A social networking post aggregator

* Managing your interactons with social networking services with Ping.fm

The problem with social networking is that it is so social. As you get more deeply involved with the various social networking services you'll find (or have found) that it expands your online things to-do list remarkably quickly. This is because social networking has developed so many separate and effectively isolated 'channels.' There's Twitter, Identi.ca, Friedfeed, Seesmic, Plurk, Facebook, Brightkite, Pownce, ...it's a long list that will most likely get longer.

The problem with social networking is that it is so social. As you get more deeply involved with the various social networking services you'll find (or have found) that it expands your online things to-do list remarkably quickly. This is because social networking has developed so many separate and effectively isolated 'channels.' There's Twitter, Identi.ca, Friendfeed, Seesmic, Plurk, Facebook, Brightkite, Pownce, ...it's a long list that will most likely get longer.

There are two parts to managing your interaction with social networks; reading them and posting to them. Today I have solution to the latter that can vastly reduce the time and effort required to update all of the networks you subscribe to. The service is Ping.fm.

Ping.fm is a relatively simple idea: It's an engine that understands how a user interacts with each of a number of social networking services.

The services Ping.fm supports are divided into three categories; blogging, micro-blogging and status updates. Some services (such as Tumblr) cover all of the categories by default while for other services only one or two categories apply (for example, Brightkite is in the status updates and microblogging categories).

What is really cool about Ping.fm is that you can not only post from your Web browser, but there’s also a mobile web application, an iPhone application, a Facebook application, an iGoogle gadget, an API, and IM support for AOL, Yahoo, and Google Talk. What isn’t cool is that when a post to a service fails you won’t know – the log of your posts doesn’t show the status just that the attempt was made.

Currently Ping.fm supports 19 services: Bebo, Blogger, Brightkite, Facebook, FriendFeed, hi5, Identi.ca, Jaiku, kwippy, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Mashable, MySpace, Plaxo Pulse, Plurk, Pownce, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress.com, and Xanga. For other services that it doesn’t currently support Ping.fm provides a Custom URL feature.

To set up Ping.fm you have to give the user name and password for each service you have an account on and specify which categories the service belongs to. Thus even though Tumblr is categorized as microblogging and status update, you might prefer to restrict it to just microblogging.

When you post via Ping.fm and don’t specify what category the post belongs to, by default it will be treated as a status update (you can change that default in your Ping.fm account settings).

If you want to be more specific about which services particular posts go to you can start your post with a service trigger. Thus, @be for Bebo, @pl for Plurk, and so on. Alternatively you can specify which category your post is to be sent to by pre-pending @s for status updates, @b for blog posts, or @m for micro-blog posts.

If you want to have customized groups of services you can also set up custom triggers. For example the trigger “#where” could be set up to direct those messages to only Brightkite (@s messages would still go to Brightkite and all of the other services in your other status update category.)

There’s only one problem with Ping.fm and similar services (for example hellotxt.com): By making it possible to more or less painlessly post to a large number of social networking services simultaneously you make the other part of social networking, handling the replies your posts generate, potentially much more work as you need to check each service.

The closest I’ve seen to a solution for this – what we could call a social networking reply aggregator - is twhirl, which allows you to post and read messages on Twitter, identi.ca, Friendfeed, and Seesmic (it can also cross post to Pownce and Jaiku). The only problem is that twhirl uses a separate window for each service whereas a real reply aggregator would allow you to merge all replies into a single window and support searching, tagging, filtering, and alerting.

Anyway, Ping.fm is currently in beta. If you want to try it out you’ll need to provide an invitation code – use “pingscompany”.

So far, I’m very impressed with Ping.fm and in the small world of social networking posting aggregators Ping.fm stands out as the most developed.

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