Ping + Twitter: Invitation to annoy?

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If you established a Ping identity in iTunes 10 and then, shortly thereafter, ignored it, it may be time to revisit it. Today Ping links virtual arms with Twitter.

Choose Ping in iTunes 10’s Source list and, at the top of your Ping pages, you’ll find a new Connect To Twitter To Find Friends And Share Your Ping Activity entry. Click on Connect To Twitter and you’ll be prompted for your Twitter user name or linked e-mail address and password. Enter it and you’re taken to a Friends On Twitter page. If any of your friends have likewise established a link between Ping and Twitter, their names will appear here. Select those that you’d like to follow on Ping.

Now that you understand how it works, let me explain why I don’t like it in its current form.

In its original incarnation, Ping was nearly useless without some kind of social networking link. If you wanted to add Ping friends you had to hunt them down manually. And so there were cries for Facebook and Twitter integration so your friends would automatically appear, making it easier to share your musical recommendations and comments. Twitter integration has brought this, so bravo on that front.

But Twitter and Facebook are different beasts. The majority of Twitter users I know employ some kind of client that pushes tweets their way. Although you can certainly be notified of Facebook posts, Facebook users often visit their Facebook pages via a Web browser to see what’s new in that world. So, Twitter = push and Facebook = pull.

This means that when someone with a linked Ping/Twitter relationship likes, posts, reviews, or recommends music, it’s pushed out to their Twitter stream and then pushed into the faces of their followers. And yes, that means every like, post, review, and recommendation. Currently it’s all or nothing—anything you do on Ping is pushed out to Twitter.

If you do something Ping-related once a week, this isn’t so terrible. Your followers will likely forgive the occasional Ping tweet. But the point of Ping is to be social. And for social to work you have to work at it. And that means filling your Twitter stream with Ping posts, which—at least in the receiving end of my world—means I either create filters to block any tweets that contain #iTunes tags or I stop following you. And that strikes me as anti-social. Is becoming a well-known Twitter annoyance really the best way to promote Ping?

As I write this, Ping has had Twitter integration for all of half an hour so it’s far too soon to say that Apple still doesn’t understand social networking. But I don’t think it’s too soon to suggest that a couple of changes are needed.

First, give us the option to be more selective about what we automatically tweet. For instance, tweet only links to music you’ve posted about—where you’ve taken the trouble to write something about a particular hunk of music rather than tweeting about each song you’ve liked. Next, shorten the URLs. Apple’s all about sleek design and those long iTunes URLs look cluttered. And finally, provide some kind of feedback for those users who are too insensitive to know that they’re about to become a Twitter pariah. This could be done via a Pingtweet-to-Other meter. Or a “This is the 20th Ping-related thing you’ve tweeted in the last hour. Don’t you think you should give it a rest?” dialog box.

When all is said and done, it may be that the best solution for this already exists. For those who like the idea of only very occasionally tweeting about an iTunes item, the option is there. Just click on the downward pointing arrow next to an iTunes item and select the Share On Twitter option. A dialog box appears that contains the item’s artist, title, and a link to that item. Click the Tweet button and off it goes to your Twitter followers. Used judiciously, such an option may allow you to both share links to your favorite media as well as keep your followers.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • New social network for discovering music
    • HD TV show rentals
    • A few more customizable, useful interface options
    • Smarter album art list view
    • Noticeable performance improvements


    • Ping feels unfinished
    • Other headline features won't mature for some time
    • Senseless interface changes harm usability
    • Ringtone features removed
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