Beyond Tweetstorming

It seems "tweetstorming" - using a series of tweets on Twitter to share commentary that requires more space than a single tweet can hold - has become a thing.

For those of us who have been using various web tools to publish online for many years now without any notable space constraints, it's a puzzling trend to say the least. Why would you put your thoughts in a format and on a platform that was not at all designed for longer form writing, makes it hard for others to link and respond, and risks a loss of ownership or availability of that content later on (for starters)? I've expanded on these concerns in posts like Owning our digital homes, and made light of them in my own tweets.

But we know that the most elegant and flexible practices don't always win out over ones that are popular or compelling in other ways. So I'm trying to resist the temptation to be entirely dismissive of tweetstorming, especially as I see people call out why they prefer it over blogging: they're more likely to follow up on a conversation on Twitter than they are to check back on an individual blog's comment thread, they like the immediacy and wide distribution of Twitter, they like being able to respond to single thoughts one tweet at a time, and so on.

That said, I still see tweetstorming as a disconcerting trend for the realm of publishing and discussion online. In a time where we need more clarity of thinking, constructive dialog and interactions that don't shy away from details, nuance and truth-seeking, tweetstorms seem like a move in the wrong direction.

So what to do about it?

In the short term, I appreciate the (sometimes contradictory) efforts underway to connect people who want to tweetstorm with more established publishing tools.

For example, John James Jacoby has just created a new WordPress plugin, Publishiza, which allows you to compose a regular post in WordPress and then automatically split it up into a bunch of new tweets when you hit "Publish."

Dave Winer is working on pngWriter, a tool that makes it easy to write a chunk of text and then generate a screenshot-like image of said text that is published in to a tweet:

The Verge has an article, The right way to tweetstorm, which essentially says to use Medium instead.

My own small and somewhat snarky contribution is a single-page website, YouShould.Blog, which tries to make the case that someone should consider blogging instead of tweetstorming. Its use case is probably pretty limited but I wanted to have something to link to instead of just tweeting back at someone that "hey, you should blog that!" Suggestions to improve its persuasiveness or overall usefulness are very welcome.

In the longer term, helping people move beyond tweetstorming for publishing commentary is probably mostly about big changes in education, culture and technology that go far beyond the scope of this post. It's the same stuff needed to help us fix living in a post-fact world.

I celebrate the fact that people are trying to start and advance conversations in ways that don't fit into 140 characters. I hope we take the opportunity to make blogging and publishing online even more accessible and user-friendly than ever before.

 

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Chris Hardie

Chris Hardie is an Internet tech geek, problem solver, community-builder and amicable cynic.

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