31 May 2011

Hashing Out a Champion

Hash marks in football.
Obviously, it’s been a while since my last post here. The reasons are many, and the excuses are mundane, but I’m still closely following the innovations and acquisitions going on at Twitter.

I will be finalizing and posting some of the drafts entries I constructed in the past few months, if only to create an accurate archive of events. Until then, I just wanted to let you know that I‘m still here, I’m still writing, and I‘m still trying to join the flock.

In the meantime, I want to point you to the recent update Twitter sent out regarding Tweets during the Champions League Final. I was surprised that the number trumped those during the 2010 World Cup, but still fell short of both the Super Bowl and New Year’s Eve—despite the size of the each team’s worldwide following. As the number of people using Twitter grows everyday, it shouldn’t be long before another globally shared event trumps the Tweets-per-second record holder.

I’m obviously glad the number of users is growing, and hope to be a part of their continued success some day soon. If that gets any closer, I’ll let you know when I see you see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

10 March 2011

Headed SXSW

Today I travel back to Austin for SXSW 2011. I love this conference. Yes, it’s too big. Yes, it’s fraught with distractions. Yes, it can destroy you. But I love it because with so many great minds converging in one place at one time, the unplanned is as important as the planned.

I have a staggering wish list of panels and parties and performances, but the most valuable moments for me are the one-on-one connections that occur outside the scheduled events. Running into friends on the street. Making new contacts as a presentation empties out. Discovering a great new band as you’re looking for your next caffienated beverage. These moments bring me back.

I’ll try to continue to post from Austin, hopefully sharing some of the nuggets I’ve captured at the end of each day. If you don’t hear from me, don’t worry; I’m probably standing a few feet away from a cranked Marshall stack, with a big grin on my face, sharing my geo-tagged images on Twitter. Please know, though, that I’ll try my damnedest to see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

07 March 2011

Twitter’s Artistic Sheen

Special art.
On Sunday afternoon, after catching up on one of my favorite podcasts, I noticed an exchange that I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss: a moment of almost pure commerce on Twitter.

Taking inspiration from the very public unravelling of Charlie Sheen, Mule Design Co-founder, designer, and artist, Mike Monteiro, created another one of his signature pieces of art. He posted it on Twitter. It was publicly admired. And it sold. Quickly. Very quickly.


Now, the application I have been churning on for months would be very helpful here, if I ever get it finished. Information was shared, interest was expressed, and a transaction was conducted. But both parties still needed to leave the Twitter interface to complete it. Why can’t we implement something that allows the transaction inside Twitter?

This is the problem I have been trying to solve. I think it would be a huge advantage for non-profits, small businesses, and corporations alike. Think of it as the same democratization that Square is bringing to vendors. Or what texting donations did for disaster relief. The advantage for Twitter is that it will enable users to complete any transaction from within their framework, keeping users on their site, in their application, and, potentially, seeing their ads.

Mike Monteiro’s art sale exemplifies why I think building a transaction engine into Twitter is important, and why I have been spending considerable time and effort on it. While it won’t be ready for release in time for SXSW, I hope to have it done soon. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on its progress when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

05 March 2011

Twitter iPology

Quick barred.
Twitter launched its new applications for the iPad and iPhone on Thursday afternoon. The announcement touted new features including easier photo uploading, link shortening, and friend finding. And one more thing: the Quick Bar. Then the backlash began.

In the new versions of the apps, the Quick Bar lets you see Trending Topics displayed in a bar at the top of the screen. The constant stream of topics was ostensibly designed to keep people informed about what was going on in the world right now. But instead, it seemed to—
at best—distract, and—at worst—annoy.

Twitter’s Communications Team responded to reporters who were echoing user criticisms of the new changes, but they did so from their own accounts, not the Twitter Comms handle. But what I think is most interesting about this is the fact that Twitter used its own service to improve itself.

Twitter Creative Director Doug Bowman sent out a message that illustrates this best. He acknowledged the feedback he was seeing, and let everyone know publicly that Twitter was talking their opinions into consideration while designing improvements.

Twitter for iPhone users, hang in there. We're listening. http://t.co/CCW5pgYless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

In the fall of 2010, the iPhone made up only 8% of Twitters usage. Now, Twitter for iPhone ranks third in the list of how we access Tweets. But the public discourse that erupted about the new applications wasn’t limited to just iPhone and iPad owners; it made it into everyone’s streams of updates, no matter how they were logged on.

By late Friday, Twitter had submitted a new version of the applications to the iTunes store. As we wait for Apple’s approval process, let’s remember that this rapid response is an excellent example of the type of customer service available through Twitter. In a very public forum, Twitter is able to transform an imperfect product into a product perfected.

