I’m going to warn you of something incredulous.


But first, today’s 0.001% thought out message:

Saddened that the Read/Write web seems to transforming into the Like/Retweet web

A tweet is in the eye of the beholder, so just to be clear, I fully subscribe to the power of what a retweet can do, and to a slightly lesser degree, nod to the effectiveness of a quick method of agreement registered by committing an act of “liking” which used to be “becoming a fan” and is also construed as “recommending” and given the Facebook rate of churn, in two weeks will be some other expression.

But as I become a GOM (Grumpy Old Man), I am seeing a trend perhaps of less reading and less writing. And there is nothing anyone can really do about it, the giant boulder is rolling down the hill. This is just my own periscope, but from where I sit there is less blogging going on, I am seeing less commenting in blogs (and in flickr). Retweeting and liking on heir own are things I can value (and do), but what happens if that is more and more all we do? To me, they are at the lowest end of the Read/Write food chain, they ought to be minnows.

The thing is, this interweb thing is always on the evolving path, and never quite stays what it was.

I remember my own first renaissance era of listserv communities, odd as it sounds, in the pre-web late 1980s and ea;ly 1990s were THE place of interaction and exchange.

There was flame wars and crazy free sharing, there were personalities and ful out debtates, all in plain text. It was the first place I ever “met” D’Arcy Norman, and in many ways it was as social networky as things could be then.

Second renaissance era was the blog days of the early 2000s- it was as exciting, we were all MovablePressing, than WordPressing (and other variants), and more, because unlike a hosted email list, these became places that individuals owned and created in.

It was magical, comments flew, links and trackbacks light up the nets. It was a golden era not fading into the mist. It seemed like it would last forever.

But it never does.

There is always some smaller, scrappier marsupial under your big, webbed feet.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Twitter too may be in or just past its own renaissance era, back in 2007 when it was still “the stupidest thing I ever heard of” (well, it can still feel that way).


There even seems to be (and of course I have no stinking data, just a feeling in the gut) some shifts even in the pattern of twitter, as there is such a frenzy to push out tweets, that it feels like people are listening a bit less. I guarantee if you call me out with an @ as a question or a message, I will respond. I am all over my @s. Are you? Is it only if you see them fly by? Are you too @scoble to bother?

And here it is, my weary worry. There will yet be something else we dont know of, some new whiz thing, kid on the block, that will come along, and like now, when people are “too busy to blog” or “don’t have the energy to do the long form”, this new X will have people saying they are “too busy to tweet” or “don’t have the energy for 140 characters”.

And that thing just might be the blue logo-d monster that Tim Berners-Lee warned us about today

“The web evolved into a powerful, ubiquitous tool because it was built on egalitarian principles,” he said. “The web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles.”

Or maybe not. I know there is a whole lot of read/write/webbing going on out there, a huge volume of it. It just somehow is starting to feel different in a way I cannot fully articulate. You can Like this or Retweet it for sure, or just ignore it.

But what do I know, I am just one node in the mix.

UPDATE: Lots of retweets on this plus, 1 person liked it (thanks Seth G!). I like that someone likes it (maybe I will retweet this)

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. I began to feel this way some months ago, when I noticed that many of my request-for-help tweets (particularly those looking for a software fix) were often not answered by anyone, where before at least one kind soul would notice and try to help. Everything scrolled by so fast, and everyone was sharing links rather than thoughts. I was told that was the point of Twitter, and began to feel like I was out of touch because I share so few links. Was this link-sharing mania a defense against years of being accused of sharing what we had for breakfast? I didn’t know — I just know it seems more lonesome now. Now I get responses only from a select few (I am honored to count you among them) and see all the retweets, and all the likes as you do — lame excuses for not getting your own view/questions/input out there. Jaron Lanier’s book (which I’m sure Alec Couros is tired of hearing me reference) talks about remix culture replacing original culture, and this seems like a very similar thing.

    Or maybe I’m just becoming a GOW.

