Clive Thompson wrote in Wired about how he thinks twitter fuels in-depth analysis. I have doubts about his argument, but perhaps agree with his main point. Here’s an excerpt:
I think something much more complex and interesting is happening: The torrent of short-form thinking is actually a catalyst for more long-form meditation…
When something newsworthy happens today—Brett Favre losing to the Jets, news of a new iPhone, a Brazilian election runoff—you get a sudden blizzard of status updates. These are just short takes, and they’re often half-baked or gossipy and may not even be entirely true. But that’s OK; they’re not intended to be carefully constructed…
…It used to be that only traditional media, like magazines or documentaries or books, delivered the long take. But now, some of the most in-depth stuff I read comes from academics or businesspeople penning big blog essays…
Here’s my opinion:
- Most people are still not on twitter, so twitter has had no effect on their reading behavior.
- Facebook might be a better place to study, as status updates are the mainstream (can we call Facebook mainstream yet?) equivalent of tweets.
- There will always be a wide variety of different writing forms and lengths that succeed simultaneously.
- Media trends are not universal. For some people twitter has crushed interest in long form, but in others it’s helped them find long things to read. The broad stroke is too abstract to have a meaningful argument about.
- Twitter has replaced newsreaders for many early-adopters (most people on earth don’t use newsreaders either) and it serves the same purpose. It’s how they find longer things to read.
- Twitter doesn’t persist well. It’s very hard to link to a twitter conversation and have it be readable.
- Email is still a huge source of reading material discovery and consumption, but is consistently glossed over, despite it being nearly 30 years old.
I agree with Thompson’s last point. The Kindle and iPad have improved long form reading, in our attention deficit culture. It’s a dedicated, read-only designed experience. I now read longer articles found online via Kindle, and find I’m reading more of them, but often days or weeks after they were published (Instapaper is the magic bridge, compiling and emailing articles I mark to my kindle).
If you use twitter, has twitter changed your reading habits? And if you don’t use twitter, has it’s existence changed how the people you read do their writing?