I tried switching from identi.ca to brainbird today, when my always present frustration with 140 character limit in microblogging boiled over. Again. In the process, I've found some warts in the OpenMicroblogging system, beyond its obsession with fitting into an obsolete sideband communication medium that I will never actually use. Rant mode on.

Let's assume that OpenMicroblogging catches on, in a big way, and we're all using it in 10 years. So, it will be something like email. And its federated design allows for that; there can be multiple servers that communicate, and so on. (Which is a very good thing, compared to the twitter monoloth.)

But: How many times have you changed your email address? When you did, you probably set up a .forward for the old email address, and emailed some people from the new address to let them update their address book, and it was not a big deal. But the experience when changing an OpenMicroblogging site is not the same. You have to go out and re-follow everyone. For each person, you have to go through a multiple screen (OAUTH) process. This process may not even be automatible.

Second problem is that OpenMicroblogging does not use addresses. So to talk to me, one uses ยด@joey'. It's not clear to me how sites determine whether to direct that to joey@identica or to joey@brainbird. Seemed like, if I switched to brainbird, I would need to pick a new username, to avoid having to check both places.

Finally, the OpenMicroblogging spec, while really quite a neat approach to piggyback on OAUTH, has some absurd limits. 140 characters for a biography. Even the limit for one's full name is longer than that. Absurd. Suprisingly, no 140 character limit on messages actually exists, that's just a recommendation. But it's unclear how a system that sends a longer message interoperates with systems that use shorter messages. Probably the message will be truncated. And there is no way in the protocol to discover the message limit of a remote system.

All in all, I think I prefer RSS, or Google Wave, or even IRC from a protocol perspective. And from a usability perspective, Facebook does not have absurd message limits, and most people read my messages there anyway.


forwarding has issues

Hi joey,

with smtp, forwarding has some weird issues. It is not possible to validate the sender because you can't be sure if the Message was forwarded on the way to you. You don't have forwarding in jabber either. And that is good because this makes fighting spam quite easy. You can validate the sender :-) So i hope forwarding was deliberately not part of the openmicroblogging protocol. Cheers, Christoph

Comment by kluenter.de