On Cross-Posting

I’ve seen several friends who moved from Twitter to Mastodon do cross-posting. Then I saw this toot today https://mastodon.social/@dimillian/109619460197226069 It got me thinking more about the cross-posting practice.

When I started microblogging in 2008-ish, and when the options proliferated (Twitter and a bunch of Chinese clones), my first instinct was to have a tool to sync posts across all platforms I use. “Write once, post everywhere.” Looking back now, it was a bit funny. It was like standing on top of a rock and yelling at the top of my lungs, where only dozens of people were standing around.

It’s also worth noting that people do not cross-post in the even older blogging era because of RSS. People move from one blogging platform to another, and their readers can subscribe to a new RSS. Or the RSS feed doesn’t even need to change when a proxy such as FeedBurner is used.

I think of cross-posting as an “I do it because I can” move. Social networks have APIs, and connecting these APIs is not hard. My engineering friends do it because they know how to set it up. Pretty soon, there might be some websites that people can click around to set up cross-posting. Then more tech-savvy people will do it, just because they can. I’d like to think about whether I should cross-post, or why people should cross-post.

For marketers who want to reach more people, sure, professional cross-posting tools exist for this use case. For people who want to build a personal brand, the same thing, the more reach, the better. But I use social networks to socialize with people I know in real life or make acquaintances online and only look to expand my network slowly. Does it make sense to cross-post?

An obvious case is for my friends who are active on multiple networks, e.g. both Twitter and Mastodon, I don’t want them to see my posts repeatedly.

So it comes down to whether my social circles are spread across multiple networks or mostly present in one and whether I want to post the same content to all of them, and a tradeoff of different groups’ experiences. In my case:

  • I use four social networks now: Mastodon, Twitter, Instagram, and WeChat. A lot of my close friends are on several of them. The overlap is significant. “Close friends” means people I frequently interact with on social networks.
  • Between “make my close friends not see duplicated posts” and “make all my posts from Mastodon be seen by all my followers on Twitter,” I choose the former. This is because I care about close friends’ experiences more.
  • I use these social networks differently
    • Mastodon replaced Twitter and became my “random thoughts” main social network, including links to my blog and Instagram.
    • Instagram for pictures.
    • WeChat is a very digested version almost exclusively for travel photos and for my parents…
    • Twitter: I read Twitter. It’s still an info source. And I interact with friends who are still there as I don’t intend to cut off relationships. But I do not write new posts there as I want to lower my contribution to Twitter, and it’s not that important for my random thoughts to be seen by my Twitter followers.

Maybe I’m just getting older and leaning more towards cultivating relationships with people I already know than knowing new people.

Leaving Twitter

Twitter started banning Mastodon links. This is the last straw for me. I don’t want to contribute to another WeChat-like social network.

I will move on to post on https://mastodon.social/@weiwei9 and won’t post on Twitter anymore. You can also find me on Instagram. I’ll probably still browse Twitter and interact with friends there. But I encourage everyone to move on. The network effect is strong, and only people in the network can break it. Be brave.

There were a few moments I considered leaving Twitter:

  • Musk closed the deal. It’d be ok if he kept most things as they were.
  • Twitter Blue fiasco. I honestly don’t care about this very much.
  • Ungraceful layoff. A layoff is always ugly. Musk did it especially badly.
  • Firing of employees who disagreed with him. Firing dissidents is a red flag that foretold his later moves.
  • Inviting Trump back. This would be my leaving moment if Trump started posting again.
  • Banning journalists. This is the second strike in my mind.
  • Banning Mastodon links. This is the third strike. I don’t believe Twitter, as a product, is a product I would sign up for anymore.

Mastodon still has a long way to go. The federated model is a barrier for people to start, but it’s also a measure to prevent another dictator situation. The user experience is not as good as Twitter’s yet but hopefully, we’ll see some rapid improvement given the attention and influx of users it gets. I’ve waited long enough and it’s time to make the leap.

Twitter has been a major information source for me. It’s a convenient way to keep a “pulse” for everything I want to know, from the world news to things I want to learn, to people I know in real life. But maybe that’s just an illusion. Maybe I will be better off reading more books and calling people I know. Let’s see.