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  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

110: Comparing Microblogs

Howdy! I've been using Twitter (Let's not pretend Musk's app name will stick.) consistently for a couple of years now. It's always had its issues, but since Musk bought it, every update has broken the app. Assumedly, there can only be so many glitches and server issues before it permanently crashes. Or, there is a large enough controversy where the majority of the user base leaves. In the mean time, I've been trying out other microblog apps, including Spoutible, Counter Social, Mastodon, Threads, and Bluesky. I actually did make an account on Parler when it first dropped as an alternative to Facebook, but the place was a cesspool (If you happen to remember Voat, the userbase is similar.) and I deleted my account that same day.

Of my micro blogs, Twitter still has the largest userbase. For both social and marketing purposes, it makes the most logical sense to be where the people are. However, Twitter ceased cooperating with third party apps (unless they were willing to pay obscene amounts of money), so it's difficult to see how many users are inactive now. When first starting out, there is an option on Twitter, to use your contacts to connect with acquaintances on the app. This is a useful feature if you aren't the sort to yell into the void, because without followers, few will read your Tweets. Twitter also has both an algorithmic newsfeed, focused on the user's interests and another filled with just those they follow. Tweeting a link includes an image and the title. Twitter has a gif menu to choose from. Images are not currently cropped.

Threads lets new users follow everybody they're already following on Instagram. So far, most new users are utilizing this feature meaning few users start off with no followers. Something to take into account is that Instragram followers are often made up of real-life connections, as opposed to Twitter, where mutuals are less likely to have ever interacted beyond the screen (in my experience). It's easier to be honest online with strangers (who have connected over shared interests), than it is to do so with real life acquaintances (who share physical proximity or blood). All that to say, I'm self-censoring more on Threads than the other apps, similarly to how I handle my Facebook. Threads has what is meant to be an algorithmic newsfeed, focused on the user's interests, but they're so new it's just a bunch of brand&celebrity posts. They added another filled with just those the users' follow but it's not intuitive to reach. Essentially, upon opening the app to the default news feed, the user must click the logo at the top which then offers both feeds as headings the user can click. When re-opening Threads, it returns to the original default feed, aka ads masquerading as posts. I still haven't figured out how to post gifs, and I'm not sure if there is a gif menu on the app. Posting links to Threads does include an image and a title.

Bluesky is currently still limited to invites, meaning if you don't know somebody already on the app, you probably aren't getting in. This both keeps the userbase small while ensuring that every user knows at least one person on the app. The whole point of social media apps being to connect, yelling into the void is best avoided. Bluesky offers three news feeds. The first is following-based, the second is algorithmic based off interests, and the third is a feed made of up posts those the user follows have expressed an interest in. That third feed has been pretty cool. Annoyingly, posting links to Bluesky doesn't include an image and title into the post. Likewise, I'm not seeing a gif menu. Posts allow a longer word count than that of Twitter.

Spoutible, Counter Social, and Mastodon do not link with contacts. The newsfeed on Spoutible organically shows posts (Spouts?) to users who might share those interests. I've found that Spouting once a day usually earns me interactions and my following is growing. As far as I can tell, Counter Social really does limit news feeds to those the account is following, meaning there is minimal organic growth of followers. While I see the posts of strangers shared by one single real life connection on Counter Social, I've found that expanding who I'm following is difficult. Counter Social isn't popular enough where users announce their accounts on Twitter. Mastodon is a little confusing. Upon signing up, you apply to be on a server. While using the desktop site, the login info doesn't require that you recall which server you initially chose, whereas the app, does. I didn't jot down the server name when I first made my account and it's not listed in my account details or settings on the app. Most users take ease-of-use for granted with their social media apps. That the Mastodon requires server information both when making the account, and when logging in, while not keeping that information accessible nor relaying that the user mustn't forget it, is an unfortunate hindrance. As far as I can tell, the Mastodon news feed is the chronological order of posts from others in the shared server, as well as those the user follows.

Posting links does show an image and the title on Spoutible, and there is a gif menu. Counter Social crops posted images. While posting links to Counter Social does include both an image and title, they're small. Posting links to Mastodon shows the image and title, but I'm not seeing a gif menu.

Upon joining these apps, I searched Tweets from my follows for mention of these app names. It's common for folks to advertise their migration away from Twitter. Even with the Bluesky links to their accounts, I found the search function on the Bluesky app to be glitchy. The webpage search function worked better. I have one mutual on Counter Social and honestly doesn't understand how anyone expects to expand their following on that app. In following those who moved to Mastodon, I noticed that the majority have the same script saved as their bio, which states, "This account is a replica from Twitter. Its author can't see your replies. if you find this service useful, please consider supporting us via our Patreon." Frankly, I do not. I don't blame anybody for essentially copy&pasting their Tweets onto their new microblogs. It takes time to build a following and deduce what posts best appeal to that audience. It takes even longer to make friends. It doesn't make sense trying to cater to the unknowns. But users follow those they intend to interact with and if those they're following don't reciprocate, they'll move on. The appeal is connection. In these bios, I see Twitter ads.

Of my several microblogs, the Twitter glitches & controversies are aggravating. Bluesky has potential but the search engine needs work. Threads could be fun if the ad:content ratio was significantly less ad-heavy than Instagram. Being a Meta app, I doubt that'll happen. Spoutible needs a bigger userbase but it is very user friendly, Mastodon feels like a graveyard of robots, as half those Twitter-clone accounts stopped updating, and it's easily the least user friendly of the bunch. I might delete my Counter Social. The one person I talk to there has my number.

Anyway, I hope you found any of this useful! Feel free to reach out with your own experiences using microblogs. Something has to replace Twitter, right? Eventually. Thanks for stopping by. I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!

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