Using ping.fm for facebook & twitter updates by email and SMS

Bit of a brain-dump, this one, but maybe of interest to social networking butterflies.

I’ve been on Facebook for a while now, and the things I like best are a) the photos (other peoples’ – I use flickr), b) the event organisation, and c) the status updates. It’s nice to see what people are up to. Twitter is the distillation of that idea: it’s just status updates, and it’s great. Why am I telling you this? You probably already know. Anyway, that’s not what this post is about.

The problem with twitter is that it’s flakey as hell. This is largely attributable to “too much success too soon” syndrome, although it might also possibly have something to do with their implementation platform (Ruby on Rails). *shrug* I also have no idea what their business model is, because they don’t advertise, and must send more SMS messages (broadcasting tweets) than they receive (from people sending tweets for broadcast). Maybe they get a big cut on the received ones. Anyway, that’s not what this post is about.

It’s tedious to update your status in two places, so it was nice that Facebook had the TwitterSync application, for pulling all my tweets through to Facebook. Unfortunately, twitter really is flakey as hell, and in particular for the last two months or more they’ve had a note up saying “We’re working to restore IM services to all users. Thanks for your patience!”. This refers to the API whereby tweets may be sent/received using instant messaging clients such as MSN, Jabber, etc. It’s been broken for getting on for as long as I can remember now, and TwitterSync relies on it — net result, my Facebook status hasn’t changed much in living memory!

Bash to the rescue. She told me about ping.fm, a sort of meta-status service which propogates updates to multiple social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter. I’ve just signed up (let me know if you want to as well: I’ll give you the beta key) and yup, it works: I can update on the ping.fm website and it magically appears on both my Twitter and Facebook statuses. Nice.

I’m mostly happy to use the web interface, but of course one also often wants to update via SMS from a mobile. Ping FM doesn’t support that just now (“we are only a couple guys in a garage”), but searching their (cannily outsourced) online help we find posts tagged “mobile”, including exactly the question I want to ask. That’s the source of the “two guys in a garage” quote above (which of course makes one wonder how long this will remain a good idea, but hey, Apple), but also a pointer to these instructions on sending updates to ping.fm via SMS using what appears to be a public SMS->email gateway. I can report that at time of writing, this works. I presume I’ll still pay premium rate for messages to that number, but hey, I did with Twitter too and it didn’t seem to stop me.

Win.

While on the topic of updates via email (since that’s the basic mechanism used in the above), I noticed that ping fm will ignore signatures but only if they’re preceded by “—-”, ie four dashes. That’s stupid: everyone knows the standard is two dashes and a space. But it’s OK, because I am an early 1990s throwback and still use mutt for all my email, and it’s configurable to hell and back. I just add:

send-hook (myuserid@ping.fm) unset signature

to my .muttrc and any email updates I send to ping.fm are automatically sig-less. Sweet.

On the subject of mutt configuration and send hooks: how to set up sender profiles.

One Response to “Using ping.fm for facebook & twitter updates by email and SMS”

  1. October 8th, 2008 | 12:49 am

    I imagine a +44 number would be a UK mobile number? So that’s presumably just your normal rate. (Though apparently the Twitter number counts as international for most carriers since it’s in the Isle of Man, so YMMV.)

    Just signed up to ping.fm seeing it claims to allow you to send updates via SMS. Lies! You have to send it to an email address, and that’s not true SMS, so my bog-standard GSM-only Nokia 1600 doesn’t do that. I’m going to try that gateway though.