China Beat Archive



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March 19, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright March 19, 2009. Used by permission.


To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

That’s not necessarily the question, but it’s one I’ve been pondering for a while.

On the one hand, I’m loath to add another new form of communication to my life. After all, blogging is only something I’ve been doing for a bit over a year.

On the other hand, as I argue in a commentary about blogs that I’m hoping will be published in the next couple of months (in paper format—as it is aimed at people still skeptical about online writing), things change so fast in the digital world that we need to reckon time like dog years these days, which means it’s already been about a decade since I embraced the blogging life. In addition, Rebecca MacKinnon and Jeremy Goldkorn, two of the people whose views on such matters I value most highly, have just made good cases for giving Twitter its due.

I learned of Rebecca’s views via that most old-fashioned of communication formats, a face-to-face conversation (admittedly illustrated by show and tell on her laptop) we had at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong earlier this week before taking the stage together for a public dialogue on blogs (more about that in a later post perhaps). She described the way that (as a reader) “tweets” by others can help her get a sense of what’s happening on the ground in China, while (as a writer) her twittering can assist others who strive to stay up to date on various things (even where and when events she’s involved in like our Literary Festival gig are taking place).

I learned of Jeremy’s take in a more high-tech way: by reading his website (one that I keep up with via an RSS feed, a wonderfully useful method for staying abreast of Danwei or for that matter China Beat, which as many but not all people reading this know isn’t hard to set up at all via Google Reader). He claimed Twitter was perfect for haiku-like mini-reviews of “really bad books,” using this tweet to illustrate his point: “Just finished ‘The Black Swan’ by Nassim Nicholas Talib. What an unpleasant man the author is.”