Where is Adam (online)? My participation in and thoughts about various presence/sharing services

communication tools, personal, technology

In case you’re interested in stalking me and/or knowing what my thoughts are on various online presence / networking / bookmarking sites I have tried, here’s a (completely unscientific, wholly biased, unabashedly uncomprehensive, and generally of questionable use) list 😀

FYI, I’m findable via my full name on the services below unless noted otherwise.  And sites owned/operated by Google are indicated by [g], as a brief disclaimer/reminder since I work for Google (but not on any of the
products or product-types below).

Social networking

  • Facebook
    a social networking site which used to be used primarily by college students (perhaps still is) and is gaining fame and respect in new quarters

    It’s my favorite social networking service by far. I belong to the Google, San Francisco, Indiana University, and Northwestern University groups, and generally only add friends, co-workers, professional acquaintances I know decently well from meeting in person, and so on. I’ve actually found this to be useful not for making new friends, but rather for catching interesting info and fun tidbits and insights into my current friends’ lives. I am impressed with nearly all aspects of this site: the strong configurability of privacy options, the reasonably-clean and standardized views*, decent navigability, and overall utility. I haven’t really gotten into the groups, though, which mostly seem like exercises in humor and/or vanity.

    *This just in: According to Eliot on Wired, Facebook may be opening up its profile pages to widgets. Given the smart people I know that have recently been hired to work at Facebook, I can only hope that the service won’t be horrifically MySpaced (uglified to hell and made practically unusable). But hey, if things turn south, I’ll at least have people I can poke about it!

  • Friendster
    one of the first social networking sites, now apparently a haven for lonely Filipinos.

    I have an account here, but almost never log in. Some nice integration, I suppose, but nothing that really interests me. The brash obnoxious ads are a turnoff. And regarding the demographic reference… it’s more a puzzled commentary on how various services (Orkut, Friendster, probably others) end up becoming so particularly popular in a handful of countries. I suppose much of this could be explained by the network effect (e.g., some popular Filipinos became active on Friendster, invited their friends…), but I can’t help but wonder if UI / User Experience interlaces in interesting way with cultural preferences and expectations. Put more pedestrianly… I wonder what it is about, say, Friendster that causes it to appeal so much to Filipinos? (and Orkut to Brazillians, etc.) I bet someone has studied this. Paging danah…? 😀

  • Orkut
    a quirky social networking experiment by a Google engineer, now noted for its loyal userbase outside of the USA.

    Ah, not much to say about the service at this point. I no longer use it, but hey, many many millions of people around the world love it.

  • Multiply
    What’s a total of seventeen users times practically zero awareness? Join this service to find
    out!

    Seemed interesting initially, but it was hobbled by a confusing interface and an anemic adoption rate. I think maybe two of my friends at most use this service nowadays.

  • MySpace
    Just like what you’d get if you had a spastic monkey doing design, an evil genius devising navigation (how many ad views per simple action?), and a bunch of lemmings for fans.

    Aaaaagh! Make it stop. Make it stop! At least make it stop blinking-spazzing-playing-seven-clips-simultaneously and generally serving as an affront to aesthetics, art, common sense, and humanity. To
    preserve what’s left of my sanity, I prefer to view the success of this monstrosity as due purely to the network effect (it was an early entrant, everyones’ friends were on MySpace, yadda yadda). Anything else is just too depressing. And yes, I have an account here only so my surprisingly-less-enlightened friends will quit bugging me to establish one, so I suppose that makes me mildly hypocritical.

  • Tribe
    Want to meet artsy, hippie, burning-man types? This is your scene 😀

    I like the threadedness of the message forums, but the site feels a bit cluttered and unfocused. Plus… again, sorry to bring up the network effect, but… most of my friends outside of the Bay Area are elsewhere online.

Professional networking

  • Ecademy
    The professional networking site that’s the non-American version of LinkedIn. But more
    expensive.

    Tried it once. Was annoyed at the apparent lack of any free level of service, so that was the end of that. I didn’t see anything about this service worth paying for that I couldn’t find via other online or  offline means.

  • Ryze
    “Hi, I’m a stay-at-home marketer. Would you like to join the most amazing wealth creation
    scheme that combines hot dogs, Buddhist monks, and…”

    Used to use this professional networking service quite a bit, but now it feels relatively empty and multi-level-marketing focused.

  • LinkedIn
    Like any other powerful tool online or offline; great if you use it wisely, potentially painful if you don’t.

    I like this service overall. I’ve not used it much for my own networking, but I have definitely been pleased to help others… pass along legitimate requests, and so on. The key is not treating it like MySpace (adding everyone who requests you to add them), but rather judiciously linking to people you trust and who trust you… ideally, folks you have professional ties with or can similarly vouch for.

Resource sharing / reviewing / bookmarking

  • CitySearch
    Big, colorful, commercial, and overstuffed site that features user-submitted reviews on restaurants, hairdressers, etc.

