I’ve been blogging for over two years now.
It’s been a fun experiment, spending hours pouring into long-winded pieces of prose, carefully editing each word to pull out just the right meaning, and finally clicking the magic publish button… just to have it be read by a total of 3 people (which usually includes both my mom and my mother-in-law).
There’s nothing the matter with blogging. It’s a mighty fine platform for building an audience, spreading the word, and making a difference.
But sometimes I wonder if there’s not something more.
TechCrunch recently reported on the insane exponential growth of Tumblr, a microblogging service that is now getting close to 8 billion page views a month.
What is going on with microblogging and is it better than blogging? (Or the better question: has the train left without me?)
As noted by Wikipedia, über blogger Jason Kottke made the following observations way back in 2005:
A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness…They remind me of an older style of blogging, back when people did sites by hand, before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory, blog entries turned into short magazine articles, and posts belonged to a conversation distributed throughout the entire blogosphere.
Aha! With just these few astute observations, a new picture starts to emerge.
Blogging Has Developed Rigid Standards
Blogging in many ways has formalized. It’s good for long thoughts, deeper ideas, but in measurable ways it has quietly crystallized into a rigid and imposing system.
Popular blogging services like WordPress force you to come up with a title for every post, no ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, or ‘buts’. And if you don’t choose a category, you’ll end up with the silly looking “uncategorized” label gracing your posts.
Whether you like it or not, there are stringent rules to follow if you want to play the game on their service. And after all, the search engines are hungry to index your posts and make them easily digestible for the web, so why not fall in line?
The conformities are obvious:
- Trackbacks automatically organize incoming links.
- Sidebars run down the right side of the site.
- Subscriber counts brag the latest stats.
- “Follow Me On Twitter” banners scream for attention.
What started out as an experimental ecosystem has turned into a fairly well-governed digital edifice. And in the meanwhile, the abundant room for free thinkers and self-expression slowly diminishes.
Microblogging Is A Freer Laxer Environment
Let’s be honest.
Most days bloggers write nothing at all because the sheer pressure of creating a masterpiece of a post is just too overwhelming.
But on Twitter, one snarky tweet can say it all with less.
You can write two sentences on your tumblelog and no one will be bothered.
There is a freedom to do whatever you darn feel like doing. On Tumblr if you just want to post a picture that connects with your inner self on some deep emotional and unexplainable level, you just do it.
If you want to reblog a different Mark Twain quote every day, you have permission.There are no rules. You don’t even have to name your microblog.
Many times I’ve run into a very neat tumblelog only to be shocked that it’s completely anonymous. No descriptions, no user image, no advertisements, just a stream of short poignant content.
But Blogging Harnesses the Real Power of Ideas
Despite the benefits and freedom of expression granted by microblogging, the chances of changing the world (or making a profit) are much slimmer than regular blogging.
The reason is the power of a well developed idea.
Tweets are cute, but they lack the intellectual and creative substance of a more sustained thought. 140 characters or even a single paragraph cannot provide enough
context to tell the whole story.
How many times have you seen a quote taken out of context? That’s the fundamental risk of ultra-distilled micro-ideas. You aren’t quite saying enough for people to get what you mean. Traditional blogging has the potential to unlock a deeper meaning that cannot be conveyed by separate smaller units.
Bloggers have helped create a new brand of citizen journalism that is shaking traditional forms of media.
Aspiring authors have garnered the attention of big publishers and earned book deals by attracting a large fan base through their blog.
Blogs can do all those things for which microblogs are much less suited.
Although some Twitter users have made a name for their self and or participated in highly significant events (like the raid on Osama Bin Laden), microblogging still has a long way to go in terms of impact.
However more and more people are turning to microblogging to reach new audiences. By now every company uses Twitter, but more and more like Mashable, the New York Times, and Huggies are leaping head first into Tumblr as well.
So which platform is better?
Which has the greatest potential?
You tell me. I’m going to reblog Mark Twain quotes now.