I’m anxious to see what they come up with as a solution, since this will presumably be the framework upon which they build some sort of advetising model. But that still seems a little bit farther off. Maybe we can discover it together when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

04 March 2011

Selecting a Social Solution

Twitter versatile.
Today’s post is only tangentially related to Twitter. Embedded below, thanks to Storify, is something I constructed quickly for a client who was recently contemplating whether or not to implement a social media campaign. They were asking a lot of the same questions about adding a social layer to their existing marketing and public relations efforts that many non-profit organizations are finally asking. I want to share it with you for a couple of reasons:

I want to know what you think.
I want you to use it for yourself.
I want you to improve on it.

There’s a lot to digest for newcomers to the social landscape, and I tried to point out the benefits of diving in while addressing some of the potential hurdles.

If you have thoughts, I would love to hear them. Otherwise, I’ll get back to sharing some more Twitter-specific information when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

03 March 2011

Vanity Square

Status conscious.
This month’s issue of Vanity Fair features a great piece about one of Twitter’s founders and former CEO, Jack Dorsey. Writer David Kirkpatrick talked to friends, family, mentors, and collaborators to create a profile of a introverted innovator obsessed with simplifying patterns for a more elegant every-day.

“I think Twitter is the future of communications, and Square will be the payment network. We’re going big.”
Jack Dorsey- Vanity Fair, April 2011

Believe it or not, I met Mr. Dorsey once. He was quiet, polite, and gracious with a few moments for me—all before going onstage to fill in for a delayed Biz Stone at the first @SFGiants Tweetup.

In my brief time with him, I was able to discern Mr. Dorsey’s desire, as the article points out, to do good with gadgets that are great. But what surprised me most about the insights in the article—besides finding out Mr. Dorsey had a nose ring, too—is the personality similarities evident in those responsible for the early days of Twitter.

The visionaries behind Twitter all seem to place emphasis on similar things: simplicity, ingenuity, urbanity, and generosity. These qualities seem imbued in the partners’ product as well as the company’s culture. No wonder so many want to work there. And all Jack wants to do is run New York City. It’s good to have goals. One of my short-term objectives is to see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

02 March 2011

Dude, Where's My Cryptology?

Locks of love.
Where are you reading this post? In a coffee shop? The lobby of your hotel? At an airport? There’s a good chance that if you are using a public WiFi spot for your access, your Twitter account might be vulnerable to attack.

Just look at what happened to Ashton Kutcher while he was at the TED Conference today in Long Beach, California. While logged in to his Twitter account over the Long Beach Performing Arts Center’s network, someone hacked into his account and sent a couple of updates.

Socket to ya.

Now, there was no real harm done; in fact, the prankster used the opportunity to point out the vulnerability in sharing private credentials on public networks.

The basic issue is not where you use the Internet, but what protection the sites you use provides. Ever since Firesheep was unveiled a few months ago, this issue has gotten more coverage. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have added SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) options to their processes, but wider-spread changes have been slow, and not all users are taking advantage of them. Even Twitter had to point out its availability after the Kutcher stunt.

As our expectations for constant connection grows, the burden for keeping our confidential information safe falls not just on our common sense, but also to the entities we choose to entrust with it. So, before you log in here to leave a comment, make sure your connection is secure. If it’s not, hold your thoughts, and share them with me when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

01 March 2011

What Is and What Should Never Be

Happy Twitterversary.
Today marks the one year anniversary of Sean Garrett’s tenure as a Vice President of Communications. I was hoping to be a part of his team by now, but I’ve yet to make that a reality. It seems not-so-long-ago when friends were sharing open positions at a little start up in SOMA called Twitter. One offer was for a “Founder Associate.” Another was for a “Communications Associate.”

“Twitter is defining a new form of communication that is touching people’s lives across the world. We are small but well-funded and building a company to last. We are currently a team of 25 and looking for a few key people who will help take us to the next level.”
Twitter Founder Associate Job Description- Jobscore, 16 March 2009

Both positions seemed exciting, new, and unknown, but I was happy where I was, and had no reason to leave. I was already using Twitter—a lot. I was even using it in my job. And even though I was a tireless advocate of its uses, potential, and evolution as a new communications platform, working there never seemed to make sense. All that changed once It's power to do good started to become more apparent to me.

It’s no secret that when I first moved out to California my goal was to join the forces of good at Google.org. But as their priorities changed, I found myself looking for somewhere else to aim my corporate social responsibility ambitions. I was working for the Intel Education Foundation, but I knew that their focus—and funding—was limited. I longed to find a place to make a greater impact.

Other jobs have come and gone, most with non-profits, and some simply to fund an increasingly more expensive San Francisco existence, but I still feel driven to put my knowledge to use helping others. That doesn’t mean that Twitter’s recent rejection of my advances to join the flock hurts any less; it just means that I need to fine-tune my focus for getting in the door. So my new aim is to harness my interests to bridge the gaps between Twitter’s Communication, Media, and Philanthropic teams.

