Wednesday, April 23, 2008


On Monday I decided to create an account with Twitter, a service to notify the whole world about what I am doing at the moment.

I have been with Facebook since its early days in GWU, which happened to be in the beginning of my freshman year, and I enjoyed its "status" service. Facebook status messages, however, are visible only to my contacts there and they cannot be exported anywhere outside of the website. For one reason or another, I got an urge to tell the whole world what exactly occupies me at some point during the day. Besides, my status is never anything potentially damaging or anything I regret later.

I knew about Twitter from somewhere, so I headed over there, watched the video to make sure that I actually needed the thing, and created an account. When I searched for my existing contacts using the service, I realized that Twitter is not alone. As I found out, some of my acquaintances had migrated over to Jaiku, a Finnish "micro-blogging" service.

Once I had two leads, I did some googling and wikipediaing only to start having doubts about my choice of Twitter as a micro-blogging platform. Now, after two full days of reading articles, blogs, and help files I am very much confident that I made the right choice.

Microblogging is a concept that started somewhere between Jaiku and Twitter. Sources say that Jaiku was the first one. It originated as a Finnish community of Nokia fans who posted short messages from their phones. It grew so well that Google purchased it last October.

The whole point of micro-blogging is to write very short messages (T and J limit messages to 140 characters), to which other people can subscribe akin to real blogs. The biggest difference between these two services is that Jaiku has comments and channels and is by invitation only, and Twitter has very simple interface and is open to everyone.

Then there is Pownce, the next offspring of Digg's father Kevin Rose. It is similar to Jaiku because it has comments, but it takes posting a new level with the possibility of attaching and sharing files. Most users attach hyperlinks, videos, photographs, and ical events. These are features available on nearly any "full-size" blogging platform.

With these feature-rich micro-blogging platforms, the issue of discerning them from regular blogs arises. I came to a conclusion that feature-rich micro-blogs are pointless because the defeat the purpose of miniaturization, which is to have small and short posts. Just imagine a regular YouTube video being added to a post, which contains about 10 words. While the features provided by Jaiku or Pownce may be neat, cool, or even wonderful to some users, the same things can be easily replicated on regular blogs with very little skills involved. Those who have no clue on how to post a video into a blog use the so-called tumblelogs, which were created specifically to allow people posting media content with limited commentary.

That's where Twitter wins. Its only service is allowing to post a ultra-short message of 140 characters with no gimmicks. The point of blogs was to comment on things, and the point of micro-blogs was to comment on things in short messages. Twitter does just that straight to the point.

I also like the absence of comment threads. Discussing 20 words over pages is pointless. If any Twitter user wants to comment on any message, the person just needs to have "@username" (without the quotes) anywhere in the reply. This again makes the service straight to the point.

There is only one feature missing, which is the ability to import external RSS feeds, such as personal blogs. For example, I would like people to know that I have just written this post. In order to do that, I need to either start a desktop client or go to and type up the message. A feed importer would simply copy the title of the post and its URL and update my status automatically. There is, however, a workaround called Twitterfeed. I might start using it a little later.

Despite what I say, Jaiku, Pownce, and the like advanced micro-blogging systems will not die off. At least they will live as long as the Web 2.0 and social networking evangelists, such as Kevin Rose, Ariel Waldman, or Robert Scoble, support them. Though sometimes they change services, like Leo LaPorte's move from Twitter to Jaiku (though he now posts on both of them plus on Pownce).

I, in the meantime, will use solely Twitter to broadcast my status, which is now copied to Facebook. I might create accounts with Joiku and Pownce just to secure my name, but if I create a micro-blog it will not be on any of those services. I have other ideas about the use of that technology.

blog comments powered by Disqus