Arthur S. Brisbane, the public editor of The New York Times, turned his attention this week to the newsroom's use of Twitter. He quoted from an e-mail interview with me, which I am posting in full here, with a few tweaks and links. The Public Editor: I’m working on a column about how Times staffers use Twitter: the journalistic benefits, the marketing benefits and any other benefits – as well as the costs, whatever they might be. I am, I confess, a newcomer to using Twitter and wonder whether it is a boon or a waste of time.

@palafo: Is talking to people a waste of time? Sometimes it is, I guess. Twitter is a conversation. You get what you put into it. I don’t think talking to our readers is ever a waste of time.

That’s the short answer. Here’s the long one.

I view my Twitter account @palafo as part of my identity. It does not belong to The Times any more than my name does.

But The Times is part of my identity, too, because I am an editor here. For that reason, I behave on Twitter as I do in the newsroom or on a public panel. I try not to say anything on Twitter that I wouldn’t say in front of a live microphone with cameras rolling.

Background: I joined Twitter in 2007 when few people in the newsroom knew what Twitter was, and I didn’t hide my Times employment, but I didn’t advertise it at first, either. At the time, I was on the Metro desk, where I was editor of the City Room blog. We were always looking for ways to engage online with New Yorkers. The blog had an automated Twitter feed, but it had fewer followers than my account (still true, alas). It turns out that a personal touch on Twitter was more successful than spitting out headlines. So I identified myself on Twitter as the blog’s editor and started interacting with readers through it.

In my current job, editor for news presentation, I oversee copy editing and production for print and Web, and I continue to experiment with all the social media tools, including Twitter. I have a responsibility to understand the digital media innovations transforming journalism and the news business.

But I admit it: I love this stuff. I’ve been on the Internet since it was the Arpanet, when I was a teenager in the 1970s. Twitter reminds me of the computer bulletin boards, Usenet newsgroups and other online forums of the early days. The rest of the world has finally caught up.

Now, to your specific questions...

The Public Editor:What are the benefits to you of tweeting and what kind of content do you tweet?

I follow about 1,100 news organizations and blogs, competitors, Times colleagues and other journalists, people who follow the news closely, media critics, tech experts, some friends and acquaintances and anyone or anything anything else that catches my interest. I try to pare the list back from time to time. It was easier to follow when it was closer to 500. I also have a number of Twitter lists with even more accounts that I consult from time to time. I have a list that shows how Twitter looks to me.

These Twitter users “curate” the Web for me, which means they find, analyze and comment on useful links that interest me far more quickly than I could ever do for myself. If they link to something that grabs my attention, I will generally look at it or save it for later. I don’t read everything. I dip into Twitter when I have time. The analogy is a cocktail party. You can’t join every conversation, but you drift through the crowd and stop now and then. Important or significant news gets repeated, and it sometimes shows up in the trending topics.

Often I learn about news from Twitter. Your predecessor, Clark Hoyt, wrote about Twitter’s role in a big story in 2009 that was an aha moment for me and the newsroom, when a jetliner landed in the Hudson River.

But Twitter is more than a tip sheet or a place to find sources. It is important to remember the “social” part of social media.

Since the people on Twitter share so much useful information with me, I try to give back to them by interacting there. I don’t write about my lunch, or anything too personal. Mostly, I share links. The links are generally to news articles, blog posts, interesting uses of digital media, pictures, video, you name it. I follow our newsroom policies for personal Web writing, which permit journalism reflections, and lively commentary on one’s avocations like music and food, but forbid taking stands on divisive public issues.

I am not a Times spokesman or a marketer. I share a lot of our journalism on Twitter, because it is excellent. I don’t feel obligated to do so, and I don’t share everything. The article has to interest me personally as a reader and be something that I think my Twitter followers will like. People can tell when you are just randomly pumping your own stuff or your employer’s offerings. Luckily, Times journalism — I am biased about this -- is almost always of a high caliber.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter is asynchronous, so I am followed by about 10 times more people than I follow back. Sometimes they want to talk to me. So I read all “mentions” directed at me on Twitter. People know I’m busy, so they don’t abuse the opportunity. I ignore anonymous gripes, but people who use their real identities are generally polite even if they are upset about something The Times has done. If someone like that has a question, a correction, or a criticism, or a technical problem, I try to answer it or find someone who can.

The Public Editor: Do readers benefit and, if so, how? Does The Times benefit and how?

As everybody knows, over the last several years Twitter and social media have grown at a great rate, and many news sites, including The Times, now receive a growing amount of traffic from referrals on Twitter and other social media sites. Having our journalists on Twitter also translates into credibility with readers who live their lives online. It shows we understand the digital world and how it works.

More important, The Times and its readers benefit from a newsroom that understands digital culture and is familiar with the conversations about the news on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, blogs and similar sites.

The news report and readers also benefit from the news-gathering power of tools like Twitter. Brian Stelter has used Twitter to develop ideas that have turned into articles.Rob Mackey of The Lede blog (@thelede) has shown how news events from earthquakes to political revolutions have played out on Twitter, YouTube and other social platforms.

In general, sites like Twitter have accelerated news competition. Not all of the effects of high-speed social media have been positive. Rumors and bad information spread faster — but they are also debunked faster. The pressure to compete in real time, and the transparency and immediate feedback from readers can be nerve-racking and destabilizing. But competition is good for everyone. We are closer to our audience, and they are closer to us. That results in a better news report.

The Public Editor: Are there any costs to you, or the Times, of using Twitter as a tool? Surely, it takes time. Does that time subtract from the time available to do your job? Any other costs?

It doesn’t take away from the job. If anything, the job probably eats into many more hours of my personal time than it should. Or so my wife tells me.

Part of my job is to read The Times and its competitors, a task that could fill every hour of my day if I let it. Twitter is a useful tool for figuring out priorities for my attention. It doesn’t take that much time. At work, I use an iPhone app, and there’s always down time, walking down the hall, waiting for stragglers at a meeting, riding the elevator, while I’m grabbing a bite to eat. It only takes an extra second to save a link or share it. At home, I’ll look at Web sites and Twitter on my laptop, phone or iPad while I’m watching TV or listening to music, a podcast or an audiobook. I am busiest on Twitter at night and on weekends. The Web and Twitter have definitely cut into time I used to spend reading books.

Another cost is the occasional irritation of family and friends, although e-mail is a worse cause of inattention and wasted time. I’ve been trying harder lately to turn off devices and get off the grid away from work. It’s not easy. The people I know are like me: They talk about the news a lot, and they want to know the latest news, too.

