simply stand by and observe. I still have my App.net and Twitter accounts that I share links to, but that's all they are for.

I guess being a software developer I already spend enough time with my head buried in technology and being online during the day that when it comes to outside of the work day, I prefer to distance myself a bit from things like social media.

It hasn't been all bad though. In the last few weeks I've managed to read a lot more, both online and offline. I spend more time with the kids and I've even had time to build an idea for a daily email service. It's still under wraps, but progress on it is going well.

If I don't "socialise online", then where am I getting my daily dose of interaction? Well, I share content daily on my blog, writing for it as often as I can and have even become part of a small circle of bloggers that frequently refer to each other with links. You know who you are gents!

So being a distant observer of social media has its benefits. I might not have my finger on the pulse of what's trending, but I'll happily trade that to get the time do other things.

App.net No More

 •  Filed under App.net, Social Media, By Me

I'm stepping away from App.net. It was a hard decision but I think I made the right move.

When I first read about App.net I was already in the Twitter doldrums. I was annoyed with the lack of post length, the lack of a business model and the growing number of spam accounts that automatically followed you. I was disliking Twitter more and more by the day.

The 22nd of August 2012. That was the day I signed up for App.net. It was heralded as the social network for those that want more control over their data, a service that isn't afraid to charge it's customers for the privilage of using their service. At first it was seen as a great move. A sustainable social network. It sounded so great. I promptly signed up.

It started out so promising. There was already a micro-blogging client, an API and the promise of more to come. More did come. With a better API, developers shipped clients for all the major mobile platforms. There was a number of nice services that were born off the back of the App.net API. After the initial launch hype, subscriptions tailed off and the App.net community carried on. For the first year things looked so great. It was all going so well.

Over the course of the second year there were a number of new features including a notifications system for everyone as well as a crowdfunding platform for people to validate their product ideas. In the community there was a lot of discussion about the future of App.net. So many people were interested and cared for the future of it.

Ever since the App.net State of the Union post from the App.net blog though, the future of the social network has looked uncertain. Prominent subscribers to App.net have stopped posting or in some cases just completely deleted their accounts. For the last few months my timeline has appeared to be less and less active. While most days you might get a conversation on a particular topic, some days it feels like you're just talking to yourself. The buzz around App.net has died and what's been left behind is the remnants of a what could have been a great service.

For the last couple of weeks I've been weighing up whether I should continue to dedicate my time to using App.net. "You get what you put in" is a popular opinion of why you should continue to use any social network and it does hold true, but sometimes you just have to quit regardless of how much you want to participate. For me it was just a lack of interaction that made me decide to leave. People did participate in conversations but it just wasn't as frequent as it previously had been on App.net.

Over the last two years, App.net has been home from home. A stream of people I've connected with on a daily basis. Posts, links, images, polls and stories all shared in a little corner of the Internet. I don't regret the time that I have spent there. It's been a great experience and I've connected with some great people but it's time to move on.

Team 256

 •  Filed under App.net, Social Media, Writing, By Me

What started as a monthly challenge is now fast turning into a social network daily ritual, which isn't a bad thing when it comes to the fast and furious world of social networks.

Back in September, I started a challenge of writing a 256 character post everyday on App.net. Aside from missing a single day's post I completed the challenge. It was a refreshing use of my time on a social network. Rather than simply typing the first thing that comes to your head and posting it, filling the post with 256 characters means you need to spend a bit of time editing, re-wording and ensuring your post is correct and uses all character space available. It's this time spent on getting the message right that makes my 256 character posts so different from every other post I make.

Social networks are often seen as a cheap and fast way of getting messages across to people, so few people think before they post. While they are great for short bursts of information, social networks are mostly places where masses of un-edited information stream by us every day. My #team256 posts on App.net are not wildly profound or better to read than other posts on App.net, but they do provide me with a chance to write something a bit more detailed.

What started as a monthly challenge has fast become something of a daily habit. I'm still keeping the habit going to post 256 characters a day on App.net and while I might have missed the last couple of days, I did look forward to writing my post for the day. I hope that it continues and gathers pace on App.net in the future.

The App.net Daily Post Experiment

 •  Filed under App.net, By Me

For the month of September I committed to posting a 256 character post to my App.net account every day. It turned out to be more beneficial than being a simple daily nudge.

