Twitter Deep vs. Blog Deep

I’ve never been one to tell anyone how to use a tool and specifically a tool like twitter. It’s evolving and been re-purposed in more ways that I’m sure the developers had in mind. 

smsWhile everyone has their own construct about it, there’s no doubt it’s becoming a significant medium for many individuals and organizations.  Personally, I have to use some restraint as many conversations are only “twitter deep.” For me, that means I respect the limitations of a 140 character space to be limited to superfluous ideas at best.  Certainly a great link can be posted but the minute a tweet engages people in a meaningful way that requires any degree of unwrapping, my immediate thought is “get a room”.  Frustrations mount as complex ideas are squeezed into a simple text messaging tool.

Exhibit A
Discussions like this are not suited well to twitter or even plurk.  I appreciate how Darren has tried to capture it but again, the responses are disjointed and the limitations likely make it a less than satisfying learning experience. Even as I read the tweets, it requires so much clarification that it’s difficult to engage.

Exhibit B

Instead, I like how Will got frustrated in a recent discussion on literacy and offered an alternative.

My fear is that so many people begin their entry into social media via microblogs and rarely move beyond that.  Twitter cheapens deep discussions. You can only go “twitter deep”. Blogs or other unrestricted spaces offer a less time sensitive, character restrictive space to explore ideas in depth. You can go “blog deep.” Both are great spaces but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all space for every purpose. The idea of small pieces loosely joined is still valid. Many newcomers to social media are trying to cram all forms of thinking and sharing into a single space such as Facebook or Twitter. I don’t think that’s a good idea.  While I always encourage people to start somewhere, I don’t mean for them to stay in one space.  So if you’re new to social media you might want to think about adding another space to your identity.  Take the idea tossed around in twitter and take it deep in your own space. Even if you only decontruct it yourself or have a couple of comments I think you’ll find that a more satisfying experience that trying to follow short snippets of insight. Twitter is great but a steady diet of twitter is like only ordering appetizers. At some point, you’ll want a main course.

Image: ‘SMS: Text Messaging Gets Redesigned

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  • Excellent entry, Dean. This should give people pause to think about things and realize that there isn’t just one tool. Choose the most appropriate one in context of the subject.

    dougpetes last blog post..Into 2009

  • Eddie Carr

    I’m in agreement. I have been using Twitter for about a month now. When there was a conversation that would need to take longer than a tweet would allow, it had to be done in another way (i.e. email). This would mean an exchange of addresses and the little bit of trust that goes with that. Email is not always the best option. Using Twitter has lead me to want to go further in the workings of a digital network. Today was my first attempt posting to my own blog. It’s amazing that in the hours since I’ve posted to my blog I’ve received two comments on the blog and three tweets about it. A smile did cross my face as I read the comments. It is satisfying to go further into that digital world.

  • I don’t know, Dean. I agree that 140 characters is limiting, however sometimes these are important/engaging/fun conversations and for some of us these may be our only opportunities to have them with a global group. Although only 2 or 3 people conversed in your example, because it was public others had the opportunity to add their 140 cents or simply lurk and learn. Posting to my blog may be a great way to take it deeper but will not always generate a conversation. Additionally, my readership doesn’t lend itself to reaching the very people I might reach via Twitter. It doesn’t necessarily pull the same people who read my tweets or my @replies. Through Twitter I can reach out to @anyone. Using Twitter or Plurk for this type of “chat room” discussion may not be the most efficient venue, but it does allow others to jump in where if it were moved to the privacy of an offsite room, that opportunity is removed.

    Although I think I can confidently say that it is not your intent, I fear that posts like this will discourage people who may not otherwise engage.

    Lee Kolberts last blog post..Top 10 Sites/Apps For After The EggNog is Gone

  • This is a good point. I have been using twitter for a few months now and my concern is that it feels like a global chat room only at times. This is okay, but in order to totally expand on ideas and get the big idea it is important to stretch our reaches into blogging. For ourselves, the writer, as well as the reader.

    Ed Shepherds last blog post..7 Things You Don’t Really Need to Know About Me

  • Dean
    I love the analogy! You make some great points. These extended Twitter debates are becoming more and more common, and I have found myself going back through archives trying to re-sect the conversation while along the way losing a whole lot of necessary context to draw any reasonable conclusion about the point being made. I find myself watching from the sidelines rather than engaging or contributing to a deeper conversation.

    There is nothing that beats Twitter for igniting the dialogue, but there has to be a more productive venue for taking the conversation to other levels. As always, thanks for stretching my thinking! Happy New Year!