###

Addendum:As I mentioned on Twitter, I might have chosen a different metaphor had I known the headline was going to be "A Cocktail Party With Readers." The analogy is as old as Twitter, and useful for newbies, but it doesn't capture everything:

Other analogies for Twitter: Cafe. Neighborhood. Village square. Crowded public meeting. Parade ground. War zone.Sun Mar 13 15:41:30 via webPatrick LaForge

palafo

@palafo Classroom back row. Street corner. Water cooler. Kindergarten. TED.Sun Mar 13 15:48:12 via EchofonMiss Scorpio

gemini_scorpio

@palafo Real-time peer-review; collaborative footnotes and bibliography.Sun Mar 13 16:07:31 via webJenny K

jenny_flaneuse

@palafo Roman bath house with hash tags. #TwitterSun Mar 13 15:44:18 via EchofonDavid Herrold

davidherrold

@palafo I thought analogy worked well to convey level of involvement in conversations, but i'd prefer cafe for a.m., maybe mosh pit for p.m.Sun Mar 13 15:55:36 via webSasha Koren

SashaK

One July weekend, I had the opportunity to combine two of my favorite activities -- riding my bike through Manhattan and visiting new coffee shops. My family was traveling elsewhere, and New York had not yet fallen into the drippy hot torpor that has marked recent days. I rode down the west side a bit, diverted to to the Hudson River trail, then passed through TriBeCa, Chinatown, SoHo and my old East Village stomping grounds before chugging up the East Side -- a loop of sorts.

I made a pass by La Colombe Torrefaction, but I had already tried beans from there via B. Koffie, so I decided to check out Kaffe 1668, one of the shops highlighted in The Times a couple of months ago. Coffee Guatemala Antigua Los Volcanes

Purchased July 3 at Kaffe 1668, 275 Greenwich St., TriBeCa.

Roasted on June 27 by Plowshares Coffee Roasters of Hillburn, N.Y.

Description Creamy body; delicate, clean acidity; milk chocolate and orange citrus; smooth, sweet, dry finish.

In the cup I picked out this particular coffee because I had not tried anything from this roaster before. In the shop, I had a coffee brewed expertly by the cup in a Clover press. That was a Panama variety from Denver-based Novo. Full bodied, and smooth, with a milk chocolate flavor, this coffee was delicious, as anything brewed in an $11,000 machine should be. I drank it hot, because that's how I like coffee, though it would have been a good day for cold brew, which was also available.

The shop, located across from a Whole Foods, adds some style and ambiance to an otherwise mall-like block of sterility downtown. The front opens out on the street, and there are interesting light fixtures and a communal wood table, where I sat. I was able to lock my bike within view on a low fence around a tree, and there was more ample bike parking across the street near the Whole Foods.

There's free WiFi with your purchase, which I used to browse the shop's Web site, with its entertaining cartoons. As best I can tell, Kaffe 1668 doesn't have its own roaster, but features beans from Intelligentsia and other high-end roasters like Novo.

I left with a bag of this Guatemalan strapped to my bike. The bag itself is an impressive bit of green-ish technology, made from paper with a ziplock that can be resealed.

Plowshares, which has an excellent Web site, gives this description: "Los Volcanes coffee is grown in the valley's rich volcanic soils that were formed by the three volcanoes (Agua, Acatenango, Fuego)... Most of the coffee here is cultivated at 1,500 - 1,700 meters above sea level which helps gives this coffee a pronounced acidity that is clean but not overpowering." The Antigua valley is a prime coffee growing region about 40 kilometers from the city of that name in Guatemala, according to Plowshares. The beans with this name come from 34 growers who banded together in a cooperative in 2000.

I have been drinking a regular cup or two brewed at home every morning for the last couple of weeks. I don't have any complaint about it, but it hasn't been bowling me over. It does pass my no-milk test, which means it is not overly acidic to my taste. The citrus didn't overwhelm me, which is sometimes a complaint I have with the single-origin coffees promoted by many coffee aficionados. It is remarkably light-bodied and smooth, which is good on these sweltering days, though I tend to prefer a fuller flavor and more than a trace of chocolate.

Still, it was well worth the ride.

Since I am still dabbling with social media, I also documented this trip on Foursquare and Posterous. And now I am promoting this Wordpress blog post on Facebook and Twitter. On some level, I suppose this is a longer, multi-platform version of the classic Twitter update, "I am eating a sandwich."

(Yes, I am drinking a cup of coffee.)

Updated April 21, 2010.

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The world probably doesn't really need another iPad review, does it?

There's a glut out of them out there.

And I'm not a tech reviewer. I'm a gadget nut, so feel free to discount my enthusiasm by the appropriate percentage. After all, I did pre-order this thing sight unseen so it could be delivered on Day One.

So this post will be impressionistic, just some notes on my first week with the device.

First: It's fast. Snappy. It makes the iPhone and the iPod Touch seem slow. It makes a Macbook seem slow.

Second: The battery life is amazing. You don't even think about the battery. I plug it it in every night, and have used it heavily many days. It has never dropped below 50 percent.

Remarkable for an Apple product: It doesn't get hot -- unlike my Macbook Air, or my iPhone, which can get uncomfortable to the touch and sluggish with heavy use. I have often thought that Steve Jobs was trying to brand me with his products. No more. A negative: At a pound a half, it's kind of heavy. Not as heavy as a MacBook Air or a Thomas Pynchon hardback, but heavier than a Kindle. The answer to this problem is the Apple case. I like it. It's simple and functional. You can hold it like a book. You can prop it at an angle. You can stand it up like a little TV, a far better experience than watching movies on a laptop or a desktop computer.

Another negative: In bright daylight, reflections can be distracting if you're trying to read or watch something. And it shows every fingerprint. I don't imagine using it in sunlight all that much.

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Something I didn't expect: The photo frame function is great. I put thousands of pictures on the iPad. Then I just prop it up on the mantle and let it shuffle through them. I've never enjoyed having everyone crowd around the computer to look at pictures, and showing them on the TV involves too much rigmarole. This is more akin to paging through hard-copy photo albums.

Not entirely Apple's fault: Some apps are crashy or lack obvious features. You can't turn off Twitterrific's bird noises. Tweetdeck's beta won't let you click on links in tweets. What! (Update: This may have been fixed in recent days.) The ABC app crashed, but seems better after an update. That one has a touch of evil. You can pause and fast-forward/rewind programs, but not the commercials. I flash back to pre-TiVo days, plan my bathroom trips around them. Still, it's not as crashy as the original iPhone was after third-party apps started showing up.

Public use: I remember when I first got an iPhone, and a Kindle. I felt self-conscious taking them out on the subway. For one thing, while crime is down, you have to be a little nervous riding underground with a $700 piece of hardware. It's a bit nerve-racking to think about taking it out, feeling eyes on me. That's not my thing. I like to be left alone in public. I can't wait until everyone has one of these things, or something like it. And they will.

Mostly I expect to use this at home and on long trips. For that reason, I didn't really need the 3G version, and the lack of connectivity outside WiFi-enabled locations has not been a problem. In New York, WiFi is rarely far away.

