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.