I'm working with a new crew of colleagues at the moment, and some of the things I'm being asked about (when it comes to this whole 'social media thing') include beautifully simplistic questions like "so why the blog?" and "what exactly is twitter for?"
Having become very accustomed to (what I call) edublogging and edutweeting, I find such questions refreshing and thought-provoking.
The most common response I give -- beyond just the notions of connecting with other educators around the world (twitter) and engaging in reflective practice (blogging) -- is that using the different forms of social media is all about achieving both width and depth. Integrating the two results in what I like to call wepth.
I mean, it's great to have the width of something like Twitter, and the thousands of educators it can put you in touch with, but it becomes pretty feather-light (and perhaps even pointless) 'touching' if there is nothing of substance to connect to.
Likewise, it can be a wonderfully therapeutic thing to blog about your experiences and thoughts, going into a reasonable amount of detail both in the posts and the discussions that can end up attaching themselves to them, but without a reasonably wide potential audience a lot of excellent reflective practice can end up feeling pretty lonely.
Hence the notion that you can achieve wepth by maintaining a wide network on Twitter and referring to your own and others' blog posts, which in turn become the fodder for more extensive reading and discussion on specific discoveries or issues.
However, I've started to question my own theory here...
First of all, I don't think Twitter automatically excludes depth and nor does blogging necessarily avoid width. Picking and choosing your contacts carefully on Twitter results, at least to some degree, in a kind of depth because you are targeting your network (for me it tends to be educators and writers). And with blogging, the public nature of it and relatively rapid pick up from search engine spiders mean that you are achieving a certain width by making your posts accessible to a range of readers whom you might not have actively targeted.
Perhaps, with things like blogging and Twitter, wepth ends up working both ways or in a variety of ways. I think, however, it would be fair to say that overall wepth is limited when one or the other is excluded from the overall package.
What has started to fascinate me is the way that Facebook has come marching along and taken big meaty bites out of both blogging and Twitter.
As comment threads on blog posts diminish and interaction on Twitter heads more along the lines of basic link-sharing and updates, we see more of those behaviours (commentary and discussion, informal interaction) becoming the staple of Facebook.
A recent post on this blog received more 'likes' on Facebook than it did 'retweets' on Twitter, and there were about twenty times as many comments/interactions for it on Facebook than we saw in the blog's own comment thread. And it certainly wasn't an isolated example; looking at blog/Twitter/Facebook activity over a period of about 6-12 months, this appears to be the direction in which things are heading.
Is it possible that Facebook's format/approach is achieving something closer to the wepth many of us appear to be looking for?
If so, can we reconcile this with the uncomfortable thought that (for better wepth) all we need is more Facebook friends and less concern about our own privacy and content?