Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Twitter Conundrum.

I hate to say it, but it really does seem as though Twitter is a blog-killer. Case in point: Me. While it would certainly be a stretch (well, okay, a lie) to say that I was an active blogger, it's also true that I've been blogging far less since reluctantly jumping on that 140-character bandwagon.

I say "reluctantly" because it's true: I had to have a few folks clamoring at me before I buckled and did it. And my earliest tweets expressed that annoyance and bewilderment with this new trendoid communication tool. To use another fave of the moment: Really? This is how we're gonna talk now? It's seemed both pointless and self-indulgent to me, and if you want to argue that I was right, I'm not going to argue back. Twitter abuse is rampant: Tweeting when you really have absolutely nothing to say, or when you say something that has no context for anyone at all, like: "Huh." This doesn't mean that every tweet needs to be a 140-character mini-masterpiece, but it would help if you at least had some kind of point, however small. Not to put pressure on you, but realize that you are "publishing" your thoughts. Don't clutter up our feeds with "LOL." I'm happy, I guess, that you are laughing out loud about something, but if you're not going to let me in on the joke, too, well, then shut up about it. I end up un-following more people than I follow for this very reason. I don't demand that you entertain me, but if you're just sharing you're just blabbering away all day on Twitter as if you are talking to yourself, well, you can go ahead and do that without me, just to make it official.

Anyway, that's not really my point here. Sorry. My point is more this: That in my brain, I am always walking around, as writers are often wont to do, filtering everything I am seeing and hearing and feeling into something I can write about later. I'm always mentally filing things away. If someone says something stupid--like the co-worker who complained in Cologne a few weeks ago, in utter seriousness, that she was annoyed that the German restaurants all had their menus in German--I immediately flag that as something for future use.

The problem is that Twitter is now a fast, easy, low-maintenance, utterly accessible avenue for these moments that get caught in the net. I no longer have to stockpile them in my brain and then get the time and energy to write a whole blog post around them. Now, in seconds, right on my iPhone, I can blurt it out to you, instantaneously, without having to worry about form or context or writing many, many words. Actually, that's a bit of an oversimplification. Cramming something into 140-characters can be a bit of a challenge, and that's the part of Twitter that I like. It's an interesting exercise, trying to be funny in that little space. And some people (and I'm not including myself) are great at it. The best Twitter feeds, for me, are the ones that take a specific, funny angle, and stick to it, like the now justly famous @shitmydadsays.

But when I step back from it, like I am today, and look at what it's doing to me, it bums me out a little. I like that I can freely tweet throughout the day and hopefully provide a laugh or two, or a recommendation of some sort, or whatever the heck it is I do. But I don't like that it sort of saps my bandwidth, as well as material, that could be better put to use in actual longer-than-one-sentence writing. I'm not gonna get all Luddite about it, and decry it as The End of Everything. But it is an easy way out, and the lure of it, for someone predisposed to be lazy and easily distracted, like me, makes it a bit of a danger.

This entire post came into being, by the way, because I have been binging on Batman: Arkham Asylum the past couple days, and have fallen in love with it. As I kept getting further into this first-rate, thoroughly entertaining action game, starts strong and then gets better, part of me kept thinking, "I'm gonna stop playing for a minute and tweet about this." Actually it was more specific than that. What I wanted to tweet was: "Batman: Arkham Asylum may be the best single-player gaming experience I've had since Half-Life." And in thinking about tweeting that, I realized that that fundamental change had occurred in my brain: I was mentally noting things that I wanted to tweet rather than blog.

Previously, I would have been mentally writing an entire blog post about Batman: Arkham Asylum, in which I would try to justify and backup that statement. Tell you why Arkham Asylum is so great. Because all of those thoughts are in my head, too. But Twitter just lets me send it out there. I don't have to justify shit. And maybe, in some respects, that's cool, too. I get to make a bold statement. You can agree or disagree. If I were still a journalist, and not working at EA, Warner Bros/Eidos could even put that tweet right on the box.

