Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook: Is “Stream-based” Publishing a Step Back?

I used to use an RSS reader. Then I discovered Twitter and found a ton of new and interesting people to follow. Interesting people that posted interesting content. I quickly adopted Twitter as a way to find new content and began checking my feed reader less and less. Twitter’s RSS feeds are far too frequently updated to make sense in a feed reader, so I gradually abandoned RSS entirely and relied solely on Twitter to follow my friends and discover new content. Trouble was, if you weren’t on Twitter or weren’t tweeting your blog posts, it was hard for me to keep up with your content.

I also follow several Tumblr blogs, and occasionally publish some content of my own (shorter form than this blog, more thought out than Twitter). I really enjoy Tumblr because it makes publishing quick, easy, and beautiful. As a whole, Tumblr is a very slick way to publish and interact with other people’s content, but it’s a walled garden. Essentially, the Tumblr dashboard is a really pretty, social RSS reader – that only allows me to subscribe to a certain subset of blogs. There is no way to follow non-Tumblr blogs inside of Tumblr, so it only works as a centralized content hub if everyone publishes their content on Tumblr. Sure, each Tumblr blog has an RSS feed available, but Tumblr’s dashboard provides enough nifty social features and UI polish that I enjoy reading Tumblr blogs far more in the dashboard than in an RSS reader. So I continue to login to Tumblr – both to publish content and follow my friends.

And now we come to Facebook. Probably the most widely used sharing platform of all, my Facebook stream is chock full of status updates, vacation photos, relationship changes, and shared links from all the people I actually know in real life. This stream is obviously very valuable and very personal, so a quick check to Facebook is definitely a part of my daily routine.

So now I’m in trouble – I have three separate “streams” that I need to check to follow my friends (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook) and I still have no way to follow anyone that creates using other platforms like WordPress, Blogger, or Posterous. So if you’re on one of those platforms, my only option is to stick your RSS feed into Google Reader. Before I know it, I’ve got a Google Reader account that is just as populated as my other streams.

So now, I have a stream of people on Twitter, a separate subset on Tumblr, my friends on Facebook, and I’m back to using Google Reader for everything else. I have to check 4 different places to follow all the content that is produced by my friends. Having to check all these separate streams is really asinine. Isn’t this the problem RSS was designed to fix?

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Bill D'Alessandro