Is tweeting bad for blogging?

A post by Chris RowanIt’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?

Categories: bloggery

Comments (17)

  1. Kim says:

    I re-tweeted Chris’s link to this post.
    No other comment… just, given the post, I figured I should say that. 😀

  2. Maria says:

    The fact that Twitter satisfies my urge to type stuff out onto the Internets probably contributes to the fact that I have stopped blogging, but it’s hard to say what I’d be doing without it. I’m also writing so much at work these days that I’m sort of generally low on the kind of surplus word-juice that led me to blog in the first place.

  3. Lab Rat says:

    I joined twitter about a month ago, and so far I’ve found it enhanses the blogging experiance. It allows me to interact with more sciencebloggers, and keep up with their news more (I prefer twitter to RSS feeds, I never got into Google Reader).
    I still comment a lot on blogs, probably because I’m just generally a talkative/type-ative person!

  4. Ed Yong says:

    Tempted to blog a response, comment here with link to post, tweet the comment, write a Facebook status with a link to the tweet, link to the update on Friendfeed, upload a Youtube video of me doing that, upload a photo to Flickr of me doing THAT, blog about the photo and so on ad infinitum.
    Or I could simply sit here and scratch myself.

  5. BrianR says:

    I’m pretty aligned with what you say here Chris. It seems Twitter has been good in one way as a venue for link-sharing, especially of events as they happen. And I like it for sharing humorous fluff and other nuggets of internet goodness. I like your model of posting what you’ve tweeted on a weekly basis. Could be a nice way to connect them.
    I also wonder if Twitter has led to decreased commenting on blogs. I don’t know, maybe. One reason I think that people like Twitter is that it’s effortless. I mentioned this on Callan’s blog a couple weeks ago — the tiny little things you need to do to comment on a blog (e.g., deciphering the secret word or signing in) don’t seem like much but, when compared to Twitter, it might make a difference. Maybe.
    Another thing to consider — again, speculating here, I have no data — is if people are using their phones more. Commenting on blogs on an iPhone really, really sucks whereas apps like Tweetie make using Twitter effortless on a mobile device.
    Honestly, with this announcement of Buzz, or whatever it’s called, today … i’m reaching saturation on this stuff. Some days it’s just too chaotic and noisy.

  6. Chris Rowan says:

    Yes, typical Google, stealing my bloggy thunder like that…
    But some excellent points, Brian, particularly about the relative ease of commenting vs tweet/retweeting. You could probably set up a system where a tweet appeared as a comment – but if it’s just lots of RTs, that might increases the signal to noise ratio to very annoying levels…

  7. BrianR says:

    Chris … that’s a good idea. I’m sure some clever person could write the code to not include RTs. That person is certainly not me.
    It’s always seemed to me that a blog comment thread should be like Twitter anyway … fast and conversational.

  8. Bob O'H says:

    Sorry, after the first 140 characters I got bored.

  9. Brian makes a great point — at some point, we’ve all got to reach saturation with all this stuff. I’ve yet to jump on the Twitterwagon, and I’ve yet to regret that decision. Though it may be amazing, I’m not sure I have space in my life for it. Ignorance is bliss, eh? That said, I really do appreciate the weekly “best of Twitter” posts that Chris puts up here.
    A final thought: I appreciate the “meta” nature of this post — I was thinking earlier today about the demise of the Accretionary Wedge and the PodClast, and wondering what that means for the geoblogosphere. It’s a reflective sort of season…

  10. Roads says:

    I found this post through Kim’s RT, so that provides an answer in itself. At the same time,
    I think you’re right that Twitter does divert both reader and writer away from blogs.
    And what of academic papers? It can take a year to bring a journal article past peer review and out to publication, and yet you can blog the text in minutes where anyone can read it, and I don’t mean just the abstract.
    In the future, will a PhD thesis one day be submittable as a portfolio of high quality blog posts? It’s an interesting thought. And what is finally more important to the advancement of science (as opposed to the advancement of careers) — getting great ideas out there, or getting them into inaccessible journals?
    When you think in these terms, it’s clear that the academic world is going to have to change its whole means of information sharing, just as the wider world is already doing.

