On Engagement and Authority

Since it’s early beginnings, there has been much talk about Twitter’s place in the online media landscape. Questions have been raised over whether it will take over from blogging or if it will become just another messaging service. I think it is important to look at what they both provide to give us a brief glimpse into the future.

Twitter’s beauty lies in it’s simplicity. Friends are easy to come by, do a quick search on a topic you are interested in, find some people that are talking about that topic, follow them and then start the conversation. As time passes and the conversation continues these relationships which started as very tenuous “follows” can blossom in to something more. That is so long as you spend the time actually conversing, rather than spamming them with “Get 200 followers easily” or “I’ve just started playing this cool spy game”.

The barrier to entry to this style of interaction is so low, it is conceivable that you can maintain 200-500 of this style of relationship and as time goes on your followers will grow and the attention each tweet you send will grow. This power to influence a number of people through weight of conversation is engagement. You can engage a huge number of followers in conversation and they will click on your links and retweet you, so long as what you are saying is good.

On the other hand building relationships with blogs is hard. Promoting your finely crafted blogpost to like minded people (presumably bloggers) requires sourcing email addresses and then sending a friendly pointer, or leaving a comment on a number of similar blog posts suggesting they read your post. Neither of these options is particularly good, it makes you feel a bit like a spammer and I’m yet to believe that this method really ends up in an ongoing readership. Basically, blogging lacks what Twitter has in spades. Engagement.

Where it lacks this ability to quickly reach and build a large readership it makes up with being able to say something worthwhile. 140 characters is an extremely short space to write 2 sentences, let alone pose a question and make a compelling argument. This is core of any long form writing, but doesn’t have any sort of comparison in the shorter form of microblogging.

The ability to develop and produce a convincing argument is what writers (and bloggers) apart. This then draws inbound links, that post will then rise up the Google rankings becoming the definitive article for that topic. Much like Wikipedia holds the top spot for so many search term. This propensity to become the definitive resource for a topic is authority.

Authority is something that the temporary nature of Twitter doesn’t allow. The search doesn’t find the most important tweet on the topic, just the most recent. In fact it is very difficult to find something someone tweeted in the past let alone use it as reference.

Each medium has its own benefits and down falls and as someone trying to build a “brand” or “presence” in this world of new media would ignore either at their own peril. Robert Scoble is a perfect example, over the past 6 months he has hardly touched his blog let alone written anything of note while other blogs who haven’t over commited to microblogging have maintained their place in the mindspace of the blogosphere.

Dave Winer’s suggestion of posting every week is a move in the right direction, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. He advocates it primarily because a blog is under your control, it is your place and should be forever. Yet he doesn’t raise the point that you can actually say something worthwhile in a blog post. It is hard to do that in a tweet.

So every Friday, or whenever you have something worth saying post an authoritative blog post, and engage your audience by tweeting about it. They go hand in hand.

Converting the Random Minutes

People who happen to spend more than a few passing minutes with me and a certain group of friends of mine (namely Jameses, Rod, Carl and Dingo) are amazed at the amount of randomness the conversations produce. While I can’t speak for other people, I have a suspicion our conversations start like any other, a random anecdote or piece of information kicks it off and moves from there. This is where the magic often happens, someone moves the conversation in a direction no-one could have ever predicted and we end up in Kansas, or Wonderland. (As an aside, I’ve never read nor watched Alice in Wonderland). Anyway, I digress – from what I’m not entirely sure due to the fact that there doesn’t appear to be a point to this post.

Now I will get to the point soon, so stay with me and the point shall present itself.

Now my history is a little bit scratchy, but I believe it was Jameses who coined the phrase “Random Minutes” in relation to the time that I must spend each day thinking of random/useless information. I had never thought about it like this, but I suppose he had a point. There is a lot of time while I’m riding my bike, or waiting for the coffee to be made where my mind wanders, through corridors that often will never be walked (or wandered) again. At the time Jameses suggested this concept I recall him targeting me specifically of this affliction, but I think as his recent post regarding his exploration of some new music suggests that he too is a sufferer.

Now the point of all of this explaining is not only to record the concept of “Random Minutes” for posterity but to announce a plan I have for this blog over the next week, and into the future. I am planning to spend time every day of this week writing on this blog, I’m talking about actual meaningful content. By meaningful content it might be random observations (read: not necessarily meaningful) but it won’t just be a link or 2 that I’ve collected from the net. My plan is to post something each day. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep it up but I’ll give it a shot and see how I feel come next Sunday.

Site dramas and Dreamhost (PS)

So, my site has been down for a few days, not really sure for how long but certainly since Thursday. I started noticing some mysterious things happening, for one thing when I logged into my SSH to check some DNS entries for work the name of my server had changed from dinero to crazyman. I thought this was quite strange but didn’t think too much of it at the time. Then when I went to look at something on my site it couldn’t connect to the database. I checked the dreamhost status page and it said they were having network outage. Again I didn’t worry.

So today when I went to post a post (not this post) and it was still down, I went investigating. It turns out I had signed up for Dreamhost PS which I remember doing, but I thought it was a joke. I’m pretty certain this post about it had something to do with that. Anyway, turns out somewhere in the migration across the database user didn’t get enabled on my WordPress database. So I fixed that today and we are back in action.

Now the real point of this diatribe is a couple of minor problems that I’ve encountered with dreamhost.

  1. I signed up originally with my work email address and I want to change it. But there is no where (as far as I can tell) to change it. Had I had my actual email address on the account, I might have known that this was all about to happen/go pear shaped.

  2. There is no way in the panel for me to actually remove the PS feature from my account. I know I really don’t need it and I don’t know if I actually will remove it, but I’d like the option without having to deal with support, which in my experience isn’t bad at all with DH, however I still don’t like doing it.
  3. The dreamhost blog kinda misled me, (clearly not intentionally) I would hate if it changed it’s style, but possibly there should be a more corporatespeak blog as well so I can compare the 2.