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.

11 April 2013

Musically Inclined

Hunted down.
Twitter is launching a music service. This shouldn’t be news to anyone, since CNET broke the story about the We Are Hunted acquisition during SXSW. But the fact that the service is set to go live this weekend? That is big news.

Following a story from All Things D titled “Twitter’s New Music App Launches Friday,” it seems readily apparent that Twitter is set to raise the curtain on Twitter Music the same weekend that the spotlight shines on Coachella.

Of course, nothing is official until Twitter says so, and that team is still mum on the launch. But, as a side note, it is more than a little disappointing to see the launch of a new music service from Twitter without two of their biggest music fans involved: Sean Garrett and Matt Graves.

I’ve made no secret about my desire to join Twitter, especially the Twitter Communications Team. In addition to my love of (and obsession about) Twitter, both misters Graves and Garrett were large reasons why. Their passion for the service, expertise in their field, and love of music helped create the illusion of how easy it would have been for me to fit right in there, from day one.

But things change, people move on, and reality steps in. When Twitter Music finally does launch, I hope it lives up to everyone’s high expectations. We can talk about that when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

09 April 2013

News Break

Testing the patterns.
Today’s post is going to be brief because I’ve been a bit distracted. I just want point to three things I’ve seen over the last week or so that I think are interesting illustrations of Twitter’s continued march toward dominating the way we’ll get our news and information.

First, Twitter and the Weather Channel have entered a partnership which leverages the recently expanded capabilities of Twitter Cards. The deal, according to All Things D, will allow users to, “see video clips of local forecasts, severe-weather coverage, or user-generated content.” These customizable clips will let the Weather Channel to add sponsored content directly into the stream of all of their followers, with a portion of the marketing price going, presumably, to both the Weather Channel and Twitter.

Second, Bloomberg announced that it will be incorporating Twitter into its Bloomberg Professional service. This will give subscribers instant access to updates about the companies, executives, and industries that influence traders’ every decision in the same platform in which they execute those decisions. With this integration, Bloomberg has almost completely removed the barrier between intelligence and execution.

“When important news is shared on Twitter, traders and investors need to be able to access it, and validate its importance in order to incorporate that information into their decision making process.”
Jean-Paul Zammitt– Head of Bloomberg Professional Sales and Product Development, 04 April 2013

Lastly, as a final illustration of the correlation between the speed of information and profit-driven actions, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, source of the reports on our jobs numbers, released last month’s employment stats through an update the moment they were available—faster than any other news outlet.

Quartz does a good job of explaining what the process is and why it’s important, and I encourage you to take a look at their piece.

All three of these stories show the increasing willingness of some of the old guard of information providers to incorporate the strongest real-time information network available. For the companies embracing this thinking, it will be a differentiator—not just because they’re trying something new, but because what they’re trying will pay off in new ways of transforming information into action.

And that’s the whole point, right? We’ll see how it pans out for them in the days, weeks, and months to come, starting when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

08 April 2013

Hacking Humor

A silly cite.
Thanks to some wonderful serendipity, I found myself at the Twitter HQ again on Sunday, my second visit there this week. Cultivated Wit presented their second Comedy Hack Day, “an overnight hackathon that brings together comedians and developers.”

The weekend was emceed by Baratunde Thurston, and featured a panel of judges that included W. Kamau Bell, Shanti Charan, DJ Patil, and Shannon Spanhake.

One of my favorite stage demos was for HipCrax, customized wallpapers and games made specifically for the unique pattern of crazing and cracks you created that time you dropped your smartphone and shattered the screen.

“A cracked iPhone will be the ripped jeans of our generation.”
Matt Klinman– HipCrax Comedy Hack Day Demo, 08 April 2013

But the winner, and honestly, the one I can’t wait to use, was Citation Needed. You’ll win every argument from now on—whether you’re actually right, or not. This mobile app allows you to add whatever fact you need to a copied Wikipedia page, just to prove you right. It’s brilliant.

Other fun demos included Magic Story Factory, Up In A GIF, and Reality Check

In addition to guffawing, lots, I spent a good deal of time between demos talking with Christian Bøgeberg, a recruiter for Twitter. The more we talked, the more I was convinced that Twitter continues to value its people as much as its product. 

It was great to be in the Twoffice again, and I hope similar opportunities continue to come up. If you can, I encourage you to visit. You can even use Comedy Hack Day participant Fraudio for an enlightening tour of the beautiful new space on Market Street. Tell me all about it when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

04 April 2013

La Dolce Twitta

Silent movies.
One of the greatest voices on Twitter is now silent.

Pulitzer Prize winner Roger Ebert has died. Many are sharing their thoughts about his life, his influence, and his legacy, but I want to take a brief moment to talk about what he did for Twitter.

When cancer stole his ability to talk, Mr. Ebert was able to continue to communicate with us through his journal. And his Twitter feed was an almost unceasing flow of links to his thoughts on everything from movies—of course—to politics, equality, and even humor.

He helped illustrate that if you’re careful, 140 characters could be even more powerful than 140 column inches. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to imply that every update from him was a defiant dispatch against the disease which eventually stopped them. Each was urgent. Each was important. Because it would have been almost impossible for him to speak with us otherwise.

I’ve always believed that Twitter can change lives. I think it always will. Mr. Ebert’s feed helps prove that to me. Take a look at it. Keep scrolling. Go back to the beginning. It’s absolutely fascinating. And it’s just the tip of the huge iceberg that is his online contribution

As the memorials start rolling in, there will be plenty more to read. I’ll be reading as many as these misty eyes can bear. All the while, wishing that I’ll be able to witness just one more update from @ebertchicago on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

Update: In its memorial for Mr. Ebert, Chicagoist used one of my updates.


