j’s notes: Writing In The Age Of Silos

Dave Winer has an interesting take on how Facebook and Twitter are not only contrary to an open web, but building silos that demand unique content and keep people in:

Writing in the age of silos. After their August 1 change, I can’t cross-post to Facebook. So if I want to speak to people I know on Facebook, I have to write on Facebook. Today if I want to even post a link, I have to do it by hand. And Twitter, new forms of writing have developed there to work around the 280-char limit. Again, if I want to write for people I know there, I have to write it there. This is what always happens with corporate platforms, they become silos. Maybe they start with good intentions, on FB, the open graph, with Twitter their API, but over time, they evolve to become their own completely self-contained very unweblike worlds. You can see that evolution in action today, at a super-high pace. For me this is the Nth time around this loop, so I have an idea what to expect next.

On some level the silos have existed as long as the platforms: Twitter’s then-140 but now-280 character limit and how they deliver their feed has always been distinct from Facebook’s multimedia method of delivery backed by an evolving algorithm that changed what you saw based on how folks interacted with content. You’ve had to keep the two different methods in mind when crafting any message because cut and pasting a headline and a link from one to the other was hardly best practice.

But now they’re breaking the tools that allowed you to easily tap into each platform from the outside. It’s no longer a matter of tailoring a message, it’s often a matter of manually having to dive into the site to feed it.

This makes sense from a business perspective. Twitter and Facebook are in the business of making money and that money comes from advertisements and you don’t see those ads if all you do is write a blog post and hit a button to push the new content to other platforms. In fact, that costs them money. But that violates the spirit of the open web.

Facebook in particular has shown a strong interest in keeping you in their environment. The way they prioritize content in the algorithm (Live vs. embedded video vs. picture vs. link vs. text) to how they present external content (downgrading YouTube links from being able to play in FB to having to be external links), it’s all efforts to force content creators to simply embrace Facebook as their home and ignore any other outlet for fear of being left out.*

But Twitter and Facebook breaking themselves off from the rest of the web — the more they pull away the more they isolate their users — that’s good for them and bad for everyone else. And not just other content production platforms like Twitter or medium and the like, but for content producers themselves. Businesses, organizations, non-profits, people who have their own hubs outside of Facebook, they’re the ones ultimately sucked into the silos and anyone with limited resources is going to make some decisions on how much effort they’re able to put into each platform and for what kind of reward.

Or maybe they just walk away.

*This isn’t even considering how the Facebook silo gets worse when you consider how the algorithm works, feeding you more of what you’re already interested in, hiding anything that wouldn’t fit your analyzed tastes, singing to the choir of existing beliefs (See: Facebook Is A Terrible Gatekeeper).