  • Barbara

    Well said! Like all things there are exceptions but twitter is not focused even in the way a forum is and so for my part I find it to be a portal to connections , blog posts and 140 character updates. I found some great blogs through twitter and I have a sense of connectedness with others ( especially right after the fire) but it is just a place to jump in not a place to have deep conversations.
    Interestingly one of the places I have found twitter most useful is at NECC and other conventions when it keeps me alerted to noteworthy sessions and gives instant feedback and conversation on whats going on.

  • Lee,

    I suppose the real clarification needs to be around the term “deep”. I have had a few occasions where a short back and forth exchange on twitter is helpful and I suppose people can lurk and gain some insights. I guess I wrote this because I’ve just seen too many really important conversations go sour and certainly become frustrating as people try to cram their ideas in a space that’s just too restrictive.

    You mention taking things to twitter because of numbers. I agree that in some cases that’s of benefit. If you’re doing a quick poll, want some suggestions and so forth. The kind of conversations I’m talking about require more depth and are often laden with controversy.

    In that respect, you make my point that one size does not fit all. I hope I don’t discourage folks from engaging but hopefully do the opposite. I wonder how many don’t chime in because they know they can’t articulate their ideas in 140 characters and so they simply observe? That’s not necessarily a bad thing but people new to social media need to know they are other ways to engage and resolve the restrictive nature of any tool. Small pieces loosely joined.

  • Dean – I love the mini conversations that spring up on Twitter but agree that they don’t always lend themselves to the depth of thought that occurs within a blog conversation.

    Donna DesRochess last blog post..7 things meme

  • Very intriguing post. I absolutely agree that Twitter can only get you so deep in a conversation, but sometimes it’s the only way to get that conversation started. The discussion that began today would never have gone where it went had it not happened on Twitter. Ryan Bretag and Jim O’Hagan were light-heartedly talking about 21st Century Literacy and Skills. A couple people started adding to the discussion, and before long, a very dynamic conversation was taking place with at least twelve different voices adding value to the conversation. As you pointed out above, now there will be an Elluminate session tomorrow for anyone interested to discuss the topic. The session wouldn’t have happened had the event not percolated on Twitter.

    I like what you said about eventually people need to “get a room.” I’ve had several occasions where I wished the discussion could have moved from Twitter and transferred to Skype or Elluminate or whatever the tool to allow for more open discussion. Too often that doesn’t happen. So while I will disagree with you about these conversations not having a place on Twitter or the equivalent, I do agree with the idea that people should be more open to engage beyond when the discussion becomes ripe for dynamic dialogue. I also think it’s important to recognize that often it is because of a microblog that these conversations take place on as large a scale as they do. I know for myself, if it weren’t for Twitter, I likely never would have come to know who Dean Shareski is or the thought provoking conversations that take place here in this space.

    Ben Greys last blog post..21st Century Clarification

  • I find Plurk to be a better medium for conversation. The threading allows for easier discussion, even with the similar 140 character limitation. You can also ignore (mute) an entire conversation in Plurk in a way that is impossible with Twitter.

    I do understand your point about “Twitter Deep” but find it an interesting and fun exercise to condense my usual loquaciousness and verbosity into 140 characters.

    John Schinker made mention of your same observations about Twitter in a recent Taste of Tech post. He references “learning to properly use” Twitter and talks about when Twitter can (and can’t) be useful.

    Debbie S.s last blog post..Seven in Nine

  • Dean,
    Thanks for clarifying and I see now what you mean. “Heated” conversations are what I see you talking about. If people more sensitively monitored their own conversations so if they see their discourse getting heated, then that is a good time to move it out. Those types of conversations may be the ones that discourage newbies as well. For fear that their comments might get jumped on, newbies or timid tweeters may not shoot out a thought-provoking tweet.

    I still don’t have a problem with “deep,” but we definitely agree that one size does not fit all. Great post, Dean.

    Lee Kolberts last blog post..Top 10 Sites/Apps For After The EggNog is Gone

  • I find that so often people keep looking for that “killer app” or device or whatever that will do everything (and this goes so far beyond things on the web). I find that attitude limiting and dangerous. The greatest thing about these tools is not the tools themselves, but the connections they make – between the tools/devices and the people using them. Different things have different uses; the challenge is in finding what works for you, knowing what you’re using, and more importantly WHY.

    Thanks for a good post!

    Jaymies last blog post..There’s nothing like a meme to bring a blog back from the dead.

  • Ed Allen

    Dean, great post. I am very new to social networking. I started at the end of September through PLP. Twitter has been an excellent resource for me as I have discovered great blogs like this and have met some great people. My google reader is full of blogs I have learned of on twitter.