Something else I didn't expect: I didn't think I would listen to music on the iPad, but I've surprised myself. First of all, the speaker is great, so it makes a nice little radio. I can play things for my wife without using the computer or the stereo or the Apple TV, and I'm not isolated by my headphones. So it's a great way to share NPR or Pandora or whatever I have on the device. I also listen to music or podcasts on the headphones while web surfing. It's a lot easier than juggling a second device, an iPod or an iPhone, for the music. But the lack of multitasking is a negative here: I'd like to be able to see what's playing at a glance, or pause it, without exiting my app.

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About some apps: My employer's app, Editor's Choice [iTunes link], is beautiful, but it should allow link sharing through Facebook or Twitter and have more content. But reading the paper on Safari for iPad is great, so it doesn't really matter, I guess. And I do give credit to Apple for having the Amazon Kindle app on the iPad from day one. All my Kindle books, many of them untouched since my Kindle died, are there. I keep it next to the iBooks app. Amazon has the better selection and prices, and you can make notes in the app. The iBooks app and store has some cooler flourishes and feels better designed (the page-turning illusion is cool). E-book reading was my main reason for getting the iPad now as opposed to waiting for a future model.

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The good news is that many iPhone apps, like iChess, work and look just fine with the pixel-doubling function.

Money grab?: It's annoying that some developers have decided to charge a second time for the iPad versions of apps I own for the iPhone. If you make a good one, I'll buy your other apps. Or give me a free trial version at least. And Time magazine -- $4.99 for a single issue, in an app that only works once? Give me a break. Another magazine app, Zinio, has a free selection, but it's a bit awkward to navigate.

An annoyance: I don't know if it's a bug or not, but I get tired of entering my iTunes password every time I open the iBooks app or the iTunes store. Other people don't report this problem, so maybe it's just me. The whole iTunes tethering business has been criticized in many reviews. Why do you need to hook the iPad up to a computer to get it started? Seems like a ploy to get iTunes downloaded onto PCs or to sell Macs. And why can't I just move documents and other user files directly from my computer or network without ramping up iTunes? (Yes, I know, there are apps for that -- I like Readdledocs, which just released an iPad version.)

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A third thing I didn't expect: YouTube is back in my life. I was never one to surf around the site. I usually only go there with a link. The iPhone app was cool, but it crashed a lot, and the video was too small. The iPad is the perfect device for YouTube. The videos are just the right size. It's not as crashy as the phone. I spent an evening lost in the site. In general, it's a great device for video.

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I've spent a lot of time streaming Netflix and watching TV. I've watched three shows on the ABC app, and skimmed comics on several of the comic applications. It's a cool experience, but I don't think I'll buy many comics this way. It's not the same as owning the art.

Bottom line: Is this a laptop replacement? Definitely not. Even if I get the keyboard stand or the bluetooth keyboard, it is hard to imagine writing long memos, blog posts or articles on this, or editing them. Perhaps I might get used to it, but from what I hear I expect it will be odd to have to use the screen as a touch-mouse while editing with an external keyboard. I still prefer the visibility of a larger screen for actual work.

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I also like the ability to switch between a photo app, files and the document I'm writing. Even when multitasking is added in the fall with the new operating system, it is hard to imagine that being satisfactory except when I'm on the run. Having to sync Keynote or text documents through iTunes also seems like a hassle. Yes, I know there are ways to do some wireless document sharing, printing and storage on the cloud. But it seems complicated for big projects and day to day use.

Is this a phone replacement? No, it's too big, and I didn't get the 3G. There are apps that will let you make calls over the Internet, and I could imagine this as a Skype device, but there's no camera, front-facing or otherwise.

Is this a Kindle replacement? Yes. Reading on it is superior, and you don't need a booklight.

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What I'm finding is that I am migrating certain functions to the iPad. Some things are simply not all that comfortable on a laptop -- watching video, playing casual games. My daughter loves the Phineas and Ferb game for the iPad, above.

It's fun to curl up on a couch or in bed with this thing. I've done that with a laptop, which is a bit awkward, and with my phone, which is a squinting experience much of the time.

I wish my laptop did email the way the mail app on the iPad does it. It's a better interface, and I don't see why it wouldn't work on a computer.

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The iPad is better for using Twitter than either a laptop or a phone -- the touch interface and the size of the screen makes it an immersed experience.

The third-party developers just need to fix their apps; once Tweetdeck has links, this will be my main device for using Twitter. The large, touch-based experience is superior to the computer and the iPhone.

Ultimately, though, it's a toy, not a work device, at least for me. Do you need one? That's a bit like asking, do you need a flat-screen TV? No, you don't need a flat-screen TV, or any TV. Do you need to buy books? No, not really. You don't have to read newspapers or surf the Internet, either. And there are plenty of ways to do all of those things without owning an iPad.

But sooner or later, I suspect, you will see an iPad (or a device like it) doing something you love in a better way than you are doing it now. And it will be cheaper than it is now.

IMG_0116It is a little known fact that coffee improves your objectivity as a journalist. O.K., I'm kidding. I don't believe in "objectivity" and usually avoid the word. It sounds like an impossible God-like standard. Most people who use that term are setting up a straw man. I prefer terms like balance, neutrality, fairness. And conventional newspaper journalism can certainly reach conclusions, so long as they are supported by evidence, and qualified.

This just happens to be a topic on my mind and in my Twitter stream. The fairness/objectivity debate is in the air.

I work for a news organization that promises fairness and ethics. Like Buddhist enlightenment and perfection in general, they may not be attainable. The value to the reader comes from aiming for the worthy goal, without fear or favor, bias or prejudice. Even the best newspapers print corrections every day, but they still set accuracy as the standard. We don't give up because perfect accuracy is unattainable. A journalist who expresses political opinions risks abandoning the habit of keeping an open mind, risks losing the audience and access to sources that might give a more well-rounded picture of the debate, whatever it might be.

There's a risk that a decided mind is a closed one that overlooks facts and lacks empathy for all sides in a contested debate. Reserving judgment is a sound habit for a political journalist, and others who cover controversial topics.

For these reasons, I don't share my political opinions, when I have them. Most traditional journalists are the same. The work should speak for itself. A great reporter should be able to cover an atheists' convention or a Christian revival without drawing complaints of bias from any quarter and without revealing any beliefs about God. Who cares about one person's opinion, really? Opinions are plentiful and easy to come by. Reporting is hard work. It is a higher calling than argument and persuasion.

But we're here to talk about coffee. I have opinions about it. No contradiction there. I don't have a problem passing judgment on coffee, the quality of books and writing, TV shows, the usefulness of gadgets and other topics. For one thing, my day job does not involve reporting about or critiquing these things. They also fall in the realm of inconsequential opinions, right up there with "nice weather" and "you look great." So let's return to my coffee quest.

Name Blue Batak

Origin Mandheling, Sumatra

Roasted Sept. 1 by Verve Coffee Roasters of Santa Cruz.

