Tweeting is not writing

  • Tweeting is not writing. Tweet storms don't replace long form writing.
  • So many sites are now moribund— and not just because of Twitter. Writing is work.
  • Much of old notes have become stale. I still make excuses for this.
  • Comment sections are mostly gone, leaving tweeting or email as ways to respond… and no one emails.
Published 1.5.2020: Just like video killed the radio star (although it didn't really), Twitter seems to have killed the "blogosphere" (though it hasn't entirely). The word is in quotes because not all the sites that have gone silent were blogs, but they were individually run websites with (mostly) single authors… just like this site.

I've never considered it a blog, but the people who I know who've read it certainly consider it one. I suppose I don't consider it a blog because I don't use blogging software to create it, and I don't have comments. For the record, that doesn't seem to be the prevailing definition of blog.

I've written (a long time ago) that comment sections have never seemed very useful to me, but I didn't participate in the initial blogging period when writers did answer each other— in comments and also in response posts.
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Now however, most writers(bloggers) seem to have stopped writing— or worse, moved all interactions onto Twitter. I have a twitter, which I created back when I was walking miles a day at a treadmill desk. My contribution to Twitter was to note how many miles each day. I miss those days. I stand most of the day now, but I no longer walk at a treadmill desk. My waistline reflects that too, but that's a topic for another day.

I am not the first person to note the effect of Twitter on website writing of course. Nor is Twitter the only cause of so many sites going silent.

It's work to continuously create content. And the only way to build an audience is write often, or at least on a reliable schedule. Making money is hard too. Google ads do generate income, but not reliably— especially if you don't publish new stuff regularly.

I have not written here that consistently here, though I was hitting a decent groove just before we decided to open an offline business. Others, however, produced on a regular basis, and now they do not.

It could be that styles and the culture just moved on, but lengthy "tweet storms" don't really replace full length website posts- at least in my opinion. With the character limit (hence the need for threaded "storms") and other users randomly responding midway, it's next to impossible to convey a coherent message on Twitter and impossible to have a true conversation.

Another option to explain the loss of so many sites is that even with regular production the income from ads are simply inadequate to cover costs. That would be particularly true if you have a staff, which some of the more prolific sites do/did. There is no staff here, so costs are minimal. So are ad revenues, truth be told, but during my most prolific production period, revenues from ads were rising.

Pondering old notes…

None of that is what inspired this piece though. Rather, it's that fact that as I go through my old notes looking for topics to write up, I've been struck by how many of the sites I used to read with frequency no longer publish at all. Some, especially the political writers, seem to have migrated to Twitter as noted above and indulge in "tweet storms" to state their opinion. To be fair, occasionally there is a longer form writing piece that is linked in the storm, but too often there is not. The tweet storm is their comment on the issue.

As noted about, interactions and responses on Twitter offer even less in terms of signal to noise than blog comments did. With no way to curate or control comments offered on a given tweet, the platform is asymmetrically favors trolls. That is why I don't tweet links to my pieces, though surely if I want to build an audience, that's what I should do.

Back to my old notes… in some cases I have detailed notes about a link that no longer exists, or the link still works, but the site is no longer active. Not sure there's a point commenting on content that isn't being refreshed. I could comment— I could do anything, this is my little corner of the web and I rule.

The older the notes are though, the more I'd like to go back and refresh my memory of what I was commenting on, and sometimes that's not possible. So the quandary for me is: do I just leave the notes and find something else to write, or do I write it up without the links, which would mean making it my own rather than reacting to someone else. That might be the better option, if the more difficult one.

Not the first time

As the piece as turned into something other than what I started out to write… I may as well consider that this isn't the first time that copious information and notes that I've collected have gone stale. I'm a big fan of (the fictional) Edna Mode's motto, "I never look back, darling, it distracts from the now," but occasionally my habit of always looking for the new and now means I leave things undone.

If I'm honest, this was a characteristic of mine from my childhood that I carried into adulthood. I do finish things, but I finish far fewer projects than I start. I suppose if I googled it there would be an argument available that this is a good thing, but I have never thought that. I've gotten a bit better over the years, at least when it comes to really important things— as I define important. That still leaves a whole lot undone.

Perhaps losing my outliner program was a sign that many of the notes I've collected, are simply not worth the bytes to store them and it would be better to make a clean start of it. Perhaps the universe is telling me that the value in the notes as in taking them and learning from then rather than writing about them.

Or perhaps I'm making excuses again for not putting my finger tips on the keys to string together words, then publish. I know there are people who think that interactions on Twitter can be fruitful. Russ Roberts, of the Econtalk podcast, recently spoke to one of them, but I did not find his reasoning convincing.

Bottom line: Tweeting is not writing, but without comment sections, tweeting is about the only way left to interact. Heaven forfend anyone send an email…

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