There is a lively discussion at the moment about the relationship between twitter and blogging in a ‘cloud’ of the same name, is twitter killing the blog?, at Cloud Works. I’m not quite sure where the discussion started but it was the topic of a debate between Josie Fraser and Graham Attwell at a F-ALT09 (ALT-C 2009 fringe conference) session at the Contact Theatre, Manchester on Tuesday 8thSeptember. The answer to the question, for me at least, is no. The evidence suggests that regular and frequent tweeting seems to be associated with a reduction in the frequency of blogging. Although this seems to be the case for me, I was already blogging less often before I became involved with Twitter and tweeting. In fact I am not a regular tweeter and tend to do so in little pulses of activity around conferences and other events, for instance the ALT 2009 conference that took place last week. On the other-hand, my lurking in Twitter is rather more constant. Speaking for myself, I feel that my use of Twitter may well revitalise my blogging, perhaps not so much by increasing the frequency of posts but, hopefully, by stimulating rather more considered and reflective posts. Generally in the past I have posted in order to record and clarify ideas and produce notes and resources for my future reference. This has been done largely for my own benefit but with the notion that it might be of interest and use to others and perhaps even solicit some response by way of comment. If so, this was a bonus rather than the prime motivation. Ideas about developing a ‘digital’ identity and a personal research network came later when I began to ‘listen in’ on conversations round these issues in the edublogosphere. However, because my posts are beginning to be inspired by conversations in Twitter, they may become of greater interest and relevance to others than before.
Here is the gist of my argument. Twitter produces ideas, thoughts and topics as part of a fairly loose distributed discussion amongst those I follow and engage with on Twitter. As a matter of interest, I enjoy the social banter and seeming trivia as well as finding useful ideas, references, information and relevant focused discussions. All the ‘useful’ content is coming to me filtered by a network of people who in some sense I know, relate to, empathise with, value and trust as more rounded and real (rather than virtual) friends and colleagues, all to some extent sharing a similar(ish) world view and hopes and aspirations. This comes over far more strongly in Twitter than through the more formally written, structured and focused blog posts. This is a big plus for Twitter. So the general picture emerging is as follows. Discussion, banter, information exchange etc. in Twitter leads to the gradual emergence of an idea for a blog post. Some topic and a set of ideas and thoughts coalesces. In this respect discussion and comment precedes and shapes the blog post. The post summarises and clarifies (in the eyes of the author at least) thinking on the tweeted topic and, hopefully, feeds back into the ongoing discussion in Twitter. If this is the case, the relationship between Twitter and blogging is one of mutual enhancement with the bonus that your co-tweeters and bloggers are already contributors to the blog post and are more rounded and human to you as a result of the broader social contact made within Twitter. Blog posts become sites for summary and reflection within the stream of tweets and as such, and to some some extent, may contribute to, create eddies, even divert, the stream itself.
Another quick thought. Some one at ALTC2009 said (was it Alan Cann?) that their use of RSS has diminished somewhat since using Twitter. I think this is true for me. My feed reader only tells me what has been posted. My twitter network tells me what is worth reading – the wisdom of a crowd I have selected and am very happy and priviledged to be some part of. And technology, used in ways that its originators did not intend or foresee, has made this possible.
If anyone doubts the value of Twitter and the people it connects, surely the use of Twitter for the #altc2009 conference has given them pause for thought? What a pity the ALT powers that be did not see fit to project the #altc2009 Twitter stream in the keynote presentations. A lost opportunity. Perhaps next time.