Purchased Sept. 4 at Café Grumpy, 224 W. 20th St., Manhattan, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

Description Chocolate and caramel biscuit tones, earthy graham-cracker graininess, citrus, dried pineapple and plum, tree bark, cinnamon stick, etc. (see below).

In the Cup The Verve Web site, alas, still seems to be a work in progress. All I know about Sumatra and Blue Batak are from this entry at Sweet Maria's:

We offer the top grade, specially-prepared Lintong coffees as Blue Batak in honor of the Toba Batak people. Blue Batak is a near-zero defect preparation, without the usual split beans, broken pieces and crud found in standard Sumatras. It is carefully density sorted and triple-hand-sorted. The dry fragrance has chocolate and caramel biscuit tones, but with a slight earthy and graham cracker graininess. Surprising fruits come forward in the wet aroma, even a momentary whiff of citrus, pineapple, dried plum, fig. It's got great rustic sweetness, aromatic tree bark, cinnamon stick, black tea, and mulling spice in the finish. The body is a bit lighter than the Onan Ganjang micro-lot we have as a sister lot, even though they come from areas that are very close to each other. It also has less of the herbal notes found in other Lintong coffees, which I think makes it a better choice for use in espresso.

So -- no crud -- got that? That's quite a laundry list of flavors. I can't speak to the tree bark, but there was a finish of black tea and certainly a sweetness. I liked this coffee quite a bit, as I often do when there's a hint of chocolate and caramel. I mostly drank it as an espresso. No crud. (Here's some more information about the Dutch term Mandehling)

Good coffee. Nice weather. You look great.

In May 2009, I joined several active Twitter users at The New York Times in giving a series of presentations to the newsroom on how to use the microblogging service for journalism. This post is a basic collection of links gathered for the talk, with beginners in mind. (The gist of the rest of the presentation is here).

[Note: As of 2012, some of these links are no longer active, but I am preserving this post as a record of what was available. Feel free to add your own in the comments.]

A Few Interesting Twitter Tools

There are hundreds of Twitter tools and sites out there, and perhaps as many blogs that will list them for you. But you really only need a few, and even some of these are just curiosities.

For searches, Twitter Search, Tweetgrid, Twitscoop, and Twitterfall are useful for finding trending topics: http://search.twitter.com/ http://tweetgrid.com/ http://www.twitscoop.com/ http://twitterfall.com/

You can chart trends against each other (examples): http//twist.flaptor.com

URL-shortening: Twitter and third-party applications will usually do this for you, but I recommend bit.ly in particular because it allows you to see how many people clicked on the link (just add a + after the shortened URL in your browser address bar). You can tweet from the bit.ly browser page if you set up an account. Another nice thing about bit.ly is the short URLs it produces. If you keep your tweets under 120 characters, it is easier for others to retweet you. http://bit.ly.com

Here's a list of Twitter account rankings and stats; you can also search by location: http://twitterholic.com/

This tool tells you who you are following who isn't following you, who is following you that you are not following, and mutual follows. Unlike some tools, you don't have to give your Twitter password. http://friendorfollow.com/

Once you have been on Twitter a while, give MrTweet a whirl & it will suggest people to follow in your network who have similar interests (follow and tweet a while before you try it): http://mrtweet.net/

See the history of how your following is growing, or the growth of others: http://twittercounter.com/

Look at a graph of how often you Twitter and when you tweet the most: http://tweetstats.com/

This will tell you your "Twinfluence" -- theoretical reach of your Twitter followers' followers: http://twinfluence.com/

This offers more statistics analyzing a user's Twitter style: http://www.twitteranalyzer.com/

And here's another of the same flavor, the Twitalyzer: http://www.twitalyzer.com/

Who is getting retweeted? http://retweetist.com/

Track and see the links that are being twittered (also track by user): http://twitturly.com

Follow @Twitter_tips on Twitter for daily links to posts about how to use Twitter and other news: http://twitter.com/Twitter_Tips

For search purposes, Twitter does not save updates going back much longer than a month. If you want to save yours, here's an archiving service (I don't bother) http://tweetake.com/

Confused by the terminology? Here is a Twitter glossary: http://www.susanmernit.com/blog/2009/03/the-twitter-glossary-what-do.html

David Pogue, the NYT technology writer, swears by this site, Twitoaster, which shows threaded Twitter converations and statistics: http://twitoaster.com/quick-guide/

Interesting Accounts to Follow

During the recent newsroom talks, I suggested some accounts that people could follow when they are just starting out. For journalists, Twitter tends to be boring if you're not following people who are linking and thinking -- "mindcasters." Follow about 100 or so to get started. Don't feel obligated to read every tweet. Don't feel bad about unfollowing people if they are boring you or tweeting too much.

Our main feed, the home page headlines and breaking news alerts http://twitter.com/nytimes

The CNN breaking news feed, which was started by a CNN fan (@imajes) http://twitter.com/cnnbrk

Breaking News online, a news alert service: http://twitter.com/BreakingNews

Nieman Journalism Lab's curated journalism and new media links http://twitter.com/NiemanLab

Digg 2000, all articles that get more than 2000 diggs http://twitter.com/digg_2000

Long Reads -- links to long form journalism http://twitter.com/longreads

Matthew Ingram, communities editor of the Toronto Globe and Mail http://twitter.com/mathewi

Colonel Tribune, imaginary figurehead of Chicago Tribune http://twitter.com/coloneltribune

Twendly, Tweets about trending topics on Twitter http://twitter.com/twendly

Kevin Sablan, blogger & web team person at Orange County Register http://twitter.com/ksablan

Bill Romanos, lawyer, media fan, prolific linker http://twitter.com/BILL_ROMANOS

Romenesko feed http://twitter.com/romenesko

The very chatty Washington Post http://twitter.com/washingtonpost

Howard Kurtz, the media critic http://twitter.com/howardkurtz

Andrew Nystrom, social media editor at the LA Times http://twitter.com/LATimesNystrom

LA Times official feed http://twitter.com/LATimes

Foodimentary - daily food facts http://twitter.com/Foodimentary

Peter Kafka, AllThingsD blogger for The Wall Street Journal http://twitter.com/pkafka

Tim Siedell, aka Badbanana, a master of funny Twitter one-liners http://twitter.com/badbanana

Steve Rubel, PR social media guy, Microtrends blog, linker http://twitter.com/steverubel

Chris Krewson, executive editor online news, Philadelphia Inquirer http://twitter.com/ckrewson

Jim MacMillan, pulitzer-winning journalist, professor, consultant, linker http://twitter.com/JimMacMillan

Jay Rosen, NYU journalism professor and "mindcaster" on news http://twitter.com/jayrosen_nyu

Dave Winer, the father of RSS feeds, blogger and media critic http://twitter.com/davewiner

Kathy Riordan of Florida, one of my favorite news-obsessives on Twitter: http://twitter.com/katriord

Guy Kawasaki, tweeting/linking machine (with two ghost assistants) http://twitter.com/guykawasaki

Pete Cashmore/Mashable -- leading social media news blog http://twitter.com/mashable

John A. Byrne, editor in chief of Business Week http://twitter.com/JohnAByrne

Bill Keller, NYT http://twitter.com/nytkeller

Also worth following: My NYT colleagues who joined the newsroom presentations, Jennifer 8. Lee, Jeremy Zilar, Brian Stelter and Jacob Harris, as well as the new social media editor, Jennifer Preston, Sewell Chan, bureau chief of City Room, and Tim O'Brien, editor of Sunday Business. The full list of Times people on Twitter is too long and growing too quickly to put here; please consult Muckrack or the accounts followed by Jennifer or @nytimes on Twitter.

