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I am looking for alternatives to Twitter. In particular, the annoyances I am looking to fix are:

  • Twitter does conversations really poorly. The replies aren't grouped with the messages they are replies to.
  • Twitter limits how many characters can be used
  • Twitter is not designed to help deal with noise (see the next two bullet points). Google Buzz claims to use algorithms to sort out what is most relevant, but I don't have enough friends posting content to verify this claim
  • Twitter has tags, but they aren't used for filtering
  • Twitter isn't designed to make it easy for someone to publish into multiple lists, which might help reduce some of the noise problem

I know that some of the Twitter clients probably deal with some of these issue, but features tend to work better when they are part of the main site, rather than just bolted on.

EDIT: It has been commented that Twitter isn't designed for conversations, but to let you see what somebody is thinking. That makes sense and I suppose it does this well and explains why it is so poor for conversations.

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closed as off-topic by Sathya Mar 5 at 2:42

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You might find an alternative, but you won't find anything with the same universalness and ubiquitousness and massive userbase that makes twitter useful in the first place. –  Justin L. Jul 15 '10 at 11:46
    
@Justin L.: True, but at least then I'd know what site to try and get people onto –  Casebash Jul 15 '10 at 11:49
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Twitter isn't designed for conversations which is why replies aren't grouped with the original message and why messages are limited in length. It's meant for you to eavesdrop into what other people are thinking. The fact that you can reply and have a "conversation" is a side effect of the system. –  ChrisF Jul 15 '10 at 11:58
    
@ChrisF: If that is its purpose, Twitter really should only show the users posts when you visit a profile so you can see if they are worth following –  Casebash Jul 15 '10 at 12:08
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That's what it does. There's the showcase on the home page if you're not logged in, but apart from that the only way to see anyone's tweets is to visit their profile or follow them. –  ChrisF Jul 15 '10 at 12:10
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11 Answers 11

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I think you might be trying to bend Twitter into something it isn't.

Twitter is a service where you can push 140 character tidbits of "what's on your mind/wha'cha doing" to the rest of the world... and in return, you can follow what others are up to.

Twitter solved a bunch of things...

  1. I want to publish/share something (e.g. a cool link), but I don't want/need to create a blog post for it
  2. I "think" that the rest of the world cares about everything I do, thus I must publicize mindless dribble like: "I feel like tacos for lunch"
  3. I want to promote/syndicate my company/event news/products/info to the masses and my SEO expert tells me this is how I should do it
  4. I have a mobile device & time to waste - what can I do?

IMHO The reality is, that the Internet will really only support 1 (one) of these types of services because the users that are "following" will only want one consolidated view.

That said, the Twitter API is fairly robust and thus there are a zillion clients out there that can filter, group, sort and manage all the Twitter content you can handle.

Finally you mentioned conversations. AFAIK, conversations are best done with IM (e.g. MSN, ICQ, Gtalk, AIM, !Y, or IRC (for groups)), Facebook chat, or Google Wave (for collaboration)... and/or SMS on mobile phones.

FYI: If you just want to track a Twitter conversation between 2 parties, bettween.com offers a unique view for this. e.g. here is the current 'conversation' between @KevinRose/@AlexAlbrecht.

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"I think you might be trying to bend Twitter into something it isn't" - thats why I asked for an alternative =P. I am aware that Twitter's dominance makes it hard for other services to take off –  Casebash Jul 15 '10 at 12:48
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IMHO the definite answer to your question is: Google Buzz! It tries to fix all things you mentioned. Only problem is, you need a bloody Google account :)

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What's wrong with a Google account? OpenID would be better though. Buzz is good, just interested in what else has been tried though. –  Casebash Jul 15 '10 at 23:18
    
I recently set up an account on buzzcantweet.com to associate my Buzz & Twitter accounts. I post to Buzz and buzzcantweet sends it to Twitter -- along with a link to the conversation on Buzz. –  Doug Harris Jul 16 '10 at 15:35
    
Related question: webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/19/… –  Doug Harris Jul 16 '10 at 15:37
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StatusNet is one, but it seems that it can only be used to build your own network (self-hosted or not) (identi.ca is a public network built with it which you can join). It's open-source so if you can code, you can modify it to suit your needs and launch your own Twitter alternative.

