A few days ago I received a Tweet from jbussoli that said
“@vanelsas forget comment fragmentation. Everyone is moving to post fragmentation with Ping.fm.It’s happening at both ends of the narrative.”
He responded to an earlier post of mine in which I put my 2cts about the issue of comment fragmentation taking on the web and a tweet of mine to @fredericl about ping.fm. Commenting fragmentation (or maybe conversation fragmenting) occurs when someone writes a blog post and then the discussion about it doesn’t take place in the comments section of the blog post, but on other places such as Friendfeed, Twitter, whatever. People that don’t like this phenomenon often use a good argument that they would like to be able to follow and participate in the aftermath.
In my opinion the process itself is unstoppable. We can try to find electronic measures to centralize these conversations once more, but some things can’t and shouldn’t be centralized. And conversations are one of them. The world is one big ever going conversations. not just online, but even more in the physical world. My call to more comment fragmentation was based upon this principle:
Would I love to be able to track conversations I might have started? Sure. Would I love it when people would comment more on my blog than at other places. You bet. But some things should not be forced into central destinations. And conversation or comments are on that list. They need to be set free. They need to scatter around this wonderful universe. One giant conversation. Who cares if we can’t follow it from beginning to end. The great thing about it is, we can always start a new one!
But jbussoli pointed out to me that ping.fm does something similar on the other end, at the start of the conversation. Basically ping.fm takes your messages from a number of different sources (e.g. AOL messenger, e-mail, iGoogle, Facebook apps, Google talk, mobile), and publishes them for you on multiple other sources. These include some 16 sources already such as Twitter, Plurk, Jaiku, Blogger, LinkedIn, BrightKite, Facebook, etc. I have to say that I’m not a ping.fm user (more on that in a second), so I’m not basing this on personal experience with the service itself.
I was thinking about that a little bit and decided that the very existence of a service like ping.fm comes from something that is broken on the web. The thing that is broken is our online presence. We have appearances or profiles on many different services. The reason for this is very simple. The current web is destination designed, not user designed. I have to scatter myself around all these different services on the web and am thus forced to visit Twitterland, Facebook Walhalla and all those other destinations. Unfortunately, these destinations are like countries. They have walls, require identification, all talk a different language and base their economy on my presence in that specific country. For those of you not familiar with this analogy, think walled garden 😉
If the web was User-centric designed a lot of these flaws would not exist. Services would be visiting my place. My place would have a uniform interface and uniform language. It’s a place I would call “home”. Why is this important? Well, the number one reason is that in a User-Centric web business models would be centered around user value, instead of the current network value. It would ensure that web companies would bring me value, instead of creating their own value based upon indirect value creators such as advertisement. But it would also solve the scattered presence issue ping.fm tries to address automatically.
Ping.fm basically allows me to spam all of my friends across all of my networks. I use the word spam, not because ping.fm itself is a spam service, but because I, the user, harass all of my friends with 1 update they get to see in 16 places. This scattering sucks big time and it will not only put a burden on the infrastructure for sending around wasteful copies of my content, but it harasses my friends because they get to see that content possibly 16 times too (for they are following me and I follow them everywhere). I can already see the next service popping up. Every one of these services will have to install block and noise filters to reduce this communication overhead we are creating with each other. This is already taking place when using a service like Friendfeed that sucks in all kinds of streams. But now it also works on the sender end, making the chaos even bigger.
Ping.fm, I think they did a great job and technically are providing us a solution to solve our fragmented presence issue. But I think I will save my friends the trouble for now.