But that's not what I got in this for. That's not what my brain and fingers have worked all these years at doing. It's easy and fun and accessible, but it's no substitute, or solution, for depth. That's not to say that I'm quitting Twitter. Ferget it. I'm still hooked on it. I'm just saying that this was a particular moment of clarity for me, and one that was going to take me way more than 140 characters to explain. So, see, I was forced to blog.

But, oh, while I'm here, I should probably say: Batman:Arkham Asylum may be the best-single player experience I've had since Half-Life. Maybe I'll blog about it sometime!


qrter said...

I don't want to be rude, but to me a tweet like "Batman: Arkham Asylum may be the best single-player gaming experience I've had since Half-Life", is only a few steps removed from a tweet like "Huh", exactly because it doesn't really tell me anything..

Don't let that stop you, though. ;)

M said...

I love your tweets. Keep at it!

ChM said...

The laziness of Twitter works both ways. While it's easier to put out a 140 statement with little justification, it's also easier to read those 140 words rather than a whole blog post that discusses something.

So now I have a choice if I want to follow your antidotes and discussions. I can either read the blog post and think about what you are trying to communicate, or I can just read the 140 words and just get the bare bone facts. For someone who is also predisposed to laziness it's an easy choice.

So what I'm trying to say is that it's not just the writers that need to actively use blogging more but also the readers. After all who wants to rant if nobody is listening?

Tristessa said...

Twitter is a strange beast indeed. I started out using it to keep in touch with a select batch of people, like a big chat room or sorts. After a short while I stopped putting it that use. What I came up with is a place to review every and any thing I could think of (like ghosts, clouds, blue, and E7sus4)...while never tweeting anything else (except the occasional reply, which I keep meaning to stop doing altogether).

Come to think of it Mr Jeff, you should check out my tweets sometime if you're looking for something different - I'm under the name driftglass (it keeps with all my internet names being literary references).

I follow a couple of people who seem to ignore the 140 character rule and just post a string of tweets that are actually a paragraph...I keep thinking about unfollowing him.

It was inevitable that someone would invent something that allowed for bite sized comments. Every time I made a forum post/replay that was more than two paragraphs it's usually followed by comments like "blah blah wall of text" and "save it for your blog". Even in my own blog people usually include an admission to not reading the whole piece.

Is it possible for it to devolve further than this stage? I shudder to think what it could be but I'm sure I'll begrudgingly take part in it!

And yeah, Batman: Arkham Asylum sure is amazing good fun! I restarted it immediately after finishing it because I wasn't ready to let go =)

Patrick said...

I unfollowed your twitter account for some of the same reasons you complained about in this blog post. I enjoy your podcast and written work but realized that I have no interest getting flooded with stupid attempts to be funny.

SPOD said...

internet killed magazines.

twitter killed considered thought.

The future sucks.

briecheeze said...

Batman is a great game, and hopefully I won't be too much of a downer here, but you might be a bit disappointed later with the boss fights. I know I was.

Sam said...

Now I *have* to know which colleague said that.
Tweeting in rhyme grounds me. It makes me actually think about everything I write before I write it.

Marc said...

The instant feeling of gratification that so much of modern internet usage provides can be a dangerous thing for creative types...

Especially if you're getting instant feedback from the public for something that takes a tiny fraction of the effort your normal output requires.

I noticed recently (much to my dismay) that almost all desire to work on my long-form comic book projects has drained away since I was hired to draw weekly webcomics.

In the short term, it feeds and silences whatever beast we have inside that drives us to create stuff right now.

Like if all the carpenters, builders and sculptors in the world suddenly discovered Lego all at once.

Neo-Metatron said...

I can see your point from a perspective of a serious and passionate writer.I don't see the problem though, because you're aware of the problem. I don't think a tweet replaces a whole blog it can be more of a note for a future blogpost. I have written blogs, but I'm not a writer and a foreigner at that, so I didn't have huge reactions to them, which didn't motivate to write more entries around something you can share precise in 140 characters and elaborate on in discussion or an additional blog post, if you get enough interest in that thought. So you could see it as a barometer as well, since most of your followers read your blog too !

