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Is microblogging making us a noisy, ignorable bunch?

So, I’m saying this in the context of a few things, and when I say microblogging, I’m pretty much referring to Twitter, but I’m sure it could be extended to some extent to Facebook, Buzz, Foursquare, etc.

Firstly, Leo Laporte’s post late last week, waving goodbye to Google Buzz and lowering his use of Twitter to go back to his blog; the place where people go specifically to read about Leo.

It makes me feel like everything I’ve posted over the past four years on Twitter, Jaiku, Friendfeed, Plurk, Pownce, and, yes, Google Buzz, has been an immense waste of time. I was shouting into a vast echo chamber where no one could hear me because they were too busy shouting themselves.

Then came Paul Carr’s TechCrunch post today, echoing Leo’s sentiments, but focusing more on why a lot of us blog; it’s a diary, a scrapbook, a snapshot of your mind. A look back at an entry from years ago will no doubt lead to embarrassment, most likely due to the way it was written, and what was being written about, but still, you will be transported back to that time and place, and more often than not, fondly recollect it.

Throughout my earlier archives, I was able to find lengthy, sometimes surprisingly personal, posts – recounting the highs and lows of starting companies, making and losing friends, leaving London, beginning to travel around America and Europe… and countless other published episodes that backed up, and enhanced the contents of my private notebooks. But then, as I clicked forward through the archives to more recent years, something odd happened. At a certain point, the number of posts in each monthly archive dropped off a cliff, particularly where details of my personal life were concerned.

The reason, of course, was that I’d started to use Twitter for that kind of personal stuff. Unperturbed, I moved my research attentions away from my blog archives and over to my Twitter archives – and that’s when I started to panic: for all the dozens of updates I wrote each month, there was absolutely no substance to any of them.

“I am learning a lot about pens.” reads one update from last year. What does that even mean? “Ok, that’s quite enough of all this. I’m going out”, reads another. Enough of all what? And where was I going? Of course, the fact that I’m a particularly boring tweeter doesn’t help, but look at anyone’s Twitter account and it’s the same story – 140 characters simply doesn’t give enough depth or breadth to commit events, memories or feelings to the permanent record.

The third context. Me. Now, I have a lowly following at best, but even I sometimes see / feel the Twitter noise I’m generating. Hell, the reason I started to blog again at the end of last year was because I felt like Twitter couldn’t effectively convey my sentiments on certain matters, but it’s more than that now. I don’t really “spam” it per se [*looks at @renailemay*], but even then, seeing a large percentage of personal lists I’ve created just being filled with that Dharma Initiative avatar makes me cringe, and hearing things like “you tweet too much! I can’t keep up with everything!” only compounds said cringing, and makes it seem like my signal-to-noise ratio is pretty darn fail, and my tweets more ignorable than they used to be, slowly depreciating in value.

I used to be one of those fools that woke up every morning and caught up on the 6 or so hours of tweets that I’d missed. Ha! Now I barely read through my main Twitter stream, and instead rely heavily on the few lists I have to maintain that sense of being up to date on all the happenings in the Twitterverse. Obviously I can’t go back to exclusively reading blogs or relying only on RSS feeds, but I do find myself browsing aggregators like Techmeme, Reddit, Hacker News and popurls a LOT more recently.

Am I going to take a stance like Leo and Paul? Hell no. For one, I have nowhere near the ability to generate interest in the rubbish I write, and I ain’t got no people emailing me in uproar over a lack of posts, and as much as I do this for catharsis, I’m also pretty damn narcissistic, and that previous LOST post would have been lucky to get 1/10th of the 12,000 odd views it currently has without tweets, Facebook shares and likes propagating it so effectively. Whatever you say about Twitter, it is an amazingly easy way to share links, and have conversations with brands and people that you could never do through any other medium.

What was the point of this post then? It felt like an interesting observation at the time I started writing it, and with more location based spam set to appear with Facebook Places, users will seemingly learn to treat updates as noise all the more, and ignore them all the better, even from that close, trusted group of “friends”.

It would only be fitting that this post itself gets lost in the noise, but hey, at least I can say “I’m writing it for me”. I could also be talking complete shit and make no sense, and if so, read the last bit of that previous sentence again.

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