There are many blogs that offer more lists of interesting people to follow. Here's a recent example. Do not feel obligated to follow everyone back, and don't feel bad if they don't follow you back, especially if you are new.

Follower Networks

Muckrack (find more journalists) Mr Tweet (find influential people in your network)

Third-Party Twitter Applications

The Twitter Web site is fine for most people who are starting out. It's simple. But if you want to follow a lot of people, group different accounts, set up a variety of searches or manage multiple accounts (a personal account, a blog, etc.), then you might want to try a third-party application.

For a long time I used Tweetdeck, an Adobe Air app, and many people still swear by it. The NYT news technology department warned against Tweetdeck after it was found to cause performance and memory problems on some older newsroom computers. The software has since been upgraded, which may have fixed the issue.

Two other Air apps seem to work better (but they have different sets of features): Destroy Twitter and Seesmic Desktop.

Lately I have been testing the upgraded Peoplbrowser, an impressive Web browser-based dashboard with many bells and whistles (perhaps too many). Another full-featured browser-based app is Twitterfall, which is also useful for searching trending topics.

On my iPhone I use Twitterfon, but Tweetie is also quite good (and there is a desktop app as well).

Blackberry users might want to check out Twitterberry.

And, of course, Twitter itself has a mobile site for use with a cellphone Web browser.

Last Updated Aug. 30, 2009.

Posted
AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesSocial Media

[Note to new visitors: You may be interested in this post about Twitter: "The Public Editor Joins the Cocktail Party."]

Updated March 13, 2011. Hello, and thanks for visiting my personal blog, which is mostly about coffee, with a little bit about social media and technology.

It is likely that you arrived at this welcome page by clicking the link on my Twitter profile. This post is my primitive method for tracking traffic from Twitter.

My name is Patrick LaForge. I have been an editor at The New York Times since 1997, after a dozen years as a reporter and editor at newspapers in upstate New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania. I started using Twitter in early 2007, when Sewell Chan and I created the City Room blog for The Times. In May 2009, I left City Room and the metro desk to become the editor in charge of the copy desks.

How I Use Twitter

I generally post updates about Web content I am reading, watching or thinking about, not what I had for lunch. I follow hundreds of people who use Twitter the same way -- a collection of active linkers, journalists, bloggers, New Yorkers, Times staffers and readers.

You can see what Twitter looks like to me by viewing my Twitterstream list of the 800 or so accounts I follow and read every day. I find it hard to follow more people than that and read every tweet. If you are interested in a high-signal list that is mostly links and retweets, try my list "Linkers", the people I rely on to recommend the latest, best content on Twitter and the Web.

I do not automatically return follows, but if you engage with me and provide interesting content, the odds are I will add you to my twitterstream.

And if you are not among the people I follow directly, but you seem nice enough (and not a spammer or commercial bot), I may add you to the few thousand accounts on The Mighty List, when I get a chance. (For some reason, Twitter allows me to go above the 500-account cap on these lists, and I'm not sure why -- perhaps it's a glitch, or perhaps it's because I was a lists beta-tester or have a verified account.)

If you are relatively new to Twitter, you might be interested in this post, "Basic Twitter Links for Journalists."

About The Times and Twitter

If you have a question about The Times, I will try to answer it, but you may be better off putting the question to the paper's social media editor, Jennifer Preston, her new deputy, Liz Heron, or the public relations team, @NYTimesComm. You can find more Times staffers on Twitter by looking at the staff list at @nytimes on Twitter.

You may have heard that The Times has "banned" the word tweet in its pages. That is not true. We do discourage its overuse and encourage less colloquial language in serious contexts. If you want to read an accurate account, see this post on After Deadline, the style and grammar blog kept by our standards editor, Phil Corbett, or read my comments on Steve Buttry's blog. There's more here, too.

Other Places I Share Links

Only some of the links I share on Twitter come from The Times. If you want to see other links that I am reading, see my Google Reader profile. Sometimes I bookmark articles that are specifically about the future of journalism and media on my Delicious page. And lately I have been fooling around with a Tumblr page. My other Web homes, with varying levels of activity, are listed at the left.

If we are acquaintances or friends, find me on Facebook. Sorry, I don't accept friend requests from people I don't know.

How Do You Use Twitter?

Send me an email, or leave a comment here on the blog. I read them all.

For more of my thoughts on Twitter, blogging and social media, see these other posts. (I don't blog much these days. If I do, it is usually about coffee.)

Or, you can just head back to Twitter. You're probably missing something...

monthlychart Since October I've been experimenting here with some personal blogging. Why, you might ask, when I already blog at my job? Isn't that a busman's holiday? Perhaps. But I had plunked down money for this domain, and I had some ideas and obsessions to explore that didn't fit in with my work. And I also wanted to conduct a few experiments. When a blog is housed within a major news site, the metrics get hard to sort out. With some great content and breaking news, and a huge built-in audience, it is a simple matter to draw millions of views. (Palafo.com has drawn under 5,000 views in its entire existence, with who knows how many hundreds of those clicks attributable to family and friends.)

Blogging alone is a lot tougher, as some smaller news outlets and out of work journalists may be discovering the hard way. You have to rely on tools found in the wild -- basic search, trackbacks, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Google Reader, LinkedIn, Digg, reminding friends at parties that you have a blog, etc.

As it turns out, the free host Wordpress.com offers some pretty good measurement tools on the back end. They won't let me use Google analytics -- how irritating -- but the stats they provide are interesting. (No measurement of time spent, unique users and repeat visitors, or other ways to judge engagement, alas,)

Take a look at the chart up top (click to enlarge it). It shows day to day traffic for the last few weeks. Basically, all you need to know is that the peaks are when I blogged. The valleys show up when I took a break. No content, no readers. Simple enough. Without posts, the traffic dives off a cliff. This is one reason big commercial sites (both mainstream and indie) often blog shotgun style, throwing as much content to the search engines and feed readers and social networks as they can, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Over time, you do get some repeat visitors, but the Web audience is pretty fickle. They come for the content, and they don't care too much who you are.

