This Conversation Is A Blip

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At some point very soon, we’re all going to have to reconcile the new reality that everything is in real-time and very few of us will ever look back to see what we missed.

Real-life scenario:

Email: "Mitch, I didn’t know you were doing a public and free speaking event in New York City."

Me: "Yeah, I mentioned it on Twitter yesterday."

Email: "Oh, I was a away from my desk for a short while, I guess I must have missed it."

Are we really at the point where if something is really important we’ll eventually see it, but we rarely do look back to see what we missed?

It all started with RSS and great applications like Google Reader. You would pull the information you wanted into one centralized location and only take a glance when something new popped up. Without realizing it, this technology began to shift how we receive and consume information. Now, with Twitter, things are changing again. Anecdotally, very few people I have connected with look to see what they missed on Twitter beyond a couple of hours or so. The logic? If it was truly important it would keep trending and still be in the conversation stream.

The half-life of content is shrinking.

At some point soon, we’re going to have to make a serious decision: are we creating content for the power of search and to ensure that everything we think and publish is findable over the years, or is that dream about to die and we’re on the verge of creating content in real-time – in short bursts – that are meant to live and die in the moment? It could be a hybrid of both, but being able to index and navigate through the mass amounts of text, audio, video and images seems more and more like a daunting task versus a powerful and easy resource.

Whatever the case may be, the power of content’s value seems to be shrinking in terms of long-term worth and increasing in terms of "what’s happening right now." 


  1. I usually look back at what I missed when I’m running TweetDeck. I usually do it when I first launch in the morning and if I’m away for extended periods at night.
    I’ve found more then a few interesting tweets and events I’ve got involved with because of that. I even got to meet Tara Hunt because of this. I can’t catch everything by I try to consume as much as I can. I find that the two big times people are on Twitter are 9am – 11am and 3-5pm EST.

  2. Gee, maybe it’s the 20+ years I spent in mainstream media but this seems like a real non-issue.
    I’ve done many newspaper stories and TV reports that were “short bursts – that are meant to live and die in the moment”
    But now that I’m blogging, things I’ve written one or two weeks ago are suddenly a subject of a search and traffic spikes.
    Twitter is a conversational moment so there is no real reason to scan back more than an hour or two.
    If I have what I think is a particularly good blog post, I will tweet about it at different times during the day. Almost always, the tweets will drive an immediate rush of traffic to the blog.
    The “half-live of content” is not shrinking. We need to recognize the characteristics of the medium we use to deliver that content.
    A comment overheard at the coffee shop (twitter) is far different from a notice posted on a virtual wall.

  3. hasn’t it always been like that – there are newspapers printed all over the world that only a small fraction of the population ever read, likewise for radio and tv…
    the main difference now is that you see it all to clearly since you CAN access everything on twitter and rss
    look at your local online newssite – if you view the firstpage frequently (1-2 hrs) I’m sure you’ll find they have lots of smaller stories passing by that you don’t get if you visit normally once a day

  4. Reading back on Twitter always seems sort of like eavesdropping to me for some reason. The people I follow are either friends or interesting strangers, for the most part, but if someone hasn’t said something specifically to me, I feel a bit nonsensical bringing it up.
    I have trouble recalling who I’ve told what stories to, and I think Twitter is kind of the same way. Not so much that important things keep trending there specifically, I think as we feed so much of our lives onto the web, we’re losing the ability to converse in real time.
    Like Dumbledore pulling his memories out and putting them in that caldron in Harry Potter, we blog so much of our lives away that it becomes difficult to retell and paraphrase ourselves later on, to people who must surely have read the original.
    It’s not Twitter’s fault we put everything in our own personal Captain’s Log for later effortless review.

  5. From a more day-to-day tip, using Tweetdeck groups is a great way to easily scan back just the tweets of the most important people you follow. Creating 1 or multiple VIP group makes it easy not to miss their tweets, even older ones, while letting the “all friends” column fill up without really worrying about missing a tweet about mundanity.
    Same for google reader.

  6. A realtime only view of content as single use, disposable snacks to me seems irreconcilable with with a development of a deeper understanding of anything. It will be like learning about geo-political issues by reading People magazine.
    And then we will truly be sheep.

  7. I think it depends on the type of content. News type content that records the moment is mostly good for the moment, but even then who knows if some historian 100 years from now will be going through an old server research tweets. :-). I also still find value in two-year old blog posts that I found by searching on a particular topic. I hope that if someone has something smart and useful to say, it will still have a nice long shelf life.

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