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Archive for the 'Twitter' Category

Why I’m going to give Google Buzz time

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

While I’ve been busy covering millions of dollars in budget cuts this week, otherwise known as doing my day job, the Internet has been abuzz itself, over Google Buzz. (Apologies for the pun.)

I haven’t had time to thoroughly check it out, but most of the posts from my network so far have gone something like this: “I am so uninterested in Google Buzz. I ALREADY HAVE TWITTER.” (That was my friend Kate’s buzz, which spurred a conversation that in turn has spurred this blog post.)

One of our mutual friends, Ben, replied to Kate’s post questioning the purpose of “making a crappy version of something that already exists.”

That is a valid point, but only to an extent. And I think it overlooks something that is fundamental not only on the Internet but in the world, at least the capitalistic system that governs most of the world we live in. That is, if you weren’t constantly improving on something that’s already been invented, then we’d all still be riding around in Model T’s. We’d have no cell phones. We’d have no iPhone or any iPhone competitors. That isn’t to say all these inventions were crappy revisions (obviously they weren’t), but it probably depends who you ask and on which features you measure.

And to bring it back more precisely to the Internet, as I did in my reply to Ben:

Ben by your same logic, however, the world wouldn’t have Facebook. Think about it, there was already MySpace for connecting with your friends. Or continue that logic to pre-MySpace… we’d all still be stuck on Friendster. Also, they’d never have invented GMail, because Yahoo and Microsoft beat them to the free Web mail game.

I don’t think this is a crappy version of Twitter. I don’t think Buzz is a game changer, not yet. But it has potential to do things that other social networks don’t, with the added benefit that it’s built into much of your existing network. Give it some time to grow. Everything is always hyped up or shouted down when first introduced. I still don’t “get” Google Wave. It’s stupid to me. But I’m testing it to see what it becomes. I did the same with Twitter and Facebook, which I stuck with, and plenty of other things that I didn’t.

I am probably much more early adopter than the majority of Web users. That’s why I was on Twitter 2.5 years before my company started seriously talking about social media (i.e. now). That’s why I’ve at least tested the waters of everything from FriendFeed to Tumblr to Four Square to Google Wave to Yelp to … a multitude of other lesser known sites. I don’t use those sites on a regular basis, but I have a presence there and know how they work and why they don’t work for me.

Part of being on the Internet, especially in an industry like media where the Internet and its tools are so vital, is learning to evolve with it. You can’t evolve if you dismiss every new potential tool as stupid because it does something some other product already does in a different (or even similar) way. If it’s a worthwhile tool, people will migrate toward it (e.g. MySpace to Facebook exodus) or the other tool will evolve itself to better compete (e.g. Yahoo Mail today is better than it was before GMail, though still not as good in my opinion).

So, yes, I think the buzz about Buzz is a bit much until we see how useful it actually proves to be. (Sorry that’s the second pun!) And yes, there are some valid concerns:

  • Do I really want my e-mail network to suddenly become my social network, particularly when there’s danger that my social circle and work circle don’t — and shouldn’t — overlap?
  • Do I want my flooded inbox gushing with trivial status updates from that collective network? (I already fixed this.)
  • Given my limited time in a day, how many social networks can I realistically engage in meaningfully? Does the world really need Buzz, or are we all stretched enough on existing sites?
  • How much of my online life am I truly willing to cede to Google, as it moves increasingly toward becoming Googlezon?

But I’m going to be playing around with it and at least giving it a spin to see if it really is worthy. Right now, I’ve already identified several things I like and several I don’t. But I could say just as much of any Web site, including Twitter and Facebook. So my verdict for now is it has potential. And that alone means it’s worth serious consideration.

A list of 100+ education reporters on Twitter

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

For months, I’ve had in mind finding all my education reporter peers across the country on Twitter. I decided this afternoon it was time to finally put together what I’ve gathered and to see how many more I could find. What follows is a somewhat comprehensive list of education reporters on Twitter. I say somewhat because there are a few exceptions:

  • Anyone who hasn’t updated in 2009. For all I know they’ve been laid off/fired/quit/changed beats/etc. and abandoned the Twitter account. Who wants to follow someone who hasn’t updated in seven-plus months anyway?
  • Anyone with protected updates. I can’t tell when the last update was. Besides, it’s obviously a private feed not about advancing their work if they’re not letting the world see. That’s fine, but not really useful to this purpose.
  • Anyone who doesn’t state they are an education reporter in their bio. In some cases, I know the person so I included them anyway. But mostly, there really isn’t a good way to find someone who doesn’t put this in the bio short of cross-referencing staff lists with Twitter, which isn’t worth my time.
  • Also excluded were group/organization Twitter accounts and those for an agency not a news organization.