    Used to use this, but have moved over to Yelp, which seems — if not more accurate — at least more interesting, more entertaining, and slightly-less cluttered and commercial.

  • Del.icio.us
    Lamely named social bookmarking site that’s been (sort of) superceded by more robust and feature-rich offerings and is now owned by Yahoo

    The geek “Web 2.0” (ack, I feel dirty already) crowd latched onto this early on, and I never quite got the appeal. Other services have offered considerably more features… of particular note, the ability to take a searchable “snapshot” of the page when it’s bookmarked for easier retrieval later. On the flip side, this site had (and still has) an admirably spartan feel to it. No ads (that I can see), and no clutter. For those who crave APIs, minimalist feature sets, and simple bookmark sharing, del.icio.us could still be a reasonably good pick.

  • Digg
    Watch out, here comes the highly-opinionated and non-buying mobs! (is so! is not! yeah, well, your mamma was an SEO! LOLZ!!!!!!!1)Okay, so perhaps that’s a bit unfair. Digg was an interesting idea and still continues to surface some noteworthy or at least entertaining sites. But, as with many fine ideas, it’s been creaking at the seams
    due to its mass adoption and resultant oft-moblike/groupthink feel. Anyway, I no longer check this site with any regularity… not enough time, too poor signal/noise ratio.
  • Google Reader
    An outstanding feed-reader that’s easy and fun to useSure, I’m biased, but after an unsuccessful first version, the Reader team’s got their groove goin’ on. Nifty keyboard shortcuts (hit ? to see ’em!), a pleasant UI, and the capability (which I sadly haven’t used yet) to make any of your tags/folders publicly-viewable. Now if they’d just combine this with a
    public-version of Google Bookmarks… 😀 [g]
  • StumbleUpon
    A serendipitous and often wondrous way to surf the Web and discover cool stuffI shied away from this service for ages; I don’t have time to aimlessly “stumble” around the Web! But I’ve been slowly using it more, and finding it has useful features and unearths cool sites for me :-D.
    [My Stumbleupon page]
  • Yelp
    Irreverent, sometimes painfully hip, but typically entertaining and often useful

    Want consistently unbiased and deeply thoughtful reviews of restaurants and other local places? Then Yelp may or may not be your cup of tea. But if you’re patient and have a good sense of humor, you can often glean quite a bit of helpful info about various places around town. The conversations in the Talk section can be surprisingly cathartic, friendly, and even useful. [My reviews]

Photo sharing

  • Flickr
    The most active and diverse photo sharing site I’ve ever seen, with a doggedly committed community-oriented management

    Sure, they’ve gotten a lot of flack after getting absorbed by Yahoo. Yes, like on any user-generated-content-site, there’s bound to be crap, controversy, jerk-offs, and so on. But that aside, Flickr undeniably has an astounding number of gorgeous, hilarious, and downright captivating photos taken by talented photographers as active members. And speaking of active members… the Flickr crowd is hugely loyal, passionate, and not shy :-D. [My photos]

  • Fotki
    The skinnable and surprisingly easy-to-use popular photo site you’ve never heard of

    Sets within sets! While Flickrites are still begging for this, Fotki’s had it for ages. It also has journals and a bunch of other doodads that are done better elsewhere, but thankfully that stuff doesn’t clutter up the simple-yet-powerful photo interface. $30/year gets you unlimited storage and very cheap (and good!) prints. [My photos]

  • PicasaWeb
    Jarringly basic and spartan for geeks, surprisingly easy-to-use for normal people (who just want to easily share their photos with their family)

    Want to join a feature-rich photo site with great sense of community? This ain’t it. But it’s reliable and — as a very nice bonus — you can upload your videos to be displayed within your galleries (Google Video style). Best hidden feature: use the right and left arrow keys to zoom through galleries and enjoy the pre-caching and the perfect-fit-to-your-display views. [My Photos] [g]

  • Honorary mention: Smugmug
    – I’ve never used it, but really like the attitude of its CEO and the intense, friendly customer-focus he has pushed throughout his company.

Instant messaging

  • Trillian
    (my choice at home) – Offered in both a free and more-powerful $25/year version, Trillian is mostly reliable and amazingly handy

    No matter how much I try to convince all my friends to use Google Talk (“GTalk”), a ton of ’em still insist on sticking with Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, or — dog forbid — MSN Messenger! A few of them even still use their AOL accounts for e-mail; I’ve disowned those folks… but hey, I digress
    those other apps at the same time and having my computer grind to a halt, I use Trillian at home, which automatically logs me into all the networks and displays my buddies in a totally customizable and wonderfully compact single-column view. Downside? Sometimes connectivity to different networks is flakey. And though they promise a Web-based version Real Soon Now ™, it’s seemingly impossible at present to easily sync one’s Trillian account across computers, so your chat history gets split between your desktop and laptop and so on. But hey, one app to rule them all? Pretty damn useful!

