Comment, Don’t Tweet

This blog regularly features posts which are rather niche, incomplete or in some cases simply misleading (not intentionally, I promise!). Often I post something, and then discover there was an awful lot more to know, and find that people add all kinds of constructive suggestions, resources, and other goodness in the comments.

While the initial criticism always hurts a bit, I’ll admit to secretly loving the input, I learn so much from the additions other people leave here on the site, and so many of my original slightly-limited posts are now fully extended and excellent because other people dropped by and added their tuppence. A great example is the post about pdftk, where I knew I didn’t have the best solution, but I wanted to share what I had, and sure enough I got a great comment pointing me in a much better direction (and I looked up this post last night to check how to do this task again).

Lately, however, I’m seeing a really unhelpful trend of people tweeting responses, rather than commenting. There was some fantastic informed debate on my post about JSON and numeric values … but it all happened on twitter. So the next person to read that post has none of the benefits of the excellent wisdom that was thrown my way as a result of that post (thank you to everyone who debated that by the way, I changed my API significantly as a result!!), and it was awesome advice that I wish had been shared with everyone who might have needed it.

I’m disappointed to see this trend emerging and I’d like to be constructive about encouraging the debate back onto the blogs, associating the information with the post it related to rather than just getting lost in the ether. A bit like @shiflett‘s Ideas of March initiative, our blogs are something separate from the endless of-the-moment twitter stream, and I think they’ll always serve a different purpose.

Am I imagining this problem? And what should we do? Please leave a comment – don’t tweet!

10 thoughts on “Comment, Don’t Tweet

  1. It seems a natural part of the web that the conversation carries on across a number of channels. I’d guess that changing behaviour would be quite a challenge, so I wonder if there’s a technological solution.

    What if your blog showed you (as the author) a list of relevant tweets in the sidebar, with a button that copied the tweet into your site’s comment-stream?

    There’s some tech problems to solve here: how does the site calculate which tweets are relevant, in order to suggest them to the author? What steps are needed to copy the tweet into the comment stream for a particular post?

    Hmm, that gives me an idea for my blog…

  2. I really don’t want to just spam my posts with all the retweets which include the URL as they typically have little value. I have yet to find and identify the tweets which say “@lornajane ur doin it rong” without including the post URL even. I really think that it’s more helpful for people to actually comment on the public post than just tweet at me, maybe I am alone in that.

    • you would need to use the api to track conversation flow from the original tweet down through the replies, I tried to do something similar at work for our blog but the problem is not everyone (mainly 3rd party tools) don’t reference the original tweet when sending the reply and just @mention the person instead, which loses the link to the original tweet.

      maybe adding the ability to comment using twitter auth rather than entering an email address would entice people to comment rather than tweet?

      I agree a comment on the post is much more helpful than a tweet reply, not just to the author but people reading the post further down the line, I have a couple of posts where comments have helped people reading it 12+ months later. If they were sent as a tweet instead they would have been lost months ago.

  3. Personally, I dislike tweets about a new blog post. If I want to read your blog, I’ll check my feed reader. IMHO, tweeting about a new blog post, or aggregating to any service for that matter, invites conversation about it on that medium.

    • Agreed! I’m certainly seeing this more when I’ve tweeted my own posts, so perhaps I should just stop and ignore the fact that fewer people will see the content at all :)

    • I love retweets about blog posts. I don’t know about all the blogs out there, and I don’t want to read every post.

      However, if someone I am following on Twitter retweets a blog post that I find interesting, I will go read it.

      Lorna, how about including a simple paragraph at the top of each post asking people that comment via twitter to use hash tags. #lj1234 where 1234 is your post id? And then have a script the searches for those.


      Just a thought.

  4. You could always write an agent to monitor the twitter feed for the subject, and grab the conversation and add it to your comments, or simply show it in the comment area.

  5. At this point it feels like I was unreasonable to expect people to comment rather than tweet in general, but many thanks to everyone who did comment and give their perspective on this post.

    Certainly the effect is more pronounced when I share links via tweet, and since it annoys me so much I think I’ll do less of that, I’ve never automated it anyway (and never would).

    I don’t think it’s appropriate to pull in tweets (it is also a hard problem but that’s a separate thing) – if people want to engage, then they can and if not, that’s up to them I suppose. I still wish they would though :(

    • I do not think you were unreasonable in your expectations. Developers should be aware of the fact they add value to a discussion. Therefore, they should take care to make that stick were it belongs.

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