A couple of weeks ago, Jay Rosen asked whether this was the dumbest newspaper column about Twitter ever. A game critic blogger at the New Orleans paper makes fun of Twitter by attempting to write his review of an xbox game in 140 character increments. The reason this is idiotic is that the author misses the complementary relationship between Twitter and blogging. You don’t write your review itself on Twitter. You write a normal essay, and then share the link on Twitter with a catchy phrase.
The conventional lament is that Twitter is killing blogging, since bloggers are now spending their time and sharing their ideas on Twitter. As Robin Hamman observed last fall in this Headshift post, Twitter (and Facebook) are siphoning off a lot of the energy from personal diary blogging – the proverbial sandwich post – or simple link sharing. Bloggers observe that they post less frequently because they tweet ideas more often.
While Twitter may be siphoning blog energy from very short posts, Twitter also increases interest in more substantive blog posts and discussion around blog ideas. An increasing amount of blog traffic is driven from Twitter and Facebook status (good stats welcome). Through link posting and retweets, the social network is used to share and spread interesting posts and call attention to good bloggers. Essentially, Twitter is the new headline. Blogger Louis Gray takes this a bit too far, I think, when he recommends that bloggers change their headlines into catchy twitteresque phrases for SEO purposes. A good blog title is catchy enough to be interesting, and explicit enough to make sense in search results months later. A good Twitter callout is catchy, makes sense in the current social context, and doesn’t need to be as explicit. There’s no reason to make all blog titles into Twitter callouts.
Reactions and conversation about blog post ideas take place in Twitter, Facebook status, and Friendfeed. Journalism professor Jay Rosen is developing a phased process for developing ideas, using Twitter for mindcasting short thoughts and links, Friendfeed for assembling links and ideas together with discussion, and blog for long-form essays. Update: Science blogger BoraZ writes about a similar social journalistic workflow, carrying the process all the way through composing articles and books. Christian Crumlish has actually used the workflow from twitter through book composition, with a wiki as tool for book editing and feedback for O’Reilly’s Designing Social Interfaces.
The relationship between social messaging and blogging can be particularly handy in the workplace, where social messaging is used to call attention and discuss timely and relevant work-related posts and updates. The ease of sharing and discussion motivates people to write useful things, because they will be shared, discussed and used.
In summary, Twitter and blogs are highly complementary. The role of Twitter isn’t to limit thoughts to what can can be expressed in 140 characters or less, it’s to call attention to longer-form writing, and discuss the ideas through the social network.