Microblogging is a broadcast medium in the form of blogging. A microblog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actual and aggregate file size. Microblogs ‘allow users to exchange small elements of content such as short sentences, individual images, or video links.’ As with traditional blogging, microbloggers post about topics ranging from the simple, such as ‘what I’m doing right now,’ to the thematic, such as ‘sports cars.’ Commercial microblogs also exist, to promote websites, services and/or products, and to promote collaboration within an organization. Some microblogging services offer features such as privacy settings, which allow users to control who can read their microblogs, or alternative ways of publishing entries besides the web-based interface. These may include text messaging, instant messaging, E-mail, or digital audio.

The first microblogs were known as tumblelogs. The term was coined by ‘why the lucky stiff’ in a blog post in 2005, while describing Christian Neukirchen’s Anarchaia: ‘Blogging has mutated into simpler forms (specifically, link- and mob- and aud- and vid- variant), but I don’t think I’ve seen a blog like Chris Neukirchen’s Anarchaia, which fudges together a bunch of disparate forms of citation (links, quotes, flickrings) into a very long and narrow and distracted tumblelog.’

Jason Kottke described tumblelogs: ‘A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness, a bit like a remaindered links style linklog but with more than just links. They remind me of an older style of blogging, back when people did sites by hand, before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory, blog entries turned into short magazine articles, and posts belonged to a conversation distributed throughout the entire blogosphere. Robot Wisdom and Bifurcated Rivets are two older style weblogs that feel very much like these tumblelogs with minimal commentary, little cross-blog chatter, the barest whiff of a finished published work, almost pure editing…really just a way to quickly publish the ‘stuff’ that you run across every day on the web.’

However, by 2006 and 2007, the term microblog came into greater usage for such services provided by Tumblr and Twitter. In 2007, 111 microblogging sites were counted internationally. Among the most notable services are Twitter, Tumblr, whatyadoin.com, Plurk, Emote.in, PingGadget, Beeing, Jaiku and identi.ca. More recently, varieties of services and software with the feature of microblogging have been developed. Plurk has a timeline view which integrates video and picture sharing. Flipter uses microblogging as a platform for people to post topics and gather audience’s opinions. Emote.in has a concept of sharing emotions, built over microblogging, with a timeline. PingGadget is a location based microblogging service. Pownce, developed by Digg founder Kevin Rose among others, integrates microblogging with file sharing and event invitations.

With the growth of microblogging, many users want to maintain a presence in more than one social network. Services such as Lifestream and Profilactic will aggregate microblogs from multiple social networks into a single list while other services, such as Ping.fm, will send out your microblog to multiple social networks.

Internet users in China are facing a different situation. Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, Google+, etc. are blocked in mainland China. The users use Chinese weibo services such as Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo. Tailored to Chinese people, these weibos are like hybrids of Twitter and Facebook, they implement basic features of Twitter and, allow users to comment to other’s posts, post with graphical emoticons or attach image, music, video files.

Several studies, most notably by Harvard Business School and Sysomos, have tried to analyze the usage behavior of Microblogging services. Many of these studies show that for services such as Twitter, there is a small group of active users contributing to most of the activity. Sysomos’ Inside Twitter survey, based on more than 11 million users, shows that 10% of Twitter users account for 86% of all activity.

Twitter, Facebook, and other microblogging services are also becoming a platform for marketing and public relations, with a sharp growth in the number of social media marketers. The Sysomos study shows that this specific group of marketers on Twitter is much more active than general user population, with 15% following more than 2,000 people. This is in sharp contrast to only 0.29% of overall Twitter users who follow more than 2,000 people.

Microblogging services have also emerged as an important source of real-time news updates for recent crisis situations, such as the Mumbai terror attacks or Iran protests. The short nature of updates allow users to post news items quickly, reaching its audience in seconds.

Microblogging services have revolutionized the way information is consumed. It has empowered citizens themselves to act as sensors or sources of data which could lead to important pieces of information. People now share what they observe in their surroundings, information about events, and what their opinions are about certain topics, for example government policies in healthcare. Moreover, these services store various metadata from these posts, such as the location and time of these shared posts. Aggregate analysis of this data includes different dimensions like space, time, theme, sentiment, network structure etc., and gives us an exciting opportunity to understand social perceptions of the people about certain events of interest, for tapping the pulse of the populace, or a platform for situational awareness, and a perfect medium of communication during crisis management.


One Comment to “Microblogging”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing some of our Sysomos data with your readers!!

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

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