It’s been pretty much a year since I first climbed aboard the Twitter bandwagon, and I’ve been musing of late of how it has gone from being something I didn’t really get at all, to becoming a fairly central part of how I interact with the Internet. It’s usually where I first get wind of big events (the Haiti earthquake, for example), it guides me to interesting news both within and without the world of science; and it keeps me up to date with the doings and thoughts of a lot of my online friends. But, I realise, not all of them, and I am starting to wonder if a problem is brewing – a disconnect between those who choose to tweet, and those who do not. Thus I’ve been thinking fairly seriously about what effect my changed online habits have had in my interactions with the world of blogs, particularly the geology-centric part of it. There have certainly been changes that may potentially have had a negative impact: whereas before I used to check my aggregated geoblogging feed over breakfast, now I’m much more likely to check my Twitter feed. Time I might have spent writing a comment on somebody’s post might now be spent writing a tweet (or retweet) about it instead – which might drive some traffic to said post, but does potentially divorce some of the conversation about a post from the post itself (and by extension, the author).
So, lets ask some more specific questions about this. Has my adoption of Twitter had a detrimental impact on:
1) My own blogging? My posting was certainly a little…erratic last year, but in fact, the times that I was not posting here, I was pretty much off the internet as a whole (including, as more than one person has put it, “not answering your &^&^*ing e-mails”). Personally, the sort of link-sharing and quick, pithy comments I tend to focus on on Twitter is something that I’ve deliberately avoided posting on my blog in the past, because I like the things that I write here to be a bit more substantial and deliberate. So in that respect, my blogging and tweeting are almost mutually exclusive, except that I have occasionally come across things that I’ve consequently blogged about via Twitter (the most recent example being last Friday’s post on the growth of Lusi).
2) My reading of other peoples blogs? As I’ve mentioned, I think that now I have a Twitter feed to monitor, I look at my RSS feeds less – including my geology feed. And time spent reading the links shared by people I follow on Twitter – whilst bringing my attention to a wider variety of interesting stuff – must impact on the time spend reading stuff that only comes to me through my feed reader.
3) My commenting on blog posts?. I think that there is definitely an issue here for me: I suspect that I’ve got into the habit of commenting on a post that caught my eye as I provide the link on Twitter, but not appending anything on the original post itself. Which, given the limits of saying something of substance in 140 character or less (definitely less, since some of that is filled with said link), and the fact that blog comments persist in a relevant place, whereas a tweet is disconnected and soon disappears down some memory hole, is perhaps not the most sensible approach.
My answers to 2 and 3 do concern me a little. After all, I like to think that we geobloggers have built up a friendly and sociable online little community (which has spilled over into real world drinking sessions, albeit ones I’ve been a continent away from). The idea that peoples’ migration onto Twitter might be impacting that (by distracting people away from good posts, and reducing the interaction that comes through comments) is a little troubling. The question is, what should be done to bridge this potential divide? My Twitter link posts can be considered as some sort of attempt to do so, but I’m not sure how successful they are. Therefore, over the weekend I decided to try two other things. I’ve set up a Twitter account that feeds my geoblogosphere feed into the Twitterverse, ensuring that I will again be browsing everyone’s posts over my morning coffee – with the added advantage of making it much easier to share these posts with everyone else. I’ve also tried to open a channel the other way, by adding a widget to the sidebar here that shows the recent comments of geology types on Twitter – so those who are interested can see what we’re actually saying over there.
In addition to these two things, I’m also making a resolution: from now on I am going to make a concerted effort, when I have a comment to make about a posts that I find interesting, to append that comment on the post itself, where the author is sure to actually see it.
I’d be interested to hear other Tweeting bloggers’ answers to the questions above, as well as the perspective from non-Tweeting bloggers and readers. Have you noticed a change in the tenor of the blogosphere due to the rise of other social media? If so, is there anything else we should be doing about it?