Saturday, August 02, 2008

One downside to the "micro-blogging" apps: The hit and run

For some time people have been calling apps like Twitter and FriendFeed and Pownce and the like "micro-blogging." I prefer to call such apps "mega-chat."

And lately I've seen the down-side of these apps.

-No, it's not the proliferation of spam Twitter accounts being created.
-No, it's not the fact that FriendFeed assumes I want to see the feeds of friends of friends, forcing me to opt-out, rather than allowing me to opt-in, of such FOF feeds.
-No, it's not even the threat that we will all stop creating lengthier, more intelligent posts in favor of 140 character tweets filled with acronyms, abbreviations and gross mis-spellings required to fit into said 140 characters.

Rather, I find that these asynchronous mega-chat applications are the perfect vehicle for committing a hit-and-run. Here's what I mean:

Twice recently I saw people make observations (once about me, once about BlogHer) that were based on erroneous assumptions. In each case they made rather nasty sweeping statements (again: once about me personally, once about BlogHer) based on aforementioned erroneous assumptions. They didn't ask a question. They didn't DM me or check with any reliable source that I could tell. One was a tweet, and one was a comment left on a FriendFeed thread.

In each case i responded to correct the erroneous assumption. and in each case the micro-blogger or mega-chatter went absolutely silent. No "my bad", no "Oh, got it, thanks", no, Heaven knows, "Sorry about that." Just nothing, pulling a disappearing act from the conversation they had started or been part of.

Who cares?

Well, this is where the asynchronous thing comes in. If they had posted on their blog, and I had commented (and they had actually let my comment be published) then everyone who saw the misstatement would see the correction. Oh, maybe people would have argued about it. Maybe people would have doubted my word, since clearly I'm biased about myself. But everyone would see the whole conversation.

But when someone tweets, only their followers see the tweet, and their followers don't see an @reply, and there is no way to make sure they do. I can't reach someone else's followers the way I can attempt to reach their blog readers via a comment. And if someone wants to make a sweeping, and erroneous, statement they can do so to their heart's content. And neglect to do any follow-up if that follow-up would require them admitting they were wrong.

Is it just me? Does this bug anyone else? Lots of folks ramble on about where the conversation is going (off our blogs, into Twitter, or FriendFeed) but is the concept of "conversation" disintegrating altogether in favor of pronouncement?

PS-This is, by the way, not a new argument. It's why i've always objected to people who thought comments on blogs aren't necessary because if you want to respond you can always write a blog post about it. That argument ignores the fact that 80% of blog readers don't actually blog themselves. Similarly, I don't think you can count on everyone following the ever-more distributed threads of conversations.

Oh, and I realize I've been a bit blog-absent lately. Little thing called BlogHer '08 totally sucked the life (or at least the bloggy life) out of me for a few weeks. Maybe this subject has already been discussed and we've all arrived at a wonderful solution, or at least philosophy about it. If so? Please share the smartest take on it you've seen, because these hit and runners are BUGGING me. kthxbai

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