21 August 2013

If Tweet Then That

Make it so.
My prayers have been answered. IFTTT and Twitter have resurrected what was one of my favorite channels.

Now, we can go back to archiving our favorite Tweets. Or pushing Twitter updates to LinkedIn. Or cross-posting them to App.net.

While this is a welcome return to form, I hope that the access will open up to also include allowing for recipes from accounts we follow. I tried to make up for this deficit a few weeks ago with Yahoo! Pipes.

I was trying to create a way to get instant updates when Twitter posts to one of its now numerous blogs. So, I took all the RSS feeds that I could find for them and combined them into one feed. Then, I took that feed and created a recipe so that every time there was something new, I would get a text message.

Admittedly, it’s not working perfectly, but it’s a start. If Twitter opens up access to creating IFTTT recipes from other people’s accounts, I’ll be able to simplify this process considerably. All so that I can occasionally update this blog. We can talk about the frequency of these recently infrequent updates when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

18 April 2013

Hold Music

Alive and kicking.
Twitter Music is live. For everyone. And I’d love to tell you more about it.

But I can’t. I just can’t. Not today. 

I can’t focus on anything other than the memorial in Boston. And the FBI press conference. And the awful news coverage. And attempts at online sleuthing

So, maybe tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow. Because we all need to focus on something else. I’m open to suggestions. Give me some when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

17 April 2013

Who Broke the News?

We regret the error, again.
I’ve written here before about the tenuous equilibrium some news organizations have when trying to balance speed with accuracy. The news coming second-by-second out of Boston is no different. But with the increasing importance—and use—of social media, these institutions are proving less and less reliable.

I won’t get into a long discussion of the accounts from Boston since they are still evolving so rapidly, but here are a few collections from others about how news outlets brought us facts that weren’t. 
Next, here’s Andy Carvin’s Storify collection of incorrect reports that authorities had suspects in custody.

Finally, The Poynter Institue has a great article about the three trends they see rising thanks to continued confused reporting.

“I’ve noticed that breaking news errors also give rise to three corollary events: the debunking and crowdsourcing of information, public explanations from news organizations about how they avoided mistakes, and an unwillingness on the part of the mistaken to accept responsibility.”
Craig Silverman- Regret the Error, 18 April 2013

We’re human. We make mistakes. But with the ubiquity of amplification tools that we all have at our fingertips, these errors have the ability to become the prevailing truth, for at least a moment or two.

Our ability to quickly update and change digital editions of news accounts means that this misinformation is virtually wiped away as soon as it’s discovered. Without any lingering trace, are we learning anything when these stains are removed?

We can pick that part up when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

16 April 2013

Editors Needed

Hacks for hacks.
Yesterday’s post was part recounting, part judgement, and part therapy. But today, as reality sinks in for everyone, the role of social media is being discussed with as much vigor as the types of bombs used and the stories of people helping each other in Boston.

There are a couple of these social media discussions I want to point you to before we get into their validity.

First, take a look at this piece from Slate’s Social Media Editor, Jeremy Stahl

“Twitter is the first rough draft of journalism.”
Jeremy Stahl— Slate Social Media Editor, 15 April 2013

Mr. Stahl was also a guest Tuesday on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” which you can listen to below. Go ’head; I’ll wait.

Lastly, Tuesday’s PBS Newshour featured a conversation between their Political Editor Christina Bellantoni and “Digital Download” hosts Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn. I’ll give you a few moments for it, as well.

All of these discussions bolster some of what I was trying to say in part of yesterday’s post: The world needs editors. 

Yes, I love that anyone and everyone has access to publishing tools. Yes, we can all be citizen journalists. Yes, more information is better than less. But how on earth are we supposed to assimilate it all unless there are people to weed out fact from fiction?

Whether we call them editors or curators or producers, these functions are vital to our proper understanding of breaking news events. They cull the wheat from the chaff. Follow up on unconfirmed leads. Ignore the trolls. Yet, today’s profit-driven news organizations are eliminating these roles. So now, we need to know how to do it ourselves.

Twitter is one of the most powerful tools we can use, but I think it lacks the ease-of-use needed for most users to quickly and easily find the right information at the moment they need it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in love with Twitter. And they’ve come a long way. But I want more tools which can group relevant Tweets on a given topic.

I hear you now, “What about hashtags?” Sure, they’re great. But while I was watching the news out of Boston yesterday, there was no consistently used term for updates about what was actually going on at the site. Which should I have chosen, #Boston? #BostonMarathon? #BostonBombing

When a story like this develops, there is no official hashtag. Nor should there be. But we should be able to find updates relative to what we’re looking for without having to comb through all of the chaos. 

So, let’s build something better with news gathering in mind. If you have ideas on what other features should be included, let me know when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

15 April 2013

The News Race

Patriots’ Day.
Horrific. That’s really the only word I can use to describe the events from Boston today. I started my day with a congratulations message from Foursquare, celebrating my 4th year using the service. I had, coincidentally, even worn my Mayor shirt during my bike ride to work. I knew Foursquare Co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley was running the Boston Marathon Monday, but I had no idea as I boarded my train this morning what an effect his updates would have on me the rest of the day.