    1. you have a different perspective than i have since you are more at the top of the online interactive food chain. i am pretty small potatoes, by comparison. yet, i don’t notice any more or less blog conversation/commenting because i never noticed much across the board other than some popular blogs. i received a single comment on my blog this past week which is similar to my blog 5 years ago — and most blog entries with zero comments. my blog is more for me and random others who might find my reflections useful so the lack of a conversation doesn’t trouble me. but again, i am more typical of someone who isn’t popular and doesn’t generate conversation with a single blog entry like we see here.

      and as Lisa notes, i rarely have someone respond to one of my tweets for advice/help. i have hundreds of followers but it’s never turned into a tool to help me when i need it (other than Julian Ridden helping with some Moodle issues in a very timely manner). however, my enthusiasm for Twitter is not as genuine today as it was 2 years ago. i still push creating a PLN and using Twitter for personal professional development, i also recognize that the sifting through link after link is probably not ultra productive use of time. i have been whittling down the number of people i follow (i am down to just 62 and will continue removing people who aren’t providing me with value). at least my feed is becoming more manageable. i encourage my students to choose people to follow carefully . . . but this is also recipe for getting few followers yourself. it’s a catch-22 of sorts.

      i have my grad students comment on ed tech blogs each semester and that continues . . . but i used to see them comment on many of the same popular blogs and now they each seem to find a different blog because there is much more selection. also, tools for finding blogs have advanced over what we had 5 years ago, for example. on the other hand, many of the authors of the blogs where my students comment never respond back to my students (and this isn’t a new trend). if there is little return on the commenting investment then i can see why some of my students will give up participating once they leave my class.

  2. Here is my theory:

    People like or Re-tweet an idea or a link or a post for the same reason people wear band T-shirts: it is an easy way to make a connection not only with the content (read the band) but it shows others that you are a fan. It’s an easy way for people to attach themselves to an idea and tell the world that they too like it or agree with it.

    It doesn’t take much thought or time, just a simple announcement that you are Neil Young fan for example. You were that shirt and you are instantly telling the world something about your views and ideals and much more that I can’t think of just now.

    We connect to ideas and bands and announce our connection to them so we can find other who have read a blog post and agreed with what it said, or other fans of our favorite bands.

    The short answer is that it is easy. But I agree with you that seeing some guy on the street wearing a cool T-shirt and giving him a nod, is very different to sitting down with him, listening to the music and discussing the meaning it has for both of you.

    That takes time and thought, which apparently not too many people have. The secret I am learning however is that it doesn’t take that much time. The secret for me is not always trying to write some opus and not worrying too much if my comments sounds smart enough. (As evidenced by this ridiculous jumbled rant.) For me, just getting it down beyond the Like and the RT, is a crucial component to what I want from my network.

    I am done trying to read and comment and like and RT everything out there. I am slowly finding my tribe and trying to connect and support their work and ideas in hopes that they will do the same for me.

    Count yourself cursed or blessed, but I have hitched my ride to your train for now. I will now RT this link and look for the Like link for this post.

    1. I think you have hit on it, Jabiz. The like or the retweet is the start, not the end, of the connection. What like, retweet and the rest of those simple acts do is lower the bar for people to participate and engage, especially with someone they have never engaged or connected with with before. It also sends out social signals to a community – this is the stuff I like. Over time, those signals add up.

      I see these acts as acts of legitimate peripheral participation and a way to develop community and connectedness, which could lead to a deeper level of engagement at some point in the future. The challenge is then at some point to take that next step and start discussing with the Neil Young fan why Helpless is your fave song.

      The other thing like and retweet has done is introduced different levels of engagement. I can quickly like something to send the signal to my community that this is somehow important to me, or resonated with me. But there are still times when something moves me to contribute (like this post) or engage in a dialogue at a deeper level when I feel like I might have something of value to contribute.

  3. For some reason, this made me think of the trend in rural areas (such as Saskatchewan) where small growers/producers give way to the large corporate farms. At some point, farmers get frustrated, tired, or unable to get their product to market for a number of reasons, including a high-level of competition with lower returns. Farmers give up their ability to produce and instead become a greater part of the consumption and distribution chain. And of course, some never bother become a producer at all.

    Attention economics meets real-world constraints/influences?

  4. I think the links and retweets are valuable to me. I need the search assistance very much. Some people like Alex Couros are far better at it than me. I blog reasonably often and I think I have some readership. Responses to my thoughts are nothing compared to some (many) bloggers. I get jealous at moments, but keep writing for my own ends. I try to respond to as many posts and forums as I can.

    I think my Twitter following is indicative of the problem. It has become too large to attend to. It has exceeded the boundaries of my capacity for community. I think most people find this true. We need to accept the reality that technology provides greater accessibility, greater connectivity than we need. We live in the city rather than the village. We need to return to a focus on smaller communities of purpose and not feel diminished by this.

