A degenerate form of blogging?

Bloggers, who creates high quality postings week after week, take offense to Twitter. Stephen Downes, Roger von Oech and Kathy Sierra have all questioned the sanity of blogging every 5 minutes about what we are currently doing. To their ways of seeing, there's nothing to appreciate. Twitter looks degenerate. I'm currently incubating an inclusive taxonomy of blogs and blog subscribers. Within that framework, Twitter looks like a more perfect form of blogging for a one particular species of bloggers.

For many, perhaps most bloggers, blogging is a welcome distraction. They are blogging as an escape from a classroom, cubicle or confining relationship. Blogging alters their mood. It's an "action of distraction" that gets them out of their funk, pity party or powerless posture in the real life. Because it works like a drug, it's as addicting. The appetite for this distraction becomes insatiable. The persistence becomes desperate.

This blogger species also suffers from some kind of social isolation or alienation amidst a frenzy of demanding togetherness -- that Robert Putnam described in his book: "Bowling Alone". They have no one to confide in or call upon as a sounding board. They are starved for personal connection. The question on their lips appears to be: "is anybody out there?" When the answer comes back as fast as Twitter delivers, the feeling of isolation vanishes. Fast acting relief with no obvious side effects!

This genre of blogger also thrives on instant gratification. Patience or long attention spans are not included in this package. Email and comments on blogs are too slow - they're asynchronous! Finding out who's online for IM is tedious. When a quick fix is needed, Twitter satisfies.

This genre commits to the non-committal. They want it to be fast, superficial and stimulating. Heavy, sincere, deep or profound -- sucks royally according to their "intangible value schema". They need to stay on the move and change as fast as the technologies that define their lives. Twitter is the next new thing that glitters and catches their furtive eyes.

This kind of blogger resembles bargain shoppers who change brands constantly and abandon previous hangouts on a whim. Proprietors of night clubs, social media, and youth culture products -- learn to work with these youthful migrations of popularity or go out of business in a hurry. Of course this crowd would move beyond blogging into something more hyper, adrenal and stimulating. Their move to Twitter is the "tip of an iceberg" that reveals their shopping and recreational patterns.

These bloggers are from Mercury, not Mars, Venus or Earth. They are fleet footed. They move like quick silver. They slip in between the cracks of slower, more methodical blogging species. They are closer to the sun so the burn up or burn out faster. But they rise from the ashes quickly whenever they are toast. Game over for these bloggers means it's time to play again.

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  1. Thanks for articulating many of my unarticulated thoughts. I especially like your reference to Putnam's "Bowling Alone" syndrome.

    As I mentioned in my post, I'm trying to build up on attention span. If I want to actually DO something productive, it requires focus. I think the same is true for most people. Call me "old school," but I've got enough on my mind with my own innocuous thoughts, let alone other people's.

    Very good post.

  2. Now that was an excellent post. I think there may be some stereotypical analysis here—I have been using the service infrequently but appreciate the "slower" blogging etc. you describe, however I do think you are on to describing some behavior patterns that are accurate.

    Here's my question to you. Will we see more or less of this type of behavior as we grow older or will a backlash lead to less of it?

  3. Thanks for the great comment, Roger. I guess we're both "old school" to enjoy focus and freedom from distractions. Kathy Sierra also had great insights into how there's no Brain 2.0 that can multitask effectively.

  4. Great take and there is a lot of truth to how you paint the human condition which is attacted to tools like blogging or even Twitter.

    But I'm not sure it's about multitasking as much as it is "conversation shorthand". I don't multitask well at all. I I write this comment, I am not thinking about anything but what I'm writing and you can make the case that doing this has distracted me from a presentation I'm working on.

    So to Roger's point—yes, it's a distraction. So is the Web, cell phones, IM's text messages etc. You can make the valid argument that we don't need another distraction—which on a personal level I kind of agree with. On a professional level, I'm intrigued by this form of communcation and see pragmatic benefits from it such as getting links delivered to my front door without any effort. Still it's not for everyone and I would never say that it should be.

  5. Thanks for adding your thoughts here, David. I agree that "seeking a distraction" is an inadequate explanation for what you were doing as you wrote your valuable and insightful comment. To fall into the Twitter category, you would have limited your comment to:"I'm adding a comment to a blog while I should be working on my presentation".

    By considering the issue of multi-tasking, Roger's comment, my post and your own thought processes, you were contributing to several ongoing conversations, advancing our collective wisdom about the benefits of blogging, and operating effectively in an intangible gift economy. That's not a distraction, that's a contribution. Thank you!

  6. David said "Here's my question to you. Will we see more or less of this type of behavior as we grow older or will a backlash lead to less of it?"

    Thanks for the question David. The comment moderation on this blog must have had a glitch yesterday - your first comment just showed up. I think the trend is spit into two directions. Those that find blogging to be slow will constantly be on the move for the thrills of the next new thing. They provide the market for innovators of technology and tools for social networking. Meanwhile those of us contributing insights, professional growth and societal changes through our blogging will increase in number, quality and impact. As the thrill seekers abandon blogging all together, the size of the blogosphere will shrink quantatively. Yet the blogosphere will simultaneously increase qualitatively in the ways I describe blogging being valuable in my next two posts.

  7. Tom, great analysis—especially in response to my question. And I really enjoyed this post.

    You might also appreciate my latest post over at Logic + Emotion. Feel free to be distracted. Erm I mean add to the conversation. :)