One of the beautiful things about social media is that it allows you to interact with folks all over the globe with little to no effort. I’d like to label myself a “young up and comer” in the SharePoint Community and with that, I don’t want to upset any of the folks that I look up to nor do I want to hurt the newly formed CT SharePoint Users Group. Earlier today I noticed that Marc Anderson who is someone I have tremendous respect for, started retweeting some of his older blog posts using the “From the archive” heading which I believe is a WordPress Plug-in which automatically cycles through old posts and tweets them. I was quick to Tweet that “I hope 2014 isn’t the year of from the archive”. Now of course, my tweet gets picked up by Chris Givens who is a rockstar SharePointer out of San Diego which immediately gets some visibility leaving me with a bit of my foot hanging out of my mouth. So I’d like to take the change to explain my point using more than 140 characters.

One of the new themes that I have been seeing over the past few months is this “automation” of social media and to be honest, I do not particularly care for it. It started with Joel Oleson and Seb Matthews (perhaps others but they were the first to appear in my feed). I will pick on Seb a bit since I have both met him in real life, shared a beer, and I know that he is a good sport and will not hold my opinion against me. Cards on the table, I respect Seb quite a bit both technically and personally for how he conducts himself. I follow Seb on Twitter because from time to time he puts out some pretty good stuff that is both interesting and helpful in my job as a SharePoint Administrator. However, Seb is one of those guys that relies on two forms of social media automation.

1. He reposts tweets from @scriptingguys, mostly their ProTips.
I actually used to follow @scriptingguys before I followed Seb and actually stopped because I found it annoying to have the same ProTip repeated twice in my feed. Ed Wilson (@scriptingguys) is a master with the Powershell but since I focus mainly on SharePoint, it felt to me like I would probably get more out of Seb’s re-tweets than Ed’s.

2. He tweets “From the archive” and then links to an old blog post
So to be honest, this is perhaps the one that I find to be the more annoying of the two. I find that these posts tend to clutter up the feed a bit more and they usually point to content that I do not have much use for.

Now mind you, with the appropriate Twitter client I can certainly filter out these duplicate Tweets. I wish the native one on both Windows Phone & iPad would have this functionality. I sent a Tweet our earlier to my friend Todd Klindt who recommended I go with Tweetdeck to filter out these archive posts.

Seb, in case you see a lot of traffic to your from the archive posts, please note that was me trying to find a good example. So anyways just to break this down a bit more – here’s one that was brought back from the archive on January 3rd & December 1st: http://t.co/ZRD2LZ4Nwz  – basically a wrap-up to the SPS Bermuda event.

To summarize it, he gives a bit of detail about Bermuda, a cool picture he took, and a link to his slides. Not that I’m knocking him but the post was adequate for an event wrap-up, I’ve done the same for a few that I have attended/presented at. If the initial post didn’t exist it wouldn’t be the end of the world, the Internet would continue to churn on. But from where I’m sitting, I don’t see much value in regularly repeating this wrap-up. To me, it just looks like the manufacturing of tweets which point to some average content. I’m glad Seb had a good time in Bermuda, but to me it wasn’t worth repeating.

Post below:

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However, I don’t want to come off as overly critical because again, Seb is a great guy and puts out some really useful material. For example some useful “from the archive” posts that Seb have put out are:

http://sebmatthews.net/2013/06/quick-powershell-tip-to-enable-status-tracking-between-reboots-in-scripts/
http://sebmatthews.net/2013/03/change-drive-letters-of-volumes-on-windows-server-using-powershell/

They are quick Powershell tips applicable to SysAdmins that unless you’re trolling through Seb’s blog, you might not find. Now, I don’t think it’s something that has to be retweeted every week, but perhaps on some sort of monthly cycle it might make sense. (Should the author feel its entirely necessary to support that functionality. I have actually used his status tracking between reboots myself and it was super useful at the time. However, it is not just always about me – I am sure there are people who would be “new to Seb” and might not already be aware of that older post. So I can completely understand the value in finding Seb, following him, and then reading that tweet which was “From the Archive”. However, to be honest, I don’t really think his wrap-ups of the SharePoint Saturday Events are worth much except for the links to his slide deck.

