I guess now that I’ve published this post, the rules are written down, even if they are still unofficial. However, with that said, I’d like to address a few things with the popular microblogging service Identi.ca.
I’ve been actively involved with the service since July 2, 2008, which means I’ve been on the service now for three years. In my opinion, it has trumped Twitter by leaps and bounds in terms of features. But, with these features has come uncharted territory, much of which is getting heavily abused. After being involved with the service as much as I have, I’d like to address some points that I would think should be common etiquette when using Identi.ca. All of these items have to do with group tags, or the ability to send messages to a group that you belong to using the exclamation point “!”.
- Don’t use group tags on “retweets/redents”. When “retweeting/redenting”, strip any and all group tags from the post, and replace them with the hashtag “#”. Nothing is more annoying than seeing the same post posted to the group six, seven or eight times. Once is enough. Further, navigating to http://identi.ca/tag/foo will show all posts about “foo”, both hashtags and group tags.
- Don’t post off-topic with group tags. When sending a message to a group, make sure it meets the groups rules for staying on topic. Don’t abuse the tag, because you think it’s semi-related to the topic at hand. In other words, don’t send messages to the Linux group and the Arch Linux group, when the post is entirely about Arch Linux. Chances are high most people in the Arch Linux group are in the Linux group as well.
- Don’t abuse the number of group tags. We all know that GNU and Linux are married at the hip, but that doesn’t mean every post to the Linux group needs to go to the GNU group as well. When you start adding three, four and five group tags to your post, you’re just spamming as many groups as you can, to reach the widest audience, when the fact remains that many people are likely already in most of the groups your spamming. Try to keep your group tags to one or two. Any more than that is just spam, it’s annoying and I for one will block you, especially if you’re a repeat offender.
- Don’t use the group tag if the person you’re in conversation with is not using it. Use the hashtag “#” instead. The problem with only one party using the group tag, is half of the conversation is available to the group, and if the conversation is highly active, it’s considered spam. If a reply thread has been carrying on during a discussion, people can navigate to the web interface, click the “in context” link and read the relevant discussion. There is no need to keep sending your replies to the group. However, if everyone in the discussion is using the group tag, then feel free to keep it going.
- Don’t use the group tag and the hashtag for the same word in a single post. You only need to use the tag once. Using the group tag again or using a hashtag on the some word as the group tag doesn’t provide any extra functionality. When people navigate their browsers to http://identi.ca/tag/foo, or click on the hashtag “#foo”, they will see “foo” group tags and hashtags. So, having it once in your post will reveal it to that query. Any additional tagging on the same word in the same post is just silly.
- Do use group tags to post relevant questions, stories, links or HOWTOS from the Internet. It’s always great to see a good article that I didn’t have in my RSS feeds that someone posts, and is usually worth of a “retweet/redent”.
- Do use group tags interweaved with your post. In other words, while appending group tags at the end of your post is fine, using them as words in your post is even better. Same can be said for hashtags. Make them work with you in the post, rather than anchors at the end.
- Do use the group tag sparingly. While you might be a member of the “listening” group, and your posts are strictly on topic, sending listening updates every 5 minutes might start to piss people off, and you could get blocked, and/or removed from the group.
- Do use the recycle unicode symbol for “retweets/redents”. Although nothing to do with group tags per se, lots of posts to group tags are reposted. Using “RT” or “RD” is sooooo 2006 Twitter. Using U+2672 ♲, U+267A ♺ and U+267B ♻ seem to be most common. Plus, it saves you a character in your 140 character limit.
I’m certainly no expert on microblogging, nor am I any authority on Identi.ca. However, I have noticed that when these unwritten rules are violated, it usually ends up in pissed off people and a less-than-pleasant experience.