Chris Shiflett and I were talking recently about blogging and how Twitter had sucked some of the life force of it out for both of us. Ideas that might have become blog posts were getting distilled down into 140 (and then 280) character tweets and something was lost in the process. Chris came up with a “tweet only links” philosophy (with some important exceptions) and I signed on. This is the essence of why in Chris’ words:
I’ve been blogging for more than 15 years, but I blogged far more in the first 5 years than in the 10 years since. While there are many factors, I think joining Twitter drove the decline of my blogging habit more than anything else. Now, if I have something to share, I’ll write a sentence or two on Twitter and be done. Twitter lets me scratch the itch.
If I have something to share going forward, my hope is that this commitment will compel me to blog about it. If I can’t take the time to explore a thought by blogging, I should link to someone else who has. Twitter can still be great for spreading ideas, but it’s not a particularly good home for them.
I love Twitter and have been using it since January 2007. It’s good for banter and (as Chris notes) spreading ideas but the core ideas have to live somewhere. As well-crafted as some tweet storms are, they essentially disappear into the ether after the signal-boosting stops. In June, I wrote a 14-part tweet storm about how to become a foster parent:
Unless you were watching me tweet on that day and were interested in becoming a foster parent at that moment, this tweet storm faded into the ether. It felt good to write and perhaps it inspired a person or two to take action, but it’s not a way really get the word out in a durable way. If I had blogged about it (and maybe I should), there’s a pretty good chance my post would show up in a Google search. I know this because after blogging for fifteen years, I still get emails about years-old blog posts but almost never get engagement on tweets that are more than a few days old. On Twitter, twelve hours ago is deep in the past and yesterday is ancient history.
I’m going to try to be more mindful about how I use Twitter vs. when I write things down in a blog post. There’s part of me that thinks we would all be better citizens of the web (and the world) if we adopted the philosophy that Chris laid out. We would have to think more about what we’re saying, string thoughts together more coherently, write them as if they will live on forever, and really commit. We would waste less time writing important but transient content that gets shoved aside in a matter of hours. We could write without worrying about Twitter’s policies or changes in the algorithm or the inability to change our minds by editing our original thoughts. We could fully own what we say in every sense of the word (this, of course, assumes blogging at a domain you own and Fred does a good job of explaining why that’s important).
It’s a totally selfish wish, but I also would love to see some of the dynamic new voices I see pouring their hearts and minds into Twitter write more long-form content in blogs. We need those voices and I worry that their considerable talents are muffled by putting so much work into content that is designed to be transient on top of all the work of defending yourself on Twitter. Twitter is a great complementary tool to writing and online engagement but it’s not the end unto itself if you want to create long-lasting, durable content on the web. I’m going to try to remember that going forward.
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