It sounds like a lot of exclusions, but they didn’t add up to many of the ones I actually was able to find.

Aside from suggestions by my own followers, I compiled this list largely by scanning the search results on site:twitter.com “education reporter”. I have updated this list to include individuals who identified themselves as belonging here.

So what is the purpose of spending several hours on my day off putting this together? Honestly, it was kind of selfish. I think it’s interesting to see what other peers on this beat are covering. In many cases, we’re writing about the same things. We struggle with the same FOIA-ignorant officials and try to wrap our heads around similarly incomprehensible state test data. And I figured extending my own network to include more of those folks could help me with ideas, trends to look into, and just some camaraderie.

Oh yeah, and I was curious how these people were managing their Twitter feeds and whether I shouldn’t modify my own tack. (For those who don’t follow me @meranduh, I tend to veer from posting about mundane or insightful thoughts on current stories/meetings/topics to the strange things I see on the streets of Lafayette to pictures of my nephew to details of my mundane days.) Unsurprisingly, there was wide variance in how reporters handled their Twitter account. Some were just an RSS feed or a list of links. Some didn’t include a single education-related post. Some had few posts of any type. Some included lots of links to their sites, and some offered none. All of them used real names, if not in the username (which many did) then in the name field. Most identified their news organization, but many left off the URL or their own site’s link. Many were like mine, a mix of the biz and life. Others were clearly representing their company as part of the overall brand. I even came across one that had both a personal and business Twitter account. The takeaway? There’s no right way to Tweet your beat, but there are lots of different ways to do so.

One more unrelated trend I noticed: We all stink at coming up with original beat blog names. Every one linked from a Twitter profile (my own included) is some cliche/pun on something school related. Not that it matters, but it amused me.

OK, so behind the cut is a location-based list of the 120+ education reporters I found on Twitter. (I realize the link still says 90, but so many people had already linked it, I changed the title but not the link.) Location is by state/country, and then it’s alphabetical by username. Also, if the user didn’t provide a link to a resume/site/employer, I tried to provide a link to the organization where he or she works. Finally, if I added other details to fill out a lacking profile, I italicized that change.

If I missed you or your education reporter, send me a message @meranduh and let me know.
(more…)

Indy Star’s ‘info stream’ like friendfeed for its reporters

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I just came across an interesting feature that I think is new, or at least new to me, on the Indy Star site.

Scanning the education section of the site, I noticed under the refers to education reporter Andy Gammill’s blog and twitter there was a new link: “Andy’s info stream.” I think it’s new because I look at this page almost daily (Indy is the largest paper in the state and the J&C’s sister paper), and I have never noticed it before.

This is what I found when I clicked the link:
indystar reporter info stream

Pretty cool if you’re interested in what the reporter is writing, reading, working on, blogging about, twittering about, etc.

I tried to find similar pages for other reporters on the site, but I didn’t see any even for other blogging & twittering reporters, like their politics columnist Matthew Tully. A quick Google search turned up a page for racing reporter Curt Cavin and music reporter David Lindquist. Lindquist’s list even includes recently played tracks from last.fm, which seems like a neat addition for his beat.

Other papers have pages set up about the reporter, with links to recent bylines, etc. But this is the first I’ve come across that compiles essentially everything that reporter is already doing and puts it together on one page. You can even subscribe to that reporter’s info stream. It reminds me a lot of friendfeed, where the reporters could pick what they want added (i.e. their blog, twitter, bookmarks, music, etc.). Except it’s sleeker and it’s hosted on the news organization’s site.

As a reader, I find this information fascinating. At least for Andy’s stream because he covers the same topic as me and often writes about things I’m also writing about. I already subscribe to his blog and follow him on Twitter, but for readers who don’t want the hassle of subscribing and belonging to tons of services or who just want a clean interface to quickly see what the local reporter is doing, this could be a cool tool. And once the widget (as this appears to be) is set up, it’s not like it takes a lot of work to keep fresh. The reporter is already producing the content to go there daily.

On the other hand, I can see how some reporters would be apprehensive about a feature like this. Most print reporters I know (columnists excluded) didn’t get into this business to be a personality, which is what this feature kind of creates. And even if all the feed pulls in is information you’re already posting, I could see their unease at their online life being aggregated like this for every reader. However, because I think the news train is headed in the opposite direction of such reporters — who are also the hold outs refusing to see the utility of blogging and twittering or trying such tools for their beats — I don’t feel bad for them.

In my case, all this information is already out there. It’s already mostly streamed on friendfeed, Facebook and Twitter. So I think this feature is pretty cool. It will be even cooler when they get a list of all the reporters posted. It also would be great if you could pick which of those reporters streams you wanted to have all appear in one mega info stream (like the people you follow on Twitter — I could pick the education and politics people but leave the sports folks behind), or if you could see what everyone at the Star is saying/reading/blogging all in one time line (like the public time line on Twitter). It might be pretty telling about the organization en masse.

