splintering discussions

For a while now, I’ve been really stuck on Twitter as my main way of communicating with others — email has turned work-only, my blog had been all but abandoned, and Facebook is a nice way for me to passively check in on my friends. For some reason, though, I had fallen into a trap of communicating in 140 character chunks almost exclusively. And I know that’s ridiculous, not just because of the character limit but also because not everyone tweets. 

When Google Buzz was launched, I thought it would be a great thing to link it to Twitter. A way that I could really check on Twitter without needing some clunky third-party widget in Gmail? Sign me up. The problem, though, is that I think it served only to splinter the discussions around a certain posting. While Buzz pulls tweets and allows for comments on them, it does so in a completely separate way from anything ongoing in Twitter. The upside is that you got more than 140 characters (yay!) but also a completely separate running commentary to engage in (boo!). 

I didn’t really want to write a blog post about blogging, but I’ve been pretty busy pushing Posterous over our WordPress install for some trips that have gone to Kenya and Japan over spring break — I missed the Geneva trip, or I would have tried to push it on them, too. On a very basic level, I like how easy it is to post to a Posterous blog by sending a simple email and attaching or linking to images or movies. I like the autoposting capabilities that are built-in, even though I’m having a spot of trouble getting one of the blogs to autopost to a WordPress-powered site I’m maintaining.

But what impresses me most of all is the community aspect of Posterous. Take some easy-to-use blogging, a subscription model that works, and commenting that can be tied to a central account and I think there’s the real possibility of a tool that can really be used to teach and model online participation — not just following blogs but expanded self-publishing options and the ability to engage in lengthier discussions. One of the things that we’ve struggled with in the tenth grade social media course that we’ve been teaching is that the kids pretty quickly tired of keeping track of the different sites we were pointing them to, even if they were all linked to from a central location. Posterous could help flip that on its head — instead of being the blogging platform, it could become the hub of online conversations in a classroom connected to the outside world.

It might be the perfect cure for continuing the discussion way past 140 characters.