Maybe it’s post US election / brexit hangover information / fake news fatigue. Or the end of the year wind down. Or something else.

But I sense changes into the online space I have inhabited the most for the last 9 years.

A chunk of the public discussion and banter I enjoy has maybe slipped into Slacks. Or maybe it’s all happening in Facebook, a place I no longer exist. And recently lot of colleagues are excited about a re-discovered conversations in Mastodon others are status-ing away at a space D’Arcy Norman spun out (see the valuable list of alt-spaces D’Arcy outlines).

It’s not that I am blind to the things happening on twitter that are turning people away; I take some notice, I filter through what others share, but I purposefully do no get myself sucked into the spiral of the cesspool. It’s there, I know what it smells like; that does not mean I don;t have to immerse myself in the poop pool.

For the most part, my twitter experience is still fun, rewarding. I don’t look at the full stream, I don’t go to the web interface, I don’t see promoted tweets, or the non-chronological sorting. Besides the tags I follow in my tweetdeck columns, my main view is through about 125 (Dunbar-25) accounts I scan through a list I called whimiscally “friendz”. I toss names in and out on an irregular basis.

Yet that view has been steadily growing less frequently updated.

It’s hard not to sense the waning of twitter. Not necessarily demise.

I was touched to see in a recent keynote that Ken Bauer made use of a now old “Twitter Life Cycle” diagram I made in 2007

For some background, that was something I made in April 2007, in many ways a total homage to the kinds of diagrams Kathy Sierra was making at the time to explain tech.

I posted the diagram on Wikispaces and asked people to edit to add their experiences. Surprisingly it has not been spammed in a while. Did I just stupidly write that?

I posted the diagram on Wikispaces and asked people to edit to add their experiences. Surprisingly it has not been spammed in a while. Did I just stupidly write that?

As a testament to the way things worked, and a blogging tangent, my diagram did get an acknowledgement from Kathy, which meant I had a conversation point meeting her at the 2008 WordCamp we both spoke at, which meant upon learning at the speakers dinner how Matt Mullenweg got her as a speaker, I used the same approach to invite her to keynote at an NMC conference.

But I digress.


Twitter is not what it was then. And why should any community and its platform stay the same? Leave it to Brian to make the point clearly in reference to “the diagram”

I tend to think that much of the good and bad qualities we see that happen in a shared space are more a function of people that platform. I think back to what I experienced in my first sort of online communities– old fashioned listserv. There was abuse, and flame wars, and people were assholes, others got hurt.

But again, what we have seen is not the same. There are bots now, and data mining, and gaming algorithm. And doxing. So it’s the same and not the same. At the same time.

And there were earlier community spaces before I got online in the late 1980s. I was on the tail end and never did much with Usenet newsgroups and was later than the communities of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) in the 1980s.

I got an idea to try and map my own evolution in these spaces. I was lookign not just at how much time I was in them; I thought of some totally fictitious Power of Social value (Ps) which is a function of:

  • To: Amount of time I spent in the space
  • As: The potential scale of people I might possible be in contact with, meaning the potential to increase my personal network, e.g. finding interesting people
  • Im: Impact on me, what I get out of it- resources, good conversation, challenges, exposure to new ideas.
  • F: Fun, why do something if there is not really some fun in it?

Of course this is totally subjective. So I started by trying to sketch it out, with a timeline on the bottom. I tried to plot as well (axis on the right) a curve representing the proportion of time I spent online. And then I tried to draw curves for the spaces I have inhabited over time.

A draft of my online community spaces over time

A draft of my online community spaces over time

Like most of my sketches, it is mostly illegible. To make a more presentable version, I thought if just replicating in Photoshop. But I decided to fudge it in a Google Docs Spreadsheet. The values I entered for numbers are totally made up, really meant to give a sense of relative importance.

It’s not scientific at all, and it only represents my experience. But here it is..



I put some labels on the bottom to indicate what work I was doing at the time. These are the things I charted:

  • Listservs were really the first public conversation spaces I experienced, starting in 1987 as graduate student in Geology at ASU when I was asked to help admin a email list of Volcanologists. Moving into my role in education, listservs were a mainstay through the 1990s. It’s how I learned a lot of tech news, discovered resources, connected with educators. A peak experience was the mid 1990s when my multimedia work with Macromedia Director. This was really the first time it felt like more than just exchanges of messages. It led to me building a web site for Director (started before Macromedia even had a company one), leading me to get involved with the beta version of Director, and connecting to a group of developers I still stay in touch with today. It was the vehicle where I did the first visit to a colleague I had known only online, my stil good friend, Tim, who then worked at Lane Community College.

