22 Jun

twitter is not a replacement for blogging

[Update: 9am-ish Please see the bottom of this post for an update based on a Tweet from Hugh.]

This is part three of my response to Hugh’s post about the apparently non existent golden age of blogging (circa 2005/6 to 2010/11).

In this post, I want to address Hugh’s suggestion that what is happening on Twitter right now – engagement, community, talking about professional issues – is the same as what was happening on blogs in the golden age of blogging.

Want the short version?

Hugh basically said

The descriptions given by Kate and Kathryn Greenhill of what blogging is or was almost perfectly describe what has been happening on Twitter for several years.

And I think this is incorrect, because:

  • what was happening back in the day was blogging PLUS tweeting
  • we were tweeting back in the day, and it looked a lot like what is happening on Twitter now
  • we were specifically talking about publishing blog posts (plus other stuff that goes with that), and blogging is not tweeting – they occur on different platforms that have different affordances and that foster different experiences of information.

If these points make sense to you, you can probably skip the rest of this post. But if not (or you just feel like reading a 1600 word blog post on your lunch break), then read on!

And now for the detailed version

This post is largely a reflection on the following statement from Hugh’s post:

The descriptions given by Kate and Kathryn Greenhill of what blogging is or was almost perfectly describe what has been happening on Twitter for several years.

What Hugh is pointing to here is a post Kathryn wrote in which she ‘defined’ blogging. Here’s what she said:

To me, “blogging” does not just mean writing posts. To me that is broadcasting.

For me to feel like I am really “blogging”  I need to be reading other people who are creating in a similar space, commenting, joining in on other parts of social media about discussion of topics that may or may not end up as more fully-developed posts. The richness of what I write here is dependent on this thinking with others, and takes place as a node in conversation.

In short, for Kathryn

blogging is not simple, mechanistic and easy. I see a blog as an anchor site for my presence on social media, rather than a series of posts arranged in date order.

I think what Kathryn was really doing here was drawing attention to the fact that running a blog is not just about writing posts. It is, in fact, a whole lot of work. You have to maintain the software, build community, respond to comments, read others’ blogs, respond to others’ posts, and maintain the space as your online home.

I riffed off Kathryn’s post and basically said that for me, blogging is blogging; that is, authoring posts. But that

blogging is just one part of engaging online, of engaging in conversations, engaging in a community.

And then Hugh said that thing about how what we are talking about is basically what’s happening on Twitter now. And I think in doing that, he was referring to my definition of blogging as part of my online engagement, and Kathryn’s definition of blogging as

reading other people who are creating in a similar space, commenting, joining in on other parts of social media about discussion of topics that may or may not end up as more fully-developed posts. The richness of what I write here is dependent on this thinking with others, and takes place as a node in conversation.

Apologies for the duplicated quote, but I want to be really clear in pulling these pieces together.

I think what Hugh was saying is that there is rich discussion happening in social media now, in spaces like Twitter.

And he’s right.

But he’s also not right in that he says what we’ve described is basically like what’s happening in places like Twitter now.

But that’s incorrect, because what Kathryn and I are talking about includes the kind of thing that’s happening in Twitter now, but it includes something else: blogging. Lots and lots of blogging, and engaging with and around blog posts.

When I talk about engaging online, I’m talking about using Twitter (and a whole bunch of other stuff). But blogging used to be a *huge* part of my online engagement, and it’s not anymore. As I said yesterday, blogs were big back in the day.

And so was Twitter

Talking specifically about the idea of blogging every day, Hugh said:

Of course, there is a place for this sort of thing now – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Back in my day, we walked 20 miles to school in the snow with bare feet while tweeting on our iPhones.

But sometimes we put our phones down and wrote blog posts too. On netbooks, the tool du jour. (Remember when we all ran out and bought Asus EEE PCs?) Then from our iGoogle widgets (ah, the dashboard days), we’d tweet a link to our blog posts and a conversation would ensue.

And what’s more:

What we were doing on Twitter then was a lot like what’s happening on Twitter now

Twitter is definitely a space for professional conversation. I’m with you on this Hugh. I’m with you because I’ve seen it over a lot of years. It’s getting close to a decade, in fact, that I’ve been using Twitter for professional conversations (and more lately, watching professional conversations unfold, since I’m using Twitter less). It started happening at just about the same time as I started my now archived library blog called Virtually a Librarian.