  11. BrianR says:

    While I think there are ways to make the time from submission to publication quicker, the main issue is that rigorous peer review takes a long time. Firstly, an assoc editor has to find peers willing to review … this can take a month. Then the time to review — I just spent the better part of a month doing a review — like many I need to do this stuff in evenings and weekends and to do it right takes time. Then multple reviews need to come back, and the editor do the work of reconciling sometimes wildly different recommendations. If revisions are required (almost always) then that’s at least a month … can’t expect authors to immediately turn around significant revisions of text and figures.
    Perhaps the time from official acceptance to publication can be reduced … more and more journals are providing “early online” versions, which is helping (and also creating some citation confusion IMO).
    Regardless, a rigorous review MUST be invovled. Otherwise sub-standard and possibly junk/pseudo-science will slowly take over.

  12. Ron Schott says:

    So much to see, do, and say – so little time.
    On a short term basis there’s no question my periods of sustained blog output correlate inversely with my engagement in Twitter. There’s an undeniable immediacy to the conversation on Twitter that was never there with blogs, and having experienced it, I have no desire to be without it. Twitter is a more distilled and potent form of communication in some ways, and there’s definitely an addictive quality to it. Even so, I’ll be digging deeply into Google Buzz as soon as I can, and whatever comes beyond that – just as I dug into blogging and tweeting and GigaPanning before that.
    I’d certainly like to spend more time writing blog posts and commenting on those of my peers, as I would like to have more time to read and produce traditional peer-reviewed literature. But somewhere deep inside me is the spirit of a pioneer – an explorer – a spirit that recognizes that there’s a fundamental revolution in communications happening on the web (perhaps more profound than any currently operating in my chosen discipline), and I’m driven to seek out and climb its peaks and find a path through the wilderness for others who follow behind. Am I tilting at windmills? Maybe. But at least if I am, others can learn from my failures.

  13. Ron Schott says:

    By the way, Chris, I owe you a great deal of thanks for pioneering the idea that led me to recycling my “Geology Firehose” (Ron’s Geology Picks – @RonsGeoPicks) through Twitter. I’m already seeing lots of value from that personally, and I hope that I, too, am adding value back to the geoblogosphere by pushing these links out to a wider audience.
    I should really get back to my backlog of Deskcrop/Outcrop posts now, but it’s not going to be easy while I mull whether Google Buzz has the potential to tie all of these disparate threads together. Time will tell…

  14. Silver Fox says:

    A couple thoughts from my phone (not the best commenting device but what I use in the evenings). I found this post thru @rschotts tweet; I would have seen it, most likely, by tomorrow on the Allgeo rss feed in GoogleReader. I went to twitter last year after a noticeable drop in blog comments during the last part of 2008. I’ve enjoyed twitter w/ occasional mixed feelings (sometimes very mixed). The commenting that used to be on our geoblogs is now on twitter, not always w/rt specific blog posts, and sometimes more than ever was on any blog post. My blog comments have not decreased in the long run (although they did at first), but have shifted somewhat to other audiences. I also get comments on FB that I might have gotten a yr ago on my blog. I feel more connected in some ways, have met more bloggers (sorry not you, Chris!), and sometimes feel very scattered thru all the forms of connectivity (sp?) that I maintain.
    I’m glad for your allgeo feed on twitter, and also for @RonsGeoPicks — but I will prefer to read these initially at the original source (Allgeo, RonSchott, other): on twitter I don’t know where the links will take me, and I know there isn’t enough space to have title, link, & blog name (or other source) all in 140 characters.
    I am more likely to read posts tweeted by authors on twitter, or rt’d w/ blog name info, than I am to read other bolg posts, with some exceotions, these often being ones I see on FB.
    I won’t likely be on Buzz – I’ve never wanted a gmail address.

  15. Andy Russell says:

    I have had completely the opposite experience in that when I joined Twitter about a year ago I did not have a blog. After seeing what other people are up too and how interesting the blogging community is, I started my own blog on weather and climate issues.
    So, for newbies, Twitter is great way to get into blogging.

  16. Lab Lemming says:

    Is there a more rigorous way to ascertain the impact of tweeting on blogging? Perhaps looking at posts or words per month before and after for a statistically significant cross-section of bloggers?

  17. Lab Lemming – You can’t introduce actual data into a navel-gazing meta-discussion!
    From someone who is a relatively recent convert to both geoblogging and geotweeting, my experience suggests that that the two are complementary. When I blog here, I try to write from a position of my professional expertise (i.e., hydrology and geomorphology). When I tweet, I am more willing to share information relevant to my professional interests, whether or not I feel I have much expertise to add to the topic. Thus, on Twitter I broadcast a wider variety of topics (climate sci, rock-based geology, paleontology, etc.) than I do on the blog. Other than that, what Chris said. 🙂