The details of my focus, what I can offer, and the strategy for getting there are still emerging. But they all start with finishing the application I have been trying to build on the Twitter API for the last few months. Harnessing information and redirecting it into action remains my new creation’s goal. As we’ve seen in northern Africa, information is at its most meaningful when it’s acted upon. So I hope to create an end product which will make that divide much smaller.

As usual, I’ll keep you updated on things as they progress. And I’m sure I’ll post a distraction or two about Twitter news in the meanwhile. But I’ll keep building. And writing. And trying to join the flock, while looking for you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

23 February 2011

Converging Philanthropic Interests

Ready to win the future.
Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone is in Washington D.C. today, announcing that he is joining the efforts of ConvergeUS. The live event will highlight how to amplify the efforts of technology, non-profit, governmental, and academic entities in creating social innovation.

I hope they touch on the difficulty of implementing widely adoptable pedagogical changes in a climate of reduced education funding. If ConvergeUS wants to make some real changes, I hope it focuses on using technology to make education less expensive, and teachers more valued. If they come up with anything, we can evaluate it when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

16 February 2011

In the Fresh Air Biz

Twitter frequency.
Although I’m still trying to sort out my feelings over Twitter’s rejection of my advances, I thought I would still let you know that tomorrow’s “Fresh Air” will feature Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone. According to their promotion, the conversation will center on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech at George Washington University.

Give it a listen when it airs, or from their site, or through the podcast, and we can talk about it if I feel discussing Twitter when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

14 February 2011

Shot to the Heart

Be mine.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and today’s post was going to be my love letter to Twitter. It was going to compliment. It was going to flatter. It was going to woo. It was going to court. But before I could post it here, Twitter sent its own Valentine to me. And I’m not pleased.

This blog originally started as a means to document my affection for, and appreciation of, Twitter. I was chronically my learning process while creating better journalism, philanthropy, and information with help from the Twitter API. The goal was to join the flock. When a Communications Coordinator position opened earlier this month, the timing couldn’t have been better. I have a work history I am proud of; I have been an avid Twitter user since 2007; and I have this collection of posts about Twitter which show my passion and interest in almost everything they do.

Unfortunately, it seems, these are not enough. The HR Department thinks I’m not qualified to even meet with the Twitter Communications Team. I would love to be able to make my case to them directly, to see if I would be a good fit. But it seems I’ll have to wait a little longer for that opportunity. Maybe at SXSW.

In the meantime, I’m trying to keep my hopes up, and my motivation high. I’m debating whether to take a break from posting here, but that decision won’t be clear unless and until I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

12 February 2011

Getting the Message

Yesterday’s dawn of a new political reality in Egypt grew in no small part from the ingenuity of its people. When President Hosni Mubarak sealed off channels of transmitting communications out of the country, he thought he had contained the growing tide of rebellion against him. Through innovation, determination, and courageousness, the enraged Egyptian people were able to dodge the digital blockades put in place by their repressive government. Sharing opinions, preparing plans, executing action, they forced the world to take notice. Right?

How many populations of repressed people were able to follow what was happening in Tahrir Square? Do farmers in China know they have the same power to overthrow their leaders? What about workers in North Korean? Or Buddhists in Burma? Knowledge is like a conversation; it’s a two-way street. For someone to share what they’ve learned, someone else must be listening.

I’d like to go on and on about how Twitter, and other evolving information networks, will eventually bring freedom and the end of oppression to nations across the globe. But if ruling regimes are censoring what knowledge their people have access to, how will these populations discover what else is possible? And without this knowledge, how can they put any of it to use?

I am ecstatic about the gains the people of Egypt and Tunisia have carved out for themselves. But my enthusiasm is tempered by the realization that not everyone was free to see these steady strides to sovereignty. Despite the best efforts of these recently deposed dictators, information leaked out. Now, we need to find a way for information to leak in. It’s a new dimension to this inspiring story that I’ll keep in mind as I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

11 February 2011

Wow. #jan25 #feb11 #egypt #18days

At the risk of my clumsy and quickly composed words getting in the way of the real, raw, revelatory emotion of Egypt’s momentous shift in government today, I share with you a moment of from one of the "أصوات مصرية." Here is Wael Ghonim’s reaction to the announcement that Hosni Mubarak is stepping down as president of the country he has ruled for almost 30 years.

Here's to an even more free ‘morrow, on the Web.

10 February 2011

More than Twinfluence

A San Francisco treat.
We can no longer ignore Twitter’s growing influence in recording—and affecting—
world events. We have bee using Twitter to follow breaking news more and more. Today, as the questions around the stability and infrastructure of Egypt’s government began to get answered, Twitter hosted a live discussion of world events with Susan Rice, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

Egypt has been dominating the news for almost two weeks now, with Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms an integral part of the coverage. And the coverage of the coverage.