    I do, however feel that i need to go deeper, but could not identify that until I read this post. I am going to start blogging finally, so I can share as well as read.

    I am sorry that I can’t make that elluminate session tomorrow.

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  • This is a good post and does make me wonder whether or not Twitter is one of the better options for “deep” conversations. I think Lee makes some great points with her first comments, many I agree with. However, I also see how moving the conversation somewhere else, to perhaps Skype, can allow those involved to continue with the 140 character limitations. However, if someone see the conversation on Twitter, but isn’t able to join the conversation elsewhere, that would be unfortunate.

    Chad Lehmans last blog post..Netbooks in Elementary Schools

  • Hi Dean –

    Good post. I agree with Ben G. — sometimes a service like Twitter is the only immediate way to spark a conversation that’s open to a wider audience than just the crowd of regulars who frequents a given blog. The wide-range of people using Twitter enables a broader conversation with more diverse voices contributing their thoughts.

    As far as the 140 character count goes–that constraint would come in really handy in real life, especially at meetings or presentations where certain folks have a tendency to run long 😉


    Chris Cummingss last blog post..Happy New Year, Product People!

  • I kind of like the constraints of 140 characters and I find that those I follow find ways to make the most of them. Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer and enjoy efficient and effective dialogue. 🙂

    Twitter can spark great conversation, and sometimes that conversation needs to be taken elsewhere. Time, I think, will push us consistently taking that next step instead of letting the conversation die. It’s new for many lay-folk and all new things take time. Why do we have to be perfect at it, right now?

  • I personally loved how organic the discussion/debate became. I found it awesome that those involved eventually did “get a room”. As I am only finding my own voice in this field I found myself following the debate in Twitter, Ben’s blog posting, the comments Ben’s posting stirred and the many blog posts that the discussion has created.

    For some I think the conversations do just die on Twitter, but often I think it inspires and gives passion to those affected. I’m sure many blog posts are created from these experiences and inspires others to dig deeper. I don’t believe that Twitter cheapens the discussion any, but creates the common area where the discussions can start.

    Thanks for the post!

    John Fergusons last blog post..Wordle…

    • John and Lindsay,

      You make some valid points. I think the issue here is the level or intensity of the discussion. There are many debates that can work fine but I’ve found too many that leave me unsatisfied and wanted an opportunity to hash out in a more suitable forum.
      But as you say John,

      …creates the common area where the discussions can start.

      And I also like Linday’s quote,

      Why do we have to be perfect at it, right now?

  • This is a great post and it really got me thinking about how I use Twitter. I do enjoy the back and forwards banter that you are able to get going on Twitter. And you’re right, it is generally social chit-chat along with links to check out – a relaxing hobby for the end of the day. When you do get engaged in deeper conversations it takes a moment to switch mode in your mind and pull out valuable thoughts in few words. I like your idea about moving to a room from a Twitter conversation. You need the Twitter format to get the conversation started and find other people willing to discuss, then somewhere else to continue the discussion further with more words. I look forward to seeing how this problem is resolved over time. Until then, I’m going to check out Elluminate. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Penny Ryders last blog post..The 1st Teaching K-6 Carnival

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  • Someone recently asked for Twitter analogies — to me it’s like the mini-conversations you have passing someone in the hall or maybe sharing a one-floor elevator trip. They’re updates, they’re microreports, they’re requests to get together later.

    The “twitter deep” stuff often feels like two (or three or four) people who stop outside your cubicle to talk about something — forming a virtual conference room. It’s great for the “conferees,” but less so for someone who’s not in the party. And the conversation (or, more likely, parts of it) appears in the stream of people who follow any participant.

    Each to his own, of course, but it’s good to remember (whether in Twitter or in the actual hallway) that your conversation feel to others like you’re tossing Lego bricks at them.

    Dave Fergusons last blog post..Rx for health: use cheat sheets

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  • Excellent article that you’ve wrote here! I have set up a Twitter account to run an RSS feed through, just so that it automatically updates with each new blog post that I make, but I haven’t really seen much effect from it, so I think I may also try this tool out too! As it does seem pretty good to be honest.

    I may not be using Twitter right of course, so I may have to do some more research on that area of it all and see what happens!

    Love your blog by the way, cheers!

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  • Ann Leaness

    This is a great discussion.  I wonder though if all those willing to jump into a conversation on twitter would have the confidence to jump into a deeper conversation on another site. Twitter is a strange place. There are times I will jump in and feel completely at ease and there are other times I question whether my comments are an intrusion.  Imagining taking them to an Elluminate session is daunting. Am I the only person who feels this way? Just wondering….

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