March 15, 2009

Can Microblogging Power A Blog Community?

By Rob Diana of Regular Geek (Twitter/FriendFeed)

With the growing popularity of Twitter, people are looking at ways to use Twitter-like applications for different purposes. There are the corporate Twitters, like Yammer. There are open source Twitters, like Laconica. Now, Dave Winer is trying to find a way to "shrink wrap" a Twitter install. He is basing his efforts on the open source Laconica, and he is documenting things as he makes progress. Dave feels that it is time we break out of Twitter. It is not that there are problems with Twitter, but he has an interesting idea:
"It might mean lots of little Twitters. I'm starting one here on, and in the first few hours of use it's already interesting. It wouldn't in any way be a replacement for Twitter. But it offers an alternative. Sort of like the difference between a blog and a big website, when blogs were just booting up in 1999 or so."
Why is this an interesting idea? Mainly because there is minimal discussion on most blogs and websites. In some cases, a website expands by creating forums or message boards. People can ask questions, get advice and respond to some of these same questions. So, does it make sense to have a local Laconica installation for a website? And what do we call these things? Dave has wondered whether Twitter will become the term for what techies are calling microblogging. That is not the real question. If we call it a Twitter install like we used to with Xerox and copiers, who really cares. That is a simplification of the question.

The real question is one of benefits. Forums are really useful in large communities due to the number of people that can ask and answer questions. However, there is a critical mass of members that must be reached before there is enough traffic in a forum for it to be useful. With a microblogging installation, you can interact directly with your readers and keep the conversation local to the blog. The sense of community could increase greatly. Events could be based on the use of the microblogging stream. Live blogging for events like SXSW could be covered through the microblogging stream.

The big issue with using microblogging is the ease of installation, maintenance and use. If Dave could accomplish his goal of a shrink-wrap Laconica installation, this would be significantly easier. Forums have significantly more overhead in terms of maintenance and use. Microblogging could be a simple baby step in forming more of a community around a blog.

If you really want to name this idea, you can call it a micro-community. Or to be simple, let's just call it a community, because that is what it really is.

Read more by Rob Diana at