Monday, January 11, 2010

blogging vs. tweeting as forms of explorative vs. exploitative learning

I have taken a leave of absence from blogging for the last 4 months, due partly to heavy work & travel schedule, but also because I wanted to focus on experimenting with tweeting as an alternative way to share ideas and information online. Unlike celebrities who need to feed their fan with their latest happenings constantly, my goal was very modest -- to share ideas or information I found interesting with my network of 500+ or so contacts on Facebook and Linkedin. I arranged for my twitter tweets to be broadcast as updates on my Facebook and Linkedin. I wasn't focused on attracting followers who do not know me.

Based on my limited experience over the last 4 months, I've found tweeting to be particularly useful as a mean to share meta-information (information about information). Tweeting is also good for sharing snippets of interesting ideas as they emerge. Its advantage is that it takes little effort, and hence can be done almost in real-time as you yourself come across the information item or idea. In fact, I've come to rely on it as a handy way to bookmark useful ideas or information items I found on the net for myself -- besides being more readily shared with others, its advantage over conventional bookmarking is that it captures the time and annotated context I found the idea/item of interest.

However, the flip side is that tweeting doesn't quite convey sufficiently the nuances surrounding an idea and the contextual rationale/implications of an information item to those we are sharing the information with. For that, blogging is a better format, where you have more rooms to elaborate on the idea, why you found it interesting, and what inputs you are seeking from others.

Browsing tweets also represents an effective way to quickly scan potentially interesting ideas and information across multiple domains of interest -- by choosing the right mix of people to follow, one can get a good feel of the pulse of any community of interest at any moment in time, and after a while, you get a sense of the flow. There is also a greater chance to encounter the kind of serendipitious learning I talked about in an earlier blog. This is different from following blogs, which require more time commitment and a stronger sense of purpose in terms of the specific kind of subject areas or topics you want to dive more into.

Tweeting and blogging thus nicely typify the difference between explorative vs. exploitative learning that I talked about a while ago. In following others' tweets, I'm in an explorative learning mode, browsing for ideas and meta-information that I might find interesting for myself or my networks. I tend to be more targeted and focused in my information search when I read blogs -- I prefer to focus on a small number of bloggers whom I know have interesting thoughts on specific topics of interest to me. This is more akin to exploitative learning. Likewise, in sharing information via tweeting, I'm sending out thoughts and ideas as they emerge, whereas in blogging, I'm in a more reflective mode, trying to synthesize ideas and thoughts that have been brewing for a while. Tweeting is to width search as Blogging is to depth search.

Of course, for someone in my profession -- academic research, education content development and start-up investing -- blogging is still very much closer to the spontaneous/explorative end in the continuum of intellectual thinking; the bulk of my thinking time remains anchored at the other half of the continuum, where highly focused information search and precisely directed exploitative analysis are essential -- that's how good quality academic journal papers are written, and that's how start-up investing due diligence and post-deal venture development work are carried out.

Explorative and exploitative learning are complementary in the intellectual pursuit of everyone. Having experimented with both blogging and tweeting, I've decided both will be an integral part of what I'll do in the future. It feels good to be back blogging again!