The biggest difference between Twitter and Facebook

Facebook yesterday turned on a bunch of new features on its news feed (here is TechCrunch’s writeup of the new features). It looks a lot more like FriendFeed, even though Facebook claims that the FriendFeed team didn’t work on these new features.

What does it do? Now Facebook mostly displays items that got engagement. You know, comments. Likes. Tagging. Etc.

This makes Facebook much more useful because you only see the items that your friends have found important enough to comment on or “touch” in some way. Overnight my news feed went from something that looked pretty cold and lame to something that has tons of “warmth.”

I am SO GLAD I deleted most of the people I had friended on Facebook and went down to a core group of people because I’m getting some pretty good items there now.

But I notice it now has the thing that most of my friend’s hated about FriendFeed: there are people on my feed I didn’t invite all of a sudden.

Here’s how that happens. Let’s say I’m a friend of Maryam Scoble, my wife. I see all her items. That is cool. But it also displays me any of HER FRIENDS who comment on her items. I might not care to read her friends’ opinions on politics or whatever. But I can’t easily get rid of them.

Twitter, on the other hand, doesn’t have comments. So you can’t easily have a back and forth conversation about something like you can over on FriendFeed or Facebook. But it has a HUGE advantage: I only see items from people I invited to get on my home screen.

That is a HUGE advantage for controlling noise and for keeping yourself productive. Especially after you get Twitter’s new lists feature, which lets you split your contacts up into separate pages (I have a page of just Venture Capitalists, for instance, which is a completely different feed from my page of tech journalists).

This is the biggest difference now between Twitter and Facebook and is one that keeps rubbing in that on Twitter you should follow lots of people and brands that you care about, while on Facebook you should follow only people you REALLY care about because they will drag into your view all THEIR friends and that will make your feed noisier and less valuable. Hope your friends choose their friends carefully.

Comments

  1. Robert

    Is this sort of their way of closing in on the “permission” to add friends? You bring up a very valid and interesting point regarding the comments. Since we cannot control who our friends are friends with, will this now lead to less comments or unfriending people?

    Regarding twitter lists – since anyone can follow anyone if you are put onto a list that you do not wish to be on, if you delete them from following you, does that delete you off that list?

    1. If you click hide to the left of the post it will hide the games from you seeing them. Just don’t hide the person just the game.

  2. Ross: yes. I've found that if I follow you I'm about 20x more interested in what you have to say than if I don't follow you. That said, I'm always looking for geeks to follow. In the past week on Twitter I've added about 5,000.

  3. You can always hide the people you're not that interested in, as well as all those annoying polls and apps you just don't care about. You have to wonder also how Facebook Lite will behave after the latest round of FB features.

  4. It is hard to choose what is the best compromise. I have stopped reading FriendFeed because there is too much discussion and only a few thread where worth my while.
    Twitter on the other hand looked a bit dry to me until I started using seesmic at full screen with columns and columns of searches and long streaks of updates.
    So it turns out that Facebook has started to become usable and significant to me only after I cut my friends to a bare minimum of real friends in real life.
    FriendFeed started working for me with a few more contacts, but only after killing most of the noise makers. If you get all the closure of an individual together with the person you have better choose wisely and add one person at a time. Sometimes the person that hosted the best parties is the one that brings in the whole blogosphere on a given area.
    Twitter on the other hand works best for me when I watch tweets a hundred at the time or through statistical aggregators like tweetmeme that might warn of a surge on a topic that could be a news in the making.
    This could be simply the difference between letters and newspapers if you think of it.

  5. That's not really much of an option for me and my fellow addicts. That said, if you are going to keep Twitter open much of the time it's a lot more productive than FriendFeed or new Facebook.

  6. Wait, hold on – I've been able to see other people's comments on my friends' FB items since comments came out. That's not new is it? Also, what would the alternative be? Hide their comments and show just my friends' comments? But that would lead to lots of out-of-context comments as friends respond to non-friends in the comment stream (kind of like when you have someone blocked on FF, I guess)…how would that be better?

    The thing that would finally make Facebook more useful for me is enabling discovery. It's very difficult to find new people or content on Facebook – showing other people's comments on my friends' items seems obvious to me. When are they going to show me items from non-friends that friends comment on? It seems that everyone's concerned about getting less content. I want more content, or at least the option to get more content when I want it. Things that are more limited (and limited by people who are not me) are not more valuable to me.

  7. If it filters on engagement how does a new item get shown to anyone before anyone's liked it or commented on it? Or do I misunderstand?

  8. I agree 100% Jandy. Though I understand where Scoble is coming from, social media is really about engagement and interaction. What's ironic is Robert is suggesting that he doesn't want to see everyones voices any more yet he feels Twitter (which is much more public) to be a better filter for that. Facebook has a horrible home feed unlike Friendfeed which you can define who goes where and I hope FB fixes this issue some day.

