Blogs and the Twitter Effect

While chatting with Scott at ETUG, he commented that he was frustrated with Twitter. Both because of the constant flakiness, and the negative effect it’s having on many people’s blog posting activity. I’m definitely posting less frequently since getting bitten by the Twitter bug.

At first, I didn’t see the problem, but then he explained it. If people are pumping their content and energy into Twitter, something that is by nature largely ephemeral and transient (both in server uptime and lifespan of content) then the blogosphere is effectively losing out. Yes, there are benefits – the conversations and serendipitous connections that happen via the always-on and always-shifting nature of Twitter streams are compelling because they are some of the most highly social public interactions on the internets. And that has helped me feel more closely connected with the 40-odd people in the strange, distributed, cosmopolitan set of folks I consider friends.

During ETUG, we tried to shift to Jaiku. The UI of Jaiku sucks, compared with Twitter. It’s too busy. It’s got ads. But it stays up and never eats content. And it’s got almost nobody on the network. The people are on Twitter. I gave up on tilting at that windmill in less than a day. It’s not worth fighting with cranky software, but it’s also not worth abandoning the community in the relentless pursuit of uptime…

Where Jaiku was like a cold, lonely walk, Twitter’s like a family gathering (with all that entails).

Cold walk on campus vs. DSCF1928.JPG

19 thoughts on “Blogs and the Twitter Effect”

  1. I work with Jaiku in the US. In addition to reliability there are bloggers who appreciate the lifestreaming and commenting features at Jaiku. Each post creates a new, threaded conversation. In terms of community, I agree, and it takes time to evolve. Leo Laporte’s channel is running upwards of 800 people. In the end we are one large community, and I’m sure a few genius programmers will come along and use the respective APIs to build bridges and connectivity across various social networking communities.

  2. Neil, with respect, the threaded comments are overkill. Twitter’s elegance is in the simplicity. There are no photos added. No icons. No RSS feeds aggregated. Just 140 characters, to do what you will with. Granted, their stability royally sucks, but that’s where everybody’s playing, and software won’t move them any time soon. Strange how the Big Kid On the Block is only a few months old. Yay, Web 2.0 time…

  3. D’Arcy, thanks for the quick reply. Conversation was core to the evolution of the early Jaiku platform design before there was a Twitter. We differ on the threaded comment issue and it’s cool. I still think conversation is an asset. What makes your blog work right now, is a threaded conversation we’re engaged in that others can also join. As far as the other Jaiku features (lifestreaming and ads) that you feel add to the complexity of the experience, I believe those will be seen as assets as more people and brands embrace them. In the end, it’s all going to come together anyway. Thanks for the conversation.

  4. I agree D’Arcy. I don’t want to spend time adding icons or photos. I want it simple and easy. Let’s face it, there’s not too much point to it anyway (one can argue this, though) but either way I like my pointlessness simple.

    Also, I wanted to mention that your analogy is fantastic about Twitter being a family gathering. Sometimes it’s painful, but worth it to be with family.

    See you in the twittersphere…

    Chris Craft

  5. I’m not ready to join the Twitter v Jaiku conversation quite yet. What I initally found very interesting about Twitter was its ability help grow access to other communities … in the case of PSU, it helped bind together the learning design community in a way I hadn’t seen before. The use is slowing, but the “real” conversation are just heating up. I am back to posting more at my blog since my Twitter use has slowed — sooner or later something else wil occupy my free cycles and I’ll spend more time away from blog (again). I think I am not seeing the end of the road with Twitter (or Jaiku), but I am using them much differently. All of this is terribly interesting to me … fun to be a part of the search.

  6. I think Scott’s argument is really a smokescreen for a more fundamental proposition: that the conversational space is a zero sum game. I wouldn’t accept it if someone said “no more talking in coffee shops, on buses, in line at the store, at the bar, etc. because it isn’t captured and archived in a valuable way like writing it down.” Blogging is valuable in its own right, but its value as a replacement for other kinds of discourse is questionable.

    Twitter is interesting precisely because it occupies a middle space– conversations that maintain themselves as conversations while still being captured. Clearly I’m not the only one who finds this ability to have something more akin to the chaos of “real” conversation valuable. One has to think that perhaps it isn’t laziness that makes people blog less when they also twitter, but the fact that the twitter form more aptly fits certain conversational and rhetorical strategems we employ.

    That’s why the loss of Scott’s voice on Twitter is such a great loss to me personally… the idea that more blog posts from him (while undeniably a good thing) will make up for that loss is a fallacy.

    Plus, in a very real but hard to describe Zen sense, the fleetingness and open-ended casualness of face-to-face conversation is itself a value, something that is also of value in twittering.

