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An Introduction To Micro-blogging

What Is Micro-blogging?

Micro-blogging is defined in Wikipedia as "a form of blogging that allows users to write brief text updates (usually 140 characters) and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, MP3 or the Web" [1].

Popular examples of micro-blogging services include Twitter and FriendFeed. In additional the status feature of social networking services such as Facebook provides another example of micro-blogging.

What Is Video Micro-blogging?

Video micro-blogging is the multimedia equivalent, whereby short video posts can be published. The best-known example of a video micro-blogging service is Seesmic [2].

What Benefits Can Micro-Blogging Provide?

Rather than seeking to describe potential uses of micro-blogging tools such as Twitter, it may be preferable to provide analogies for their use. As described at [3] micro-blogging tools such as Twitter can be regarded as:

  • The bar where everybody knows your name.
  • An interactive business card (see [4]).
  • A room of experts who can respond to your queries (see [5]).
  • A room of friends who can listen to your concerns.
  • A room of strangers who can sometimes surprise you.
  • A digital watercooler, particular useful for home workers to share office gossip.

Other potential benefits include:

  • Listening into announcements, discussions or informal conversations about your organisation or the services provided by your organisation.
  • Providing business intelligence related to your peers, your funders or, in some circumstances, perhaps, competing organisations.

Micro-blogging can be regarded as a tool which can support a community of practice by providing a forum for work-related discussions and informal chat.

The Downside To Microblogging

A superficial look at Twitter might lead to the conclusions that micro-blogging services such as Twitter provides nothing more than trivial content and has no relevance to the information professional. However many Twitter users who have chosen to spend time in exploring its potential benefits. Twitter, like blogs, can be used for a variety of purposes although it also has the potential to be used as a communications medium, with Twitter users asking questions and discussing issues. In this respect Twitter has some parallels with chat rooms. But as with chat rooms, Instant Messaging, email and Web sites such tools can be counter-productive if used for inappropriate uses and if used excessively or to the detriment of other work activities.

Developing Good Practices For Micro-blogging

A simplistic response to potential misuses of micro-blogging tools would be to ban its use. However this approach would result in staff missing out on the benefits of making use of informal contacts and your organisation exploiting the benefits described above.

If you feel there is a need to establish a policy covering use of micro-blogging you might wish to ask whether you trust your staff to use such technologies in an appropriate fashion. And if you feel there is a need to implement such policies remember that staff can misuse their time at work in other ways which do not need access to technologies. Perhaps the best advice would be to ensure that you keep up-to-date with examples of effective use of micro-blogging [5] and ways of appreciated its benefits [6]. Managers should also encourage their staff to be innovative.


  1. Micro-blogging, Wikipedia,
  2. An Introduction to Seesmic, UKOLN Cultural Heritage Briefing Document No. 37,
  3. Twitter, microblogging and living in the stream, The Edtechie Blog, 9 Sep 2008,
  4. Twitter? It's An Interactive Business Card, UK Web Focus blog, 17 Apr 2008,
  5. What Can Web 2.0 Offer To The IAMIC Community?, UK Web Focus blog, 22 Sep 2008,
  6. Getting Twitter, UK Web Focus blog, 21 Oct 2008,
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