Did Twitter kill commenting?

In the spirit of video killed the radio star I’ve been wondering recently if commenting on blogs has taken a bit of a hit and if Twitter is to blame. It seems that I’m not the only one as Christian Heilmann also talked about the demise of commenting in his post on measuring evangelism (and yes, I’m a Web Evangelist too but for Opera).

Quite often when I blog I Tweet about it and get lots of lovely feedback via Twitter but not so much on my blog. Feedback of any sort is great but I kind of wish that it was on the blog so others could read and comment on it too.

So, dare I ask, has Twitter  killed commenting?

Update 29 June, 2009: As some sort of compensation Comment Catcher has come to the rescue. This is a handy plugin for all blogging platforms that allows you to capture comments linking to your blog from Twitter, Friendfeed and Identi.ca. Not a bad alternative when trying to keep an eye on everything. That said, you need to keep an eye on what it publishes otherwise you get a long list of retweets which doesn’t make for great reading so it’s worth deleting them and keeping bone fide comments in tweets only.

15 thoughts on “Did Twitter kill commenting?

  1. I don’t know about killing off commenting completely, but I think it’s drastically reduced the number of comments people leave because they’re eager to share with the community. I think it’s also had a big impact on blogging, as it’s much easier to write a concise sentence than it is to thoughtfully put together a whole blog post.

    I do wish people would comment more, though, as it’s nice to get collective opinions on a subject in one place, rather than have to go looking.

  2. Ok, leave aside the text length limitations: wouldn’t the solution be a decentralized commenting framework that uses trackbacks to link comments together? That would make twitter replies to a given blog permalink show up on the blog, and vice-versa. Moreover, I’m sure I’ve seen some startup out there that already does just that. Too geeky?
    PS: twit back on @miquelmartin 😀

  3. I think it has definitely had an impact on the manner in which we comment.

    For some commenting is a way of declaring that they’ve read an article, that they have an opinion on the topic, or that they saw it before others did. For that reason, twitter is a more powerful tool in reporting that.

    So I guess depends on the reason the person is commenting: to leave a meaningful response, or to tell the world as quickly as possible they’ve seen it.

    Twitter is ideal for simply broadcasting that it’s worth reading to a wider network of potential readers.

    What I’d like to see under the comment box is an additional field for twitter responses that are published when a comment is submitted. Or simply a checkbox that says ‘Promote this on twitter’, with the tweeps user name and the article title and a link.

    Has it been done already? Who wants to build it?! 🙂

  4. Yes 100%, it has distributed the comment stream to the social network people first encounter the post link on, be that twitter, facebook, friendfeed or whatever. People are becoming hesitant to comment on the blog. It seems to be a need for instant engagement with others and the author over the topic. Blogs in a way are seen as slow conversation gathers. Where as the other social media (especial twitter) can give an instant response.

  5. Some additional thoughts (expanding on the excellent points above):

    When you comment on a blog, nobody but the blog author, random visitors to the blog, and yourself knows that you commented. I guess I could comment here and Tweet that I did so, but that’s two steps instead of one (for both me and my Twitter followers).

    It’s also hard for me to keep track of all the different blogs where I’ve commented online. On Twitter, at least, I can look through my own update history to see the things I’ve been interested in and writing about. Similarly, most web forums retain a full posting history of each user.

    We want our impressions to matter; for many of us, that means we it to be part of our recorded history. Others go farther, and want that recorded history to be public. Unfortunately for them, blog comments are easily forgotten and difficult to recover once memory fades.

    Blog commenting doesn’t usually allow one to keep track of responses. After I respond here, I won’t know if you or anyone else responded to this comment unless I make an effort to check back here (forever)? Some blogs allow you to subscribe to comment feeds (via RSS), but that’s potentially a lot of feeds to keep track of, and a lot of irrelevant comments to wade through. Mail notification when new comments are posted also results in a lot of unwanted messages, especially if the topic generates a lot of comments.

    Finally, I noticed that Twitter produces an interesting curiosity effect. People link to content (often obscured by tinyURL and other such services), and people get curious about it (because of the mystery). The effect is even more pronounced when people publically reply to each other on Twitter, and they’re saying things that only make sense in the context of their own conversation, so third party observers find themselves following the Reply trail to see what they’re talking about.

    By removing context clues, it’s like Twitter added/maintained a level of inconvenience/opacity to encourage users to be curious about other people’s conversations and have to dig a few levels before getting a payoff (generating a gambling-type of thrill, perhaps).

