Monday, October 20, 2008

Blogging to MicroBlogging - Your social information filter

I don’t have proof of this, but I’m fairly certain that there is a tipping point after which the length of time you’ve been blogging negatively correlates with the frequency of your blog posts. (This is one of my excuses for not having blogged in so long, despite having been to DevCamp and Web2.0 Expo since my last post.) And in my case, there might be a 3rd variable – the increase in the length of regular blog posts (dictated by guilt, perhaps). I’ve been blogging since early 2004. But the busier I became with Web2.0 technologies, the less likely I was to post to my own blog. It also became progressively more difficult to keep up with others’ posts. And the group of others kept increasing, too, so I kept adding the new RSS feeds to my Bloglines account. Now it’s rare that I seem to have occasion to check in with all of those feeds I supposedly follow via Bloglines.

This is why people love Twitter. Microblogging – e.g., Twitter - forces you to keep thoughts short (no more than 140 characters). In so doing, it encourages online conversations. Twitter can be quicker and more productive in terms of finding answers than reading through long blog posts or researching text-heavy web pages. The quick back and forth – more like the transmission of information via a verbal conversation than via a long letter – is really helpful. The downside is that one is prone to posting commentary that one might not otherwise make public. Since Twitter’s tagline is “what are you doing now”, people often vent about the momentary issue they’re dealing with. What’s the impact of that? The constant feed of information about one’s life via Twitter stream or social networking status makes it harder to present a “professional” front to others, for better or worse. In Web2.0, transparency is a core value. But in the real world, it is definitely the tradition (and likely a good practice) to keep a certain persona in place during the workday.

I suspect there’s eventually going to be some backlash against how Twitter affects relations with online “friends” (who may be merely acquaintances in the real world). People who “follow” you on Twitter may un-follow you if you post something objectionable to them. Polly Aida-Farrington, over at pafa.net, alerted me that there is even a new application that tells you when someone leaves your Twitter stream and what it was you posted right before they did so (see her entry at: http://blog.pafa.net/archives/365 ) so theoretically, you can see what it was you posted that made your follower terminate the relationship.

Interestingly, Clay Shirky gave a keynote entitled “It’s not information overload – it’s filter failure” at the Web2.0 Expo (see: http://en.oreilly.com/webexny2008/public/schedule/proceedings) in NYC in September. To some degree, Twitter has become my information filter. I’m quick to follow the links I see on Twitter (or even links posted in Facebook) because they are part of a “conversation” with my Twitter buddies. I’m using the social network as a filter. And I know I’m not the only one.

So even if you feel overwhelmed by the information provided in the 2.0@CSL project, please don’t feel discouraged. We know that there are too many ideas and technologies out there for any one person to embrace. There are comments on the bottom of each week’s wiki page. As you “listen to” and participate in this online discussion, you may find that it serves as your own information filter.

1 comment:

pollyalida said...

Good points! I find myself checking my rss reader less often these days and picking stuff up from twitter and friendfeed more often. Still that feels a bit scattershot to me.

I set up a personalized feed through FeedHub.com to try to get the most important stuff from all my feeds to come to the "top".

And feedly has a nice option that searches all your feeds for related content when you do a google search. I'm loving that.