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.

WordPressing my way across the Internet

Writing a piece of software is never an easy process and the seemingly simple of strapping together a textarea, a mysql database and a HTML page to display your writing is no exception. It isn’t that hard to do the basics – I mean, displaying what you write on the page and producing RSS feeds and categories isn’t a particularly complicated process in itself but the sum of the parts is more effort than one might think. For example, writing in a clean, well designed environment is a pleasure where, writing in a poorly sized textarea with no extra features is not nearly as pleasant.

Obviously the solution to this myriad of problems, which I brought upon myself is easy. Use something else. I’ve been considering doing exactly that for quite some time. I have been following, even contributing, to the development of WordPress for quite some time and not only that, but I’ve been reccomending it to people to use for their own blogs. So I dove in and created an exporter using the WordPress Extended RSS format, (which might I add has absolutely no documentation) for my old software, hacked the importer to support tags for the Ultimate Tag Warrior and then took the plunge.

I certainly have to change the layout of this, considering just about every man and his dog has the Kubrick theme, as nice as it looks. The other thing that this change rang home, is just how long I’ve been writing on this blog, since September 2004, and I think I also had some posts on an old Movable type installation before that. That’s a long time for someone who usually has the attention span of a 4 year old.

Hopefully, I can use this change of scenery to actually start producing something meaningful on this piece of the Internet, rather than the drivel I’ve become accustomed to creating.

Over-Transparent

While reading Scoble’s recent post about The Long Tail and his previous posts about transparency it got me thinking about why people blog. Whether it is connecting to those people that are close to you and read your blog, people who are interested in the same things you are, or you are trying to make a business out of it. For mine, these things should all be factors of how transparent you are being.

In this case, Chris Anderson could well be sending the book as nothing but a gift to Scoble saying, thanks for being a good friend, yet, Scoble has still stated he is being paid for the post and is still going to give it away. What about if Robert’s brother was to give him a book he had written, would the his process still be different. I know if I gave someone a book as a gift, and they were to give it away because they considered it payment I would be offended.

Each to their own I suppose. All I am saying, is we need to not forget that blogging is a very personal medium, and the very process of trying to be transparent, can make the whole thing feel mechanical and soulless.

Blogging in Toowoomba

I’ve posted before about the uptake of RSS in Australia but looking at my referer log, I’m amazed. I had a referral for someone searching for Toowoomba. There really isn’t any hits there, however if you do a proper search for Toowoomba there are heaps of results.

The number of people writing in blogs about Toowoomba amazes me. Hopefully, I can find something interesting to read.

My Friends Blogging

I’m in what I think is a funny age group when concerned with the net, most of my friends haven’t been using the for ever (since it began) yet, alot of them live and breathe on it. None of them use livejournal or myspace, and we all chat on msn messenger.

I read that alot of teenagers and their groups of friends use things like these and keep up to date with what everyone is doing with them. Even one of the apprentices at work has an msn space, but he is about 4 years younger than me.

It’s interesting to see the uptake of blogging in and around my circle of friends. At the moment of my more computer addicted friends are the early adopters. Dave and Clint live in front of their computers, but Jameses isn’t what I would call a geek, his interest in blogging is more for writings sake. His blog is worth a look.