On these platforms, we are building better sources. We are building better discussions. We are building better information. It’s hard to image that this is what the creators of twttr had in mind when they designed the service in 2006.

Take a moment to ponder that, and we can talk about it when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

04 February 2011

The Journey to Join the Flock

Applying myself.
So, it’s finally happened: Twitter is looking for a new Communications Coordinator. These posts started as a way for me to chronicle getting better aquatinted with the Twitter API, in the hopes that building something would make me a more attractive candidate. Although my progress has been slow, the motivation to document how Twitter is being used in journalism, philanthropy, and information dissemination—areas I’m focusing on in my API creation—has allowed me to watch and comment on Twitter’s growing importance in drafting our history.

I’ll get back to those observations soon, but right now, I have a resume to submit. Wish me luck. And if you have any influence, and think I deserve a chance to talk to Sean Garrett and his team about what I can bring to Twitter, please let me know. But wait until I see you see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

03 February 2011

Soulless Soles

Kenneth Cole reaction.
Previous posts have focused on how people handle mistakes on Twitter. There are plenty of other posts about just one recent NPR incident. But what happens when your mistake is that of poor taste? Thanks to Kenneth Cole, now we know.

Earlier today, the Kenneth Cole account—featuring updates from both the brand and the man—sent out an unseemly Tweet, seemingly trying to turn the chaos in Egypt into consumption of their new collection.

Consuming chaos.

And then the Internet went crazy. And rightly so. But before we go too far, I want to point out that unlike some other corporate accounts, this post was populated by the man behind the brand. Sure he has a staff which sends updates on the company’s behalf, but as noted on the account’s page, Mr. Cole does some of the Tweeting himself. When your name is your brand, you run the risk of saying—or doing—something stupid, hurting both.

“Thoughts that end in -KC are from me personally; others are behind the seams insights from my inspiring associates.”
Kenneth Cole- Twitter, 05 October 2009

As any “Communications Consultant” worth their salt will tell you, it’s what you do after a mistake that matters. In Mr. Cole’s case, he sent out an equivocating update. Then, presumably upon additional reflection, he sent an apology pointing to a Facebook explanation. And then, he deleted the offending Tweet. Let me repeat that: he deleted the offending Tweet!

Twitter’s importance in the events in Egypt, and many of the recent ”Twitter Revolutions” is—and will be—argued for a while once stability is secured. But the one thing that is not debatable right now is that because of our non-stop monitoring of these events, Twitter is being watched. And watched closely.

As an attention-getter, yes, sending an update referencing Egypt will make waves. But mentioning Egypt solely to sell products is a marketing misstep that a huge number of people will notice. And discuss. Deleting the Tweet isn’t going to eliminate that conversation. It just makes people look further into what caused the ruckus in the first place. And when people can’t find the source, they look elsewhere for an explanation. And then controlling the narrative disappears.

Controlling Cole.

People make mistakes. We all have. It’s how we handle them which illustrates whether or not people will be able to trust us in the future. By deleting the initial update, Mr. Cole—and his brand—create an air of untrustworthiness, essentially saying, “When we make mistakes, we’re going to try and hide them.” The ensuing Facebook discussion is an attempt at transparency, but it’s really just window dressing. If Mr. Cole wanted to take full responsibility for his error, he would leave it up for Web searches to find, and engage in an effort to explain his thinking, apologize for the offense, and make overtures to make amends. As this is only a few hours old, there’s still time to recover, but it’s going to take a lot more than an apology on a Facebook page. Especially since we’re still watching Egypt so closely. On Twitter.

We’ll see what steps Kenneth Cole takes towards mollification in the next days and weeks. Until then, we have more important ideas to discuss. I’m almost ashamed at wasting this many pixels on Mr. Cole’s faux pas instead of pointing you toward coverage of obviously more important topics. My advice to the Kenneth Cole brand is to try regaining the narrative by making some grand gesture to Egyptians everywhere. If they do, we may hear about it on Twitter, on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

02 February 2011

Marshaling Malcolm’s Message

Writing a wrong.
Jesus Christ, he’s done it again. As if to prove that he cannot admit to being wrong, Malcolm Gladwell has weighed in, again, on whether or not the people of an oppressed country really need Twitter.

In a new online article for The New Yorker, Mr. Gladwell’s most-recent misguided missive completely contradicts Marshall McLuhan’s argument that the form of communication informs the communication.

“People with a grievance will always find ways to communicate with each other. How they choose to do it is less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to do it in the first place.”
Malcolm Gladwell- The New Yorker, 02 February 2011

In the current case with Egyptians looking to oust their president, Mr. Gladwell is missing a number of important points which make Twitter a large part of the story. Granted, without Twitter, protesters would still be protesting. But the ease and availability of information distribution through Twitter has allowed Egyptians to broadcast their grievances, rationale, and actions more quickly to a world watching the dominoes fall.

