Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Whither to Post, Tweet or Facebook?

On the blog we have a straightforward post policy, Bill and I try to make one post on nearly every work day. Occasionally we'll have extra posts for breaking news, mostly deaths and truly major new theorems. But occasionally we'd have short announcements or pointers. Sometimes we would pad a short item with an extra observation or I would sometimes just have a post with a long list of short items.

Right after STOC I started experimenting with Twitter and quickly got hooked. With no fixed schedule I can give quick tweets on anything that interests me or I think important for the community to know. Sometimes I can get what would have been a post down under Twitter's 140 character limit. So now I use the blog for longer posts and tweet the shorter stuff, using Twitter as an extension to the blog. 

Sounds ideal but there's a catch. Only a small fraction of you blog readers also follow me on Twitter. Some of what I Tweet would have been in the blog. So sometimes I need to repeat a tweet as a longer post or occasionally post a list of the more important and/or interesting tweets. What an excuse to do that now. 

  • The new and improved ECCC 
  • Just told that for recent stimulus-based grants: If it is determined that you are not spending quickly enough the funds can be revoked.
  • Scan (11MB PDF) of shirt design from old Complexity conference (then Structures). Don't ask about the dog.
  • Netflix contest over but no winner for a few weeks. Exciting conclusion (via:@ipeirotis)
  • RT @statpumpkin: Bellkor's Pragmatic Chaos first place in Netflix Prize - contacted by Netflix and in validation phase. (thx @piggymurph)
  • Tron returns and NYT worries about computers taking over. Coincidence?
  • Iran has stopped issuing visas for US citizens including academics. The world got a little smaller.
  • Rare CS article in Science Times: Destroying data with cryptography. 
  • Faded lines on Beamer slides only draw attention to themselves (e.g. pg 2 of this)
  • Congrats to Rafael Pass and Nothwestern's Nicole Immorlica new Microsoft Research Faculty Fellows.
  • Comic Sans: Yes it looks handwritten. Cute the first 100 times I've seen it. Now go use a grown up font. (See also bancomicsans.com)
  • Awesome EC Keynote by Michael Moritz on innovation. "Companies whither when scientists and engineers move further away from the helm"
  • Moritz: Many best and brightest mathematicians and scientists waste their lives working for private equity houses.
  • And from June 3rd: Taught Moser's proof in my intro theory course today! (A comment worthy to be my first twitter post).

Maybe I can talk Bill into Tweeting too. Imagine non-stop van der Waerden numbers. 

Now what about Facebook? In Facebook I can break my friends into roughly three groups.

  1. Academics
  2. Friends and Family
  3. People I haven't seen in 25 years.

Problem is I have little to say to all three groups so I don't change my Facebook status often. Basically a few status updates about where I am traveling or some photos of the family. Facebook allows you to create groups of friends and show updates only within those groups. I need the opposite operation, creating status updates that only go out to a select group or groups. I'll likely use Facebook for my personal stuff, if you are in groups 1 or 3 and hide or unfriend me I won't be insulted.


  1. If possible, can you please post course notes for Moser's proof? Thanks.

  2. The etiquette of when to blog, tweet, or update facebook status is beginning to get rather complicated. It gets even more complicated when you realize that there are people who prefer to use other services, e.g. friendfeed, who would still like to follow you. (By the way, do you have a Friendfeed account?)

    This can be partially solved by widgets that pipe content from one service to another. For example, you can automate the process of writing a weekly post that contains a week's worth of tweets so that you don't have to write posts like this one by hand. That might be useful for blog readers who are not yet on Twitter.

    There is also the thorny question of whether to post links to new blog articles to Twitter. Personally, I like it when people do this because it means that I only have to follow them in one place.

    My own personal policy is simple: I post almost everything either on my blog or friendfeed. Friendfeed catches my blog posts and posts most of my stuff to Twitter. Then Twitter posts everything to Facebook. Facebook itself rarely gets updated manually, except that I may post the odd photo there for the benefit of real-life friends. For the most part, I have given up on trying to address different audiences on different platforms because, despite the best intentions, it never works very well. It is a little bit like trying to maintain separate emails accounts for personal and work contacts. You always find that they end up getting contaminated with messages that ought to go to the other account. For example, even though my facebook friends are mainly people I socialize with, there is the odd colleague that I am friends with there who is not following me on Twitter or friendfeed. I don't want them to miss out on work related stuff, so I find that it is best to dump it all into facebook.

  3. You can configure Facebook to update your status whenever you post to twitter. Cleverly enough, it doesn't update when you start your tweet with a @reply.

  4. The new ECCC site looks very impressive !!

  5. I honestly don't understand the idea of "Should I tweet or blog?" I suggest placing everything relevant to complexity on the blog, even if it is only 140 characters.

  6. I've started using FB status updates for amusing daily events that would normally be fodder for small talk, e.g., when my cats discover a new and creative way to wake me up at 6 in the morning.