Discerning the mess of Statuses, Notes, Updates and Tweets

In which I try to make sense of updates, statuses, text notes, tweets and the like.

EDIT: Changed content to reflect changed opinion after discussion on the indieweb IRC channel

When I was looking around other peoples indieweb implementations and specifications, one the simplest and at the same time most confusing things I came across was this notion of a short textual note/status/update/tweet. (I think including ‘tweet’ on that list is justified as twitter did so much to influence this content type).

There is little documentation on the differences between these various types — indeed, it took me some time to even figure out that they were different. The most important thing to consider is the distinction between ‘content’ and ‘activity’. Namely:

  • Content = ‘works’ (photos, blog posts, audio recordings etc) created by an author and published somewhere
  • Activity = notifications that a person (author or otherwise) has done something (designated by a verb e.g. ‘share’, ‘post’), often relating to a piece of content

Taking this into account, I consider these pseudo-similar content types to actually be a mixture of content, activity and syndication. Namely:


A note is a content type. It should be used to designate a piece of (probably plain text, possibly with some formatting) content that’s purpose is similar to an ‘article’/blog post but lacks structure. Notes should be considered equal in status and meaning to blog posts I now consider a note to be a short, plaintext formatted piece of usually informal content with a short intended lifespan. I consider them to not be equal in status to the more meaty and meaningfull blog post type.

Activitystreams Spec: URI Wiki (Note that I disagree with their example, I think that is better expressed as a status and that notes should be more meaningful) I now agree with their example

A status is a content type that represents a less meaningful piece of plain text data etc (snipped) I now consider a status to be more in line with the AS definition (see wiki below). As yet I am unsure whether it should be content or activity. I don’t have to worry about it too much though, as I’m not planning on implementing it :P.

Activitystreams Docs: URI Wiki

Historically a ‘status’ is used in UIs as a subtitle below a user’s name, used to indicate their current activity or mood.


update Is a verb that should be used to describe an activity such as changing personal details e.g. ‘Barnaby Walters updated his contact details’. I don’t think it should be used to express a change to an article but I can’t justify it solidly so it may be bes used for that too.

ActivityStreams Spec: URI Wiki


A tweet is a type of syndication representing a piece of 140 character plain text content distributed by Twitter. A tweet may express an activity or a post, and (on indiewebsites) usually includes a link back to the original content.


Tantek Çelik’s stream contains excellent examples of the ‘note’ content type being equal in status to the ‘article’ content type. Note that as of my change of opinion, most of Tantek’s notes would actually count as articles, as they have useful time-independant meaning.

On my own stream, the recent (as of initial publish) Excellent Customer Service content is an example of a rather dolled up ‘note’ — it has little structure and is significantly shorter than an ‘article’ (such as this behemoth) but is equal in status I now consider this sort of content to be an article.

Examples of statuses notes are easy to come by — I estimate 95% of non-spam tweets satisfy the note spec. Here’s one of mine. Here are some more, ‘cause they’re fun to write:

Just got an ice cream. WOOOO ICE CREAM

Finished scraping ebony and now my snot is black. Great.

You get the idea.

Currently here on WaterPigs.co.uk I am differentiating between updates and notes, but not statuses. This is something I’ll be remedying soon. Right now I’m differentiating purely between articles and notes. More content types and interfaces will be added as per the roadmap.