Our Time Online: Where Do You Think We’re Headed?

Okay, guys, I know I’m spending a lot of time on this lately, but I had an in-person conversation today with some other writers, and the questions we raised are churning away. And I’d really like to hear what you all think.

Basically, we started out talking about Facebook fan pages. Which I have not really explored. We took a look at some and talked about what they seemed to be doing, and here’s where my brain went:

“Blogs are going away. Webpages are going away.”

I know, huge leap. And obviously none of this is happening overnight. But I am wondering if we’re in another of those transition times, when the online world–and how people use it–is shifting. Yet again.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. A few years ago, webpages were the main place readers went to connect with a writer. They were the primary tool that writers used to get to know their circle, whether it be other writers, agents & editors, or potential readers.

Then blogs came along. And blogs became cool, primarily, I think, because they were less static than a webpage. You could go to someone’s blog every few days (some, every day) and read something new, find out something “fresh.” Newer blogs, like this one, are basically a blog with a webpage attached. It means I can have the “static” info up there for people who don’t know anything about me, along with changing content every few days.

And now?

I’ve talked about the people I’m “meeting” on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve also “met” people on blogs, and I definitely still go to someone’s blog FROM FB and Twitter if I think their updates are fun or interesting.

But I don’t spend a lot of time at those blogs. I add all I can to my LiveJournal feed, and I check in with them as often as possible, and I try to leave comments. And I try to keep my own blogs at least semi-interesting and informative.

After looking at these Facebook fan pages, though, I’m feeling like they have an awful lot of the same features that my blog/website do.

Are these FB pages the replacement? And how long will it be before Twitter has the equivalent. (Frankly, that might already exist without me knowing!) Are we moving, again, away from one use of the Internet and onto another?

So, I have a few specific questions that I’m hoping you’ll help me with. I’m not a Yes or No kind of person, so I’d love it if you just dumped your thoughts in a comment, random or otherwise. And I hope everybody who stops by will look at the comments, for the info everybody is leaving there.

  • Where do you make your first online “acquaintance” with an author or reader these days?
  • Do you spend as much time reading and commenting on blogs as you used to? How do you think your blog-reading pattern has changed.
  • Where do you go to find information about an author?
  • What do you enjoy about blog reading?
  • What do you enjoy about Twitter and/or Facebook?
  • Have you played with following any author Fan pages. What do you think of the process/experience?
  • Where do you think your online community has its strongest base?

Comments are OPEN!

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34 thoughts on “Our Time Online: Where Do You Think We’re Headed?

  1. I need to come back and think about your other questions but first off I want to say that I do not like Facebook Fan pages and I do not think they will replace anything.

    I don’t think people interact there and if you have seen examples of it working, I’d like to know.

    I think people are confused by FB fan pages. If I already your friend, why should I become a fan? What are you doing here that you aren’t doing elsewhere?

    I’m actually considering taking my fan page down. I don’t think that will disappoint my 20 fans.

    So Facebook fan pages? I’m not a fan.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Susan, I haven’t been impressed so far. I was looking at them & seeing that they do, sometimes, have different content than the Profile page/friend page. I have to admit, I don’t know if I’ve even “fanned” one person yet. But I’m wondering if other people see them differently!

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  2. Okay, now I’m thinking and ready to dump my thoughts on your other questions.

    You ask: “Where do you make your first online “acquaintance” with an author or reader these days?”

    Twitter and Facebook and Blogs. I still use them all. Different people are on different ones.

    You ask: “Do you spend as much time reading and commenting on blogs as you used to? How do you think your blog-reading pattern has changed.”

    I don’t spend as much time commenting as I used to because I have less time than I used to and more people are blogging than ever before. I have a core group of people that I read every day but even then I don’t always comment. While comments are one thing to strive for I don’t think we should discount the people who read and retain so they can later share and point.