Kudos to Kent News Net coverage of riots

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I first saw the coverage Kent News Net had of the riots at Kent State this weekend on Twitter. My immediate reaction was, “come on guys.” Not about the newsroom, which was pumping out updates at rapid-fire pace, but about the future alumni of my alma mater. People already associate the school with police (err national guardsmen) in riot gear. But at least they were fighting for more than the right to party obnoxiously.

But I digress.

My next thought, when I clicked through and checked out the Web site, was, “wow, these kids (that would be the Stater/TV2/BSR reporters) are doing an AWESOME job covering this.” The page was — and still is — decked in videos and photo galleries.

The next morning after I noticed the story on my Twitter feed, my mom was telling me about how the web editor was quoted in the Akron Beacon Journal’s story about the coverage/riots:

The Kent Police Department would not make a statement Saturday evening, but student journalists at the Daily Kent Stater and KentNewsNet.com were out in full force, covering events on their Web site and updating the community regularly on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/kent360.).

Kristine Gill, editor of KentNewsNet.Com, said she and others went to investigate after seeing flames from their office at Franklin Hall.

”The flames were filling the street, like 15 feet high, and kids were throwing furniture on it and hanging from trees and screaming ‘KSU’ over and over again,” she said.

She said students told her the fire was started because police were harassing students on their front lawns and firing rubber bullets. Gill said some students showed her welts.

I know just last week, one of my former journalism professors said she was teaching those students about Twitter. Although I have said recently that even I am sick of hearing about Twitter these days, this is a great great great example of its power. Read back through their posts that night and you can feel the adrenaline rush. And then in the days since, you can see the rest of the story unfold with statements from the police chief and university president tweeted to the more than 300 followers. (I don’t know, but the KNN staffers might, how many people were following pre-riots?)

This is exactly what Twitter can be and should be used for in the news media. It’s not the only thing Twitter is good for, but with this coverage they have proven it’s a great tool and likely turned many new skeptics into converts.

I just wanted to take this space to highlight the awesome work of these student journalists.

Help Jay Rosen explain Twitter

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Jay Rosen of PressThink fame is writing an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education about why he uses Twitter. And as is only appropriate, he’s crowd sourcing his network to incorporate other users’ takes.

He’s asking Twitter users, especially students and academics, to explain in 140-characters or less what makes the platform useful to them.

Here’s my response:

Twitter expands my network, especially with locals and in journalism industry circles. Plus keeps friends, family up-to-date.

You can tweet your explanation to him @jayrosen_nyu or reply on the PressThink post.

Look through some of his replies so far to get an idea of what others are saying.

A few laughs at stuff journalists like

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

On a lighter note. During my month hiatus, across my Twitterfeed came a site worth sharing with you all, or at least those who haven’t already laughed at it.

Stuff journalists like. It’s brilliant, and for the most part spot on. I’m surprised it took so long to come to existence. It’s in the same tongue-in-cheek vein as Stuff White People Like, which sadly is also pretty funny. And we could all use a few laughs these days.

A few of my personal favorites from SJL and an excerpt from the posts:

  • Readers’ feedback — I don’t necessarily agree with nasty comments being validation of my work. But I did laugh about the fact that many audience members tend to be “experts” on whatever you’re reporting and relish any opportunity to point out a flaw, even when they’re dead wrong:

    Journalists like nothing more than to stagger back into the newsroom in the morning, not more than six hours after leaving the night before, to get an email from a reader on the difference between straitjacket vs. straight jacket – for the record both are correct. Four five years of higher education can’t even begin to compare to the infinite value of the feedback journalists get back from their loyal readers.

  • “The Wire” — No seriously, if you haven’t already fallen in love with this show, go rent a few episodes. It’s fantastic.:

    [A]s good as seasons one through four are, it is season five that journalists really love. Going inside the Baltimore Sun’s newsroom for season five, reporters feel smug hearing terms like “main art,” “double truck,” or “below the fold.” Journalist like telling their non-journalists friends what these words mean, and that they really use those terms in their own newsroom.

  • Twittering — Sad, but true. Though in my case, my co-workers like making fun of Twittering much more than I actually like it. I’m just sayin':

    Seeing their work, be it ever so brief, releases that chemical in every journalist’s brain that ensures them they are ahead of 99 percent of the world when it comes to reporting on the presidential debate, hurricane or community bake sale.

If I had to throw my own in there, I’d probably add, “complaining about other journalists” to the mix, especially about those working in another medium in your market. Maybe it’s not complaining so much as feeling superior to them, even if you have no reason other than that you can. At least, I assume this is something all journalists do, certainly it’s been my experience, but I’m young. Others I’d add to my list: Google, reverse phone look-up, charticles, election night and databases/Excel. To my more tongue-in-cheek list: conference calls, press conferences and man on the street interviews.

