Macroblogging

That’s macro, not micro-blogging. i.e. the antithesis of twitter. Something longer than 140 characters and conveys a complete thought. I just “spent” two and a half “tweets” describing this idea on twitter:

is there an anti-twitter? i realize twitter is embracing the 30 second soundbyte generation, but I think some of us prefer a format with a

-submit-

minimum of 500 characters. flesh out your ideas, provide reasoning and thought behind your position on the subject. somewhere between

-submit-, deep breath,

a paragraph and a one page essay

-submit-, roll eyes.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like twitter. I have a twitter account. I even use it on occasion. I like the concept behind twitter, the execution is near-perfect for what it advertises to do. It is an excellent format for expressing brief nuggets, no, bits, of information. But that’s also the problem with twitter. Too short. Designed for the 30 second soundbyte culture. But I won’t bore you to death with that rhetoric. You’ve heard it before and it sounds terribly pretentious.

Some of us prefer a more long-format discussion. Email is great for this, but is a little outdated. I think google wave attempted to address this problem, but ran into some integration and privacy issues. Google Buzz and Google Reader sort of address this problem better, gets towards a good medium to share and discuss information.

more below the cut…

Internet forums are very important for discussion, however there are a lot of problems with internet forums:

  • There are many forums, each one requires it’s own user name and password
  • Username/passwords cannot be shared between forums, only subforums
  • The largest, most important forums don’t offer email notifications
  • You can’t notify certain users about a discussion (@JohnSmith) to get their opinion

Email allows for quoting, but not with the same amount of control that vbbs allows. Gmail, yahoo and hotmail have finally introduced smileys but their selection is rather shallow. Email also means sharing your email address with potential strangers; using a third party service obfuscates your email address to some degree, and also allows you to somewhat anonymize yourself.

I emailed my buddy about starting up some sort of anti-twitter, with some general guidelines. A much longer minimum length, and the ability to include inline URLs and images, along with bullet points and a subject. Some people might have trouble filling 500 words about a subject they care about, but 500 characters is barely enough to explain the situation, your stance on it, and why you think that way, let alone any history on the topic. Throw in a single URL and you’ve just topped 1000 characters.

The world is full of carefully crafted 30 second sound bytes and one liners — let’s expand beyond that and add some context to our reality and put some thoughts into our decisions and views.

I came across Woofer today in my research. They’re largely just a parody site of twitter, requiring 1400 characters, 10 times the maximum amount allowed by twitter, and copying their GUI exactly. I’d like to see something closer to a 300 minimum, maybe 500 characters. Add in some very rudimentary formatting features (bold/italic/underline, unnumbered bullet points, inline images, inline URLs, subject lines) and you have something like a long-form twitter or a short-form blog.

Reddit and Metafilter are vaugely similar to this idea, but you end up with a hive-mind mentality and for whatever reason, Reddit attracts typically terrible people. I guess Twitter isn’t much better but annoying trends don’t tend to get “voted up” with lots of inane discussion. Slashdot has remained relevant with a careful balance of editor picked stories specific to their audience, and have sorted out their moderation algorithm well. Forum posts on slashdot (depending on the story, of course) tend to be at least 300 characters and often cite (or even link to) external data rather than just personal experience.

Kuro5hin was an attempt to expand and improve slashdot towards a more academic slant. Somewhere along the line however the community imploded and turned into a wasteland. Kuroshin took the slashdot model and attempted to cast a net too large. Digg was briefly relevant but is rapidly collapsing into irrelevance due to the digging abuses and poor quality of it’s comments section. Fark has a very strong forum community and even stronger editorial staff.

If you were to draw some sort of wild venn-diagram, it would include

  • Ease of use
  • Strong editorial staff
  • Wide variety of topics
  • Topics relevant to the users

Facebook sort of does this. You can pick your own groups to join, share links with others, view friend’s updates and links etc. Probably the strongest feature of facebook is their underutilized “Notes” section. However notes aren’t weighted as strongly as say, a youtube video or a link with a picture. You can tag friends in a note but once conversation dips off the main friends news feed, discussion dies. That usually happens in 30 seconds-45 minutes depending on a lot of factors. Small talk or a “thanks!” in the comments but nothing more. Even the “thanks!” comments have been replaced simply by a “Like” button – a basic acknowledgement that the note exists. Even then, as soon as it’s wiped from the front page of the news feed, it’s over. There’s no point in sharing anything of great length with your friends there.

BoingBoing has a great readership base, but has no idea what their readership wants, and their editorial staff is lacking leadership. Cory Doctorow is too busy promoting his books and trying to convert his BoingBoing blog into a literary blog that he doesn’t realize that most of his readership doesn’t find his DRM and copyright agenda very interesting. The lack of comments on the subject (thrice daily, minimum!) is deafening. Slashdot does a far better job and has a much better pedigree for that sort of thing than he ever will. I’ve called him out on being sensationalistic, and the headlines are getting better but again, a weak editorial staff with a poor focus results in few comments and even less real discussion. I think the minimum and maximum width of a column makes a tremendous difference in the length or brevity of a website’s content. Slashdot is approximately 30% wider than WordPress or BoingBoing’s article column, and the comments are approximately 200% longer on average.

Anyways, there is room for a directed, edited and expanded version of twitter. 300-500 minimum character posts, with 1-2 links and 1-2 accompanying images per link and a few paragraphs of analysis, along with a VBB style forum comments. In all honesty it wouldn’t be much different than Woofer – it would encourage longer posts, but not a comically large post. Give it a better, cleaner, more professional GUI and you might attract the facebook of users, leaving the myspace crowd behind on twitter.

It sounds an awful lot like a wordpress blogging account. It is, more or less. But we’re rewriting the interface and making it more accessible to the mobile crowd, with some twitter tie-ins. The academia of twitter?

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