The hegemony of Twitter and Facebook: is it real, is it positive?

A search revealed that I’ve written about micro blogging and Twitter specifically before, but today I wished to write something about the subject again. This news caught my attention. It’s Dutch, so let’s translate for my English audience. It says that the Dutch Bloggies foundation has decided to abolish itself after it has held it’s last award ceremony for the best Dutch weblogs tonight. It’s founders think the use of weblogs has been overtaken by social media, specifically mentioning Twitter and Facebook.

I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, social media and Twitter and Facebook have become very popular and hyped. I’m not saying the founders think the opposite, but I think weblogs will not die. Anyone who has read my weblog systematically will probably know me quite well, my weblog posts are quite detailed and transfer a lot of information. What do the short messages on Twitter and Facebook tell us? With them, we can merely get to know the person writing them superficially. The messages are too short to go in any kind of details or depth. Most of the time on Twitter or Facebook (not necessarily so on Facebook because that doesn’t impose a such a low limit on the amount of characters to use for a message) messages are in the following form: I’ve done this, been there, this happened or I think X was good or bad. Well, at least I know what the person is doing or thinking, but why are they doing what they do or hold certain opinions? The ‘why’ question is barely ever answered on those media.

A specific gripe I have with Twitter is that many persons using it simply have nothing interesting to say. Many organisations who use it don’t use it in a valuable way either. For example see the Twitter account of the VVD, the Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. Most of the messages are a dialogue between certain users and the person responding for the VVD, which concern quite specific questions not interesting for the general public. It’s extra annoying in this regard that you have to use the ‘in reply to X’ link to see which message is replied to, rather seeing something like a threaded/topical view. The useful messages mention news on the website of the VVD, but for those a web feed is a better solution. Another example is the Twitter account of the White House, to stay within the character limit they use all kind of ridiculous abbrevations like POTUS and SOTU, while the meaning of these is probably not immediately understood by every reader. The account has to spam messages because they can only include one quote of the State of the Union in a single message.

And of course, Facebook and Twitter own these services. No one seems to realize they are better off with using in the case of Twitter or the upcoming Diaspora in the case of Facebook. Both are open source and distributed, so they can communicate with other services using the same protocol. Simply put, that means you’re not tied to the companies behind Facebook or Twitter, you own your data. With weblogs that is already the case. If you don’t like the company providing you with a weblog, you can back up your data and migrate. I’m glad to have my own website and be able to do with it what I like to a great extent. Using Facebook and Twitter requires submitting to vendor lock-in.

Yes, I have a Facebook account myself, but that’s more because I want to keep up to date with what other people are doing. I’d be more happy if they all switched to or Diaspora when that’s ready, I simply feel forced to use Facebook because that’s what others use. But even then I’m tempted to trash my Facebook account. I like all the people I’ve added as friends over there but I don’t speak most of them frequently. Close friends don’t need a social network to keep each other informed, they can have a good conversation in person instead, something which I value much more.

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