Friday, February 13, 2009

Devolution: blogs, tweets, nings and social networking

Once upon a time, I promised my sons I would never visit Myspace or Facebook. It’s a privacy thing—-I wouldn’t go messing with their stuff; I wouldn’t barge into their rooms without knocking; I wouldn’t search their files on the computer. And it’s trust—-I have three sons, and they care about each other: they let me know if anything’s wrong. But it’s also a generational thing—-Myspace and Facebook just looked so strange, I wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway.

Then came Gather. To be more accurate, then came the first ever Gather First Chapters Competition, just as I finished writing my novel, so I joined ( and entered. I wasn’t sure what all these groups and connections were about—“It’s just like Myspace,” said my sons—-but it was a fun place for me to write and make friends.

There was something on the Gather front page about blogs back then. Yes, I’d heard of blogs. I wasn’t quite sure what one was, beyond a public private diary, but I’d heard of them. Still, it really didn’t matter that I couldn’t figure out how to “post” one on Gather; I didn’t want to. And then…

Well, then I wrote another novel, and lots of short stories, and poems, and children’s books, and Bible books… and I really, really wanted to get published. Not being totally averse to the internet, as my skills evolved, I learned to find and read lots of really useful articles. I started following fascinating blogs, and finally realized, if I really want to get anywhere in the writing world, I’d have to have a blog of my own. So I got one. I wrote a few articles that nobody read. And I got two followers (is that like two friends? Ouch! Only two friends in all of cyberspace!)

I thought the boys would be impressed. Look guys, I’ve got a blog. But they just said “How lame.” I’m so far behind the times. Then I got invited to join some nings. That sounded really modern. “Hey guys. Come and look at this ning.” Nah. That was lame too. And then I met Twitter (

Twitter’s the next best greatest new thing, so they all say. But not my boys. I feel like I’m devolving before their eyes, getting older and less with-it every day. So I tweet and I blog and I write, and then I saw this comment on someone else’s “discussion” on a ning—“Why don’t you post this to Gather and get paid for people reading it.” I think I’ve come full circle. (Of course, if you buy my books at I’ll get paid too, but not much.)

There’s a moral to this tale: Don’t try to impress your sons.

And there’s a question: Can anyone tell me what’s the difference between a blog, a ning (private or public), a social network and a tweet? (Yes, I know tweets are limited to 140 characters—even shorter than my beloved drabbles, but apart from that…) Answers please in tweet, comment, drabble, blog or fully fledged article form (with links) would be greatly appreciated.


Pat Bertram said...

They are all separate things.

Ning (which means peace in Chinese, but I bet it really is short for Network for anythING) is a site where you can create your own social network (like your own private Gather) or you can join one that's already in existence. I belong to a few, but I don't really like the site, and the people I know there I know elsewhere, so what's the point?

A blog is a weblog, and the articles are called bloggeries. And you're right, Twitter is just a mini blog, with quick little bloggeries which they call tweets. (And I have heard that blogs are passé, but what the heck. I've never been on the cutting edge of anything. Besides, I like my blogs -- I use them for notebooks, collecting articles, stories, and other bits I've written.)

A social network is where you go to connect with people for whatever reason. Some people use the blogosphere as a social networking site, commenting on blogs in the hope that people will return the favor.

After a while, of course, it all begins to seem like part of the same, so all these things -- the blogs, the tweets, the networks -- become points of a star, rather than separate things.

Let your sons have MySpace,(It's way too labor intensive for networking purposes) but do join Facebook. It's one of my favorite places for meeting people. And I've connected my blog to Facebook, also my Twitter, so it becomes something like an internet hub for me.

Gladys Hobson said...

Last comment nicely put. I have all those but twitter. Facebook I use to keep in touch with my grandchildren. My Space is for ME rather than networking with others — photos on a carousel with songs by friends. reading my stories and posting stories and comments. I don't like noise and flashing things, and I can't read colour on colour if there is not enough contrast.