    I used to read just writing blogs. Then writing and editing blogs. Sometimes agent blogs but I’m not looking for an agent so I usually only read the blogs of agents whom I consider friends.

    I’m interested in social media so I read some of those blogs now which takes away from the time to read the writing blogs.

    I don’t read the blogs of a lot of famous writers. Example – John Green is a well-known YA writer and I enjoy his books but I know that when he puts out a good post, like this week’s post on advances, I know it’s going to pop up elsewhere, on another blog, or Twitter or Facebook. And it did and I was able to click over and read it then.

    You ask: “Where do you go to find information about an author?”

    I still go to all the same places. That hasn’t changed. Just because more people are using Twitter and Facebook and Blogs doesn’t mean the usefulness of one of them goes down.

    You ask: “What do you enjoy about blog reading?”

    Blogs give me the meat when Twitter and Facebook just tell me what’s on the menu.

    You ask: “What do you enjoy about Twitter and/or Facebook?”

    I like the rapid response of Twitter. I like that I interact with people that I don’t see anywhere else on Twitter.

    You ask: “Have you played with following any author Fan pages. What do you think of the process/experience?”

    See my response above. 🙂 Not a fan.
    Where do you think your online community has its strongest base?

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    • beckylevine says:

      This is what I’m thinking about Susan–will they all still remain viable, really viable, and be visited by different “sets” or people, or will one form gradually (or not so much!) push the other away. Thanks so much for your thoughts

      And I hadn’t thought at all about what you said–I often to get alerts that send me to blogs, by being on Twitter & FB. So maybe it’ll be something like using a blogroll/feed reader less, but not reading blogs less.

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      • What I find is that sometimes I’ll see a blip about something on one of the sites and it is a personal hot button for me so I go over right away. But most of the time I let it slide until I see it all over the place, with a comment or two about WHY I should go check it out. It’s just like any kind of advertising, we need to see something several times before we “buy” or “click” through.

        Blogs are always going to be a home base. That’s what I stress in my classes. You can use a website for a homebase but it’s really too static (unless it is setup like your blog/website here) to be as effective.

        So blog is homebase and everywhere else is just an outpost. We don’t all have the same outposts and we don’t visit them on any kind of regular basis. But we usually know where to go and who to ask when we need something.

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        • beckylevine says:

          This is what I’ve heard & been thinking–that the blog is where people come to you. JUST to you. I’m seeing a shift in myself, though, in where I look/go for info.

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  3. I think these are great questions, but I have to say, I don’t think blogs will ever go away in favor of twitter or the chatter of Facebook friends, etc. Yes, readers prefer these venues a lot of times because they are more immediate, but 1) a lot of readers dislike them for the same reason — they want a more private interaction with the author, one more anonymous for them and 2) authors cannot dedicate the massive amount of time to tweeting with every fan. To me, it’s like asking “what do readers prefer: meeting their authors via their blog or via a waffle breakfast?” Well, duh, most will say waffle breakfast. But there are only so many breakfasts in a day.

    I have to say that my blog list gets ever larger, as does my subscriber pile on my two blogs. I really do think it’s a great, happy medium.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Maggie, thanks for coming by. So you still consider your blog the base & don’t see that changing. Good to hear! And I agree that blog posts can be more thoughtful and give readers more “meat.” Or better waffles! 🙂

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      • I really do think they’re a great jumping off point. Yes, I have twitter and facebook, but I would say that 90% of the people who follow me on those started out on my blog first. Those little sound bites just don’t have relevance unless people know you. Or unless you’re violently funny.

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        • beckylevine says:

          Interesting, Maggie. For me, I’d say it’s been the opposite lately. So many different paths!

