So anyone who follows me probably knows of my love of twitter. Over the years it has become the only major social media network that I really interact with on a regular basis. Technically I have Facebook, and G+ and essentially an account on every single social media network because I am always curious about the next big thing…. but rarely do they actually make an impact. What has happened instead is that I seem to have become more and more entrenched in niche social media. Firstly I have to talk about my love of Anook. When this site first launched it confused the hell out of me. In fact I was shooting off my mouth like I often do on twitter, complaining about me not really understanding its purpose…. when the Anook account started messaging me trying to explain it. My attachment to this network is entirely thanks to one man, Lonrem the social and community manager for the site. The site itself does a lot of things… but it also has so far to go before it “grows up” into the site that it could be.
I have a long list of things that I would love to see on it, but I continue to use it as it is in the hope that someday the rest of the world will realize just how special this network really is. It is built on a strange dynamic of forcing actual interaction with the site, rather than allowing folks to just auto post content. This is cool because it means that folks are actually there and posting and commenting… but the negative is for content providers like myself it is frustrating to have to do extra work just to support them. Each week when I publish AggroChat I go out and manually syndicate the content to our AggroChat Nook. The first change I would love to see is for them to integrate with RSS feeds the same way they do with YouTube and auto format a post in a way as to showcase blog content. The other big one for me is that their system only allows you to tag one game per post… and you all know I cannot seem to make single game posts like ever unless it is an impressions piece. In any case…. the community on Anook is amazing because Lonrem works his ass off to keep it that way. Spammers, Bots and Trolls do not last long because the network is curated by hand. I just hope that they get the funding to expand features and integrate with more things.
Slack: Private IRC Thingy
The next social thing that has taken me even further away from traditional social media… is Slack. It is kinda hard to explain just what Slack is, but I tend to think of it as a private social network. On one hand it is almost like having a private IRC server, and on other hands it is like having a private version of google drive or dropbox. I was originally introduced to the tool through the MMOGames.com staff who uses it for coordination of articles and such. I then started using it at work with my own development team, and we have pretty much switched to communicating exclusively through it so that if someone tags into a discussion late they can use the channel backlog to catch up on what is going on. Finally I convinced the AggroChat crew to start using it to discuss and coordinate things during the week, and from there it kinda grew into me being in a huge number of private slack groups each of them with their own dedicated focus. The end result is that I use other media less and tend to use slack as my key focus. It has a bunch of benefits, like the fact that this site is largely used for business purposes around the world, and as such happily passes though most corporate web filters.
What slack does extremely well is text chat, and while they can integrate with a dozen other things and are even starting to move down the voice chat path… they are the king of text allowing you more options than pretty much any other service. For programmers this is amazing because it allows you to post snippets of code and then have it formatted and color coded for the language you posted it as. This is huge when collaborating on development, and we even end up using this from time to time among the AggroChat crew. You can also see in the above image that we have it integrated with twitter so that anytime someone sends a message directed at our AggroChat account it shows up in a specific channel. The feature we have really gotten addicted to is the custom emoticons and I am not sure what I will do without my Vault Boy Thumbs Up icon to use as a reaction. The piece of the equation that most people don’t know is that the team behind Slack… is Tiny Speck the company that built the amazing 2D MMO Glitch. They essentially took the robust chat infrastructure behind that game… and turned it into a business product that honestly makes me feel a little good inside to be using.
Discord: New Voice Contender
Over the years we have shifted back and forth between the three major voice providers for gaming purposes: Teamspeak, Ventrilo, and Mumble. Each of them has their own positives and negatives. They all share a big negative however in that it requires you to either find someone willing to host a server for you, or pony up for server hosting costs. For years during World of Warcraft raiding, I just ate the cost of a voice server because it was something like $45 a quarter. However that still adds up over time, so when we were offered the Alliance of Awesome Teamspeak server I jumped at the chance to jump to no longer having to pay this fee. That server has been awesome and we record AggroChat from it every Saturday night. However deep down inside… I know that someone out there is having to foot the bill for our fun… and it kinda bothers me. Recently a new app called Discord has somewhat taken the gaming world by storm. In so many ways Slack and Discord seem to spawn from the same desire… to have server less communication for their users. Slack went in the direction of replacing IRC, Instant Messenger and Email…. and Discord went down the path of trying to replace Teamspeak, Ventrilo and Mumble. There is a huge bit of overlap between the two technologies but for the most part Slack is my daytime network, and Discord is rapidly becoming my night time network.
What is extremely awesome about this is that each game community seems to be adopting Discord, and I now have large communities in Destiny, ESO, Rift, and The Division that are focused that one game. We recently shifted to using this as a World of Warcraft raid for the Stalwart casual Wednesday night raid and it works wonderfully. The stability of Teamspeak has been a little questionable of late, and we went through a night where everyone sounded like robots. This lead us to fire up a discord, and in a few minutes we were all able to chat happily with little to no lag. There are some caveats here that I feel like I should talk about. The web client is awesome for text based chat, but if you intend to use it long… I highly suggest downloading the client for your desktop or mobile platform. The web client push to talk only works if you have focus on the web page…. meaning as soon as you alt tab into your game you can no longer speak. A side note… if you are not using push to talk… please god use push to talk. I raided for years with folks who didn’t and really… we can hear every sneeze, fart, and kid yelling in the background. I would absolutely jump from Teamspeak to Discord entirely… but as of right now there is no good means of recording a channel. I’ve bumped the feature up on the request list, so hopefully maybe someday someone will see fit to do that. Mostly I hate Skype with a passion and would love for Discord to really take over the podcast recording world.
The thing is… these are the three services that I have now become extremely comfortable with and have integrated into my life. There are so many others out there like Player.me that I have yet to really see the personal benefit of. Then of course there are all of the services like Steam that we all use… but don’t really use like social networks. Recently I have somewhat been forced to use Band because it is what my Destiny Clan switched to using. It seems to have really great scheduling options, but pretty shitty chat or at least it is shitty if you are not using a mobile client. I try and do everything I can through desktop or web based clients because nothing makes me a sad panda like typing on my phone. I am horrible at responding to non-critical text messages because I really hate the process of typing even with swype on a mobile device. I know my wife uses the Google speech to text functionality a lot, but nothing makes me feel more of an idiot than talking to my phone. So in the end… I put off responding to as much as I can until I am sitting back down at a keyboard again. So I’ve showed you mine… what services do you now use that you cannot give up? I am curious how these niche media sites are reshaping the way we interact with social media in general.