03 April 2013

As Cool As All That

Goldman is gold, man.
There’s a great new profile about Jason Goldman I think you should read. Mr. Goldman is currently Co-founder of The Obvious Corporation and board member at Branch and Medium. When I met him, he was the VP of Product for Twitter, following Evan Williams there after serving as Product Manager for Blogger at Google

The BuzzFeed piece, called “The Silent Partner,” was written by Rob Fishman. I have a few reasons for pointing it out to you.

First, it’s a great piece about what it takes to be an effective product manager in a world which values personalities over products.

Second, the article highlights one of the lesser-known architects of Twitter’s early—and continued—success.

Lastly, I feel like there is a direct connection between Mr. Goldman and this blog: He was the first person to encourage me to set my reluctance aside and reach out directly for a position at Twitter.

I met Mr. Goldman in 2010 at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. He was one of the Expert Judges for their Startup Battlefield.

Afterwards, I approached him, talked briefly about why I loved the service, what I thought it needed to do to gain wider adoption, and how I could help bring in more users. Without hesitation, he suggested I get in contact with Sean Garrett, who, at the time, was VP of Communications at Twitter.

I was then, and remain now, very grateful for Mr. Goldman’s generous time and gracious advice. Our brief conversation is basically what led to the start of this collection of posts you’ve stumbled upon here. Although I haven’t had any significant talks with him since, I think the article accurately conveys the magnanimity I found so easily while talking with him years ago.

So, enjoy the piece. And know that he’s essentially the reason these posts even exist. There will be more, and I hope you’ll read them when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

02 April 2013

Your Future is in the Cards

Costa doing business.
Twitter held a mobile platform event for developers Tuesday night to introduce their new Twitter Cards. Jason Costa, Twitter‘s Platform Lead, kicked off the evening by reiterating Twitter’s importance as a part of today’s communications landscape: More than 400 million Tweets per day, more than 60% of them from mobile devices, and more than 70% of users outside of the United States.

He then reviewed the three types of Twitter Cards currently available and in use in both the Web and mobile Twitter clients: Summary, which gives a snapshot of links and pages; Photo, which displays photos from certain sources; and Player, which allows audio and video within your feed.

“Tweet embeds and Timeline embeds generate billions of moments of engagement.”
Jason Costa– Twitter Platform Lead, 02 April 2013

Costa then turned the stage over to Reeve Thompson, Product Manager of Cards, who announced the upcoming updates to the iPhone, Android, and mobile experiences would include deep linking and three new card types: App, Product, and Gallery.

Deep linking will allow Twitter updates to contain more robust content from your app within individual updates. Users will essentially be able to launch your app from inside the mobile Twitter experience. The updated experiences will also be able to determine if you have the app already installed or not. If you have the app installed, the Tweet will include a link to open the app so you can access the content mentioned. If you don’t have the app installed, the update includes a link which will take you to the appropriate store so you can download it without ever having to leave Twitter.

The new cards, introduced by Mr. Thompson and later elaborated upon by Director of Mobile at Twitter, Jeremy Gordon, will also allow for increased engagement within the mobile experiences, Twitter’s fastest area of growth.

The App Card will be the most interesting for people toiling to build the next big thing. It will allow updates with links to apps to display the name, icon, and description of the mentioned app, as well as other details like price and ratings.

The second new Card type introduced was the Product Card, which has the ability to turn everyone’s Tweeted Xmas wish list into a one-stop source for holiday shopping. By including a product and its link, the new update will display an image and description for the product, in addition to other variables such as price. Just imagine how easy it will be to shop for people this year (hint below).

Lastly, we learned about the Gallery Card, which will add context to your Tweeted images by including a group of four photos from a shared collection, rather than just one.

The event also included Twitter partners taking advantage of the new Cards, starting with Dave Morin, Co-founder and CEO of Path. Mr. Morin likened Path to a home in the town square that is Twitter, calling the new Cards the “most important distribution tools released this year.”

Next, Brett Wayn, VP of Flickr at Yahoo!, talked about how they wanted to make sure that sharing photos to Twitter was not only easy, but also beautiful. Quoting Flickr developer Chris Martin who worked on the card integration, Mr. Wayn said, “The hardest thing about doing it was keeping it a secret.”

On a personal note, I want to thank Jason Costa, Matt Harris, Carolyn Penner, and Jessica Verrilli for their time and insight after the event. I look forward to hearing what you and Twitter have in store for us next. In the meantime, the new Cards will be available in the updates scheduled for Wednesday. I’m excited to see what’s new in your Tweets when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.

01 April 2013

Fool on a Hill

The Internet is lying to you. Again. 

In a tradition that’s as frustrating as it is entertaining, many organizations, like Google, and NPR, and Google, and JIRA, and Google, and Hulu, and Google, and the White House, and Google played pranks on us. So many institutions took part in the foolishness, Lifehacker felt the need to collect them in their own post

Twitter even got in on the act, announcing that if you wanted to include vowels in your 140-character updates, you’d need to fork over $5 per month. But that’s not the most important update Twitter made 01 April, in my opinion. No, that honor goes to the announcement of the start of another new Hack Week.

Twitter’s Hack Weeks have been responsible for some of my favorite features, like EarlybirdTwitter for Mac, and access to our Twitter archive.

So, while some people are searching for treasure. I’ll be waiting for the real rewards which will result from Hack Week. We can discuss them when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.