With a presence on various platforms – here, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr – I’ve been wondering how to balance them all without publishing the same stuff in every space. In particular, I’ve been wrestling with the question of how to get myself to blog more. If you’re a writer, you tend to write because you have something in you that needs to be expressed. And writing it – as opposed to putting it in a song or delivering a monologue – is the best way to express it.
I have those moments and Twitter, for the better and the worse, is the way I usually do it.
For the better because, as an outlet, Twitter is immediate and anywhere, if my phone is available. The laptop doesn’t need to be opened nor do I need to bother with logging in to WordPress, writing a headline, etc. And if it’s only a thought then that’s just fine. No need to climb the hill of composing a full essay.
For the worse because, honestly, becoming a better writer and having some permanence to my writing would be nice. Sure, Twitter forces you to omit needless words, but really digging in on something and not having to scroll back through countless posts to find it would be virtues. How best to take the good and leave the bad?
The “if this, then that” statement I’ve come up with here is if I’ve got three tweets or more to say on a subject, then it’s probably worth a blog post. Not a blog post instead of tweets – and probably not a Storify of posts either unless I’m feeling lazy as that still leaves the problem of having work I’ve done locked up in someone else’s space – but a blog post after the fact, using Twitter as a first draft. Three tweets seems a good number because that’s around 50-100 words which could stand on their own or easily extend into 250 with a few additional thoughts (I’m hitting about the 300-word mark now, for instance). With WordPress’s app, I could even do most of the work on my phone and save it for editing later. This process seems like a good way to encourage blogging without holding myself back from tweeting on the regular.
Even a comment on Facebook might end up as a post, which is what happened when my browser crashed as I was leaving a comment on a Facebook link Marcus posted to his story. Jolted into a realization that I was once again putting a bunch of time and thought into creating work on a platform that wasn’t mine, I threw together a quick post, which got picked up here and here. It’s always the stuff you toss off in a hurry that ends up resonating. There’s something to be learned there.
Seeing what happened with that post was the last push I needed to officially step away from Tumblr. I started on Tumblr in 2008, but mostly used it as an RSS feed from my blog (this post was an exception) until I was canned from Playboy and then really got into it, mostly because I had plenty of time on my hands. The Tumblr bookmarklet allowed me to combine the speed of Twitter with the weightiness of blogging. I’d grab a quick pull quote from a piece and respond without the concern of 140 characters. Loved it.
After a while though the constant outages made me wonder if I was spending a bunch of time on something that was too ephemeral. The last one in November lasted two days and prompted my break. Even now, I tried to find a few posts of value there and got hung up on its lousy search function. (It’s 2013, Tumblr, why don’t you have a decent search function? Compare this keyword search on Tumblr with this search I ran on my Tumblr via Google.) Then I figured out how to create a similar WordPress bookmarklet and create posts like this and that was the death knell for my posts there. I’ll still keep an account there because even in the three-month break from writing on Tumblr, I still enjoyed reading posts from people I follow there. But it will likely be little more than an RSS feed to this blog.
It just became too important to me to own as much of the work I was doing online as possible. I’ll still post regularly on Twitter because what it gives me is as great as what I feel I’m giving to it. Tumblr stopped delivering on its end of that bargain so I found another way to keep writing.
Curious though: Am I alone here? Have other folks who publish on various free platforms thought about any of this?
UPDATE: Kiyoshi Martinez posted a thoughtful reply to this post here – on Tumblr (heh). He cites the lack of maintenance, the reblogging and the inherent social networking features as reasons that drew him to Tumblr after a less than ideal WordPress adventure. On my Facebook page, Jaime Black praised many of these same features, especially Tumblr’s speed. All solid counterarguments and reasons why I was initially drawn to the platform.
Also on Facebook, I reiterated the outage-induced ephemeral feeling I’d been getting from Tumblr lately and John Morrison said he felt similarly about what he’d done on Gowalla and wondered if Everyblock fans were feeling the same way now, a point I hadn’t thought about until he said it.
And in case you didn’t see the pingback, Matt Wood had some things to say about the above. Interestingly, he notes his post was initially going to be a comment here but he decided to make it a blog post for himself, which echoes what I was saying above about wanting to have more of an owned archive of what I create online. (Incidentally, this also led me to create this page.)
If you’re interested in this kind of discussion, you should come to this event on Monday. I’ll be on the panel there and Jaime is hosting it so we’re sure to get into more of these kinds of issues.