Why I Will Not Use Seesmic, Ever

closeThis post was published 6 years 9 months 18 days ago. A number of changes have been made to the site since then, so please contact me if anything is broken or seems wrong.

Update (06/01): Seesmic eventually killed the green bar overlay. They announced a time-frame (by the middle of June) for closing Ping.fm, and also confirmed that the new Ping service will have a free service level. I commend this outcome, with reservations.

Update (03/03): This post garnered a response from a Seesmic employee, Yama, in the comments. From “figure out the best pricing model”, I gather that pricing remains undecided, so I maintain my hope for a HootSuite-like freemium model. I’m also glad to hear that the green bar will be reviewed for possible improvements. Thank you, Yama; if I have more thoughts I will certainly email you.

Earlier this month, no doubt on or soon after February 6, 2012, I went to Ping.fm to find a green bar on top of the area where I usually clicked to log in and get on with posting things to my social networks. Seesmic, apparently, had other plans. They really wanted to make sure I heard about their new product, Seesmic Ping. They covered the login link with a green bar to make sure I’d notice it.

Ping.fm with a green bar advertising Seesmic Ping

The offending green bar on Ping.fm’s homepage

All right, fine, I went to have a look. I didn’t feel like signing up for the new service, though. Instead, I dug up the blog post announcing Seesmic Ping, from February 6. Near the end, there was a very telling paragraph:1

For Ping.fm users – With the release of Seesmic Ping, we’ll look to maintain Ping.fm for some time. In the meantime, we encourage you to sign up for a Seesmic Profile and give Seesmic Ping a ride through our mobile applications or the web.

I wasn’t the only one made uneasy by those two sentences. “for some time” really doesn’t mean “indefinitely”, and sure sounds like Seesmic will eventually kill Ping.fm entirely.

Axe Ping.fm?

Source images: Question mark, Axe, logo from Ping.fm website

I’ve had complaints over the years with Ping.fm, occasionally with performance. But most of them came from decisions made by Seesmic, explicitly or not, after they acquired Ping.fm. They were things like:

  • No new API keys for applications
  • Disabling API keys for applications like the Shorten2Ping WordPress plugin, instead of blocking the users who were spamming
  • No new services for years
  • Issues with existing services, like Jaiku (which Google later shut down completely about a month ago)2
  • Broken post-by-email3

Despite all the issues following the Seesmic acquisition, Ping.fm has remained solidly usable. But Seesmic has now announced a successor to Ping.fm—and what’s more, they intend to charge for it (emphasis mine):4

We’ll look to have more features and services when Seesmic Ping comes out of beta as a paid service.

No pricing came with the announcement, just a notice that the new service would eventually cost money. I know we’ve all been spoiled by free Web services, and the money has to come from somewhere, but somehow I have my doubts that Seesmic will take an approach that is consumer-friendly. HootSuite has a great pricing model: Features that consumers will use (a few profiles, with one user who can manage them) are free; business-level features (more profiles, multiple-user collaboration) cost money. I don’t think Seesmic Ping will follow that structure; if I had to guess, everyone will have to pay for it.

I mean, really, Seesmic could have made the green bar push the entire page down, instead of floating it over the four tabs at the top. Look at what it covers:

The green bar superimposed on the normal Ping.fm look

With the green bar made partially transparent, we can see what it covers

It floated on top of the page for a reason, I’m sure. Putting it there made me click on it to make it go away (it didn’t). Then I read it, and followed the link. No doubt I followed the expected sequence of actions precisely. And that irritates me, because the green bar should have just looked like this:

How the green bar should have looked, pushing down the rest of the page

This is just as informative, but less annoying.
It probably failed the In-Your-Face Test.

I imagine that the reasoning went something like, “If it doesn’t cover the login link, users will ignore it. No, displacing the login link by 40 pixels isn’t enough; it has to actually be inaccessible. We will force users to read this bar on every single page.” Oh yeah, it pops up on every single page view. Home, login, Dashboard, settings, you-name-it—green bar ALL the pages… for lack of a better X all the Y idea.