    But Twitter is horrible for engaging a conversation beyond two people and I'll argue that without that engagement, you'll not expand your circle by meating friends or friends. Twitter is truly just a microblog with a weak comment feature; one big RSS feed where each voice is a feed, no real integration between those feeds beside references to each other every once in a while with an @ sign instead of a hyperlink. Now that said, it clearly has strengths: a huge audience is clearly it's the biggest strength but unless you are followed or listed, that audience is not listening. Lists are a welcome addition but I don't follow any yet because one person's signal is another person's noise. They are great sources to know who you should consider to follow though.

    That all said, no system is perfect for everyone. FriendFeed is the model that has worked best for me though and I hope that means that either FriendFeed lives or somehow Facebook can figure out how to use the public features of FF without disrupting the personal friend culture that Facebook grew from. Keeping those two cultures separate is essential from both a noise standpoint but also each of their purposes.

  9. Thanks, I had known about this before it was coming….thanks to a Twitter post ha ha. But I know a lot of people that were ticked off. I suppose it all depends on what you want to do. Usually seeing my friend's friends post doesn't bother me that much. Heck, maybe I could make a new friend or get a chuckle from them.

    Mike Griffiths.

  10. Yes, I use Twitter as a reader, in place of RSS. (Moreover, I only follow about 20 very carefully picked Twitterers, from whom I get my daily dose of useful links.) But Twitter is useless to me for communication, because I changed my account too often, and the new one has almost no followers. The power tweeters like Mashable, O'Reilly and Scoble (hi Robert) are all in the dark about how Twitter fails for the great mass of users. I go to Facebook to be heard by close acquaintances within a walled garden, and Friendfeed comments to be heard by the geek elite in public feed. But only celebrities can broadcast on Twitter.

  11. Just what I wrote last night. Facebook looks like Friendfeed. And yes, you now see randos. I don't mind, but I'm sure I miss a lot. I think I can still hide people in my FB feed though, even though I've friended them, right?

  12. That's not true. I'm far from a celebrity, and while I get more interaction on Friendfeed (because I'm more active there), it's not that difficult to get good interaction on Twitter. Maybe if you didn't change your account so often and made it easier for people to find and follow you (and followed more people yourself), you wouldn't find it useless. If you'd prefer to use it like an RSS reader, that's fine, but don't make it sound like Twitter's fault that you don't find interaction there.

  13. I know you're replying to slatteryz but I didn't mean to make it sound like you can't interact on Twitter because that's far from the truth. My point was the structure of flow is very much like a RSS reader where I can see “All Items” or “a single feed” but all interaction is simply tied to references of other feeds and no easy cohesive way to follow a flow beyond two parties. Just look at Scoble's blog on Disqus here, I can follow a flow and engage with multiple parties in a structured conversation. I can pretty much do that on Facebook and Friendfeed but Twitter it's almost impossible. I won't even get into the 140 character issue that forces URL shorteners and cryptic creativity.

  14. They do not want users to have a choice. Many social networks let you choose between only direct friends and the whole world, with steps in between, on every message. Facebook wants to force the noise so they can sell it. On every count, except population size, there are better social networks than Facebook. I do not know why one would want to use it. Well, I guess there is the size, but that is noise.

  15. Ok, I'll keep at it, though you may simply have more patience than I do. I should admit, I have been posting on my blog lately about how much I hate ads, and, by extension, the chip on my shoulder I have re fb.

    Your list of quizzes is hilarious, btw.!

  16. There are some great Greasemonkey scripts to do this. Facebook Purity comes to mind; get rid of Ads, Game, Quizzes, etc. I does require a few tweaks if it blocks something you want though.

  17. One of the first things I did after leaving college was get rid of pretty much anybody I wouldn't really see again, or didn't even know well, from Facebook. I must have removed about 100+ people from it, and I'm so glad I did – it makes the whole thing a little bit more manageable, although Twitter is still better for displaying things you WANT to see.

  18. Yes, if you work at it hard enough you can build up a following on twitter – and after weeding out all of the spam accounts and people following you that have nothing in common, you might even get some satisfying interaction. But most newcomers just fail at it. Look at the statistics. The overwhelming majority of Twitter subscribers have less than 10 followers and almost never tweet.

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  21. Nice work Robert – I think that your simplified version of “what you get” between Facebook and Twitter is a delineation long over due. I have a question however. Can Facebooks news feed method be a benefit to businesses that are looking to extend their reach? From a marketing perspective – recognizing that you and I may not want to be marketed to, would it help businesses to occasionally get on my home page because a “friend” or even a friend of a friend had something positive to say and then I saw it?