  • Google Talk (my choice away from home) –
    Simple, great voice quality, usefully integrated into Gmail (and elsewhere).

    It’s lightweight, fast, and just works. I really like how chats are (optionally) archived in my Gmail account, so I don’t have to remember whether I e-mailed a friend or chatted with her about an upcoming party… I can do one search and know for sure that I forgot to invite her! [g]

Other

  • Plaxo
    “I’m updating my addressbook…” aaaaagh! Thankfully, Plaxo is much, much more than this.

    This is one of those sites despised by many geeks and, in fairness, journalists and other popular peeps who at least previously got deluged by the perfect storm created by clueless n00bs and a suboptimal viral approach pushed by Plaxo in the early days. With an improved emphasis on improving the existing network rather than wildly expanding it, Plaxo is now increasingly loved by millions of folks (like me!) who appreciate the service’s (mostly free) offerings. The core feature which I use and find invaluable is the sync’ing of my friends’ contact info into my various addressbooks. Plaxo has recently announced that their upcoming 3.0 version (ah, gotta love engineers’ creative naming skills) will also support
    Gmail addressbooks. w00t!!! Disclaimer: I was a contractor with Plaxo a couple of years ago.

  • Twitter
    Look, I’m having a cheese sandwich! I just burped. I tat i taw a putty kat! i’m a twit therefore i am. Just got my cell phone bill, lemme open it up and… AAAAAAAGH!Twitter — the oft-stultifyingly boring but oh-so-Web-2.0-utility that lets you, uh, share “what are you doing now?” (“I’m picking my nose, but it’s really hard to do while typing…”) Maybe it’d be more
    interesting if I had more friends on it. Feel free to twit (?) me at http://www.twitter.com/thatadamguy.
4 comments… add one
  • Zach Holman Apr 17, 2007

    In terms of del.icio.us, the appeal is that it *has* less, as you pointed out. At least, that’s an appeal in a 37signals-esque way. I love using it as a way to keep track of those links that I might only need once or twice in my lifetime, so I can safely file them away for safekeeping. It’s so nice to have it remotely to keep things straight between my multiple computers. And the API is really nice if you end up using it; Quicksilver+del.icio.us integration is really quite slick. But I agree, though- it’s not for everyone. If you “get” it and can rearrage your online lifestyle to utilize it properly, you’ll benefit, otherwise you’ll just leave a stagnant account.

    Trillian is great. I spent 2-3 years on it. It really is the best… until you end up on a Mac and try out the stunning brilliance of Adium. I’ll get Trillian credit where credit’s due, but Adium is really in a league of its own, in my humblest of opinions.

  • Rocky Agrawal Apr 19, 2007

    Flickr recently added the sets within sets feature, so you can check that off your list. I think you can nest five levels.

  • Jay May 11, 2010

    It seems that when I created my gmail account, the computer I used somehow became “infected” by google.  Now, when I do certain searches (even non-google searches), I get kicked into google search and to a mysterious page that has nothing to do with my search.  I aways wind up at the same “Your search – http://www.facebook.com/widgets/like.php?width=300 – did not match any documents.”

    Most frequently this happens with searches on IMDB and similar sites, away from the google search engine so I am unclear why results kick out in google.  Ever so briefly, the “right” page comes up (fraction of one second), then kicks over to google.

    It does not matter that my search had nothing to do with facebook or widgets.  I have tried to contact google in many various ways, but I get no response whatsoever [famous google customer sensitivity].

    I have searched and searched and found nothing.  I have tried to empty cache, delete browsing history, etc. all to no avail.  This may have nothing to do with the creation of my gmail account – it may be just coincidence that it happened then.  I thought maybe “widgits” was a clue but I got no where.  I don’t use facebook so that isn’t a clue.

    Can someone point me in the right direction.  I need to do searches, and not get railroaded into a meaningless page?

    How do I get responses to this request?

  • ThatAdamGuy Jun 12, 2010

    Zach, yep, there’s an understandable appeal to minimalism. Do you still use del.icio.us?

    and re: IM’s… I switched to Digsby a while back, though I use Portable Pidgin for work (so I don’t have to share my work account password with Digsby; just being paranoid 🙂 ).

    Rocky, yeah, I do like that feature on Flickr now. Still deciding whether I’m gonna re-up my Flickr subscription now that it’s recently expired. I’m torn; I like the community on Flickr and the organization tools, but the viewing experience just stinks IMHO compared to the fast rendering in Picasaweb. But Picasaweb’s organization/structure is lousy (so frustrated that there are no collections or sets-within-sets capabilities). Gah… no clear winner. I may just suck it up and pay for storage for both for another year.

    Jay, I’m sorry I didn’t reply earlier, and I do hope and expect you’ve managed to solve this problem by now.

What do you think?