    Following Miquel’s lead: twit back on @lawmune 😉

  6. I think Gez is right in that Twitter hasn’t, or wont, kill commenting but it certainly has had an impact. I’d also not thought of a decentralized commenting framework as Miquel mentions although I’d ideally like to have a way to automatically link to Tweets related to a blog post (or better yet have them streamed in) together with a way of linking to and accessing related posts and comments spread across other blogs.

    Perhaps that’s asking to much, I don’t know, but there see to have been one or two conversations touching on this else where http://mattwalters.net/2008/12/08/twitter-as-a-conversation-platform/ and as the post says it’s easy to lose the thread of the conversation on Twitter unless you are there in real time (which in itself is a time suck).

    Lawrence, I like that fact that you are looking at it from the other direction and the problem of tracking comments you have left on blogs while being able to follow Tweets more easily in your timeline. For those that haven’t *met* Lawrence yet he is the guy who takes care of user research at Opera and really know his stuff…

    So anyway, as Lisa says…anyone out there who can build something?

  7. I’ve felt the same thing with my blog. After a long hiatus, I started tweeting every time I posted, and got several responses via twitter, but very few on my blog.

    I think it’s especially interesting with things like the current H1 debate… the discussion exists on so many blogs at once, Twitter has kind of become the “lobby” where all the webtech bloggers can come together in one big conversation.

    I do miss the comments though. After working at a post, it feels good to have evidence there on my blog that someone read it and liked it (or hated it, even).

    I agree with a lot of what Lawrence said above, though I routinely go back and check for further comments on a post after I leave one, though I’m probably a bit atypical that way (and I really need to start relying on RSS for it, too).

  8. You’re right Keith, that Twitter has become a kind of lobby for people to air and source opinion. I really like it for a couple of reasons. 1) I work from home so it’s good to have both the contact and also a place to bounce ideas around and 2) because you really get to speak to such a wide and varied amount of people. This is especially good when you can chat to folk who are normally not that accessible.

    I really need to get a comments track back thing put n this blog…and will make sure I come and say hello on your blog soon!

  9. One solution is to have people use a #hashtag when they “tw-omment” (awful I know) then post those hashtag’d tweets alongside the article (Twitter still isn’t being used by spammers enough to make this an issue – yet)

  10. Using the hash tag so posts can get indexed with tweets is a good idea. I just started doing it recently with #accessiblefry. All we need now is that nifty little aggregator for blog and Twitter comments….

  11. Yeah, twitter is quicker and easier. And for straight broadcast (which is what publicity seekers want, and they are an important user of communication technology), it’s probably better in a lot of cases.

    I wanted to create a bit of semantic webbery that would track my comments in various places, so instead of having my own blog, I could just give people a way to follow the comments I post around the place. And being able to make it a twitter feed just might be the way to go about it – after all, the cool thing about developing technology is that we don’t quite know what people will do with it.

    I use twitter occasionally, for the benefit of people who follow me there. I have no idea (and don’t really care, although I am as curious as an emu so would be happy to know) how much that group overlaps with the people who read my blog. Certainly the content is different – I seem to tweet a handful of times for a particular event, whereas I blog when I have time to think before I write.

    Perhaps I will change, and twitter will be the glue that connects my blog comments… Perhaps not. It’s always hard to predict what will really matter to me in areas like this.

  12. Hi Chaals, you’re not alone in what you say. I was dragged (admittedly by myself) kicking and screaming onto Twitter and not fully convinced it was for me. Now however it has become integral to my job and daily workflow as a Web Evangelist – something that raises a few eyebrows over dinner party conversation (both Twitter and the job title!).
    What does concern me is that there is a danger that when ingratiated in Twitter you think that the whole world is there so commenting and sharing through Twitter is a job well done with no need to venture out of the confines of Twitter.
    This is far from the truth – as with every social network everyone has their poison and whether you use Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter or any number of them you are still subject to walled gardens.

    “Semantic webbery” to track comments around the place is the way to go, it’s just how to do it. And for what it’s worth I think that blogging and commenting are as crucial as ever. These are non password protected, open forums where you can talk and be found via search engines which is important (although both Bing and Google are now starting to index Tweets – a mixed blessing but that’s a whole other topic).

  13. @chaals

    I had written something these lines a few years ago… Sorry it is in French.
    http://www.la-grange.net/2006/04/14 – Un commentaire de trop

    But somehow it is a distributed architecture around comments and blogs. If we really think about it a comment, a blog post, and a tweet have the same features usually.

    an author, a url (or url-fragment), a text, a date.

    blog posts have usually in addition a title and sometimes categories.

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