Ping and Twitter? Seriously?

Apple’s Ping, which is the “musical social network” grafted onto the iTunes Store, has been limping along since its introduction. So any way of getting it out of its fortress could help Apple to make people realize that Ping exists, and potentially sell more music. Apple and Twitter have announced an integration of the two services, whereby Ping users can link their Ping accounts with their Twitter accounts, leading to a potential tsunami of unwanted tweets, and a flood of unfollows on Twitter.

My Macworld colleague Chris Breen asks if this is an invitation to annoy, and I agree with most of his points. The main error in this integration is that Ping tweets are not selective. Everything you buy will lead to a tweet, even those free songs you download just for the heck of it. (Of course, this information displays in your friends’ Ping updates, but that’s where it should be.) Every time you like a song or album, a tweet will be sent out with its URL. Chris points out that you can, of course, choose to tweet about an individual item, even if you don’t link your accounts, and I feel that things should remain like this. Perhaps Apple could add a checkbox when you like or post about something via Ping, offering to tweet it as well, but making it an all-or-nothing option shows that Apple clearly does not understand social networking.

This said, perhaps those of us who write about technology don’t understand it either. I’ve only been using Twitter for a few months, and do it mostly to stay in touch with my Mac journalist colleagues, tweeting only about things I write about: Macs, iTunes, iPods, books, music, and little more. (And, of course, inviting readers to follow my tweets.) Sure, some of the people I follow tweet about sports, often, and I wish I could filter those tweets; it was especially annoying during the World Series, as many of my Twitter friends are in San Francisco. But that’s not such a big deal; I can skim over them. If their Ping activity were tweeted, though, it would be an annoyance; not insurmountable, though, because most of them don’t do much on Ping.

Maybe the target demographic – younger people – want this kind of info. Maybe there are some people out there who really use Ping a lot (I haven’t been able to find them – if you’re one, please post in the comments). My experience with Ping suggests that most people are ignoring it, or they’re simply not buying much on the iTunes Store.

In any case, Apple’s all-or-nothing approach is a mistake. Users will find that the annoyance of this link is not worth the trouble to their followers. The same will be true with Facebook, if Apple creates a similar sort of link. Facebook is a bit different, and perhaps people would see it as less of an intrusion. But intrusion it is. While automating such things ensures their dispersal to the masses, it also annoys. Without automation, many people will forget. And there’s the rub: if they forget to share the info, maybe your system really isn’t compelling enough.