  7. Chris, Chris, Cole, and D’Arcy, thanks for those thoughts; they help to articulate and confirm my own. I agree that D’Arcy’s family gathering analogy is fantastic. And with all due respect to Neil, the idea of “embracing” ads sounds like vendor-speak to me and confirms some of the ambience I sensed at Jaiku.

    Chris L., your rhetorical analysis is especially acute–and I too wish Scott would join back in.

    Great post, D’Arcy.

  8. Neil – it’s a bit of a zen thing, as alluded to by Chris. Twitter is what it is, and that’s all it needs to be. Its sole purpose is to channel sequences of 140 bytes to sets of people. Nothing more, nothing less. If I want more, I’ll write a blog post. Or post a photo to Flickr. Or write on a wall in Facebook, etc… Anything that interrupts the flow of presence and status notes is not only superfluous, but it detracts from the experience. Of course, a lack of stability and server uptime also detract from Twitter, but they’re getting better…

    Families are families. Warts and all. Sometimes they’re a dysfunctional pain. Sometimes they’re all that keeps you going. Often, somewhere in the middle. That’s where Twitter lives for me.

  9. D’Arcy, I actually have user IDs on both services, but I’m posting mostly on Jaiku. And some of my buddies and other well known bloggers post on Twitter and feed it through Jaiku. My ultimate life philosophy is be happy. If my friends lived in one community, I would also live there, too. We’re on the same page.

    The only reason I talked about monetizing earlier is because I sit with Venture Capitalists to talk about my client companies. Among their first questions: how are you going to make money? There has to be a revenue model.

    Mark Glaser asked that question recently: http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2007/05/digging_deepertwitter_founders.html

    “How do you see Twitter making money or becoming profitable? Will you charge people to use it?

    Dorsey: There’s so many models we’ve looked at, and the most compelling one will expose itself when the time is right. Our main focus right now is growing the service and having as many entry points as we can. There are some very obvious ones around the network, but I think we can come up with more creative ones and do something native to this application and usage pattern.

    Stone: We’ve been following user behavior and we’ve been watching what they do and adding features. That philosophy will work well with the revenue model. Just like there are so many cool features we could do there will also be cool ways of making revenues. But we want to follow behavior and add something that users are excited about.

    Eventually there will be a revenue model.”

  10. @Neil: I’ve been wondering how Twitter pays for server space and bandwidth. For now, it appears to be free. They may be mining the data and selling that to advertisers, for all I know, though. I’m sure there will come a day when the reaper demands payment. I’ll deal with that when it happens. I’m guessing they’re setting themselves up to be bought by Yahoo! or the like (and how they actually generate revenue is another story entirely…)

  11. D’Arcy: I think you’re correct. The value would be the userbase. That is one approach. And so if you build a loyal userbase into the millions, there might be a saleable asset. It remains to be seen how this emergent sector plays out.

  12. So D’Arcy, the danger in reporting on conversations is that, well, you are reporting on conversations, and unless you had a transcript, there is always a danger in mis-quoting people. And the danger on commenting on reported conversations is, well, you are commenting on third-hand information. Anyways, I’m pretty sure all I said is that I had noticed a decline in some people’s blog postings that may in part be due to their twitter activity, which is different in noting it as a ‘negative’ effect of twitter. If I was lamenting anything it was that, in deciding to not participate in twitter, I would undeniably loose out on much good conversation that was evolving there, some of it to the detriment of that which happen(ed)s in the blogosphere, but much of it totally new (and in truth, much of it predicated on pre-existing social ties that emerged in the blogosphere, so not antagonistic at all but rather symbiotic).

    So, to extend the family analogy, consider me the moody teenage punk who has moved out of the house for a while, on to the street, but may be lured back home both by the lure of a hot meal but more by coming to accept that the hosehold discord of twitter is worth the true affection and conversation it can enable. We’ll see. Until then, I am your homeless street kid relative, Scott

  13. Scott – sorry if I misrepresented what you said. I didn’t actually quote anything because I didn’t remember the exact words, just the basic sentiment. And now I’m second guessing that (was it something I said? did I mis-hear/mis-understand?) Anyway, that’s what I remembered of the conversation… I’ll try to remember to order the transcript next time :-)

    and turn that music down, you little punk! I swear, if I have to clean up the empty beer cans on the driveway ONE MORE TIME… And please stop using my garden that way. I don’t plant flowers in your parent’s toilet…

  14. Twitter is a classic representation on how many people are getting dumber and simpler.

    Someone needs to write a thesis on the theory of de-evolution,

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