Why I love microblogging

I thought about just writing

“Twitter. That is all. #microblog”

and leaving it at that. However, I’m going to assume that some people who read this post may not be twitter users and the aim of this post is not to a) spruik twitter or b) alienate anyone who doesn’t tweet.

Having said that, I will briefly digress into an explanation of the twitter hashtag system I have already used to those not in the know before I talk about microblogging in general.  Twitter isn’t easily searchable and its freeform, writing-on-the-fly format makes it almost impossible to categorise tweets in the same way as you might categorise your blog posts for example.  Hashtags are the twitter community’s way of keeping like posts together.  During the recent Australian federal elections the tag #ausvotes was used a lot and future social researchers will be able to search under that hashtag to find out what people thought at the time.  The important thing to realise is that hashtags are user created. Twitter users make them up, there’s no prescribed tags.  For example, a quick search on twitter reveals posts about the same election under #auselection.

Twitter is a major part of this post about microblogging but by no means the only part. Status updates on Facebook and MySpace, tumblr and photo sharing groups on sites such as flickr and picasa are also examples of microblogging.  Moving along, I’m sticking pretty much with Wikipedia’s definition of microblogging which says that:

Microblogging is a passive broadcast medium in the form of blogging. A microblog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically much smaller, in both actual size and aggregate file size.A microblog entry could consist of nothing but a short sentence fragment, an image or embedded video.

By way of a bit more history, in June I participated in #blogeverydayinjune which was a project among about 30 or so library folk to write a new post every day for a month. Word spread (mostly via twitter, hence the hashtag) and it was a fabulous networking and personal development exercise.  If you’re interested, you can find links to most of the participants here.

The blogging exercise was time consuming, but nonetheless the enthusiasm of a core group of 30-day bloggers and an interest in finding out more about flickr led to #1pic1thoughtinAug as a group microblogging exercise.  The idea behind this exercise was to post one picture a day to a flickr group set up for the purpose.  Gradually, over the month of August the number of pictures in the group grew to over 600 and most of them come with a few words, a sentence or a brief paragraph describing why that particular picture had been chosen.

Just as twitter enforces brevity by its 140 character limit, so too did this exercise – more by it’s ‘everydayness’ than anything else. Gradually, bit by bit, those in the group learned a little more about both flickr and each other as the photo stories unfolded.  Some photos were viewed by many but no comments were made, some were added to personal favourites, others inspired long ‘conversations’ in the comments.  So grows my (professional) personal learning network, (PLN) day by day.

This week my libraryland twitter group has started talking about something called 12 second tv.  I haven’t looked into this in much detail but the idea is to make a 12 second video, supported by the website that is then able to be used as video messaging and/or uploaded to twitter or facebook.

So, why do I love microblogging? After the very interesting but very time consuming #blogeverydayinjune (writing, reading and commenting on posts took a lot of time) I have found the microblogging of twitter and the flickr group a much easier way to keep up with professional colleagues.  On a personal note, I realised that I have microblogged for years using my Facebook account and that status updates from far flung friends and family are the single best reason to stay as a Facebook user (I just didn’t know it was microblogging!). In terms of developing and keeping networks, whether professional or personal, microblogging options are quick and easy.  The one-to-many nature of the tools makes keeping in touch with large networks easy.

My microblogging journey is only just beginning.  Of course, I’d like to thank my PLN for much of my introduction to this stuff and for the things I know I will continue to learn from you – mostly through microblogging interactions.  What do you use?