Twitter, Tumblr and microblogging

On: March 29, 2007
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About Anne Helmond
Anne Helmond is Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture and Program Director of the MA New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. She is a member of the Digital Methods Initiative research collective where she focuses her research on the infrastructure of social media platforms and apps. Her research interests include digital methods, software studies, platform studies, app studies, infrastructure studies and web history.


The newest hype nowadays seems to be Twitter which allows you to share what you are doing with your friends every single second. Are you going to the mall? Is your cat sneezing? Update your Twitter page on the web, or by instant messaging, or send a text message from your phone. Your friends will receive this message on the web/IM or on their phone. This phenomenon has recently been named microblogging because your messages have to be short, 140 characters or less. This is of course caused by the restriction on text messaging which is around 140 characters. I am quite curious how this service became such a hype and so popular in such a short time. Hyves, the Dutch social networking site, already had a quite similar function with Wie, Wat, Waar? (Who, What, When?) which also allows you to share what you are doing and where on your site.

Twittervision allows you to follow Twitterers (?) live on a Google Map. The Map is updated every few seconds and shows messages from Taiwan, Argentina, Germany, anywhere. You don’t even have to scroll the map, it is dynamic and makes you feel like you are watching a movie.

I am actually lost for words when trying to grasp this phenomenon. I just don’t get it. Why would I want to share every single thing I do? Is it because I am not 16 anymore? If I want to contact my friends I can just call them or message them without using Twitter, right? I would feel like I have lost those last precious moments that I don’t have to tell people where I am, what I am doing and why. Nowadays I actually turn off my phone now and then to have some rest.
Another example of microblogging is Tumblr which is an online blogging service especially for micro content blogs. The company sees blogs as journals and tumblelogs as scrapbooks. This service makes a lot more sense to me. When we started this blog we decided we would mainly use it for essayistic posts and not for short link sharing posts. The most popular blogs are consistent in their content so a lot of people who want to share photos, links, videos or other small pieces of content have turned to tumblr for an additional microcontent blog. I agree with the coherency principle and that’s why I have been thinking about starting a separate photoblog lately. I often take pictures but don’t put them on my website very often because I use it to blog about my thesis.

Do we need separate microcontent blogs? Or are we just scattering ourselves even more and more over the web?

6 Responses to “Twitter, Tumblr and microblogging”
  • March 29, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    I really wonder what’s the deal with for example ranking sites like Technorati and these tumblelogs, how can these tumblelogs be searchable? If you tag these tumbleposts you end up with more tagwords than words in the actual message.

  • April 7, 2007 at 4:14 am

    > how can these tumblelogs be searchable?

    Twan – I may not be understanding your question, but searching your tumblelog via Google or other site search is quite straightforward (same as any other site restricted search):


    Obviously replacing search term with your desired search and metonym with your own tumblr username.


  • April 9, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    I see, my question was more about Technorati and blogranking actually. Are tumblelogs contributing any information that even has to be searchable? Would it be more efficient if tumblelogs were only searchable by the topic of the total blog? The message is usually so short that if you use a blog search engine, you’d expect more information. These short messages give blur when you’re trying to look for the larger informative articles.

  • November 1, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    Thats a valid question, but explains to you why micro blogging works so well. It all about with happening in the moment of time. Everything is very disposable. Its really meant for people that are check it day by day, not an archive of information. You can definitely go through the archives and get a sense of what was in the poster mind for a year ago. But in reality most of what is posted will have little value to the reader when it has lost its threshold of freshness. Remember these micro blogging content is meant to be “Followed,” so the value is gained progressively in getting to know the nature of the poster instead of one article that was found to be amazing that you read on his/her blog.

  • November 3, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    JR you are absolutely right that blogging and micro-blogging services such as Twitter should be seen as two separate things with their own logic. I started using Twitter a few months ago and only when you immerses yourself in such a service can you grasp the logic of the phenomenon. I really like your statement of “what is posted will have little value to the reader when it has lost its threshold of freshness.” I recently wrote an essay on The Perceived Freshness Fetish which deals with this penetrating idea of freshness. You might enjoy it. I am going to copy-paste your quote because my essay needs an update already!

  • November 4, 2007 at 10:30 am

    I use Twitter for about a month now, and at first I was just as sceptical, why do I want to use it? But there is a strange thing happening when you know that people follow you. Than it has become meaningful in some sense. So at first when you have no followers its quite useless really but as soon as you got somebody that follows you, than things change. Well that’s my experience on it, I actually quite like it now.

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