Internet, personal

Connecting my network of online services

By William Bakker | 02.26.08 | 2 Comments

As I was signing up for yet another Web2.0 service, I realized that the interoperability between these services is growing. I’m starting to rely more and more on specific websites to take away the job that PC applications and other communication tools used to take care of. There are some core communication hubs and supporting technologies.
My communication hubs are:

    I still consider my blog to be the centerpiece of my online presence.
  • Facebook is more a necessity than a choice. All my friends are on Facebook and it’s often used to plan my social life. But has also become a tool to stay connected with my professional network.
  • Plaxo pulse. This is my “behind the scenes” network. It’s got potential, but I’m not promoting it yet. The really cool thing about Plaxo is that it allows me to sinc my calendar data and contact data between my corporate Outlook and my gmail.
  • Why bother with an email client and calendar when you can use an online service and access every email you’ve ever received anywhere? I use gmail.

My supporting technologies are:

  • Flickr is where I host my photos. Storing photos online is a much safer option than on a hard drive. Never again worry about backups. It’s also much easier to share photos with friends.
  • The same idea applies to video. YouTube is where I post videos I’d like to share with people. There are limitations about the lenght of videos, and I use Google video for longer videos.
  • Twitter is where I can quickly share what I’m doing right now and share things in the moment. I can post a “tweet” through SMS. I also follow a lot of people who keep me up to date about things that interest me.
  • I ust started using Utterz. It’s Twitter+. Instead of just text, it allows for adding pictures, video and audio. I can phone in a quick message if I like. The reason I still use Twitter is because that’s where the people I like to communicate with are.
  • Last.fm is a great way to discover new music.
  • Del.icio.us is where I post links to websites and articles I’d like to share with people for a long time. Posting a link on Twitter only has a shelf life of a few days.

Using all these tools and services might sound chaotic. And in a way it is. For me they all serve a specific purpose. I sign up for a lot of these services to try them out, but these are the ones that stuck.
There is overlap. Twitter, Utterz, Facebook and my blog all have “status” for example. But through web services I’m able to update them all in one shot. If I update Utterz, it will automatically create an entry in Twitter and that in return triggers a status update in Facebook and on my blog. That’s the cool thing that’s happening on the web today.
Below is a diagram of how all my services “talk” to each other.
Some other examples:
A new Photo on Flickr will automatically appear on my blog.
The last music I’ve listened to shows on my Facebook profile through a Facebook application
My latest blog entries are displayed on my facebook profile
By connecting these services, I can create relevancy for the people on my networks. Showing the last songs from Last.fm doesn’t make sense on my blog because it’s primarily oriented to my work, but it makes perfect sense on my facebook profile because it is a lot more about my personal life.
There’s still a long way to go but you can see the potential. We’ll see more of these services starting to connect better hopefully. A few services won’t let you extract data yet for example. I can use my Flickr images everywhere I want, I can embed them and there are API’s. But my images in Facebook are locked in. But Facebook has a great tool to help you share your images. So right now I end up uploading some pictures twice for two different purposes.
I’m also unable to transport my “social graph”. A social graph is a person’s network of relationships with other people. Right now I need to befriend everybody all over again for every service I sign ip with. I should just be able to tell all these services once who is able to be my friend where. I also should be able to create groups of people. A “friend group”, a “family” group, a “colleagues” group, a “soccer team” group, etc. I should then be able to assign privacy levels to each group. My friends and family can see my all photos, my colleagues can’t see any, and my soccer team only the pictures tagged “soccer” for example.
Initiative like Open Social are looking to solve this problem, but not everybody is playing along yet. Primarily because it’s in their interest to “lock” people in. But that will change. The internet is an open architecture and “walled gardens” have never, and will never work.
[UPDATE: here’s a nice interview with Google’s Kevin Marks about Open Social and the Social Graph API’s]