Yes, people can organize without Twitter. Yes, protesters can voice their concerns using traditional media outlets. Yes, eyewitnesses can share their accounts with anyone who asks. But our new information tools bring speed, relevance, and attention to growing unrest with remarkable alacrity.

Even when the Egyptian government tried to limit the way people communicate, information still escaped. I can’t emphasize enough how significant it is that Google set up their Speak to Tweet service over the weekend. For a company whose mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” it’s very telling that Google focused their resources on a way for the Egyptian people to stay in touch with Twitter.

I almost feel bad for Mr. Gladwell. The more he dismisses Twitter as a means for communication, the more out of touch he sounds. No, Twitter is not the reason for recent revolutions. But without it, we would not be watching. Or listening. Or learning. Which will continue when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

28 January 2011

Egypt Engaged

Bridging the divide.
We’re seeing Twitter’s force in political unrest again this week. Following the events in Tunisia, people around the Middle East are coming together, in online forums and in city plazas, to bring change to the regimes they have been enduring for decades.

This afternoon, The Poynter Institute will be hosting a live chat with NPR Senior Strategist Andy Carvin about the role social media has been playing in Egypt, and presumably Tunisia. The chat starts in a few minutes, so head over there now, and I’ll see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

26 January 2011

Following Distinctions

Connecting to Twitter Communications.
Did you notice a change on your favorite Twitterer’s home page today? Initially, I didn’t (because I use Brizzly, most of the time), but I did get a heads-up from The Next Web.

The new feature helps put any user into greater context for you. By adding a little insight into common connections, you get a better perspective of any interests you may share. But Connections doesn’t yet go far enough. Maybe this is the first step to a followers recommendation engine?

Before we go on, let’s clarify one important thing: Connections does not show you users who are following you both. That notification only comes when you get the e-mail from Twitter alerting you to a new follower. Let’s look at an example:

Because I want to work on his team, I am following Sean Garret. When I visit his Twitter profile page, I know he has 6,747 followers (and counting), and is following 818. But the only way for me to know which accounts he follows who are following me is in the notification I get when Mr. Garrett follows me. Which he doesn’t. So I don’t know.

As I understand the new system, “Also followed by” is a list of the people who show up on both of your “Following” lists. Continuing with the Sean Garrett profile, of the 818 accounts he follows, I’m only following 15. Those 15 show up in the “Also followed by” list. I follow Twitter Comms. He follows Twitter Comms. Twitter Comms is not following me. But they are on the “Also followed by” list because I follow Twitter Comms and he follows Twitter Comms.

Also followed by.

“You both follow” is a list of people in their “Followers” list who you are following. As I mentioned, Sean Garrett has 6,747 followers. But of those 6,747 followers, I’m only following 15. Again, Twitter Comms is following him. I am following him. Twitter Comms is not following me. But they are on the “You both follow” list because I follow Twitter Comms and Twitter Comms follows him.

You both follow.

It’s a delicate distinction, I know, but an important one. Twitter’s site does not yet have a way of showing me that Mr. Garret is following someone who is following me but who I am not following back.

I’m missing something.
(Image thanks to @teleject.)

At this point, the information provided is only a little enlightening. Sure, you can see which accounts you are both following, and which accounts you follow that are also following them. But I want to know more. I want to learn about another user who is already vetted by someone I trust. What we need is a way to discover a user who is following us, but we’re not following back yet, even though someone we trust is following us both. If Twitter wants to help us find interesting, informative new accounts to follow, we need an easier way to find out from our curated sources who trusts us, and rely on those connections to expand our own trusted authorities.

This update comes at a great time for me, however. I think I’m building an application that will use this new addition to put Twitter’s information engine to greater use for finding out what’s important to you. I’m making steady progress in learning the Twitter API, and have a few ideas on how to build my first application. With this new addition, I might not have to create as much of this code on my own—which is good, because I still have a lot to learn when it comes to coding. But I can tell you more about that when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

22 January 2011

Twinner, Twinner, Chicken Dinner

The fine art of winning.
Last night, Twitter won “Best Overall Startup or Product of 2010” at the fourth annual Crunchies Awards here in San Francisco.

Accepting the award was Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who was also a nominee in the “CEO of the Year” category. In a brief conversation with TechCrunch Founder Michael Arrington, Mr. Costolo shared some insight into Twitter’s future, and what he believes is their greatest challenge: international growth.

TechCrunch has compiled all the nominees and winners, and collected some video highlights for you—it’s almost like being there, without the Uber ride home. I hope you get more of the inside jokes than I did. If you do, please explain them to me when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

21 January 2011

Governor’s Gaffe?

How do you spell #oops?
Yesterday, I mentioned that the new governor of Florida, Rick Scott, was holding a Twitter Town Hall. Since I had some free time, and was interested in what he would use his 140 characters to say, I tuned in. A lot of people did.