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  4. I used to read websites and blogs about writing fairly often, but there seem to be thousands of them on that topic now, and I rarely have time to look at any of them anymore except as a favor to a writer-friend. I have hundreds of Facebook friends because everyone says that will help my book sales, but most of my Facebook friends are either other authors or people I’m in frequent contact with in real life anyway, so I don’t know if that will really help or not. But the Facebook friends do sometimes comment on my blog posts, so they are being read.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Janet, so you’re still seeing a connection between FB & your blog–that isn’t going away. Interesting. I’m lucky right now, in that I want to “talk” with other writers online for fun and they’re the audience for my book. When I finally get some of my kids’ writing published, I’ll be figuring this out all over again!

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  5. I’m a blog visitor. I choose the blogs that I enjoy or feel “connected” to and drop in to read what’s going on.

    I like short blog entries. Hate the pages and pages of scrolling in long entries, so I’ve been working on keeping mine as short as possible.

    I love Twitter to do a quick stop, to tell people about something I’ve just seen someplace online, or to say, “Hey, I just posted something that you might want to look at.” I don’t do the latter too often, but when I want the post to have legs.

    I hope webpages don’t disappear. I like them for their unique designs that reflect the person (in most cases the author).

    Like

    • beckylevine says:

      I’ve been trying to shorten, too. For all the editing I’ve done, you’d think I’d be better at it!

      I like that idea–a post with legs. 🙂

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  6. I rarely read blogs anymore. Most are too long. I follow people on Twitter, but the more content they point me to, the less time for blog reading. I enjoy the interaction of Facebook. I don’t understand why a published author wouldn’t have a fan page.

    I was a kid who read the cereal box and I see the internet as a giant cereal box. Hard to stop reading.It’s about time. There is so much content, I could spend all available time reading other people’s writings and not get to my own.

    Like

    • beckylevine says:

      This is what I think I see a trend in, Terri. It seems people are spending less time with blogs. I don’t know where that’s taking things, though–if blogs will retain a use or not.

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  7. All right, Becky. I’ll play. But you need to understand that I can’t even figure my blog yet! Luddite, you say. Perhaps, but I prefer the twittering of the birds outside my window to the twittering on Twitter. 🙂 I’ll respond quickly to your questions below.

    Where do you make your first online “acquaintance” with an author or reader these days? My website.

    Do you spend as much time reading and commenting on blogs as you used to? How do you think your blog-reading pattern has changed. I don’t generally comment on blogs. Yours is one of the first!

    Where do you go to find information about an author? Their website.

    What do you enjoy about blog reading? I’m not sure I enjoy it. It takes so much time away from writing stories.

    What do you enjoy about Twitter and/or Facebook? I hate Twitter, but love Facebook. I don’t yet understand how Twitter works. Facebook seems so intuitive and friendly. I loved it from the start. I can be a little mouse and peek in on friends, family, and stars I don’t even know.

    Have you played with following any author Fan pages. What do you think of the process/experience? I don’t get the Fan pages.

    Where do you think your online community has its strongest base?
    I don’t really have a strong online base. Most folks contact me through my website, but that’s because my blog’s goal from the start was not about networking, but just to be there for students and teachers to check in on when I do school visits.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Marsha, Thanks for taking the time to comment! I think you’re saying what a lot of writers feel–that a website/blog gives us a place to focus our online time, without spending tons and tons of hours reacting to the other stuff.

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  8. But I am wondering if we’re in another of those transition times, when the online world–and how people use it–is shifting. Yet again.

    I think of it more like the web is always in transition … once in a while some new online place becomes more or less trendy, but that mostly things are always shifting over time, and there’s no one place things are ever going to stay. Constant change as the only constant, and all that. 🙂

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    • beckylevine says:

      Yeah, I think that’s it. Feels like the web just keeps getting more & more crowded with options for us to choose from. 🙂

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  9. Also I agree with everyone about facebook fan pages. I think personal pages work well, but fan pages … when established by the author, anyway … just feel kinda awkward.

    As do those moments when, say, Jane Doe asks me to become a fan of Jane Doe, and I wonder, isn’t our being “friends” enough?

    Fan pages started and maintained by actual fans are an entirely different matter, though.

