Why I Hate Ping.fm

One of my good Twitter pals posted an exceptionally good tweet the other day. I’m not going to repeat it word for word, but it was something like, “I usually love people, but sometimes I want to bite them in the face.”

Hey, we’ve all been there. I chuckled. Great tweet.

Then my email dings. I get this friend’s Brightkite updates via email because he is local. I checked it. Same message. Throughout the day, I checked Facebook and FriendFeed. The same tweet was over there in the form of status updates.

The kicker was later seeing that tweet as a LinkedIn status update. I’m a pretty laid back guy, but I’m sure not going to post something like that as my “professional” status update.

So, what’s the problem here? This friend of mine uses a service called Ping.fm to update all of his services at once. This leads to two big problems: redundancy and context.

The Redundancy Problem

I follow this person (and many others) on several services. When the same message is broadcast over all of them, there are serious duplication problems. One of the reasons I loved FriendFeed was that it was a potential fix to this problem. You could now follow all of someone’s feeds in one place. But with the redundancy problem, FriendFeed becomes a mess.

Some folks will publish a blog post, tweet about it, digg it, save it to del.icio.us, Stumble it, then roll it and smoke it. So, the same post hits my stream a half dozen times. I know I can hide stuff in FriendFeed, but that involves a lot of per-contact strategy just to make FriendFeed usable again. Usually, I’d rather just skip it.

The Context Problem

Context is a big issue, too. Brightkite is a social network based on your location. So, any messages you post are affiliated with the last place you “checked in”. So, did my friend want to bite people just in that location? I think not, but that message is now affiliated with that place.

And LinkedIn? Are recruiters really into face biters? I’m guessing not.

Where I’m Redundant

I’m a bit guilty on two counts. I have Twitter update my Facebook status. I do this because I used to have very separate groups of contacts on Facebook and Twitter. Also, I wasn’t much of a Facebook fan and that was an easy way to keep that network updated. The truth is, ideally only some of my tweets would go into Facebook, but there’s no good way to manage that from within Twitter (which is where I update).

Also, I’ll occasionally tweet about a blog post I just wrote. I save this for posts I’m particularly proud of and thing more people than my small crew of RSS readers would like.

I’m going to revisit how I update Facebook. The tweeting of blog posts I don’t mind as much because I follow a lot of people on Twitter who’s blog feeds I don’t subscribe to. People seem to be good about really only tweeting links they want a response to.

But folks, for the most part let’s kill the automation and use these services as they were intended to be used

If not, I’ll bite your face.


  1. On August 13th, 2008 at 11:31 am Noah said:

    I totally agree, and actually wrote something
    a while ago. There’s a more fundamental communications
    problem with Ping.fm and sites like them, which I describe as “I can
    hear you, but how can I be sure you hear me back?”

    Sure, Ping.fm is obviously a megaphone, but it’s an anti-social
    megaphone. It lets people push updates to sites without visiting them
    and seeing the activity their updates may have created. The systems it
    integrates with are two-way channels, but Ping.fm treats them as one-way.

    It bugs me the most with Brightkite, because Brightkite works best when
    people are talking about actual places. “What’s happening around me?”
    should return notes about specific places noting funny encounters,
    things to try and see, etc., etc. But megaphoning turns it into simple
    self-promotion. The fact that you don’t even have to be at/have checked
    into a location to write about it is completely lost when using the site
    in such a remote, lowest-common-denominator fashion.

    In the end, I never respond to megaphone users unless I know where they
    actually check in and listen back. Otherwise, they are valuable one-way
    updates, I’ll just start ignoring them.

  2. On August 13th, 2008 at 11:33 am Noah said:

    (Argh, I meant “unless they are valuable as one-way updates”.)

  3. On August 13th, 2008 at 11:45 am Adam Darowski said:

    That’s a great point I totally missed about the megaphone/1-way aspect of Ping.fm. Now I REALLY don’t like it! :)

    If you’re going to push to these services, you gotta hang there. Otherwise, you’re just taking up space.

    I rarely use Brightkite, but when I do, it is to post messages about a PLACE and view the stream of a PLACE. You know, the intended purpose. :)

    Ping.fm is the “chew and screw” of social media.

  4. On August 20th, 2008 at 12:17 pm Jason said:

    Being the ‘bite’ guy I probably should respond and discuss why I feel the need to do use broadcasting services like Ping.fm.

    I have an audience at livejournal, facebook, myspace, twitter and a few other services. For the most part these audiences do not cross over and posting to all of them would take a significant amount of time. Especially since I make frequent status updates. I am open to additional suggestions.

    I use SocialThing to monitor the majority of responses to these service postings and generally do not miss much. If I need to respond to someone I do so on the individual service.

    While I apologize for people that do have to suffer through a bit of redundant posting the benefit for those that care about what is going on with me outweighs the inconvenience of others. I also slightly regret the coolness of that statement but it is the truth.

    I admit that LinkedIn status updates were a poor choice but they are also very broken and that particular statement hung there forever. They are now removed.

    Rant: I really despise LinkedIn and what it represents. I think that not hiring someone based on some outrageous comment/pic they made online creates a culture where you only hire people that are really good at hiding things. I have worked in these cultures of deceit several times and they have left a bad taste in my mouth.

  5. On October 14th, 2008 at 12:55 pm Adam said:

    It’s for exactly these reasons that I disabled Twitter/Facebook sync, and started using SocialThing exclusively.

    If my Facebook friends want to be subjected to my tweets, it’s easy enough for them to follow me; I don’t want to force people into an “all or nothing” interest in my activities. Many of my friends would love to know when I’m going out on the town, but could care less when I post a geeky blog entry.

    Same with my Flickr contacts; they heavily overlap with my Twitter friends already, but I have others who really just want to see my photos, not what I’m doing every few hours.

  6. On October 14th, 2008 at 5:03 pm Adam Darowski said:

    I actually do have my tweets go to Facebook since they are such diverse audiences for me (no former high school crushes on Twitter). In fact, I find I get more replies on Facebook.

    And hey, why the heck haven’t you added me on Facebook? ;)

  7. On October 27th, 2008 at 2:41 am We Need Social Network Networks | Software Cooperative News said:

    [...] Now, while I could set up two ping.fm-like update services to avoid the single point of failure at a closed service, but that would mean that any updates would appear twice. Alternatively, some of the Twitter-like services can be told to watch the WordPress blogs for updates, but each one would need to be configured in a different way. Finally, there’s already a problem of redundancy and context with ping.fm which makes Adam Darowski and others hate it. [...]