An ephemeral platform, used for other than ephemeral, and the death of Storify

As I say in my dissertation and elsewhere, informal scholarly communication in social media is both ephemeral and archival. Maybe this is new because some online traces intended to be for a limited number of recipients for immediate use have longer life and wide reach. Some utterances in social media live on well after the originator intended (for good and bad). But maybe it's not entirely new as certainly letters among scientists have been preserved (some of these were no doubt sent specifically for preservation purposes).

I've long been a fan of blogs for personal knowledge management, that is, thinking through readings, partial results, tutorials for how to do things. Blogs are easily searched, archived, migrated, shared, and don't enforce an artificial or proprietary structure found in other tools. However, I also know that long-term bloggers who have established a readership through careful, well-edited posts impose new barriers on themselves for using their blogs for this purpose. I found in my studies that some superstar bloggers almost entirely stopped blogging because they didn't want to post anything incomplete or partial and there were too many other things to do.

I think this has been one of the motivating factors for the use of Twitter for long threads of stories and analysis. Twitter has great reach and immediacy, and interactivity... but at the expense of search (although it is certainly better than it was) and preservation. Who of us hasn't dug through our likes and RT to try to find something interesting we saw ages ago?

We're using a platform specifically built for ephemeral communication for communication that should be saved and preserved.

So individuals who value this knowledge management function, or who appreciate careful analysis or good storytelling serialized over 10s of tweets have adopted Storify to gather and order and preserve and contextualize the pieces. Storify added tools to make it a bit easier. Instead of Storify, you could embed individual tweets (this embedding function also calls back to Twitter so really doesn't preserve). You could <eek> screenshot. you could even just write it up and quote the text.

And Storify is going away this Spring. We do have notice, luckily, but we still have a problem. We need to back our stuff up - we need to back other people's stuff up. Not everything is of the same value to the originator as it is to someone else.

My plea - and it will go unheard - is to put things back into blogs which you then tweet. Or back your useful tweets up to a blog?

FWIW, I'm trying to capture AGU meeting tweets and I'll load them into FigShare ... but the odds of some researcher capturing and saving your stuff is actually quite slim.

This post was inspired by a tweet that has a thread and interesting points by her interlocutors :


3 responses so far

  • Iris says:

    I didn't read this as being smug about Storify, but rather using the moment that Storify is giving us to think about online communication in general, goals and affordances.

    I'd add that blogs aren't actually more permanent. They migrate, or their platforms die (remember Vox?), or people stop paying their webhosts. And each time something like this happens I think about my own practices, my audience, and re-balance my priorities in terms of ephemeral vs "permanent" and what my goals even are when it comes to communication.

    So in this case, Twitter threads are pretty fragile ways of communicating because each sentence is its own preservable thing. That's a lot to keep track of and puts more of the sense-making burden on your reader to sort through which tweets are part of the thread and which tweets are replies to the thread from other people. Plus it's harder for your readers to share the full thought you had over the course of several tweets. So yeah, I get it that blogging is better for multi-sentence communication. I'm not sure it's more permanent, but it's a whole bunch easier for interested people to save/share what you wrote.

    But Twitter/Facebook/etc posts do help people get past the first-sentence problem. It feels less permanent, more immediate, so it's easier to just start typing.

    So yeah, it's a tricky problem. But if the goal is multi-sentence thoughts, then I'd agree that blogging is probably better. Now... if only I could get myself to blog more...

    • Christina Pikas says:

      True about blogs not being permanent... but I feel like it's more in the hands of the blogger? As in Twitter can and does often change rules for accessing older information.

  • […] tweeted out in 2013 shortly after my mother passed away.  I've rescued it to here because, as Christina Pikas reminds us, Storify is going away this […]

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