The peaks and valleys are more obvious in this week to week chart (click to enlarge):

weeklychart

As you can probably guess from this chart, without looking around the blog, my posting dropped off in recent weeks, from about two or three times a week to once a week. Some work projects came to a head, and I found it more rewarding and easier to Twitter in 140 characters for a potentially large audience than research and write complicated posts requiring photos and so forth. So I never did the planned posts about the New York Comic Convention, the trip to the Spa Castle in Queens, and any number of food-oriented posts. (There's something about blogs and food.)

It was particularly labor-intensive because I was mostly writing about podcasts, which required hours of listening to audio, music (ditto), blogging/social media/books (hours of reading and Web surfing) and single-source coffees that required comparison shopping around town.

Before that wore me down I did learn a few things about what drives traffic to a little blog like mine in a far corner of the Web. Let's look at the all-time top posts (click to enlarge):

topposts

The all-time top post was my advice on a computer problem I encountered: how to get rid of annoying IM coho bots. More about that later.

The No. 2 spot is taken by a list post of my favorite blogs. Web readers love lists, and bloggers love to be put on lists. I had not quite realized the significance of automatic trackbacks, but a lot of blogs use them, so when you link to them, they link back to you. Bloggers themselves will pay you a visit to see what you are saying about them. It is still a thriving form of social media.

Then there was my bio. Not surprising. Just about everyone landing here probably looks at it once.

My list of iPhone apps, updated a few times, also proved surprisingly popular. I put it out at a time when people were having a lot of trouble figuring out which apps were worth using, and there were hundreds of new ones. Plenty of other bloggers had the same idea. It helps to be an early adopter. That list is probably getting a little stale now. I've lost interest in tracking down every single cool app, now that I've settled on the set I need.

The biggest overall topic is podcasting. There are many directories but few that approach the topic in a systematic fashion. My approach was entirely idiosyncratic, and I would have stopped if I hadn't discovered a small but interested audience out there. Podcasters, even commercially successful ones, are rather unreliable about posting reliable show notes or blog posts about their content. And as much as I love the iTunes store, the podcasting area is a bit of a disorganized mess, perhaps because the content is mostly free. That leaves a search void.

My coffee blogging also proved "popular" in the aggregate, because it was aimed at obsessives who are served by a network of blogs and sites that have been going out of business in the economic downturn. While many coffee experts have tried to blog, their expertise tends to be in making great coffee, not writing or blogging. There's definitely an opportunity out there for a good writer who loves coffee and knows more about it than I do.

Any blog post about Twitter is bound to be a hit, especially if you mention it on Twitter. I know, having clicked through to a bunch of them. (The Jan. 23 one about my rules for following on Twitter is the high starting peak in the chart at the top of this post.)

The only real surprises on this list were the N+1 post, about a slightly obscure literary magazine with Luddite pretensions, and the "thoughtprints" post, about a very obscure theater production. Neither had a particularly good Web presence, so these posts filled a void in search results, apparently.

On to the top referring sites. The results below (click to enlarge) taught me that I was better off depending on the curiosity of strangers than the kindness of my friends. The numbers don't lie. Twitter, an open, public platform, wins hands-down, over Facebook, a mostly closed platform where only my friends see my stuff.

referrers

Now, something doesn't quite add up here. These stats don't match the larger views listed by the post. But that's often the case with Web metrics. They are suspect.

During this period I had about the same number of Twitter followers as Facebook friends. I promoted links to my blog on both sites -- probably a little more often on Facebook, thinking people who knew me would show more interest in my stuff. Facebook is a closed system, and only my friends can see my profile. Twitter is open and even shows up in search. But Twitter followers far outperformed Facebook friends on click-throughs. Perhaps they prefer to stay on Facebook, chat and look at each others' pictures. Twitter users seem to be more actively seeking out content.

The biggest surprise may be that Mahalo referral, which keeps on giving. I posted an answer on Mahalo about how to get rid of the instant-message coho bots, with a link to my longer blog post about it. Not only did that answer drive a lot of traffic, but a link to my post has been posted on numerous other blogs. Happy to help.

The rest of the referrers are an assortment of individual Wordpress tags, people clicking links in email, Google reader RSS shares, stumbleupon links, and so forth.

Now, what about search? It doesn't seem to have driven a lot of traffic (click to enlarge):

searchterms

Not surprisingly, many lazy people just type the name of the blog in the search panel rather than bookmarking the site. I do the same thing. The top searched term on Google has been "Yahoo" for many years. This is one reason I picked a short, unusual name for my blog that (I hope) is easy to remember. The other terms are assorted podcast, coffee and blog topics that I briefly mentioned, including the unusual phrase "janky vegetables" from the "Faire du Camping" episode of You Look Nice Today, which is not janky at all.

Most of the few incoming links were trackbacks from posts or blogs I mentioned, and stuff related to the instant-message coho problem.

Now, of course, it is a truism on the Internet that if you send people away with links, they will come back. Where did this blog send people?

clicks

Click to enlarge the chart. The greatest beneficiary here is my own Twitter profile, followed by my Facebook profile.

The other links are mostly blogs from my list, podcast sites from the reviews, and assorted links that have appeared in the feeds at the left of the blog. (Wordpress makes it very easy to share links and feeds from Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Google Reader and so forth, without having to manually post anything here on the blog.)

The most interesting result had nothing to do with traffic here on the blog. I started posting a lot on Twitter in part to promote this blog, as well as share other links I found while looking for stuff to write about on the blog. Then people started following me there, I became part of a community, and I ended up with a bigger, more reliable audience there than here. Click on this Twittercounter chart, for the last three months:

twitcount

That's remarkable. I'll be thinking about Twitter some more and eventually share thoughts here on the blog that require more than 140 characters. I could obviously use the traffic. :)

updateUpdate: After two blog posts, four hours and some promotion on Facebook and Twitter the chart was happily spiking again (at right). Most of the clicks came from Twitter, followed by Facebook, Google Reader and assorted tags here on Wordpress blogs. Plus one click from Mahalo Answers to the IM coho post.

I've been Twittering a lot lately. This Mashable post about types of Twitter users caused me to think about my own rules about deciding which Twitter users to follow.

