In the realm of software services we can pretty much connect everything to everything because, as Sam Ruby’s tagline says, it’s just data. But subtle wrinkles emerge when you join things together. Case in point: the Twitter application for Facebook, which synchronizes the blurbs you post to Twitter with the status updates you post to Facebook. That’s what it’s supposed to do, anyway, I’m not sure it’s working properly, but never mind, the point is that the contexts are subtly different.

On Twitter, for example, the subtitle of this entry comes out looking like this:

That sort of one-liner is fine on Twitter. But on Facebook, it comes out looking like this:

Not so good. Facebook’s ‘is’ wants to be followed by a present participle (‘thinking’) or an adjective (‘happy’). So to write this blurb in a service-independent way, it should probably be:


Thinking about how it all depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

That makes for a better Facebook update, but a worse Twitter tweet. And what about initial capitalization? Good for Twitter, bad for Facebook.

So what’s a post-modern epigrammatist to do? Write epigrams that play well in both venues? Optimize for one over the other? Convene a standards group to hammer out agreements about capitalization and the use of participles?

Sillier things have happened. But there’s a serious lesson here for technologists who, like me, love to stitch services together. Just because we can doesn’t mean that we should. Facebook’s ‘is’ invites a mode of discourse that is importantly different from Twitter’s. I’m not sure I’ll invest heavily in either of those modes but, to the extent I do explore them, I’m going to use each in its own way.