Sir Walter Scott and APIs

Oh! what a tangled web we weave… (Sir Walter Scott, Marmion)

Earlier this week, a friend of mine’s father passed away from a sudden heart attack. He blogged about his father’s loss, and I did what I normally do when I see a post in Google Reader that I find noteworthy, interesting or worth coming back to: I shared it in Google Reader. Then I shared my condolences with this friend on Twitter (who, tragically, was dealt another blow when his brother’s wife died from an allergic reaction to insulin the very next day), and went about my day.

But this post is about what happened next: I have set FriendFeed up to aggregate most of my content. Ironically, I don’t really use FriendFeed – but there are some friends who prefer to read my stuff there. And since I don’t have to do any work once I set it up, I just leave it be.

At some point last year, I configured FriendFeed to talk to Facebook. All that really means is that any content that shows up in FriendFeed flows through to Facebook as an entry in my profile. Here’s where some important context got lost: FriendFeed’s vernacular in the Facebook app is to say that I posted something – implying a more overt act than simply sharing something someone else wrote in Google Reader (which is what I actually did). Not an hour later, another friend saw my note and assumed that I had written that my Dad had passed away.

Interesting lesson for those of us who think about integrations between products: thanks to the loosely joined nature of the web, it becomes easy to use those integrations for integrations. And before long, what you say – and how you say it – matters a lot.

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