Over the weekend, with all the excitement of F1, I decided to have a go at liveblogging the grand prix weekend. Liveblogging the normal way can be a cumbersome task. It involves constantly refreshing the edit page and is generally pretty clunky and (for something that’s meant to be ‘live’) slow. It dawned on me, though, that Twitter is the perfect tool for liveblogging.
Of course, the debate as to whether or not Twitter is actually useful rages on. I think the complaints miss the point. Does everything have to be useful? People have been accusing blogging of being pointless for yonks as well. I mean, why can’t something just be good fun for once? Is that not enough?
Anyway, back to liveblogging. I soon thought of the potential pitfalls of using Twitter as a liveblogging tool. Firstly, there are no comments. Although Twitter has its own informal system of replying to messages, you still need to be a Twitter user to take part at all.
Also, Twitter friends who are not interested in F1 would be bombarded with tweets that they had no interest in (although, to be fair, this is a lot of what Twitter is anyway).
Thirdly, the tweets wouldn’t actually appear on my blog (although I’m sure decent plugins that can do this are not too far away — that would also solve the commenting problem as well).
Still, despite the little niggles, this is the sort of thing that Twitter is really great at. And that’s one in the eye for all of those who say that Twitter is simply too pointless to succeed. Yet, there are a few refinements I would like to see made to Twitter to make it a better liveblogging tool.
Firstly, tagging would be nice. Although part of Twitter’s appeal is its simplicity (with an interface that basically consists of a text field / IM window / SMS message and nothing else), I think tagging could really enhance Twitter. Of course, tagging tweets via SMS or IM would be particularly clunky and difficult. But I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do it on the web. And after all, Twitter already allows you to ‘star’ favourite tweets.
So why would tagging be useful? Tagging does often run the risk of being a feature that is included just because it sounds cool. Many websites have a tagging feature that is simply useless. But Twitter tags could work really well if you were to use Twitter for certain specific events.
Say some sad act is liveblogging Formula 1 coverage? I can tag these tweets as ‘formula-1’. This is useful because I am worried that most of my Twitter contacts are not in the least bit interested in my semi-informed interpretations of practice times.
One of the most common things people say about my blog is along the lines of, “I really like your blog — but I skip past all the F1 posts.” The same problem would probably apply on my Twitter account. If I tagged all of my tweets as ‘formula-1’, my contacts could opt to block any of these messages and I could Twitter away about Formula 1 without feeling guilty.
I can see both sides of the argument. On the one hand, part of Twitter’s appeal is its simple… well, simplicity. On the other hand, this is slightly reminiscent of the way daddy project Blogger never had categories for years after every single other blogging tool on the planet had introduced them.
My other idea is probably not quite so familiar. But I would like to see some kind of permalink that would contain all of the tweets within a certain time range. This could come in useful if, for instance, I wanted to link from my blog to my tweets about the qualifying session. This might not be so useful for most people though.
I don’t know how difficult it would be to implement, but I can’t imagine it would be that difficult. Maybe it would be better just to stick to daily / weekly / monthly archives though. That would probably appeal to many more people. Even this would be an improvement on the current vanilla archive.
I think that those who are ditching blogging completely in favour of Twitter are taking things to the extreme a bit. I mean, sometimes the 140 character limit is simply too restrictive, even for something that would never be a fully-formed blog post.
Still, Twitter has some great actual uses. Liveblogging is one. But I think it is also the death-knell for ‘asides’ or mini-posts. Usually asides are a bit too trivial to be given prominence on the blog itself. Twitter is the perfect place to put a pointless little post without feeling guilty about it.
As an aside, how shocking is it that SMS has been so popular in Europe for so long, and yet nobody here came up with a site like Twitter (at least one that worked as well as Twitter does)? Yet, as soon as SMS gains the slightest bit of traction in North America, their creative juices flow like crazy and they come up with all of this brilliant stuff!
By the way, check out Qwghlm’s idea of how liveblogging major events on Twitter would work.