  1. If you follow more people than are following you, that is a strike.
  2. If you rarely or never post updates, that is a strike. Sneak.
  3. If you post a tweet every 5 seconds, that is a strike. Get a life.
  4. If you follow fewer than 20 people, that is a strike. C'mon. You're not reading any of us?
  5. If you follow more than 1,500 people, that is a strike. C'mon. You're not reading all of us.
  6. If you don't follow me, that is a strike.
  7. If you complain about people not following you back, that is a strike.
  8. If you never reply to people, that is a strike.
  9. If you only reply to people, that is a strike. Get a room.
  10. If you auto-reply or send me a direct message when I follow you, I am not flattered, and that is a strike.
  11. If you call yourself a social media guru, evangelist or consultant, that is a strike.
  12. Linking and news tweets are great, if you are consistently among the first. If you are not, that is a strike.
  13. Self-linking is great, unless it is all that you do, in which case it is a strike. (I don't mind Twitterfeeds if they are clearly presented as that under a company brand.)
  14. Retweeting is great, but if that is all you do, that is a strike. Especially if you retweet someone that everybody already follows. And by everybody I mean me.
  15. Original quips are great, unless they are boring or offensive. I decide. Strike!
  16. I don't care what you are eating, drinking, watching, smoking, or what the weather is outside your window, or how your commute is going. OK, maybe once in a while. But it might be a strike.
  17. If you don't use a real picture of your face, that is a strike.
  18. If you don't tell me who you are or what you are about in your bio, that is a strike.
  19. If we work together, or I already see your status updates on Facebook, I may not follow you because I already know what's on your mind.
  20. If you are pretending to be a famous person, or a fictional character, or a building, or someone's pet, or an inanimate object, that is a strike, unless it is consistently funny.
  21. If your tweets are all about Twitter and social media, or you compile lists about why you follow and don't follow people, that is a strike.
  22. If you are interesting enough, I can forgive any number of strikes and follow you anyway. So what are you waiting for? Follow me @palafo.

Posted
AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesSocial Media

For several months, I had been getting mysterious instant messages from strangers. Somebody with an unfamiliar username ending in -coho would IM me "hey" or "who's this" or some bit of nonsense. I would typically answer "Do I know you?" or "Who's this?" Then the other person would answer: "What are you talking about? You IM'd me!" They turned out to be as equally baffled and suspicious as I was. It took me a while to conclude these people were not scammers or pranksters but victims of the prank too. Eventually, I searched for "coho" and "IM" and found the answer: It's an annoying but apparently harmless Web bot. It seems to be a social experiment, or a prank. Sometimes the IM-bot goes by names that are variations on -trout and -salmon. Mine have been strictly cohoe.

As best anyone can tell, the bot was created by something called Project Upstream, although its first victims on LiveJournal traced it to something called TheGreatHatsby. They typically cite a Wikipedia entry that has since been deleted. There's a fresh take at Mahalo Answers.

It appears that the prank first targeted IM handles harvested from LiveJournal blogs and other sites, before targetingTwitter users. Some people have been frightened that they were being stalked online, while others suspected a virus, spammers or hackers. Complaints to AOL proved fruitless.

Project Upstream describes itself this way:

Project Upstream is an organization dedicated to promoting social ideals through the use of exciting new technology. Our most well-known service is our swarm of robotic fish, which connects AIM users to each other. Robotic fish connections occur spontaneously, and also by request. If you would like to partake in the robotic fish experience, you are encouragd to enter your AIM name below. Your request will be filled as soon as possible.

So, first of all, coho can't spell. And second, there's no verification system. Presumably people can prank unsuspecting people. And what if you don't want to be part of the robotic fish experience? You won't find the answer on that page. But several of the coho-bloggers linked above described a procedure for opting out using a simple command -- $optout.

Once I found out the cause of the IMs, they seemed less alarming. I imagine there are even people who use these pings as an opportunity to goof on random strangers <a href="">with wacky nonsense. (You show up to the other user as something-coho.)

I hadn't decided whether I would opt out the next time I got a bite. And then I didn't hear from one for weeks and weeks and nearly forgot about it, until Monday. HotHeadedCoho interrupted a critical task, and I decided I'd had enough. Plus, I was curious to see if the $optout command actually worked:

3:33 hotheadedcoho I hope your day is wonderfully amazing, just like you! 3:34 [ME] $optout 3:34 hotheadedcoho is now known as HotHeadedCoho. 3:34 HotHeadedCoho OPERATOR: Are you sure you want to opt-out? If you do, you will *never* be contacted again on the account "[ME]". There is *no way* to opt back in and undo this. If you are sure, type "$optout F38A". Remember, this is permanent and irreversible! 3:34 [ME] $optout F38A 3:34 HotHeadedCoho OPERATOR: You have opted out. The accout "[ME]" will *never* be contacted again. Good bye! Feel free to email projectupstream@gmail.com with feedback, comments, complaints, etc.

Now we'll see if this actually works.

I jumped into an esoteric debate Wednesday evening: What is the most effective way mainstream media can use social media like Twitter? Should they never post RSS feeds automatically? Must every tweet be crafted by human hands? Notice that I don't say "old media," because I happen to think that term is bull. Plenty of supposedly "old media" outlets have been on the Web since the earliest days and produce innovative multimedia content that is as good as or better than anything found elsewhere in the "new media." But that doesn't make for a good story. (Yes, plenty of old media practitioners still have their heads in the sand. And I don't claim to have figured it all out -- my point is, nobody has figured it out. The Web is 20 minutes old. Nobody knows anything.)

Anyway, the first thing I re-learned was how hard it is to have an extended discussion on Twitter. My Tweets are in one place, under my updates. The other person's replies are somewhere else, and I can't even link to them easily on Twitter. I have to use this search tool. Messages are limited to 140 characters. We're surrounded by a cloud of unrelated tweets by others, in varying degrees of engagement, who also might get annoyed if you're posting every 30 seconds. There is no threading, and Twitter lacks other tools we expect in messaging/commenting software. (Direct messages on Twitter are even worse, as Robert Scoble notes.)

So for the sake of preserving this record, here's the discussion I had with somebody Twittering for the MediaTricks blog about media organizations that put up RSS feeds using services like Twitterfeed.

NYT is a culprit, with many automatic headline feeds, including one for the City Room blog, where humans also tweet sometimes. I follow MediaTricks on Twitter (they return the favor), and butted into a conversation about Twitterfeed. I have, with some labor, turned the tweets into a conversation:

[@mediatricks to] @baltimoresun: Congrats on turning off Twitterfeed. Thanks for the mention, too. Turning it off has been a winning formula for media so far.

[@palafo (me)] to @mediatricks: What's the argument against using Twitterfeed?

@mediatricks This is our argument: [MediaTricks blog link] Twitter is not a push medium. On Twitter, do you prefer following RSS over following people?

@palafo I follow both RSS and people on Twitter. I find it useful to have them in the same place. No need for rules; market decides.

@mediatricks Not rules, just advice based on our experience. We think media misses out on the "social" part of social media w/RSS via Twitter.

@palafo Really? Then why do 14,000-plus people follow CNN and NYT rss feeds? They're getting something out of it.

@mediatricks Check out @news8Austin or @kvue (RSS) vs. @kxan_news (human) to see apples-to-apples. Same market, same size operations.

@palafo Will do. I have posted a longer comment on your post, because Twitter is simply not a useful tool for an extended chat.

@mediatricks Followers are not getting social interaction still. People follow them b/c they're large & established. They're the exceptions.