P2 is a wordpress theme that tries to do the same thing StatusNet does, but with a wordpress backend. Once again, you have to build your network and you can modify it.

Finally, Yammer is similar to both links above, but it's not open-source and I don't think it's self-hosted.

All three offer nested conversations, more characters and can make use of tags. I'm not sure about handling multiple feeds or about filtering, but since two of those are open-source, it's possible to fix all the issues.

However, as Justin L. said, none of those have the user base to make them true Twitter alternatives, only Google Buzz could somewhat be considered that.

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identi.ca has the same character limit as Twitter (140). –  Casebash Jul 15 '10 at 12:25
    
@Casebash oh I assumed it wouldn't enforce a character limit since it was built with StatusNet, sorry about that –  mbillard Jul 15 '10 at 14:17
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At the risk of being a Necromancer I would suggest Google Plus as a good alternative as it addresses most of your reservations with Twitter.

  • G+ allows you to post to both people in your circles (think 'followers') and also publicly. In effect you can treat a public G+ post as equivalent to a public tweet, but without the character limit.

  • If people reply to a G+ post the replies are linked back to the original post and threaded.

  • You can publish to, and filter by, multiple streams (using circles) to reduce noise. For instance, you might have a circle called Family - you can easily filter so you only see posts in this circle and also when you post just target this group.

  • You can add anyone on G+ to a circle - they don't need to befriend you like Facebook. This is equivalent to "following" someone on Twitter.

Google describes Circles as:

"Google+ Circles helps you organise everyone according to your real-life social connections - say, 'family,' 'work friends,' 'music buddies,' and 'alumni'. Then, you can share relevant content with the right people and follow content posted by people that you find interesting."

And they describe streams as:

"The stream is the place to have meaningful conversations with the people you care about. It centralises all the content that people have shared with you, as well as the people who are trying to share with you, but who aren't yet in your circles. You might see text posts, pictures, videos, links or location markers. When you share with people either individually or through a circle, your content will appear in their stream."

If you have a Google account you can use Google Plus right away.

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Facebook

Really,

  • Conversations are grouped.
  • Short or long messages.
  • Multiples feeds and lots of applications.
  • Facebook lets you hide people making too much noise. And it also has two tabs to let you choose how much you want to read. Most people only look for the Top News tab as it is the one that filters the content.
  • You surely have more than enough friends on Facebook.
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Facebook is actually what I mainly use at the moment. What do you mean by multiple feeds? –  Casebash Jul 15 '10 at 13:15
    
Friend List Feeds –  phwd Jul 15 '10 at 15:15
    
@Casebash I don't know if your intention is to read or publish from other sites. But you can publish in your facebook wall from other sites by the "Imported Stories" (your wall -> options -> settings). –  Protron Jul 15 '10 at 18:47
    
@phwd: I actually meant the ability to publish into multiple lists (which I think would make it easier to clean up some of the noise) –  Casebash Jul 15 '10 at 23:19
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HootSuite is a Twitter app which pretty much solves most of your problems, although not all.

  1. It lets you view the entire conversation.
  2. Since it's just built on top of Twitter, it still has the 140 character limit.
  3. Tags, lists and stuff are still retained.
  4. Handles multiple feeds from Facebook/LinkedIn, etc.
  5. The noise element is still there, but then if you follow a lot of people that's the problem.

You already said you weren't looking at a Twitter app, I was just trying to indicate that it could probably be a solution.

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if you are looking to go the private-network corporate route, check out SocialCast

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Plurk is quite similar to Twitter, perhaps too similar since it has some of Twitter limitations too (like characters limit) , but I think it's a pretty good alternative.

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FriendFeed does most of the things you are after:

  • promotes conversation around objects
  • has greater character limit
  • provides really good filtering mechanisms
  • FOAF effects to discover new content/people to follow
  • groups for related content (you can publish to lots at once, with the same item)

It also integrates very well with Twitter, enabling you to maintain your existing network. Unfortunately, since Facebook bought it, it's at a point where no further development will take place. It may be worth keeping an eye on clones such as CliqSet, to see if anything can replace it.

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ThinkUp is a web app you can install on your own server that "lets you capture the insights and expertise of your social network by collecting and organizing replies to your conversations on Twitter, Facebook and (soon!) other networks."

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Use Yahoo! Meme. I wouldn't say it is an alternative, but it is a good one. You also get fewer followers in this!

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