As the more than 30-minute session drew to a close, reports estimated that questions were coming in at a rate of two per second. Now, nobody could answer that many queries in one half-hour sitting, but the deluge gave the governor a great excuse to avoid some of the more pointed interrogations.

I’ll leave the political punditry about which he addressed, which he avoided, and which he ignored to others; I just want to highlight a couple of updates that Florida’s new governor decided were poignant enough to share with all of his followers.

The moment getting most of the press was towards the end of the Twitter Town Hall where Mr. Scott—apparently accidentally—Retweeted a question calling him, “jackass.” Now, I assume it was an accident, because moments later, the update had been deleted from the governor’s stream.

One of these things is not like the other.

You can also see it in this shot from the site that Ron Sachs Communications put together to view all submitted questions next to Governor Scott’s feed.

Executive error.

But the Retweet I think everyone missed was the one which originated from a parody Rick Scott account. I don’t think Florida’s new head of the executive branch really wants Floridians to move to Canada for better health care, do you?

Reverse snowbirds?

Mistake? Probably. Entertaining? Definitely. The ease for errors during something like this is pretty high. Especially when you don’t bother updating more than 24 hours later. But we can talk about correcting Twitter mistakes on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

20 January 2011

Tweeting a More Perfect Union

Elected to Twitter.
By now you know that I have an affinity for using Twitter as a platform for a more open democracy. There are two events today that I want to point you to which use Twitter to bridge the gap between the people and our government.

First, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs again took questions from followers for about an hour today. An interesting answer Mr. Gibbs gave concerned the Twitter account he‘s currently using: François Larouche asked about the status of the account after Mr. Gibbs leaves his post in early February. In his reply, Mr. Gibbs said that he’s leaving the account to his successor, and hoped that the next Press Secretary would continue using it in a similar manner.

Next, Florida’s new governor, Rick Scott, is hosting what he’s calling a “Twitter Town Hall.” Now, I’m no fan of Governor Scott, but I applaud his attempts at open government. We’ll see how many probing questions actually get answered. But for now, all we can do is put hope in the power of Twitter, and Florida’s Sunshine Law.

If you want to follow the conversation later, take a look at the site Ron Sachs Communications has set up (especially since the Twitter link on the governor’s home page connects you to the wrong account). You’ll be able to see all the questions posted, in addition to the answers Governor Scott chooses to answer.

I’ll be watching, and I hope you will be, too. We can talk about the results when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

19 January 2011

Making Facebook Make News

Facebook Media and the message.
Facebook is playing catchup. At least that’s what it feels like.

After visiting them last night for the “ONA SF - Facebook Strategies for Online Journalists Meetup,” I get the impression that Facebook wants desperately to be a part of journalists’ lives. But, unlike Twitter, Facebook has yet to be integrated into most news organizations’ daily operation for anything more than promotion. One exception to that rule is NPR.

During his portion of the evening, NPR Senior Strategist Andy Carvin shared some of the many ways they are using Facebook, as well as other social tools, to create, evaluate, and circulate stories to their audience. Additionally, he shared some recent survey results and metrics about audience usage, engagement, and page views.

What I found most important about NPR’s social tools use is that every effort is made to support their broader mission: to create a more informed public. But what I find lacking in their Facebook efforts is not NPR’s fault; it’s Facebook’s.

In the evening’s introduction, Facebook Director of Media Partnerships Justin Osofsky highlighted the resources available on the Facebook + Media page. Sure, there are success stories and best practices, but most point to story distribution and audience engagement. While these are very important for creating and keeping consumers of content, they don’t provide any tools for creating content itself. The next shift for media organizations has to be building social tools for making great content quickly.

Another interesting observation from my trip to Palo Alto was that not one person in the room, during any presentation or subsequent Q&A, said the the word “monetize.” Although I was thankful that the discussion didn’t get hijacked by a debate on how media organizations can make money using Facebook, I was surprised that there was no pragmatic advice on how to effectively and efficiently use limited resources on efforts which yielded no increased income for a struggling industry.

I understand that Facebook is good at letting media brands interact with their users, if they choose to invest the time to do so. What’s more important to me right now, however, is how Facebook, and any other social or online tool, can help news people more easily create good journalism. Twitter is great for breaking news. Facebook is great at sharing news. Who will make it easy to create news? A question that will go unanswered until I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

18 January 2011

An Evening at Facebook

Today’s post is just a quick note to tell you where I’m headed tonight: Facebook.

No, I haven’t changed allegiances. No, I don’t think they are Twitter-killers. And no, I’m not headed south to get a piece of the Goldman Sachs stock sale.