  22. I think you're being a bit misleading. In either the FB News Feed or Live Feed I only see *original* posts from my friends. I do see comments by their friends, which is kind of the point of social networking: discovering new people. For me, scrolling past the comments isn't a big deal, and is preferred over Twitter where you only catch pieces of conversations.

  23. Seems to make sense. I think you described it perfectly, Facebook is still a place for mostly friends, whereas Twitter you follow a general crowd you want to follow. You can always still follow friends on Twitter but it’s at a different level I think.

  24. Anyone ever looked at ylert.com? Ylert has social networking, micro/macro blogging, photo and video sharing, follow me messaging, profile designs, profile tunes jukebox player, events calendar, seek answer, recommend a product, journals, video conferencing with skype, chat rooms, address book, send emails from address book, classifieds, links to your favorite sites, etc. etc. There is alos a business version where you can feature yout top employees, vendors and customers. I had created this amazing network to keep up with my kids and recently made it available to every one. Ylert is combines all the features and more of other traditional sites, but has a new interesting angle to it. It is more designed to be your home page. Give it a try. Let me know what you think…..there is enough room for more than a handful of social networking sites. It is important for people to have a choice to be different, I think.

  25. I'm finding I'm toggling between the Newsfeed, the links and the update status buttons a lot trying to get the big picture. I wonder if the links button is going to be phased out?

  26. Just a thought…

    I think this is where (no offence) you generation of geek differs to mine…as a young guy (early 20's) my generation of “friends” have used Facebook primarily as a tool to keep in touch with people who they care about.

    Yes information sharing is a part of it, but it doesn't matter what info you're sharing, because I care about you and what's going on in your life and that's why I follow you.

    Facebook has lists to help filter the clutter, I'd prefer to use them rather than disconnecting myself from people who I care about.

    Perhaps you use Facebook in a completely different way than I do…I'd be fascinated to hear your thoughts.

  27. Sorry, Ad-Block Plus (a Firefox extension) does this for pretty much all my sites. That should cover your needs and then some…

  28. I'm with Sam on this. You don't “Follow” people on Facebook. You're either a friend with them or you're not.

    - If I have not met you in real life, then you are not my friend on Facebook.
    - If we have not shared a beer (or equivalent) together, then you are not my friend on Facebook.
    - If you send me a friend request, then I don't care who you are, if these criteria don't apply, I hit the “Ignore” button.

    I don't know *anybody* who behaves any differently, and if I did, I probably wouldn't be their friend on Facebook.

  29. “That is a HUGE advantage for controlling noise and for keeping yourself productive. Especially after you get Twitter’s new lists feature, which lets you split your contacts up into separate pages (I have a page of just Venture Capitalists, for instance, which is a completely different feed from my page of tech journalists).”

    do i get to split up my contacts too? when am i going to get lists?

  30. Thanks forthis – I asked my Followers onTwitter if I should get a FB account and s/one sent me a link to this post. It's helped clarify a couple of things – and tells me I don't need Facebook as yet!
    Cheers – Zoe

  31. This is very good analysis. I had given up on Twitter for the last 2 months and invested more time into Facebook. I am thinking about giving Twitter another try though.

    The “Noise” is certainly a problem for me. It is just that so many people have very little to say. But I think I have to put this onto myself. I am probably not following or friending the right people. Nor am I putting in the time to give back.

    Funny how the internet works very similar to relationships.

  32. “I might not care to read her friends’ opinions on politics or whatever.”
    you dont have to read them. There are several news headlines featured when you go to cnn.com. Do you click on each of them and read them? Quit whining already and just learn to adapt seamlessly.

  33. I really don’t care about the “look” of facebook. I just wish it would work. For several days I have either been unable to get on because my “account is unvailable due to site maintenance” or I do get logged in only to find they have completely erased my entire friend list so I can’t look at their profiles or contact them. I tried just sending a message, but got kicked off. Whatever they have done it isn’t an improvement.

  34. hopefully facebook will learn what customer service is, I made an account aug 09 have gotten 38 emails to confirm friends ,but facebook says i dont have an account.send more emails than have in year asking for help , they have no phone service ,and they have computer generated responces, hopefully twitter actually has (live people) or actually respond to those who need there help

  35. If you think it's tough on you to read what all Miryam's friends are doing, you ought to see what it's like for HER, seeing what all YOUR friends are doing. ;-)

  36. I enjoy Facebook more than Twitter because of the level of engagement. Sometimes on Twitter, it feels like you are throwing your update up on a wall hoping it sticks. Starts to remind me of Digg. However, Facebook is actually a real social community where people befriend you based on some level of similarity.

  37. I enjoy Facebook more than Twitter because of the level of engagement. Sometimes on Twitter, it feels like you are throwing your update up on a wall hoping it sticks. Starts to remind me of Digg. However, Facebook is actually a real social community where people befriend you based on some level of similarity.