    And, oddly, fan pages for musicians feel less awkward to me than those for writers. Still pondering why there.

    Like

    • beckylevine says:

      I feel very awkward about the idea of setting up a fan page, when my critique book is out. I think it’s that word “fan.” I look at the suggestions page on FB and think the same thing you do–why would I fan you, instead of friending you.

      But…a real life friend is going to set up her fan page, and I’m going to follow along for a while & study it. And I have no problem with HER doing that, so maybe i’m just being harder on strangers and on me!

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  10. Linda Covella says:

    I’m new at all this, but I also don’t like long blogs–there are too many to read to spend a lot of time on each one. It seems webpages are necessary for the basic information about an author. The webpage setup makes it easy to access the information you need. Just some quick thoughts.

    Like

    • beckylevine says:

      Thanks, Linda–I know. I so need to shorten my blogs! And I agree we do need webpages. Just wondering, though, if we will need them in the future if people start going more to FB for the same info.

      Like

      • But here’s the thing…while someone can READ the fan page without being signed up on Facebook, they can’t COMMENT or INTERACT with the person unless they signup for a Facebook account.

        As many people who are on FB, there are still a great many who want nothing to do with it.

        But you can comment and interact with someone on their blog without having to have an account anywhere.

        Like

  11. Hi Becky interesting topic,
    I like blogs and generally if I want to find out about a writer I’ll be obsessive and read their website/blog/become FB friend and maybe Twitter pal.
    I did recently become a Facebook pal of Patrick Ness’s fan club. And I love it, they email very occasionally to say look this is new etc. and so far it’s juts led me to exclusive stories just for the fans. but Patrick is in the UK and I think the authors there don;t tend to have their own blogs or even websites. often if you look them up you’re sent to the publishers page for that author which is very annoying!

    I think Susan made an interesting point too… we all tend to think that everyone Facebooks and Tweets, but many don’t. Some may be far more comfortable anonymously checking out their fav authors on a website or blog. I think Twitter has some kind of amazing drop off rate like 60%. So 6 in 10 try it and never go back!

    Phew long reply! I use Twitter just to catch up on anything interesting but rarely tweet myself. I check facebook pretty often and use it as a water cooler!

    Cheers,
    Keely

    Like

    • beckylevine says:

      Keely–wow, that’s an amazing stat, but I can believe it. Good to hear you really use the blogs to follow a writer. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      Like

  12. Shawna says:

    Very interesting topic! My SO and I were just talking about why people blog or use other social media formats. (I plan on blogging about it soon)

    To answer some of your questions… I don’t follow blogs as much as I used to but I have less time to do so. Twitter is nice for me because it’s relatively immediate so in the past few months, I’ve ‘met’ more authors on Twitter than on blogs. I also use Twitter to check out blogs or websites of people who interest me. In fact, if you tweet that you have a new blog, I’m more likely to read it because I don’t check my Google reader as often as I should.

    That said, I do love to read blogs and I don’t see that they are a thing of the past, yet. I think websites are the base and perhaps they are becoming a little passé unless they are more fluid, such as yours, where you can learn about an author’s upcoming books, perhaps read an excerpt…

    I’ve never seen a FB fan page so I can’t comment, but that says enough in itself. : )

    Like

  13. Coming at this issue as a web developer, I advise clients of mine that create content themselves such as writers, artists, musicians, bands, graphic designers etc that you do need a ‘home’ on the web, and by home I mean a place that you control and this usually means your own domain i.e. http://www.yourname.com.

    This may start out as a blog, but more and more it is becoming a hub that links out to your other ‘locations’ on the web such as twitter, facebook, flickr, even Amazon for those with products for sale there. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of the entity that controls your presence such as facebook, twitter and so on… what if you get banned from facebook? or they change the terms of service to non-commercial use only? This is why I recommend investing the time and effort into your own domain and then pulling in your content from these other sites, because then you are in a much better position but can still benefit from the visibility and social interaction from these sites.

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