I was only mildly interested in the race, but it was fun to check in on Mr. Crowley’s updates as he made his way, mile after mile after mile, along the course. Then, after mile 22, he admitted that the hills had done him in; he was walking.

I, like many of his other followers, urged him on towards the finish. He was so close. And he was doing it for charity. So, why not? Give him some encouragement. Reassure him that we were all pulling for him. Tell him that it was mind over matter. 

We had know idea that his slowed pace may have saved him from serious injury. When the time between his updates grew longer and longer, I figured the race had beaten him. But he was still getting close to the finnish. 

Because I was refreshing just his Timeline, I was unaware of the updates that were starting to trickle in about the explosion. Then, Mr. Crowley’s feed shocked me into paying closer attention.

I started clamoring for any and every bit of new information. And it all came from  Twitter.

We’ve seen Twitter’s usefulness during breaking news events again and again and again. We’ve also seen it used in nefarious ways. But what remains constant is the immediacy of the information that we have access to because of it. 

Now, getting a deluge of Tweets from the scene of an incident is very rarely helpful. We need some perspective. We need some context. We need help. From journalists, at the very least, or from those with some sort of inherent knowledge of the evolving situation. 

Today, the most informative updates in my Twitter feed about the bombings and their aftermath came from those trained to bring information to a mass audience: Andy Carvin, Anthony De Rossa, and Michael van Poppel.

However, I don’t want you to get the impression that I think only trained journalists should be sharing on Twitter. The exact opposite, in fact. But I do want these journalists to use all the tools at their disposal to make sure what we are all Tweeting is safe and accurate for mass consumption. 

Twitter is just one verification tool, but I think it could be improved. I have selected the people I follow thanks to years of watching news organizations, and the people who work for them, figure out how to use Twitter as a part of their day-to-day news operations. Some use it to promote their stories. Some to promote their personalities. But the ones I admire, and look to on days like today, are the ones that use it to give me a better idea of what’s going on right now, right when I’m curious. Right when I need to know.

Just last month, at SXSW, I spoke with Mr. Carvin about how he uses Twitter to gather information and share it with his followers. While that’s a service he performs publicly, as we voyeuristically witness his fact-checking and dissemination, his primary focus is to gather facts which can be presented by the organization which pays his salary: NPR. His work makes their stories better. His expertise makes their stories unique. His tools, however, are available to everyone. But they could be better.

Let’s look at Twitter Lists, for instance. This is an amazing, but all-but abandoned feature of this service I love. Lists are unbelievably useful on days like this. Create a list for people running in the race. Create one for Tweets geo-located near the finnish line. A list for local news organizations. For first-responders. Or politicians. But Twitter Lists are cumbersome to create and refresh and update. 

If Twitter needs a new revenue stream, how about a paid service for news organizations, or anyone else, which allows for the simple, quick creation of an unlimited number of Lists? I’d sign up. And not just for terrible days like today.  

This is a long post, longer than I intended. But it’s the only way I know how to deal with the disturbing images, thoughts, and devastation I’ve sought out and seen today. 

To all those who worked through this ruin—the police, paramedics, doctors, nurses, firemen, journalists, runners, family, friends, fans: I admire your courage, and wish I could do something more than just bang on this keyboard. 

If you think I can help you with absolutely anything, let me know. Anytime. Like maybe when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

12 April 2013

Invite Only

I’m with the band.
Yesterday, I lamented the fact that Twitter Music is alive, yet I don’t have access to it. So, taking a page from the numerous 24-hour cable news networks, I’m going to engage in broad, opinionated speculation about what it might do, what I want it to do, and how excited we’ll all be when we finally get to try it out.

Let’s assume a few things first, since that’s where any current cable new discussion usually begins. I think it’s safe to say that part of the new service will be based on the expanded Twitter Cards introduced recently. With this new integration, partners’ applications are accessible from within Twitter’s experiences. So, you’ll be able to stream a SoundCloud clip from within Twitter. But will every music-streaming app need to develop a partnership with Twitter in order for their service to work that way? Let’s hope not. 

As of now, I’ve seen no mention of my favorite music service, This Is My Jam, being part of the Twitter Music launch. I like This Is My Jam because it provides songs from many different sources, and lets you listen to them in their entirety, unlike the shorter samples provided by for-pay services like Rdio or iTunes.

But let’s look at what else it could do. For bands, the service may be a great new revenue source. Got a show coming up? Tweet out a link to special tickets that you can only purchase from within Twitter. Have an exclusive song or early stream of an upcoming release just for followers? Post it in an update, and only give access to it if people are following you. Want your fans to help broadcast release dates or tour news? Reward those followers who ReTweet your updates with links in Direct Messages which point to other exclusive content. 

For music fans, the exclusivity and intimacy this could provide would be intoxicating. So could a robust recommendation engine based on your followers and suggestions from those you are following. And for music publications, just think of the partnerships that could be built based on followers and sharing. There could even be an entirely new singles charts built around most-Tweeted or Trending Tunes. Or, Billboard could amend their Top 100 to include Twitter listens, like they did recently with YouTube plays.

I’m itching to use Twitter Music, and can’t wait to have access. If you can help in any way, please let me know. You don’t even have to wait until I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.