The Experiment

It was initially an idea by Matt McCabe (@mttmccb) on App.net who was committing to posting a 256 characters post with the hash tag #adn256month included in the post somewhere. It sounded like an interesting challenge, and so I also joined in for the month of September.

I set myself a couple of guidelines at the start of the month for this. A rules of engagement sort of idea.

I didn't include a task in my to-do list for this or even set a reminder. It was the one thing each day that I had to remember to do. I like to think of it as a little mental exercise for the day. Settings reminders and scheduling appointments is great for the really important things, but for little tasks like this, I wanted the responsibility to remember to fall on me.

I limited myself by excluding any tools that would automate any part of the process. Most days I opened Kiwi on my MacBook and composed a post for a few minutes, editing it down to what I needed and then posted it. At the start of the month I did manage to write three posts ahead of their intended days but I stopped doing this as it meant on those days I didn't have too much to do and that seemed to go against the whole reason why I wanted to do this. I wanted to build up a daily habit using only me. No apps, tools, or other medium to remind me or to pull posts from.

My Findings

The month went well. I only missed a single day out of the whole month. I was surprised by this as I thought I would miss at least one a week, and not having an iPhone for the last two weeks I thought I was going to miss even more days. As it turns out I was able to keep the habit going missing just a single day.

The posts themselves started out as mainly random snippets for the first week and then for the remaining three weeks I themed the weekday posts to follow a specific topic. Weeks two and three were about productivity and week four was about Rails development. The weekend posts were usually kept light hearted and not too serious.

The posts also turned out to be great for expanding on ideas for essay posts I have considered but haven't drafted anything for. The chance to write something small on an idea kept me focused on the core idea for the post and also let me test how each post was received by my followers. A favourite or a repost signified that a post might be worth expanding on.

What Next?

The experiment has finished but the idea of the daily post of 256 characters lives on. I've committed to posting a single snippet of 256 characters to App.net on a daily basis using the hash tag #team256.

It's simply too good an exercise not to do on a daily basis. My only concern is that the audience for it is rather small at the moment. I have just over a 100 followers on App.net but I suppose it's better to start somewhere.

Sticking with App.net

 •  Filed under App.net, Social Media, By Me

Many readers here will know of my support of the social platform, App.net, and how it has become a worthy alternative to other social platforms. It's a place where I hang out daily, watching conversations happening, taking part in them on the odd occasion and using the 256 character length posts to bash out my thoughts, opinions and ideas through out the day.

I wasn't particularly surprised by the news yesterday that the App.net team is having to scale back its number of employees and rely on contractors to maintain and support the App.net platform. The App.net team have been quiet of late and there hasn't been a visible enough uptake of new members for me to see that App.net platform is growing. It's not all bad news though, Dalton and Bryan have said they will continue running App.net indefinitely.

I've heard so many arguments that App.net doesn't have the user base to sustain growth and given the recent announcement from Dalton, it's hard to argue against this. The thing is though, it's still making enough money to sustain the platform, but this for me is the worrying part.

App.net started as a platform that required payment before you could create an account here. $36 per year is the cost. It's not much for many people, and there's even the option of paying monthly. It was this pay wall that guaranteed that there would be some sense of mediation of users coming onto the platform. If you were serious about joining you paid up. Dalton's recent post reads that hosting is covered by the renewal of paid accounts, but how much of the hosting costs are being used to support free accounts on the platform?

I want App.net to survive and continue to grow, but the free tier account has always been a sticking point. Accounts that don't contribute to the sustainability of the platform and their continued use of other features such as Broadcast means that they're using up part of the hosting of this platform while giving nothing in return.

I could be wrong about this and I don't have the numbers to prove my argument, but I would like to see the platform reducing the features that are on offer to free accounts and continue to add more value to paid and developer accounts. If these accounts are the ones that will sustain App.net in the future, then surely they must be the primary focus rather than building features for all in the hopes that some free tier accounts upgrade?

It's not all bad though, the App.net team have open sourced the Alpha client for the platform. It's from this point on that I hope that contributions made by the community will drive this social platform back into a more healthier state of sustainability and growth.

I love the community behind App.net. My timeline is a much more pleasant place for reading than any single day that I had when I was on Twitter. Interesting conversations and shared links provide a much better environment than being the one account in millions on Twitter.

I'll continue to post on App.net until the lights go out, which I hope is years away from now.