Twitter is to Blogging what Telegrams were to Airmail

Scott Beale (via twitter of naturally), pointed me to a new cartoon by Hugh MacLeod that sums up the affect twitter has had on the method of message posting on the web since the year 2000.

Cartoon by GapingVoid

Blogging (née web logging) was a phenomena that took hold after the turn of this century where people would compose their thoughts (some less so than others) into essay-style statements. While short messaging was popular with some (see LJ) many people provoked themselves to really dig deep into something that had grabbed a hold of their thoughts lately. While true writers complained blogging robbed them of the fire to work on their bigger projects, blogging motivated many non-authors to draw their line in the sand and share their perspectives with others.

Twittering, or tweeting or micro-blogging took hold in 2007 and was a way of send text messages to many friends at once. It quickly moved from the phone to the web but maintained it’s limited character format. If you ever paid to send a telegram instead of writing a letter, it’s like that. You have to distill your important message down to as few as characters as possible. This has it’s benefits in that you’d don’t need to labor through four paragraphs to know that someone is, say, displeased with their elected leaders. Yet, the down side is its allows one to share with many the impression of their thoughts without having to fully compose and explain them. So now I may know, for example, that my friend is quitting his job, they haven’t shared what precipitated the big decision. So even though my friend’s important message made it over the transom, I’m still mostly in the dark.

The ease of messaging in this format, interestingly, is taking the personal blog with it. While professional blogs still abound, the number of people sharing paragraphs of thoughts is dropping as furiously as it started. It’s obvious to explain why. It will take me 20 minutes to write this, another 10 to edit and rework it, and another 5 to decide if it’s really worth it – and this will be a quick entry. Or I could twitter ‘He he: this cartoon is right‘ and have convey the same message.

But I’ve been missing my friends deeper thoughts. I’ve been living via 140 ascii character updates as if that sums up the wealth of their thoughts for that day (granted some people twitter each and every 140 character thought they have … which means I usually stop following them altogether.)

So without trying to squeeze my feelings into a single sentence I just wanted to share that I think people (and I’m talking about those people that once shared paragraphs of thoughts via blogs) are starting to sell themselves short. I wonder if people really think they are connecting with their friends when it’s more likely they are sending a smoke signal. I know people’s passions, as the cartoonist’s Gavin’s are, are much deeper than what you could share in a text message and I just wanted to say I’m missing it.

I still have all your blogs in my feed reader and if you ever want to tell me (as a web reading friend) why you’re looking for a new career or having children or going skiing or boycotting china or the best/worst hope for humankind, you know I’ll read it. I look forward to hearing more not less from you (well most of you, some of you I’m still looking for a bit more of a filter ;)

6 thoughts on “Twitter is to Blogging what Telegrams were to Airmail

  1. Michael Parekh

    Well said, Ted. Both the writer and reader of blogs and twitter-like services are under increased time and prioritization pressures. This will only get worse for a while as technology makes more types of communication possible both in terms of expense and convenience.

    I’m already struggling with what I could, should, or should not do with services like Qik and others that allow non-stop, ad hoc video blogging.

    It’s very understandable under the circumstances why some writers like Hugh decide to back away from one medium altogether. Many readers/viewers will likely do the same and their choices will not be as immediately evident.

    Interesting times.

  2. Leef Smith

    Excellent posts on the merits of twitter and micro-blogging for engaging more involved and thoughtful dialog.

    More my 2 cents, I think Facebook is also cannibalizing blogging significantly, or at least my blogging. Years later, it feels like feedreaders have still not gone mainstream, let alone Twitter.

    So if I want to share/write something and have it actually read by people that matter to me (read “friends”), my current feeling is that Facebook is the best medium. But it does seem to come smaller, more digestible/regurgittaable chunks anyway.

    Sorry for the bird food analogy. I’ve been watching too many nature documentaries lately.

  3. Pingback: Twitter: Familiar Communication | The Blog of Rudy Amid

  4. Sally

    Hmnmm. The closest I’ve ever got to twittering is the little status message on Facebook and I must admit, I stopped using it because it was annoying me that other people would use that little piece of feed to say things like “Was in a car crash today” or “Husband died” or ‘am washing dishes” and that was it! This was how I was now supposed to be a part of their lives? A tiny fractured message with no substance to back it up? Friends I’d known for 5, 10, 20 years summing up dramatic events in their life in 140 characters or less. True, sometimes it may have been a bit painful to elaborate at the time, but I felt quite cut off from their life – gone were the days where I’d have at least had a paragraph or two email about them and thus felt informed and a part of their lives.

    So, maybe I’m a fuddy duddy, but I think people who rely on twittering are really alienating everyone, even though at the same time they are overloading them with superflous details of their lives and it doesnt really allow for a conversation at all. If its not worth a couple of paragraphs in a blog or email I’m not interested.

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