As a huge fan of yours (and the rest of the crew) ever since the first CGW podcasts, I'm so happy that you keep us - total strangers - updated about your career and your personal life. You are not obligated to write a blog or to twitter publicly and yet you do. And as a fan I love your tweets as little and up to date tidbits between your blog posts, however constrained they may be by 140 characters !

Keep up the great work at EA !

PS: "Out of the game" and the EA podcast are awesome !

Anonymous said...

I've been following the Greenspeak Twitter feed, and about two dozen others.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the best bloggers also happen to be the best twitterers. I don't think it's a coincidence either that most of the bloggers I've been following have all spent less time blogging since Twitter has become so widespread.

What has surprised me about Twitter is just how much you can learn about a person from only a sentence or two. Take the Greenspeak Twitter as an example. In recent weeks Green went to Germany, demoed his game for the European press, got a Dragon Age mug, returned home, went to PAX, participated in the CGW reunion, got the swine flu, passed it along to his family (achievement unlocked, is what he wrote), resisted Batman, finally broke down and bought Batman, and appears finally to have become 'its bitch'. That's a lot of stuff!

Anyway, I think that there's plenty of room for both blogs and twitter feeds. The twitter feeds are obviously more immediate, whereas the blogs allow for much greater depth.

Myself, I could spend hours reading stuff like this.

And Patrick, maybe you just don't 'get' Green's sense of humor - but I actually do think that his Twitter feed is humorous. In fact, my only criticism of his Twitter feed is that he doesn't Twitter enough!

The Goose

Anonymous said...

I hate twitter, damn you twitter inventor!!

emma said...

I read all of your blogs, and probably most of your tweets; personally I wouldn't care if you elaborated on some things that you already tweeted about. Twitter could be your incubator for all of those blog ideas that cross your mind throughout the day- and if it warrants a revisit in your blog, then it's probably worth hearing about in further detail.

I do the same thing: thinking, "Oooh I should tweet this!" while I am doing something interesting. It kind of depresses me after.

Anderson said...

I started reading this article worried that it would be what finally pushed me over the edge into the swirling 140 character cesspool of Twitter usage. I ended reading it relieved.

Mark said...

And so dies the one blog I read. Humans being humans(lazy) you'll soon be justifying NOT blogging."Hey I've already said that on Twitter" So the time between blogs will no doubt grow so that the month long gaps between posts will become the norm. RIP Greenspeak, you will be missed

Zidan said...

Also loved me some Batman:AA. Blog is also comming...Someday

Anonymous said...

I think your talents are wasted on Twitter.

You don't really get to share your life experience, thoughts and analysis there nor your humor really.

Your twitter is good for stalkers I guess since you let everyone know where you are at all times.

Love the podcasts and blogs, but Twitter just hasn't grabbed me. Not just you, but others. Fun to read some of the one-liners, but it's fun to snack of potato chips and candy bars too.

So far I still think it's a fad.

Anonymous said...

I can definitely relate to being betrayed by those high school "friends". I had two bullying experiences in junior high/high school. One was some guy, I don't even remember his name. The prototypical lower-class bully that you couldn't but help feel sorry for in retrospect. I remember the moment I stood up for myself (and the bullying stopped), but other than that, it's not something I think about at all.

The other bullying experience was, like you, a betrayal by those I thought were my friends. Which was far worse, as they were people I trusted. Now *that* was certainly a psyche-shaping event. I've done my best to let it go, but you can't really undo the damage that has occurred in the past.

My 20 year reunion is coming up... still haven't determined whether or not I want to attend. I've reconnected with a lot of my classmates via facebook (including several people that I never had any connection with during school), so that's certainly lowered the bar. We'll see.

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John said...

Jeff, with the layoffs are you okay? I wish you luck.


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