From a content management perspective, Seb should actually have a post with a summary of the session and then link to the slide deck. Then if you did a “From the archive” which linked to the summary and allowed the user to find the slide deck, it would actually be a worthwhile repeat.

I also really like Todd Klindt’s suggestion to tag the posts with something that can universally be filtered such as #classic like Joel Oleson does. Todd would probably cite from his New Media Expo learnings about the value of social media and that automation cheapens the experience. However, I won’t speak for Todd since he does plenty of that Monday evenings at 8:30 PM CST.. 🙂

So hopefully I was able to pull some of my foot back out of my mouth.. Much respect to the content authors – from Joel to Marc, to Seb. And I certainly can understand the value in repeating content, but all I (and perhaps the community) would ask is that it be worthwhile content to repeat.

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3 thoughts on ““From the Archive” – My Thoughts

  1. Hey Jared.
    Great post and some valid points made.
    Oddly I have been looking at my “from the archive” automation and have worked a tweak (based on tags) that will (once I go back through all of the older posts) only tweet archive content that is marked as tweetable. You are correct in that time sensitive (or time relevant) blog posts don’t have a place in the timeline of the here and now.
    There is, although, a counterpoint and that is for the casual browser of the timeline – somebody like you (or me, Marc or Joel for that matter) that have a lot of investment in social media find ourselves de-cluttering the timeline a lot using filters etc. For casual twitter users this problem does not exist as they have no concept of the repetitive nature of tweet automation!
    To your point on the use of a filterable octothorpe (yeah, that’s right, I said it!) the use of the word “archive” is a kind of de facto term that many seem to use on twitter to let folks know that this is a “repeated” tweet. I spent a bunch of time trying to find the best way to mark these autofed tweets and the use of “archive” seemed fairly universal to me.
    I’m making some more changes to my timeline automation over the coming weeks (see if you can spot them!) some of the tools out there are getting smarter giving a more AI experience.
    You will be assimilated, resistance is futile.
    speak soon and glad you enjoy http://sebmatthews.net
    Seb

  2. Jared:

    Thanks for posting this. It’s refreshing to read an open and honest critique that doesn’t bash anyone. (Though a little Seb bashing would be OK – he’s a tough guy.) There’s no foot-in-mouth in this at all.

    I noticed Joel’s tweets about some of his older posts recently and wondered if it was something I should try. People tell me from time to time that they have found one of my older posts useful, so I figured maybe others would too.

    I went into it with trepidation, frankly. I’m not much of a fan of automated tweets, either. I do use HootSuite – which is excellent, BTW – to schedule tweets for two reasons:
    1) I tweet about my new blog posts 4 times over 24 hours just so that people in other time zones might see them, and
    2) sometimes I’m going through my steams and want to RT a bunch of things. Rather than clogging the feed with a bunch of RTs, I let HootSuite auto schedule them out over the next few hours or so.

    Other than that, I generally only tweet stuff that I have read and found interesting or valuable. Of course , we all get into conversations in public as well, like the on that led you to this post.

    Tweet Old Posts is the WordPress plugin that Joel is using and pointed me to. It lets you set a number of things like frequency, format, hashtags, etc. You can also explicitly exclude tweets, and I’ve excluded all the announcements of prior SPServices versions since those posts are definitely old history. Excluding things like SharePoint Saturday wrap ups wouldn’t be too hard, either.

    I suppose that it really comes down to what each person considers valuable. I might post something today that you or Todd find totally dumb and that some other people find hugely useful. Well, OK, mildly interesting.

    I may well turn off Tweet Old Posts. For me it’s still an experiment. As I mentioned on Twitter, the feedback has been mixed. I’m going to let it run for a little while longer and and see what other feedback I get. My guy says it’ll probably go into the dust bin.

    Thanks,
    M.

  3. Thanks for expressing this concern. I too have wondered if it was worth it… Do I get more longevity out of my best posts or does it hurt my best followers who have already seen it. I am using filters and exclusions and the #classic hash tag hoping it will be easy enough to exclude… I have seen twitter move to a position in my referrals in that is now the most important way to reshare my content after google. … getting this right is critical. I welcome the feedback!!

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