Twitter: A workshop for journalists

I did a workshop about Twitter today for some of the journalists I work with at the Globe and Mail, and uploaded it to our internal wiki — and then I figured I might as well upload it to Slideshare so others could see it as well. I’ve embedded it in this post (click through if you’re reading via RSS) and you are free to share it or download it as you wish. I took a couple of slides out that had Globe-related traffic data in them — traffic pushed to stories by Twitter — but other than that it’s as I gave it (without my witty commentary, of course). I’m happy to say that while there was a range of knowledge in the room when it came to Twitter and social media, from a general familiarity to virtual nothing at all, I detected a lot of openness to the idea of using such tools to connect with readers in different ways.

I tried to make a number of points in the workshop, among them that Twitter is extremely simple to use (so why not give it a shot); that yes, it has a silly name, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be useful or valuable (Google had a silly name at one point too); that it is a great way of a) reaching out to and connecting with users, b) promoting our stories and c) finding sources for stories (otherwise known as “real people”); and that there are a number of tools that can make it even more useful (Tweetdeck, etc.). I also noted that you really only get out of it what you are prepared to put into it, and that the experience depends a lot on whom you choose to follow. And just to drive the point about promoting our stories home, I noted that our most-read story ever racked up a lot of those views because of Twitter.

For social networks, uptime doesn’t matter

Users of social networks choose where to spend their time based on factors entirely outside of those such as uptime and reliability, according to report issued Tuesday (PDF link) by Pingdom, a service that tracks web site uptime and optimization for companies. Not that such things aren’t important — after all, a social network isn’t going to be of much use if people can’t log in or use the features. But the Pingdom report shows that when it comes right down to it, those things don’t matter nearly as much as one might think. Take a look at the chart below, which sorts social networks according to their total downtime in 2008.

(read the rest of this post at GigaOm)

Social atoms and the Twitter ecosystem

When Twitter first hit my radar screen in 2007 sometime, I (like many others) immediately dismissed it as a gimmicky little time-waster with no real value. I mean, a message limit of 140 characters? Lame. And what was it for? Nothing, apparently. It was like the Facebook status message, but all by itself, with no other services or features around it. What could possibly be the point? As we’ve seen since, of course, there are any number of points to Twitter, a service that “is what you make of it,” as a New York Times piece put it recently.

I also wondered why the Twitter team didn’t include more features, and why they left it up to external services to do things like search (which they eventually acquired by buying Summize). But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the smallness and lack of features is actually a positive, not a negative. What Twitter did was strip all the clutter of many social networks away and pare things down to their essence.

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Twitter: The personal becomes public

By now, many people — even those who aren’t on Twitter — have probably heard about an incident earlier this week involving a reporter at the National Post (a daily newspaper in Toronto) and a “Twitter meltdown” that he had, in which he posted half a dozen obscenity-laced messages directed at a marketing person he had tried to interview. In fact, if you Google the term “Twitter meltdown,” it’s the fourth result. I’d rather not go into too much detail about it, since I know both of the individuals involved personally, but if you need to know the specifics there is an overview here. In any case, I know that it has been a difficult week for them both (although in very different ways).

Obviously, the reporter went way beyond the norms of civilized conduct — not just the norms on Twitter, but pretty much anywhere other than the federal prison system. What started as a simple frustration with another person quickly escalated into abuse. But that’s not why it got so much publicity on Twitter and elsewhere, getting mentioned in Valleywag, the Telegraph in London, ZDNet, and even getting re-tweeted by the Stephen Colbert Show (the barometer of all that is newsworthy in our society). It got passed around so quickly because it was a reporter who had a meltdown — a professional who let his emotions get the better of him.

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Reuters: An editor-in-chief Twitters

David Schlesinger, the editor-in-chief of Reuters News, has a fascinating post up at his blog, Full Disclosure — a fitting title, given the topic of the post. Schlesinger writes about how he has been Twittering from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and how his Twitter messages (or “tweets,” as people insist on calling them) actually beat his own wire service, as described in a post at Silicon Alley Insider. The news? That billionaire financier George Soros believes the current economic downturn could be worse than the Great Depression, and that as much as $15-trillion might be needed to save the banking system.

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