I will be joining a Meetup with Justin Osofsky, director of media partnerships at Facebook (and not on Twitter); Andy Carvin, senior strategist for social media desk at NPR; and Levi Sumagaysay, Good Morning Silicon Valley blogger/producer, to discuss digital journalism. In light of how Mr. Carvin dominated how I followed the events in Tunisia, I felt like I couldn’t pass this up. Plus, We’re both part of an extended NPR family.

So, I’m headed to Palo Alto to find out what I can find out, and learn as much as I can learn. I hope to tell you all about it on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

17 January 2011

Was Tunisia a Twitter Revolution?

Twitter will be televised.
Have you seen any of the news coverage of the events in Tunisia? Where is the press getting all this, only from Twitter? Have they been fact-checking any of these updates? Do they need to fact-check the updates they see on Twitter? Do journalists look into other eyewitness reports? Or are they just reporting them verbatim because they’re on Twitter?

And, doesn’t it seem like their only source for breaking news these days is Twitter? How many stories did you see on television in the past week that used Twitter as at least one of the information sources? Are you even watching televised news any more?

Is this such a bad thing? Can you think of the last time you heard about breaking news first on any other source? Sully on the Hudson? Michael Jackson’s death? The latest earthquake?

Doesn’t it seem like newspeople are investigating fewer leads? Are they just turning to Twitter because they’re lazy? Do they explore their curiosities about anything else? Have they missed any important local stories because they’re too busy watching their Twitter stream?

Who is gathering your news? Should we be gathering it for ourselves? From Twitter? All these interrogatives leave me wondering, “will I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web?”

14 January 2011

Tweeting Toward Revolution

Parti Pirate Tunisien.
Yesterday, I focused on the prospects of bringing real change to people’s lives through Twitter. Although the post was inspired by what I was seeing happen in Tunisia, it was not directly about the reports of the uprising, just some observations about how the reports were being curated.

Today, we have witnessed the results of those collective voices: change. While some U.S.-based news organizations were reporting on man versus machine or (wo)man versus dog, other news organizations were reporting on man versus movement.

Now the debate about Twitter’s role in the outcome has begun. The opinions are many, and, at the time of this writing, I have only been able to digest a few. Life’s Little Boxes has some thoughts about Twitter as a means of information distribution. The New York Times credits the acceleration of the protests to the heavy use of social media. And GigaOm uses the moment to rehash the “Twitter as force for change” discussion that came to a head last October.

No matter your opinion of Twitter’s role in the ousting of an authoritarian regime, it’s comforting to know that the tools for change are becoming more available to people around the globe. The fact that more than 40 percent of all Twitter usage occurs on mobile devices is a large reason for this. People on the ground, in the middle of growing protest and unrest, can share captured moments, thoughts, and events to a vastly wider audience. While we run the risk of making more of a moment than we should, the amplification of an uprising can now be more quickly validated as more eyewitnesses get to tell their tales.

Twitter will continue to be used in movements across the globe, whether for organizing or broadcasting. My hope is that we continue creating tools to help drive information into action. Including seeing you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

13 January 2011

The Real Value of Twitter

No to murder.
Can Twitter save lives? According to Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in the 04 October 2010 issue of The New Yorker, the connection between updates and action is too far removed to have a real impact on lives. Some disagree. And if the social gadgets Andy Carvin is putting together really work, we could be seeing the start of Twitter tools that change all that.

“Lowering the barrier to activism doesn't weaken humanity, it brings us together and it makes us stronger.”
Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone- The Atlantic, 19 October 2010

In an ongoing effort to harness to power of social media in areas of conflict, Mr. Carvin is culling resources so that those closest to the action can get their message out to the rest of the world. His latest effort is focused on the turmoil in Tunisia. These first-hand witnesses to history are providing the most immediate—and the most poignant—perspectives of developments from inside uprisings, natural disasters, and authoritarian regimes.

Through efforts like Crisis Camp and the collection of information from within troubled territories, Twitter, and social media in general, can get the right information to the right people at the right time for them to act. The tools to get this information out exist now. Building something to make it easier to act should be the new focus.

More and more, eyewitnesses are writing the first draft of our collective history on Twitter. It’s what we do with that initial information that will decide how our history will be judged. Innovation on the Twitter platform is vital to greater information distribution. Its usefulness is still growing, and as we continue to build on top of it, the real value of Twitter will soon be realized. I’ll keep building, and see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

12 January 2011

Haiti Still Needs Hope

Haitian Red Cross.
Today, on the one year anniversary of the quake in Haiti, I want to take a brief moment to remind you not just of the devastation, but of the continued need for help.

Not soon after initial reports of the tremor, Twitter exploded with information. One vital part of the information being shared was how to help. Many people did. Many still are. But as this week’s “Frontline” pointed out, the people of Haiti are still in desperate need. Twitter’s Hope for Haiti efforts are still ongoing, and they posted a similar reminder of today’s anniversary on the Hope 140 Blog.