What’s on your list?

My Twitter proof-of-concept moment

Monday, August 4th, 2008

I’ve been using Twitter for about a year and a half. At times I have a love hate relationship. But a few occurrences have cemented its place in my arsenal of reporting tools.

Because I’ve blogged about Twitter probably too much already, I had sort of put a moratorium on blogging about it. But a few posts from Ryan Sholin, who offers five solid tips for reporting with it, and Mindy McAdams, who wonders if it’s reached the tipping point, brought it back to mind. I thought I should share, for those of you trying to convince your editors of its usefulness, what I’ve done with it and how it’s worked.

The setup… My friends list is composed of three distinct types of people beyond news feeds: real life friends from college, other journalists and people who live in my town (including a city council member and many members of a department relevant to my beat at the local university). I tweet probably an average of a dozen times a day, mostly via my blackberry or on the Web at home. Most of these, sadly?, are mundane details about what I’m reporting on or how I’m having terrible luck getting a hold of sources, or about funny things I happen upon. I do not in any way pretend my feed is for work. It’s not. Any work-related elements are happenstance. It’s as personal as this blog, though I pimp my day job on it a little more there than here.

So what have I done with it beyond bantering about how tired I am? Plenty that should convince my bosses I’m not just tinkering around with the technology. (Though I still limit its use during the work day, because I don’t want to leave a trail of perceived procrastination/unproductiveness.)

I live tweeted a few presidential campaign events, which included conversations via twitter with people in the audience and back in the office. These spurts, during which I was also live blogging for our news site, also gained me several new followers here and beyond our region.

I have used it to push content to my org’s site. That means, when we published live video on election night, I posted the link and a tease a few times that night. (This actually sparked several of my followers to move the Twitter conversation to our Web site where there was a chat on the video. Said chat — which a half dozen of my followers tried to get me to join as if I wasn’t busy on election night — also sparked a Facebook group, of people who met through Twitter/joined together on our video’s chat.) Other live video events have also been published on my feed, as well as some breaking news items. I post links to my own stories/columns or others we write which I think might be interesting to my followers, or that garner a “Wow.” or “WTF?” response from me.

When we had a severe storm/nearby tornado and all that goes with that, I used Twitter and my and the paper’s followers to see how many people were talking about it and if we could get a sense for damage and where.

I’ve used it to find sources, though this has been met with limited success, in large part because I haven’t developed my list enough for this purpose. But when another reporter needed to find — on deadline — a real person who travels the local interstate on a regular basis to talk about increased speed limits, I turned to twitter with limited success.

Also, I’ve help scoop other news outlets by watching my stream. For example, I knew Obama was setting up a campaign office here — and even where — because I listened. And we’ve been able to tamp down and confirm some rumors via twitter. Granted in those cases, Twitter was the starting point, but it was a point that put us a few days or hours ahead of others.

All those are great. But the moment I really felt I got proof of concept for Twitter was totally unexpected. I had tweeted about my failed attempts to find parents for a story I was working on. It was more a flippant, “I don’t think I’ll ever find…” tweet. But about half an hour later, I just happened to check my replies and saw one, from someone I was not following back but who was following me, it was a simple reply, “I’m a parent.” Desperate, but not expecting much since I didn’t really know who this guy was and had already resigned myself to not finding what I needed, I DM’d him, explained my story and what I was looking for. I told him I’d be around for another hour or so, if he fit the story and would be willing to talk, call me. When my phone rang half an hour later, I had no idea who could be calling me. When he said his name, my mind flashed. And as I got his personal details (backed up not only by his bio, but by other stuff I’d looked up briefly — so no, I wasn’t just going blindly with random strangers) and his kids names, schools, etc. I couldn’t help but think how this just kind of happened not because I was trying but because I wasn’t. I’d joined the conversation, and actually listened to the noise.

And that is what the take-away from this whole post and all my previous notes about twitter is. You just have to jump in and join the conversation. Don’t set your expectations high, as they are likely to be dashed. But when it works, it works. It’s not going to be the everyday scotch tape in your reporting tool box. It won’t fix everything. But it might be like duct tape. You probably won’t use it as often, but sometimes it’s the right tool for the job or at least worth trying when you’ve run out of options or time. The more you interact, the more you get to know your twitter stream and what segments of your community is there, the more you’ll get from the conversation and the more you can give to the community.

Those are only examples relevant to my day job. That says nothing of the amazing, intriguing debates, stories and conversations I’ve seen and participated in with other journalists. But that’s for another post.

(By the way, I’m meranduh on Twitter. If you want to join my conversations.)