Felix Salmon on the problems with Twitter’s transience

Posted December 31, 2010 in comment, social media  |  No Comments so far

I’m posting this from my phone, so apologies in advance for any typos. But I wanted to share this article from Felix Salmon on how the Wired/Wikileaks discussions of the last few days have highlighted a problem with Twitter’s new role in online debates:

As commentators use their blogs for increasingly journalistic content, the conversational aspect of blogging moves on to Twitter. This leads to two problems.

First, these conversations become very hard to join mid-stream. If you weren’t following from the beginning, you’ll have a hard time catching up. This is especially true of conversations that involve more than two people, as the “in reply to” functionality is no help. A commment thread on a blog or forum, on the other hand, can be read from the beginning even if you’re coming late to the party, and its linear structure makes it easy to catch up.

The second problem is that Twitter loses these discussions after a couple of months, so they’re not available for future reference. This ephemerality is part of Twitter’s appeal for users, but from an archiving point of view it’s definitely a weakness. It’s good to be able to look back on how topics were discussed in their time, but Twitter currently doesn’t let us do that.

Maybe Twitter will evolve to address these problems over time. If it doesn’t, however, there could be an opportunity for third party products that do.

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