So, if you can, please continue whatever efforts you started when you heard Haiti was in need. Or, make your first effort now, and use your social network to encourage others to to the same. Give today, and I’ll see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

10 January 2011

Transparency on Twitter

We regret the error.
This blog focuses primarily on Twitter. But one of my bailiwicks from a past life is journalism. And while I’ve created blogs primarily devoted to the vagaries of reporting news to audiences who may—or may—not care, those have long since been put to bed. Every now and then, however, I’ll notice some news coverage which gets my dander up. This weekend’s reporting of the shooting in Tucson is the latest example.

On Sunday, I was watching “This Week” from ABC News. The episode included a piece from Pierre Thomas about the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. In an ten minute profile, one of the still images of Mr. Loughner included a caption with his name spelled incorrectly.

Not “Jarod Lee Loffner.”

Now, I understand reporting errors occur every day; this very post might even have one. But multi-million dollar news organizations should make very few of them, especially when they are devoting so many of their resources to following such a potential ratings bonanza. What’s more important to me, however, is what they do when they discover an error.

That’s why I found a discussion on a recent “On the Media” so interesting. The segment featured a conversation between co-host Bob Garfield and Craig Silverman of Regret the Error about how news organizations handle corrections, if at all. It was surprising to me how many media outlets devote so few resources to updates of erroneous stories.

“... at places like CNN and FOX News and other large broadcasters there was either very little or nothing at all when it came to error reporting mechanisms.”
Craig Silverman- “On the Media,” 24 December 2010

Coincidently, I noticed a conversation on Twitter about a very similar topic. Prompted after the Poynter Institute posted a story calling Twitter an “imperfect news channel,” the discussion (which is embedded below) included recommendations about how newsrooms could signify corrected and amended information in updates.

Correcting conversation. 
Later, ABC World News promoted a story from Monday‘s broadcast, but misspelled the name of Mr. Loughner. I sent a reply, they corrected the mistake in a new update, but made no mention that it was correcting an error. They also deleted the incorrect update. It was minor, but was it transparent?

If we are going to continue to trust news agencies online as much as we do in broadcasts, they are obliged to find a more open way to correct and notify audiences of previous mistakes. Until they do, they are missing an important part of the transparency good reporting, and journalism in general, requires.

With that off my chest, I’ll get back to building with the Twitter API, and tell you about it on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

08 January 2011

Sifting Circumstances and Shifting Sources

Congress on your corner. 
As the U.S. turned its collective attention to Arizona today, I was struck by how some news services were gathering and distributing information on the circumstances, victims, and shooter. On television, most of the coverage was comprised of speculation, assumption, and—at times—inaccurate information. Citing “sources close to the investigation” and “some of my contacts in law enforcement,” reporters on the scene, and on telephones thousands of miles away, kept misinforming their audiences during the early hours of news breaking about the attack on U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

As I caught up on the story, I turned to Twitter to find out the truth. Because I have carefully curated who I follow, I was able to trust the information I was getting from them, and their sources. The most active, and by far most reliable, stream of information came from NPR’s Social Media Desk Senior Strategist Andy Carvin. He was tracking the story on Twitter as well as other services, continually adding updates to his Storify account of the event. Through careful curation, he could gather first-hand information from Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and other online outlets to add numerous perspectives and valuable context to unfolding events.

These days, I find Twitter, specifically the people I follow, a much more reliable place for news than any other source. I have a relationship with them. I know their biases and tendencies. I know their expertise. I trust them. I am confident that I gain a better perspective on any breaking news story on Twitter than I do flipping from channel to channel on cable TV. While I will never turn to a single source of information, I will favor Twitter’s vast variety of available experts when I need to quickly sift through a sea of speculation.

The circumstances that prompted today’s post are stunning, infuriating, and tragic. I ache for all those involved. Speculation about motives, blame, and justice are for other places on the Web. But compassion should be everywhere, no matter your political views. Please spend a moment close to the ones you love, and I hope to see more compassion on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

06 January 2011

Complete Epiphany

Choose to act.
Now this is what I’m talking about! Leave it to the man who got me into this; Dusty Reagan has created a Twitter account that closes the gap between information and action: AlmostCompleted.

As I’ve said many, many times before, gathering information is merely the start of the process when making change. The most vital part is action. What Mr. Reagan has done here further reduces the barrier between information and action. It’s fine for the Donors Choose account to let you know about their news and notable mentions, but the AlmostCompleted account now gets you closer to helping fulfill the Donors Choose mission: funding projects.

This is a great combination of context, programming, information distribution. I applaud Mr. Reagan’s efforts, but wish he went even further. How ’bout a one-click donation process? Or an accompanying site that aggregates and auto-updates all the projects close to completion? Don’t get me wrong, I love this. But I still think that there is a way to use Twitter as something more than an information network. I want to transform it to an action network. And I’ll keep trying today, and see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.