Following through on my thoughts on blogging with Twitter, I’ve started going through and cleaning up the imported Twitter digests made over the past 10 months. Some of the things I’m doing:

  • Rewriting titles to be more meaningful than “Line Items for YYYY-MM-DD”
  • Rewriting post slugs for the same reason. (WordPress will remember the old URL and redirect it, so it won’t break incoming links.)
  • Adding tags and categories
  • Reformatting single-item lists as very short posts.
  • Reformatting links and expanding shortened URLs (which I’ve been doing for a while now).
  • Pulling the “Powered by Twitter Tools” link from the shortest posts, generally those with only one or two items, so that it doesn’t end up dominating the related-posts data.
  • Removing redundant items. No need to keep, for instance, a link to an article when it’s followed by a post with detailed commentary on the same article. Or a link to a phone photo that’s followed by a post embedding the same photo, or one of the same subject taken with a better camera.
  • Removing really trivial items. Though I’m not always sure where to draw the line.
  • Fixing, replacing, or just dropping dead links.
  • Update: Uploading photos to show them inline instead of linked. Especially when the original link is dead.

I’ll be updating a few posts at a time for the next week or so, but it should be manageable once I’m caught up.

Meanwhile, I’ve separated my LiveJournal from my Twitter account. There’s no sense in maintaining two archives of ephemera, so I’ve decluttered my LJ: Any “Line Items” that didn’t have comments are gone, and the few that did now have proper titles, tags, userpics, etc.

For most of a year I’ve been using Twitter Tools to link my blogs to Twitter, both announcing new blog posts on Twitter and creating digests of Twitter posts on the blog. The benefit of announcing blog updates on Twitter is obvious. Some of the reasons to pull things the other way include:

  • It reminds your blog readers that you are on Twitter.
  • You still have something new even when you can’t write a new post.
  • You have your own archive, in case Twitter goes out of business, loses its data, or just won’t let you search old posts.

In cleaning up old digests, though, I’ve come to realize that some tweets just don’t offer much value as blog entries. Sometimes it’s redundancy, and sometimes it’s just that what’s posted just doesn’t stand up by itself.

Not Worth Blogging

Some examples:

Blog post announcements. – The actual content is already on your blog, so you don’t need an extra post linking back. Twitter Tools already filters out the ones it generates itself, but every once in a while I’ll make an “in case you missed it” tweet.

Conversation fragments. This is sort of like preserving half a phone call.

Pre-blog posts. – Sometimes I’ll post a brief thought on Twitter, then later that day (or week) I’ll expand on it. There’s not much point in keeping both the rough draft and the final.

Dead Links. – I’m really not sure what to do with these. The worst ones are the photo posts, since Phodroid seems to have either taken down or moved all its old content. When I post links to the blog I can usually add some commentary that’s worth preserving, but with Twitter you often don’t have room for both description and commentary, and you have to pick one. “This looks interesting” followed by a 404…isn’t interesting. Update: I realized I have the photos on my computer. So I just tracked the photos down by date, looked to see what fit the description, and uploaded the photo to the blog post.

Decisions

At first I figured I’d switch this blog from a daily digest to a weekly one (like I do at Speed Force) so that the Twitter posts don’t clutter up the blog too badly. Then I realized that a daily digest does have an advantage: at the rate I usually post to Twitter, a daily post is more likely to consist of posts on a single theme.

I briefly considered adopting the weekly link round-up format used by Great White Snark: manually-selected highlights. It requires a little more work, but in the end it’s probably more valuable to blog readers than a full record of everything I’ve posted on another service.

For now, I think I’ll keep things the way they are both here and at Speed Force, but be a bit more aggressive on cleaning up the auto-generated digests. Here, that’ll probably include deleting the occasional post.

For the longest time, I figured Twitter was little more than a social toy. But after signing up two months ago, I’ve completely changed my view. Here are five lessons I’ve picked up.

1. There are many ways to use it.

Twitter asks the question, “What are you doing?” Some people answer that, and post things like, “eating dinner.” Some people ignore it and post other thoughts. Among the uses I’ve seen:

  • Running commentary throughout the day.
  • Random thoughts.
  • Announcements, particularly bloggers announcing new posts, or news sites announcing new articles.
  • Hey, look at this link I found. (The classic linkblogging post.)
  • Conversations with other users.
  • Even a story told one line at a time.

It can replace a blog, or complement it.  Mine started out just as another feed for updates, but I quickly realized I could post small stuff on Twitter and save the blog for the long posts like this one.

I’ve seen some people who post 20 times a day, and others who post once or twice a month.

2. Writing short posts can be liberating.

You don’t need to think of a catchy title. You don’t need to worry about structure. You don’t need to worry about fully developing an idea. And the rapid-fire nature of the site gives you a sense that you’re only worrying about now. No one expects you to be profound. All you have to do is jot down your thought and fire it off.

3. Writing short posts can be frustrating.

One of my high school teachers used to quote this adage: “If I had had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” It’s easy to ramble. It’s hard to edit. And it’s really easy to run into that 140-character limit, especially if you’re including a link (even if you use a URL shortening service like tr.im).

Sometimes I think what I want to say is short enough to fit, but I find myself spending several minutes trying to rephrase it, use shorter words, cut out unnecessary phrases, and, if I have to, abbreviate words just to cram it into that tiny space.

On the plus side, the result is usually very concise.

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