Sunday 7 October 2007

The role and value of microblogging

While I haven't signed up to really started using Twitter just yet, my appreciation for the role of microblogging in the Web 2.0 social cloud is growing. Of course the question that is always at top of mind is what exactly is it and what makes it different?

Microblogging, as the name suggests, combines the same reverse chronological order of blogging with frequent short posts of content, typically text - for example, Twitter allows posts of up to 160 characters. Of course this content can potentially be any kind of digital media (as long as it is short and frequent) and a variation on this theme are tumblelogs, although I'm not sure if a separate term is really warranted. What is more interesting is the distinction between linklogs, microblogging and blogging - its more then linklogging and less than blogs that reach the stage of knowledge artefacts.

At a minimum microblogging:

  • Is short and frequent;
  • Provides awareness and presence information about the microblogger, although sometimes this information is about the past or the future; and
  • Can be used to ask questions or point to interesting digital media content;

But there is still something more - microblogging on Facebook is centred on the user's network and similarly Twitter allows "friends" to follow a Twitter feed. In fact, and this makes sense when you consider the volume of posts generated by a microblogger, filtering or aggregating microblogger feeds (like this map) is essential for making microblogging content meaningful. The audience then for microblogging is as important as the microblogging itself, which explains many of the benefits put forward for microblogging - for example, look at the many benefits Luis puts forward for Twittering in this post from earlier in the year.

However, the downside of this is that microblogging appears to be very platform dependent - for example, you can blog on just about any platform you like but to tap into social network filtering you need to share a common platform (I know there is talk of an OPML like standard for social connections and the need to open up social networks).

However, I'm also curious - are we likely to see automated or semi-automated microblogging, in the same way instant messaging applications are gradually evolving into unified communication tools that are location aware? For example, will we see microblogging bots that friends will be able to ask questions, such as where are you now?

And will we ultimately see instant messaging, persistent chat and microblogging merge in some way? In fact, Twitter already offers integration with public instant messaging services and SMS on mobile phones. Similarly, instant messaging is also network centric, with users maintaining a buddy list. So, greater integration makes a lot of sense if we can get broad interoperability working.

Microblogging then is as much about a user's social network as it is about the short posts they publish. But ironically, if microblogging and public social networking sites open up then I can see microblogging as a distinct activity disappearing into the background as part and parcel of the whole Web 2.0 social network experience.

1 comment:

  1. James - I'd agree that IM, microblogging & SMS will eventually swallowed up into some kind of presencing environment (mobile or not). Apart from the interoperability, there's a bit issue with keeping track of all these. I think we need some nifty visualisation tools...


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