  5. Thanks for a really interesting post and I agree with many of your observations. You make some excellent points about the “like”/”RT” process as being very potentially very passive and frivolous act.
    However doesn’t the tool allow you to dictate the ecosystem you’re in? A way to filter the frenzy of RTs or likes?
    And won’t we as users ignore the new “X” if it doesn’t add value?

  6. I’m glad you expanded on this – I was one of the people who wanted a little more than 140 characters on this.

    I think there’s a couple of things at work here – one being the idea that one has to produce content all the time, a constant stream pushing out content for people to consume. As most bloggers have experienced, after the initial wave of writing it’s hard to maintain that push. Most don’t. Twitter has the same thing only sped up. It takes less than a second to consume 140 characters, maybe stopping the receiver for ten seconds if the post required decoding or some sort of thought. So Like and RT’s become easy to maintain an audience’s interest – a reminder so to speak. It’s a cheap way to maintain attention. Much like the way television shows are cut before the commercial breaks – mini cliffhangers to maintain interest while the commercial runs.

    The other thing that’s going on is that Likes are different beasts than retweets – I think there’s a metric tonne of difference between liking something, which is a pretty vacant statement, and a retweet – which usually is some sort of statement that one supports. I can like something without a real investment, a retweet takes a bit more. I look at retweets the same way I look at links on a web page, it’s annotation. It’s telling me about the author of the retweet. A like does that as well, but it seems that a retweet is more nuanced.

    Maybe I’m over analyzing it.

  7. Oh yeah, forgot to say, that not everyone feels they have something interesting to say – and a RT sums up their feelings better than they themselves could.

    1. That’s an interesting metaphor @Alec, I for one, as pretty much a city slicker, consider farming a hell of a lot of work, and never get a sense anyone gets rich farming (or goes into farming to get rich). I guess one would say we are the market driving force here?

      @Jon – not over analyzing at all, and I agree with your thoughts. A retweet is indeed valuable; for me, its important to add something to a retweet, so there is that annotation rather than a “me too” echo.

      I’ve speculated that some fast retweeting happens based on that it sounds worthy because other people have said it, and was tempted to set up a sting operation… but that seemed cruel and pointless.

      Mostly, it feels again that this landscape of expression is shifting, and whether good or bad, it is moving.

  8. Interesting post and conversation.
    @Lisa: Agree. Often I ask questions to the twitter oracle only to be basically ignored. I think sometimes about why that is. According to twitter, I have +500 followers. But on any given tweet I pretty much get little to no feedback. My theory is that I don’t push out much content. I am not a ‘presence’ online. My reasons circle around the ‘my-stuff-is-not-good-enough’ to ‘I-don’t-have-time-to-make-it-pretty-enough-to-share’ reasons…But that’s okay. I am pretty invisible where I live in real life too. (And just to be clear – I LIKE it that way. I came to my current IT life from a position in administration. ‘nough said.)

    The more I think about my own ‘situatedness’ (is that a word?) online …I realize that I really AM good at something where all of this connection/connectivity is concerned. I am a pretty darned good curator (like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_curation). I listen really, really well. I find awesome stuff to point others to that might help them, or that might plant seeds of new ways to think about teaching and learning. I suppose you could think of me as a sort of ‘middle (wo)man’. My ear is to the network on behalf of my colleagues – all the time – …because they don’t know how to listen, don’t know where to listen, are not that inclined to listen as much as I do – whatever…. Then I share the stuff I gather with them. Sometimes they say thank you. Sometimes I don’t really know if they use what I send them or not. Some of the seed germinate very, very slowly. Anyway, I really don’t CREATE much. (I hate to write)….but I am a great hunter/gatherer. But I CURATE constantly.

    @cogdog: Is there less to gather these days? Not from where I sit. I am still answering questions like ‘What is a blog/wiki/facebook/twitterythingy? So a whole lot of people I work with are still back there where you were quite a while ago….at the very beginning. They need to learn what the read/write web IS/(or was) before they can even begin to speculate on whether interaction patterns it enables are changing.

    Anyway, I’ll stop rambling. Thanks for YOUR regular writing. Your blog is one in my reader I check on every day…’cause I am pretty sure you will be in here sayin’ something we want to read….or sharing some new cool pics…or well, just being here.

    Thank you for keeping the light on.

  9. Bingo @clint- it’s Shimmer – a dessert AND a floor wax.

    Thanks @Cindy for kind words and knowing its best to carve out your own role rather than try to take on others. I dont have the magic answers for bringing aloing the just-entered; except they do have a potential advantage to leap frog the mistakes of the past.

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