There wasn’t just a lot of blogging happening in the golden age; there was also a lot of tweeting happening.

Twitter is a space where conversation is occurring right now, but it was back in the day, too.

From my perspective – in my experience – what I see happening now on Twitter now isn’t a lot different to what was happening on Twitter then. The only difference (besides new voices, and yay for new voices!) is there’s less tweeting about blog posts, or sharing post links, or blog posts being inspired by Twitter convos.

I don’t think I’m misremembering this either, because I do actually know what I used to tweet about. I’ve been back through my Twitter archive in quite some detail to scrounge out all of the tweets about or related to the twins in aide of compiling a book for my sister of everything I blogged, tweeted or flickred about them in the first few years of their lives. I know roughly what I was tweeting about, and it looks a lot like what I see happening now.

So if what’s happening on Twitter today is equivalent to anything that was happening in the golden days of blogging, it’s equivalent to what was happening on Twitter.

Twitter will never be a replacement for blogs

Twitter and blogs are different platforms and different platforms have different functionality and different affordances.

I research information experience in social media, which means I study the things people do (or don’t do) with information in social media, how they do it, and why they do it, using an experience lens. My research suggests that people experience information differently on different platforms. Information experience in context specific.

It is not possible that what was happening on blogs then is happening on Twitter now. Because Twitter isn’t a blog, and a blog isn’t Twitter.

By the way, my findings (which relate explicitly to new mothers’ information experience in social media) suggest that bloggers have richer experiences, strong cross-platform relationships, and a real sense of community. This is partly about affordances; it’s partly about long form posts; it’s partly about a desire and a need to share, either to normalise, help others normalise, or achieve catharsis. (This is a major over-simplification – I have 50,000+ words of findings and you can’t really condense that into a couple of sentences.) But my point is, blogging adds something to information experience in social media. It has its own unique set of benefits (and perils).

Twitter and blogs are good friends

There is a relationship between Twitter and blogging, but I don’t think one can replace the other and still maintain the same type or depth of discourse.

They do, however, complement each other.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 7.45.50 am

My Twitter analytics show a marked increase across the board on last month, and I think that’s a fairly good indication that blogging fuels tweeting, at least for me.

I still have more to say

I’ve still got stuff I want to say in response to Hugh’s post, particularly about alternative venues for professional conversation. I’m not sure I’m going to have time to say them right now though, seeing my thesis is due ONE WEEK FROM TODAY! ARRRRRGH! But I’ll come back to it at some point, because I agree with Hugh that we have a problem that is bigger than a lack of blogging.

Thanks Hugh

So I’ll wrap up temporarily by saying thanks, Hugh, for the provocation. It has been fun and useful to reflect on a decade of using social media for professional conversation.

My only concern is this doesn’t really *look* like a conversation, because Hugh doesn’t seem to allow trackbacks on his posts. I think that’s a bummer, particularly because I think the post misinterprets some of the things I said, and I think it would be good if there was a link to my corrections at a minimum, and preferably to every post anybody makes in response. Because this is all about conversation. And conversations have multiple voices.

#blogjune 21/30

Update

Hugh just tweeted:

So I feel like I should clarify, because I want to be clear about how I have interpreted Hugh’s post, and then he can correct me if I’m wrong.

Let me give a big chunk of quote from Hugh’s post for context:

When librarians ask Is blogging still a thing?, or Is there life left in the Australian biblioblogosphere?, I think these questions are partially based on a misremembering or perhaps a miscategorisation. Kate Davis reveals this when she talks about blogging as ‘engaging’. The descriptions given by Kate and Kathryn Greenhill of what blogging is or was almost perfectly describe what has been happening on Twitter for several years.

I read this as ‘Kate is either remembering the good old days in a skewed way or she is mislabeling blogging as engaging. The description Kate gives seems to describe what’s been happening on Twitter for several years’.

Perhaps I misinterpreted. I’d say the second sentence in my interpretation is true-ish: engaging has been happening on Twitter for years.

But in all my posts this month on blogging and professional discourse, I am explicitly talking about blogging. Not microblogging. Not anything else. Blogging. And what has been happening on Twitter for years is not blogging. It’s… well, to state the obvious, tweeting. It’s also professional conversation, but it is not the extended critical discourse in blog posts that I have been rabbiting on about.

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