Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Exploring a Twitter Alternative - Identi.ca

Earlier today, I realized I'd be facilitating a workshop on Building Your Professional Learning Network (PLN) in an environment that blocked Twitter, Plurk and Facebook. Oh, what to do?!?

In the back of my mind, I remember reading about a Twitter alternative known as "Identi.ca." I decided to find it and surprise, surprise, it was unblocked (please don't block it). As a result, I decided to see how hard it might be to use it as part of my 3-hour, Build Your PLN class. This would allow me to show people how to use a microblogging tool--and conduct searches on hashtags (e.g. #edchat) using search engines like Icerocket.com's Twitter search--and not have to go through the rigamarole of getting a more popular tool unblocked.
Note the Twitter search...search on usernames or hashtags!
As much fun as I've had exploring alternative microblogging tools, I found myself reluctant to deviate from the mainstream ones like Twitter and Facebook. The main reason, as I discovered with Plurk even though I like it a whole lot more than Twitter but less than Facebook (yes, I've given up privacy on Facebook as a lost cause), is that everyone is on those platforms and there is more support for them than anyone else.

Still smarting from some vendors' (e.g. Diigo) rejection of Plurk support, I like the way this blogger put it:
What makes Twitter good is two things: the first is that you can get at it in so many ways. And because there are so many ways, people can build lots of things on top of it...The second reason Twitter is good is that everyone's already there. They got first-mover advantage. There's no point going to an alternative because none of your friends are there. This is also the reason that Twitter has fifty desktop clients and that things like Twitterfeed exist; it's worth the investment. (Source: http://www.kryogenix.org/days/2008/07/03/identica-twitter-and-posting-between-the-two)
For fun, I decided to explore Identi.ca, a free open source alternative to Twitter. When embracing a different microblogging tool, one needs to remember the following:
  1. How will I post updates from this system to established ones (e.g. Twitter)?
  2. How can updates be made from mobile devices (e.g. Android)?
  3. Does it have RSS feeds?
  4. Is there an easy to use bookmarklet?
All the questions were easy to answer. For the first, there's an option in Identi.ca to provide microblogging updates via Twitter. That means, whatever I post there, goes straight through to Twitter. 

And, of course, it works:

For the second question, while existing Android Twitter clients apparently will work, I decided to explore Mustard, a client designed specifically for Identi.ca. Find out more about Mustard with this link.

Unfortunately, Mustard wouldn't hook up with identi.ca. The error was simple:
Internal Server Error
Tried to authorize unknown token
Whatever that means...so, instead, I looked up how to connect Seesmic Android client (highly recommend it since it pulls in Facebook, too) and that was easy following these excellent directions at WAP Review:

  • Start Seesmic, press the Android Menu key and choose "Accounts"
  • Press the Plus Sign icon to add a new account
  • Chose "Twitter Proxy"
  • Enter you identi.ca nickname and password
  • Enter identi.ca/api/ in the "REST API server:" box
  • Uncheck "Use XAuth" and leave the "Search API" box empty
  • Tap "Sign In"
It worked like a charm! Note that you can also use something like AnyPost--which works using Ping.fm--to send stuff to Identi.ca and other services. A little info about AnyPost:

AnyPost is now available in the Android Market as a free download. This version supports uploading photos directly from your device as well as allowing you to share your current location with your posts. You can ping all services tied to a specific post method, individual services, or one of your posting groups. (Read more)
Here's what the social networks screen looks like at Ping.FM:

For the third question--whether it has RSS feeds for updates--the answer is YES, it does.

Think of the possibilities for RSS content in Moodles, blogs, wikis, etc.

For the final question about bookmarklets--which make it easier to bookmark and share a page with the world--you can find one online at http://identi.ca/doc/bookmarklet

Of course, you can also post to Identi.ca via Ping.FM's "Ping This!" bookmarklet. Whatever works easiest for you.

You can also create groups in identi.ca...such as the following:

I'm not exactly sure if searching for hashtags like "edchat" will result in the same kind of exciting results, as evidenced by the screen shot below, but....
...maybe Identi.ca could be marketed to educators as the "slow lane" version of Twitter? What do you think?

Oh, and Identi.ca also comes with a URL shortener:

Anyways, it's always fun to try out new stuff.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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