Is Twitter Making Us Dumb? Bloggers, Please Come Back

By Rich

When I first started the Securosis blog back in 2006 I didn’t really know what to expect. I already had access to a publishing platform (Gartner), and figured blogging would let me talk about the sorts of things that didn’t really fit my day job.

What I didn’t expect, what totally stunned me, was the incredible value of participating in a robust community holding intense debates, in the open, on the permanent record. Debates of the written word, which to be cogent in any meaningful way take at least a little time to cobble together and spell check. I realized that the true value of blogging isn’t that anyone could publish anything, but the inter-blog community that develops as we cross-link and cross comment.

It’s how Mike Rothman and I went from merely nodding acquaintances at various social functions, to full business partners. I met Chris Hoff when I blogged I was rolling through his home town, and he then took me out to dinner. Since then we’ve paired up for 2 years of top rated sessions at the RSA Conference, and become good friends. Martin McKeay went from some dude I’d never heard of to another close friend, with whom I now podcast on a weekly basis. And those three are just the tip of the list.

Blogging also opened my world in ways I could never have anticipated. This open dialog fundamentally changed opinions and positions by exposing me to a wider community. Gartner was great, but very insular. I talked with other Gartner analysts, Gartner customers, and vendors… all a self-selecting community. With blogging, I found myself talking with everyone from CEOs to high school students.

At least I used to, because I feel like that community, that experience, is gone.

The community of interlinked blogs that made such an impact on me seems to be missing. Sure, we have the Security Blogger’s Network and the Meetup at RSA, but as I go through my daily reading and writing, it’s clear that we aren’t interacting at nearly the level of even 2 years ago. Fewer big debates, fewer comments (generally), and fewer discussions on the open record.

I’m not the only one feeling the loss. Every Tuesday and Thursday we try to compile the best of the security web for the Securosis Incite and Friday Summary, and the pickings have been slim for a while now. There are only so many times we can link back to Gunnar, Bejtlich, or the New School. Heck, when we post the FireStarter on Monday, our goal isn’t to get comments on our site (although we like that), but to spur debate and discussion on everyone else’s sites.

As you can tell by the title, I think Twitter is a major factor. Our multi-post debates are now compressed into 140 characters. Not that I dislike Twitter – I love it (maybe too much), but while it can replace a post that merely links to a URL, it can’t replace the longer dialog or discussions of blogging. I’m too lazy to run the numbers, but I’ve noticed a definite reduction in comments on our blog and blogging in general as Twitter rises in popularity. I’ve had people flat-out tell me they’ve given up on blogging to focus on Twitter. Correlation isn’t causation, and the plural of anecdote isn’t data, but anyone who was on the scene a few years ago easily sees the change.

When I brought this up in our internal chat room, Chris Pepper said:

It’s a good point that if you have a complicated thought, it’s probably better to stew on it and build a post than to type whatever you can fit in 140 characters, hit Return, then sigh with relief that you don’t have to think about it any more.

Dear Bloggers,

Please come back. I miss you.


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Been thinking about the same thing recently.

By Joel Esler on

Hi Rich..
Agree 100%. Back when I was still at SensePost, I wrote a blog post titled “has Twitter killed the infosec blogging star”

i miss it too :)

By @haroonmeer on

I’ve absolutely seen the same thing. It’s not just Twitter, though that’s a major factor in the the tech and security space. It’s Facebook. Instead of updating a personal blog, people update their profiles, browse others and comment. That’s of limited relevance for IT security professionals, for now, given the dearth of substantive discussion there, but the trends towards social networks and threaded distributed discussions are very strong. I’m not sure it’s possible to go back to the time you reference, between, say, 2002-2007, when blogs were the venue for vibrant dialog. Some still are - just look at the threads at the big gadget blogs, or Kos, TechCrunch, Chris Brogan, etc - but the number of people that are willing and able to sit down and write a “post” vs a status update has dwindled. And I’m not sure if they will be back, no matter how nicely we ask.

It seems inevitable that discussion in high-bandwidth geographies might entail sitting around in video chatrooms quite soon, enabled by Facebook, Tinychat, ooVoo,ChatRoulette or whatever, talking into our iPhones and iPad and Android cams and trying to make sense of the discussion. For the dial-up world, I’m guessing SMS will be the key tech for some time to come—good luck threading that! :)

By Alex Howard on

Perhaps its more than just twitter.  I know I’ve dropped off a bit in my blog participation because I’ve been swamped at work (for about 2 years now), perhaps in line with a depressed economy.  I realized a few months ago that I missed that source of information and I’m trying to figure out ways to fit it back into my routine.  I have also been toying with publicly blogging myself (been doing internal writing at work for a while now).  We’ll see how that goes. 

I don’t think the golden-days of security blogging are gone, however I do think it could do with a good poke and this type of post is helpful.  There are a lot of avenues/media for discussion but I’d agree with your point, that the thoughtful written word forces a bit of diligence that is most likely to occur in the blog setting.  I don’t have any ideas on how enforce that other than one post at a time.

By Jay Jacobs on

aha! I think I told you so two years ago! but if I didn’t I now say that it totally agree with Chris Pepper’s assessment. If blogging is to writing what fast food is to culinary arts then Twitter is like some junk food that broke the back of BKC

By ivan on

Rich, I know we have mentioned this before. It is sad, because we have such a vibrant and smart blogging community. Not sure what to do to get it back though. What do you think it takes?

I do have some ideas I am kicking around. Will contact you to discuss before making them public

By alan shimel on

I believe that the two formats can live side by side. You reserve your time and effort to apply rigour to posts that will stand up to the test of time, like you said, “on the permanent record”. Twitter is good for shorter bursts of communication in an ad-hoc almost “test” like fashion.

Perhaps people who would’ve originally considered something like blogging are more likely to end up tweeting instead. Often seen as the path of least resistance, although arguably not providing the same degree of quality that can be afforded with >140 characters.

@Alan, everytime I see an update from yourself about the SBN I always get excited. I’m unsure if there’s anyway I can help, but if I can, I will!

By Christian Frichot on

Important points, I still try to do both but twitter makes it too easy to just send a link out there and assume you’re done. It’s also easy to miss the debate if you’re not around in real-time.

But conversely I have made a lot of good contacts and in same cases friends after initially having a short discussion over Twitter, more so that I’ve made from blogging. Guess you need to go with whatever works best for you.

By Andrew Waite on

There is, another side to the coin.  A good proportion of my own tweets are to my own and other people’s blog posts.

Twitter can help promote blogs from obscurity to a more wider audience.

Each has its place.

That said, I’ve blogged less since I became one of the Twitterati.

By Phil on

R u frickin’ serious? Twttr is the gzip of blogging…nimble with fewer cnsnnts, more bots. I’m live streamin right now ;) #dnablog Pls RT!

By @craigbalding on

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