"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
October 5, 2009

Twitterland And The Blogosphere

Blogging is not dead and Twitter is not the revolution that will change the world. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s compare the two platforms. People who never really understood blogging typically describe it as “online journaling,” as if blogs were nothing more than a form of public diary. That blogs […]

Blogging is not dead and Twitter is not the revolution that will change the world. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s compare the two platforms.

People who never really understood blogging typically describe it as “online journaling,” as if blogs were nothing more than a form of public diary. That blogs were developed in a journal-like date format and that many bloggers write in a personal and confessional way (partly a consequence of not being edited by a third-party) contributed to that false perception.

Equally, people who don’t understand Twitter describe it as inane jottings about random aspects of life. Some claim that nothing serious or interesting can be shared in 140 characters or less. Others cite the tendency of some Twitter users to describe everyday activities, like eating breakfast, or going shopping as evidence of the platform’s vapidity.

Both critiques are poor interpretations of the media that fail because they isolate individual aspects of the platforms from their flow – their meaning over time.

To understand blogging, we must see that, however confessional they might be, the best blogs deal in ideas. What makes these blogs fascinating is not just the ideas themselves. Rather the bloggers are authors who, even a few years ago, might have struggled to find an outlet in traditional publishing and media. Blogging has been such a powerful force in church circles, for example, largely because it gave voice to the people in the pews and those outside the power structures of many denominations. The same can be said of blogging in the music industry, in food and even in photography.

Twitter only really makes sense when we see it as part of a stream of communication. Each “tweet” is part of a larger image of a person – and in particular, of a person at work. Twitter is fascinating because it gives us insight into the structure of people’s lives – how they work, relax and “balance” themselves.

I see blogging and tweeting as complimentary activities. What fascinates me, however, is that my blog attracts a very different audience to that of my tweets.

Twitter attracts people who do what I do and live where I live – this blog attracts people who think what I think, (or rather, want to think about my thoughts). To put it another way, twitter seems more connected to actions, blogging to ideas.

Let me give you an example. This blog attracts almost no traffic from Hong Kong. By contrast, a fair chunk of my Twitter followers are fellow residents in this city. When I post photos onto the blog, I get very little interest. However, if I post photos to my twitterfeed, I almost always get a spike in new followers.

Thinking back to my years in Delhi, I did have a lot of local blog traffic then. However, I also posted a lot about being a westerner in India, Indian culture and to some extent politics as well. I was pedalling ideas, not just everyday experiences. Interestingly, some of those old blogposts still attract traffic.

This allows us to see blogging and twittering as mutually supporting activities. Twitter is a great space for the everyday insight – links, problems, queries, requests that have simple and actionable answers. By contrast, the blog allows you space to explore the idea in greater depth, through essay, or narrative or biography. Twitter is the perfect place to comment on what you are doing, blogging is the medium to explore the consequences of what you have done.

Both can create a sense of community (by which I mean sodality and encouragement), but they will do so in different ways. Twitter allows us to share what we do and blogging gives us space to explore what we think. By using both we can take control of our identity online and build meaningful networks to support our work and lives.

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