    My listserv activty waned into the 2000s, and now is zero, with more of my interest going into…

  • Blogiverse I call it this, because it was more than just my own bogging start (in 2003). I began more with reading blogs for 2-3 years before doing one myself. But it was the network of ed-tech people like Brian Lamb, D’Arcy Norman, Scott Leslie (hey all Canadians) that made it a community space; distributed, and conversational via comments, connected via RSS and thinks like the dead technorati.

    It waned with the rise of social media as well as the axing of Google Reader. It’s far from dead, and its still very important to me, but the Ps function is definitely post peak.

  • Flickr is on the list because, more than photo sharing, it had from the beginning community features like tagging, comments. Since 2008 I have maintained a daily photo habit there (again I blame credit D’Arcy). Flickr has somehow survived despite it’s being tied to the dying swallow called Yahoo. I do less participating in groups and cross community tagging, but I still get, and give a fair number of comments. Flickr’s openAPI enabled be to make things like 5 Card Flickr Stories and Pechaflickr. I check my activity every night. In the last 2 years I have been keeping track of the reuses of my photos, which to me is still one of the most rewarding Impacts on Me payoffs. I have flickr on a tailing power, but definitely important and not dying (depending of course on Yahoo’s destiny, sigh).
  • Twitter has definitely risen faster than any of my curves. I think my tailing off on the graph is a bit too sharp, I’d say it has been a high plateau really until maybe a few months ago. And something in the last month or two has definitely yanked its shape down. And I am hard pressed to see it going in any other direction.

    But its value still has alot of resonance- the API, all fo the services it offers, thinks like what Martin Hawksey built for Twitter TAGS as well as his dynamic archiving tool that lets me do things like Twitter was essential for to become what it became, and has added more valuable contacts to my circle of colleagues/ friends around the world, a number of them I have visited in person. I cannot easily just wave all of the as gone.

  • Smaller blips You cannot even see LinkedIn because I nuked that years ago, and never did or got much from it. I’ve written more than enough disdain about Facebook; I had a small peak when I started, began following, was every night swiping in my timeline, but I nuked it (twice) and it never has been even a mildy significant place. For me. Instagram was something I played with early, then let go dormant, and have been doing small amounts of “inhabiting” mostly at night. I crosspost 1 or 2 of my flickr photos, check out what other people are doing. I have my reservations about it- more than its owner, the clogging of their API, the lack of any abiity to search my own photos, keep its Ps low for me.

If the magnitudes of my curves mean anything (and they don’t), it seems that with time, I am in multiple spaces, that they peak and fall earlier, but have gone to higher magnitudes.

The big question is– and the title of this post– is there a next one? What is it? When will I know?

Or is all of this hoo-hah.

Top / Featured Image: CC0 licensed image from pixabay

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at 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) Tooting as


  1. I had to laugh at your final use of the word “how-hah” as in our local dialect that is a very specific location on the female anatomy, but hey! Why not?
    You’re having an interesting come to Jesus here…
    I take note of : “It’s not that I am blind to the things happening on twitter that are turning people away; I take some notice, I filter through what others share, but I purposefully do no get myself sucked into the spiral of the cesspool.”
    That is exactly how ai feel about Facebook. My policy is “beauty/ art/ and family,” and because of that, I have 20-50 people who appear to enjoy my little offerings with the despised likes and hearts and brief comments of approbation. That’s my online community.

    Rarely does anyone interact with me on Twitter. Maybe I never really got the hang of it the way you did, but honestly? I don’t understand the appeal.

    I love blogging, but again, mostly they go unread or uncommented on, so…why? Who’s out there? Who really gives a rip? And yet…it still compels me in spite of my discouragement.

    You could do a service by reviewing these other sites you say people are migrating to–Slack? Mastodon? How are they going to be different for you–and for me as a different demographic than you–than Twitter and Facebook?

  2. Approbation… that’s the word I was looking for that perfectly describes the triviality of the facebook world. Thanks!

    1. A social place is as trivial as what the character of each individual brings to it. I am not a trivial person and I don’t post trivial material on Facebook (according to my lights!). I comment on people who post material in my interest area, and Facebook algorithms then make sure I see more of that kind of content, which relates to art, photography and creativity.

      I am not a Facebook apologist; the same is true of Twitter. The same is true of your friends and social circle. It reflects back to you what you program it to send.

      Social media is the elephant being described by blind men.

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