There was also an email newsletter sent out on February 15, announcing Seesmic Ping, which I read after going through the whole “green bar” thing. It too addressed the future of Ping.fm… sort of:5

Like many of you, we appreciate the passion that Ping.fm brings, and made sure to carry over its core value of the simplicity in posting. With the launch of Seesmic Ping, we continue to enhance this service with reliability and robustness, while offering key features such as scheduling and the ability to post to multiple Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.
Eventually, Seesmic Ping will be a paid service. While in beta, Seesmic Ping is free to access. If you have any feedback, please tell us what you think: feedback.seesmic.com.

The email announcement carefully avoided any mention of shutting down Ping.fm. The original blog post never changed, though, so the plans are certainly still in place.

Bar chart of which interface @hidgw used to post to Twitter, as of 02:25 EST February 25, 2012

TweetStats' bar chart showing how I posted my tweets, as of 02:25 EST February 25, 2012

This state of affairs is really disappointing, because I’ve used Ping.fm as a staple of my online life for, literally, years. According to TweetStats, I’ve posted from Ping.fm more than I have from Twitter.com. (twhirl is still on top because I used to have it open all the time back in high school.) I post from the Web, from a third-party app on my Android phone, via SMS, and I used to use email posting from my mother’s cell phone back before I had my own. In short, I use Ping.fm a lot. It still is the best option I’ve found on the market for cross-posting to different social networks.

If When Ping.fm goes away, I’ll probably end up switching to Hellotxt. Hellotxt has its own share of issues at the moment, including a lot of services that are disabled and a significant slowness to the site, but it’s still the best alternative to Ping.fm. I can also just roll up my sleeves and build my own personal system, since all of the sites I use provide free API access, but I’d rather not take the time to do that. It would also load my (very) shared server and lack a lot of features like posting via SMS6 and scheduled posting.7 Could I implement them? Sure. Would I take the time? Questionable. Additional features also mean additional server load, and so on.

The point is, I have only one practical alternative—Hellotxt—because building my own is hard, time-consuming, and unlikely to happen any time soon. I dream that Seesmic will change plans and decide not to kill Ping.fm, but the reality is that it’s almost certain to happen and the only question is when. Hopefully Hellotxt will have its issues worked out by then and will be ready to take over as king of the cross-posting niche. It would certainly serve Seesmic right if Ping never went anywhere, and that might be worth losing Ping.fm.

As for never using Seesmic, ever, well, let’s just say I oppose the way they do things. I don’t like it when a company buys another company, takes the ideas and technology from existing products, and then shuts down the old company’s services. Google does that a lot, and those are the times when I come closest to hating Google. The difference is, Google almost always creates awesome things out of the remains of old companies and services. Seesmic hasn’t really done anything but allow a useful product to stagnate, and now they’re going to kill it at some unspecified future date, replacing it with something that can never be a true replacement. You can’t replace a free service with a paid service; it doesn’t work that way.

If Seesmic takes their pricing structure in the same direction as HootSuite, though, and they only charge for certain features, I might actually give Ping a try. I have a hard time imagining a situation that would make me actually like Seesmic as a company, though.


Notes:

  1. The paragraph was riddled with links to Seesmic.com, which I didn’t copy. There was no point. []
  2. Unlike other social networks that died, Jaiku had a dedicated following willing to preserve its contents, if not the functionality. Apparently, my “presences” are archived. []
  3. Added later on publish date (23:20 or so) when I discovered that Shorten2Ping had failed to post this article via Ping.fm. My server’s emails are working. The problem is with Ping.fm. Grr. []
  4. Yes, I skipped copying another link to Seesmic.com. All occurrences of “Seesmic Ping” were linked except for one. I guess somebody missed it. []
  5. And just like in the blog post, every occurrence of the phrase “Seesmic Ping” was linked to Seesmic.com. Talk about carpet-bombing links. []
  6. If I’m not paying for Seesmic Ping, I’m certainly not shelling out for an SMS gateway to serve my one-user app. []
  7. Ping.fm only has scheduled posting because HootSuite supports Ping.fm. It’s not native. Hellotxt has native scheduling, but I haven’t tested it yet. []

dgw

I am an avid technology and software user, in addition to being reasonably well-versed in CSS, JavaScript, HTML, PHP, Python, and (though it still scares me) Perl. Aside from my technological tendencies, I am also a theatre technician, sound designer, violinist, singer, and actor.