@palafo Hm. It's not just media. There are power Twitter users who get personal but follow few people themselves. It's not that social.

It's possible there was some cross-talk here. The conversation continued over on the Old Media New Tricks blog. (The comments there are in reverse-chronological order, yet threaded, which I find a little jarring, personally.)

Here's my take. As I mentioned in my tweets, I use my personal Twitter account to talk to real people and to follow RSS feeds of selected news organizations and blogs. It is handy to have them all in one place.

Patrick LaForge: Twitter is too young for its users to start making up rules on how it should be used. Nobody knows until different approaches are tried. Let the market decide. CNN has about 14,000 followers for its feed. Someone gets value from that. Nobody's making them follow. Likewise, NYT has a variety of feeds for its sections and blogs that people follow, or don't. There are also many individuals who work there who have personal Twitter accounts (like me) who dive into the social interaction.

What I prefer is truth in labeling. If you are an individual on Twitter, use an individual's name or handle, and we can chat. Don't call yourself "IndyStar" or "MediaTricks." I expect an institutional name like that to be an RSS feed with only occasional human updates, and I don't really want it pestering me for feedback or crowdsourcing or sharing the views of an unnamed person who is paid to "keep it real" under the outlet's name.

Twitter is still a very small audience, not worth a lot of staffing resources for a large media organizaiton. It is also a flawed tool. No threading, poor archiving, inadequate search. I am posting on your blog because 140 characters was simply too limiting and bound to get lost in the flood of Tweets, not from RSS feeds, which are predictable, but from the umpteenth individual telling me what's for dinner tonight. (Don't get me wrong, I do get a kick out of that stuff.)

Robert Quigley: Thanks, Patrick, for the comment. I our defense of @mediatricks, our real names are listed in the bio. There's no hiding our identities.

We have found Twitter to be worth staffing, despite its flaws. It doesn't take that much to staff, and the feedback we've received is overwhelmingly positive.

You're right - the market can decide. I personally unfollowed @NYTimes (despite loving the paper) because it's an RSS feed, which I get from Google Reader. People can unfollow our account because they WANT an RSS feed. It's just our experience that people prefer a human-staffed account, therefore it's our advice. The NYT, WSJ, CNN are exceptions because they're mammoth national outlets.

You may call social interaction "pestering," but our followers (of @statesman and @ColonelTribune) haven't complained. Check out some the feedback from @statesman's followers. It's as much about brand-building (or more) than it is about getting people to click our links.

Twitter is still a small audience, but it is a social media tool. I don't think anyone doubts that. If your paper is going to use social media (Twitter or elsewhere), our advice (just our advice, not a rule) is to use it for *social* media.

Patrick LaForge: ... I don't think Twitter is all that social. Even the individuals on it are broadcasting their likes/dislikes, links, blog posts, what they had for dinner. There's a little back and forth but not a lot of tolerance for an ongoing conversation. It's not that social. There are big names on Twitter who are definitely humans posting, but they only follow a few people and have very little social interaction. The tool itself creates this asynchronous community, with very little to encourage more than passing interaction. It's not THAT social.

Quigley: Sure, it is what you want it to be. We happen to get quite a bit of useful social interaction out of it (beyond what you're eating). It has its limitations, but we don't think it should be dismissed because of them. And news organizations CAN benefit from that social exchange.

LaForge: Individuals within a news organization can benefit. I really don't see any value in WKRP pretending to Twitter like a live person. Because the examples you've sent me just look like a slightly more sophisticated version of a feed, maintained by a low level producer or assistant. It would be better for the on-air personalities and reporters to all get their own Twitter accounts and be themselves. And keep a feed out there, why not. That's my advice, based on my experience.

The only thing I would add here is that many people have no idea what Twitter is. Compared to Facebook or blogs or plain old Web sites, it is a niche Internet service with a small number of users. Even fewer people could tell you what an RSS feed is. So this debate is really esoteric nerdstuff.

There are other comments worth reading over there, probably more enlightening than my own unedited ramblings. I commend them to you, and the ether. Some day someone will make sense of it all, I'm sure. And someone else will pop up to disagree, in 140 characters or less, in a streaming video blast from his or her Mark V brain plug.

img_0440I recently skimmed a galley proof of "What Would Google Do?" by Jeff Jarvis. The book, available from HarperCollins in January, is structured as a series of rules or aphorisms about how Google does business, with some anecdotes from Jarvis about things he has observed in his groundbreaking work as a blogger and media consultant. The book reads like an expanded version of a PowerPoint presentation on the conventional wisdom of Web 2.0. Transparency. Learning from your customers. Simplicity in design. Always being in beta. The importance of links and search engine optimization. The information wants to be free business model. The let-it-all-hang-out-in-public lifestyle of Twitter and Facebook and blogs. (Jarvis gave an overview of his thesis in the Guardian on Monday.) None of this will sound new to anyone paying attention to the Web in 2008. But for those who feel like the digital world is quickly leaving them behind, or who regard the new trends and tools with bafflement, Jarvis's book will be a good tutorial, even if some of the lines sound like Tom Peters-style excellence-speak ("Your worst customer is your best friend"), or call to mind burning Vietnamese villages ("we have to kill books to save them").

Jarvis offers a lot of Google-style advice for traditional media and other businesses facing a paradigm shift. His point in the section on books is that authors and publishers should turn their works into living texts online, as he promises to do with W.W.G.D. on his blog Buzzmachine. Smart plan. Books in this genre have a short shelf life, often measured in months not years.

Kottke outlines the premise:

Twitter is fast becoming the real-time zeitgeist of the web hive mind. (Sorry, I don't know what that means either.) Anyway, I've been playing around with Twist, which tracks trends on Twitter and graphs the results. Two of the most interesting trends I've found are:

drunk, hangover - The drunk talk spikes on Friday and Saturday nights, followed by hangover talk on the following mornings. There's a similar correlation on Facebook.

monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday, saturday, sunday - This one is really interesting. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday get many more mentions than the three other days of the week, which shows the importance of the weekend in contemporary society. Wednesday is the low point, which turns the graph into a representation of hump day, only inverted.

O.K, so here are some that I tried: Breakfast vs. Lunch vs. Dinner

Dinner starts out strong, gets overtaken by lunch as the week goes on, then resurges. Breakfast starts out strong at the start of the week then later dwindles away in mentions on Twitter.

Coffee vs. Tea

Big spikes for coffee breaks while the tea drinkers sip, sip, sip.

Obama vs. McCain

Liberal Internet bias.

Guns vs. Bible

I have no idea what it means.

NYT vs. WSJ

No comment.

Plane vs. Train

Staying on the ground.

Mac vs. PC

Twitter is full of Mac fanboys.

Yes vs. No

Why so negative, Twitter?

Peace vs. War

All we are saying...

Love vs. Money

A heartwarming result. There's hope for us yet.

Posted
AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesSocial Media