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The word 'microblogging' has been popularized by services like Twitter. It's not too difficult to see where the word came from.
But when I read a post the other day on TechCrunch by Erick Schonfeld entitled "Blogging Vs. Microblogging: Twitter’s Global Growth Flattens, While WordPress’ Picks Up", the first question that popped into my mind: is 'microblogging' really blogging at all?
In his post, Schonfeld uses the latest comScore traffic figures for WordPress.com as a proxy for 'blogging' and the latest comScore traffic figures for Twitter.com as a proxy for 'microblogging'. The picture that gets painted: blogging is on the rise while microblogging is flatlining.
While Schonfeld notes that blogging never really died and that services like Twitter actually have a symbiotic relationship with blogs, I think there's a broader semantic issue here: there's very little similarity between what happens on a blog and what happens on Twitter. So why all the comparisons?
Five key differences:
- A blog is primarily a one-way conversation. Yes, there is generally room for comments, but the comments focus on the content. Twitter is more like a crazy chat room with a seemingly unlimited number of parallel conversations taking place at the same time. In other words, a blog is the nightly news; Twitter is the water cooler.
- The content is different. If you were told that you had to write about the latest thing you read in the newspaper but could only use 10 words, chances are you'd write something much different than if you had up to 1000 words. That's essentially the difference between the content on Twitter and the content on a blog.
- Blogs have a higher barrier to entry. While services like WordPress.com make it easy for a layperson to set up a blog, the amount of work involved in getting a blog set up is significantly higher than setting up a Twitter account. That means the demographic of 'microbloggers' is much broader than bloggers, and it means there's far more 'microblog' content.
- The purpose is different. Twitter itself asks "What's happening?" and even though it's used for more than answering that question, tweet subject matter for obvious reasons generally isn't much more complex than an answer to "What's happening?"
- The process is different. In most cases, writing a 'real' blog post requires that you take an idea, organize your thoughts around it and translate those thoughts into the written word. If you're serious, there's probably research and editing involved too. On Twitter, writing a tweet requires little more than the ability to put together a sentence. Actually, on second thought, sometimes it doesn't even require that.
For these reasons, and others, I honestly don't believe that what takes place on a blog and takes place on a service like Twitter are at all related, both from a process and a cognitive standpoint. That's not to say that the content on Twitter is worthless. But it's definitely not 'blogging' by any stretch of the imagination.
Given this, as much I hate to suggest 'killing' anything, I think it's time to kill the word 'microblogging'. And more importantly, any comparisons between blogging and microblogging. Call what happens on Twitter lifecasting, texting or just plain spam (if you're a Twitter cynic). Let's just leave blogging to the bloggers.
Photo credit: cameronneylon via Flickr.