8 Comments:

  1. Thanks for your post, and I appreciate you sharing your concern, as well as your passion for Ping.fm. Due to the stability and performance challenges we have in maintaining Ping.fm (which was one of the reasons why we had to put a hold on offering api keys to developers), we felt the best solution was to provide Seesmic Ping as the alternative. We’ll continue to build features as we review usage for both Seesmic Ping and Ping.fm. And as we work on Seesmic Ping as a beta product, we felt it was important to set the expectations up front that, at some point, we’ll want to offer Seesmic Ping as a paid service, especially when we have enough features offered (currently – Seesmic Ping offers multiple accounts and scheduled posts, which Ping.fm doesn’t) as well as figure out the best pricing model for the service. We also have a developer API that’s currently in private beta and working with a handful of interested developers. We’re confident that, in the end, we’ll be able to offer a simple yet powerful service that makes sharing easy. We’re also reviewing the banner in Ping.fm and will discuss with the team, and see what we can do to improve it. Please feel free to contact me directly yama [at] seesmic to offer more feedback, and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts. Again, thanks for your post.

    • @yama

      Very rare to hear from a Seesmic employee…

      I’m a Seesmic Classic Desktop 2 user* and was bitterly disappointed when, without notice, you decided to drop support for that and the other Classic products.

      I wasn’t a Ping.fm user, but I’ve tried Seesmic Ping and it’s not really a substitute at all for Desktop 2, but I would use it if a couple of features were added. I’m reluctant though because what’s to say you won’t just walk away from that one when you lose interest or can’t find a way to make money from it?

      You say you appreciate the poster sharing his concern re Ping.fm, but in my experience Seesmic has become increasingly inward looking and reluctant to engage with users at all. Desktop 2 was the best Twitter client of its type and I would have paid a lot for it, but you (as a company) didn’t give a damn about its users when you pulled the plug and there’s no reason why anyone should believe you do now.

      *I say I’m a Desktop 2 user, but as of typing nothing loads when I launch it through Silverlight and most of the pages on your website lead to 404 errors.

  2. Jose F Guera

    I too now have serious misgivings about seesmic. I don;’t like the PATRONIZING way they have answered my questions and clearly their main issue is “we have to make money) which I have no problem with. However, they bought ping and looks like they will be dismantling the capabilities of posting to so many platforms. I am going to take a look at helloxt. There is no way I will use Seesmic if they don’t provide service to the platforms I use (LinkedIn, FB, Twitter, Plaxo and Google Blogger). It’s not like I am using some obscure platform to blog!

  3. Jose F Guera

    I for one am now having serious doubts about using Seesmic. While they have responded quickly to my inquiries I sense they are being patronizing and not totally transparent. No where have they told me or can you find SPECIFIC plans on what they will do with all the platforms currently supported by ping.fm.
    They should learn from Larry Ellison, CEO from Oracle. The guy may eventually dismantle the companies he buys BUT he always maintains the key functionality of what he bought and eventually merges them all into the Oracle product line.
    Anyway, I will check out hellotxt. Thanks for your post.

  4. Mike Thornburg

    Seesmic Ping doesn’t work…at least not consistently, and when it does work it’s slow, slow, slow. Looking for an alternative for posting to Social Media portals. Any suggestions?

    • There aren’t many alternatives. HelloTxt is OK, but some of its networks are broken. As you mentioned, Seesmic Ping is slow as molasses. Ping.fm is going away.

      And that’s the extent of the comparable services I know. Multi-posting is a grossly underdeveloped field, apparently.

  5. Really disappointed that ping.fm will no longer exist. Seesmic maybe better in design, but lack of services. And my ping didn’t always posted…I’m switching to hellotxt…and thanks for mention it!

  6. Cherley Grogg

    I loved Ping FM and I do not like Seesmic, it’s not even close. I will not pay to use the this service. Ping would have been worth a nominal yearly subscription, but not Seesmic. Please bring back the Ping that I loved. I am looking for a free alternative.

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