How Twitter Killed my Blog

Twitter is an amazing technology. The ease with which one can share ideas, resources, and network with people you otherwise might not have met is (I think) unparalleled. As with any new technology, however, it has come with a cost — it has nearly killed my blog.

TwitterFor some time, I used my blog as a place to publicly chronicle things and ideas that I want to remember. Looking back (and hopefully forward), I can see the benefit that blogging had. Its forced reflection brought me to strengthen some deeply held convictions. Blogs are great for that kind of stuff — deep reflection, perhaps with a light amount of network.

Now, it’s just too easy to compress an idea down to 140 characters, or worse yet to quickly post a link with little or no commentary. The benefit has been social. As a shy but opinionated person, Twitter is a perfect medium.

With all of this in mind, this post marks another shift in this blog. Stuff on the rest of the family has been moved to more appropriate places (Facebook wasn’t around when we started, and our great photos are on their way to Flickr). To highlight the change, we’re also changing to a theme that heavily emphasizes text.

That’s what Thinking Out Loud will be about for the next phase: deep reflection. To do that (efficiently) calls for some writing.

Thanks for reading!

Blogging more, but still just musing

Study: Bloggers’ reasons for writing change over time (Feb. 10, 2010)

I’m far from a top political blogger, but this story prompted me to again take a look at the subject of an entire category on this site — why blog?

I think I can say that I’ve finally gotten into the blogging habit.  I’m posting regularly here as well as in a number of work-related places (more on that later). Originally, my blog was a bit of a journal for myself (to keep track of resources and ideas I didn’t want to loose).  Now, I think I’ve turned it more towards sharing ideas. This has been important to some degree all along, but now I’m finally walking the walk.

One thing about a blog that’s different from Twitter or Facebook is that there is a norm to reflect a little when sharing a resource and also a norm of timeliness. When put together, these make it necessary to think quickly and to post ideas that you might later find way off the mark. I am counting on the fact that this idea of “thinking out loud” won’t harm me at any time in the future–the medium almost demands it.

Back to blogging, but why?

After a brief hiatus from blogging, I think a good way to get back into the swing of things might be again asking “why I blog,” with the help of a piece from The Atlantic that resonated with me and even challenged me.

On the subject of tone, Andrew Sullivan (the author) remarks:

For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.

I agree with this completely–and think it’s one of the most misunderstood aspects of blogging (hence my blog’s name). An understanding that there will be mistakes and times when you’ll change your mind are an important part of the medium.

The blog remained a superficial medium, of course. By superficial, I mean simply that blogging rewards brevity and immediacy.  … the key to understanding a blog is to realize that it’s a broadcast, not a publication. If it stops moving, it dies. If it stops paddling, it sinks.

D’oh! Tough words for the occasional blogger. The funny thing is, during the break I accumulated a list of things I want to blog about, but never did. To me, it’s less important to consistently update–I’d rather sacrifice a few readers than miss the opportunity to respond in a way that’s at least somewhat thought out.

Sullivan goes on to describe bloggers of history, including one I’m not familar with: Montaigne.

Montaigne was living his skepticism, daring to show how a writer evolves, changes his mind, learns new things, shifts perspectives, grows older—and that this, far from being something that needs to be hidden behind a veneer of unchanging authority, can become a virtue, a new way of looking at the pretensions of authorship and text and truth.  …  To blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at arm’s length, open it to scrutiny, allow it to float in the ether for a while, and to let others, as Montaigne did, pivot you toward relative truth.

Again, Sullivan captures the spirit of a blog so well with this historical analogue. The personality of a bloggers thought and, well, personality are what gives the medium this facinating balance between intimacy and publicity, or between the surface and depth of our thoughts and feelings.  Finally:

If all this sounds postmodern, that’s because it is. And blogging suffers from the same flaws as postmodernism: a failure to provide stable truth or a permanent perspective. A traditional writer is valued by readers precisely because they trust him to have thought long and hard about a subject, given it time to evolve in his head, and composed a piece of writing that is worth their time to read at length and to ponder. Bloggers don’t do this and cannot do this—and that limits them far more than it does traditional long-form writing.

I’ll admit to being a postmoderist, and if it takes one to know one, I think I can say that Sullivan is right to call blogging a largely postmodern exercise. Where I think he’s completely wrong is that blogging can’t be well thought out. Academic bloggers must walk a fine line between shooting from the hip and providing reasoned analysis. Some think on their feet quite well, and these become the more prolific academic bloggers.  Personally, I need at least a little time to digest.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a blogging style that consciously tries to balance these issues of timeliness, reason, and personality. If Sullivan were to really take a postmodern approach to blogging, there would be nothing a blogger ‘could not do,’ because it’s such a personal exercise.

What makes good blog?

Merlin Mann breaks a personal rule and lists some elements he sees as indicitive of a good blog. I’ll admit, I don’t put enough energy into Thinking Out Loud to make it a good blog, but hopefully it at least has some kind of voice and communicates some of my obsessions.

I regret there are not more blogs that see format as the container for creativity — rather than an excuse to write less or link without context more. … Good blogs are weird. Blogs make fart noises and occasionally vex readers with the degree to which the blogger’s obsession will inevitably diverge from the reader’s.

That’s a mash of two of his point, but I see them pointing to one important (and really hard to do) thing: be creative. This is especially hard when you put on your public face and try to be semi-professional, but it’s a good reminder. It’s too easy to be lazy or casual with a blog, but when you consider how lucky we are to be able to publish so easily (compared to, say, a colonial newspaper), we owe it to ourselves to blog with at least a little panache.

The one thing I’ve always wondered is: do we have to do it each day?