Archive for the ‘Twitter’ category

Debate Hub: How Did C-Span Get So Cool?

2, October, 2008

C-Span–the tediously even-handed, eat-your-spinach, 24-hour civics lesson–has somehow caught the Cool2.0 virus. As you prepare for tonight’s debate between Sen. Loose and Gov. Moose, check out C-Span’s Debate Hub.

Okay, nothing that special here–your basic interactive platform that lets you dig into the debate several different ways.

But the cool thing is this: Using the hub, you can pluck snippets of video in near-real time, snag the code and circulate it to make whatever mischief you want.

See a condescending Biden scowl? Grab it, post it to YouTube, and Tweet the url before he’s bloviating on the next question.

Like the way Palin crinkles her nose like a schoolgirl when she’s trying to discourage additional questions? Grab ’em and e-mail ’em to your brother in minutes!

You can mash the content up into comic repartee worthy of Neil Simon before Chris Matthews is on MSNBC praising Biden’s stalwart performance!

This is all possible thanks to the Debate Hub’s near-real-time debate timeline, which will spill out transcript and video as the action progresses. Here’s the timeline from the Oxford, Miss., debate between Obama and McCain.

I suspect C-Span didn’t realize it was creating a mischief-o-matic when it launched this site. But it certainly knew it was stretching its brand image. Why else would it include this graphic representing the words used most in the debate by each candidate?

And why else would it publish a real-time Twitter feed? And live blog entry aggregation?

If C-Span–whose average viewer is probably about as old as John McCain–has gone so deeply into democracy 2.0, something truly revolutionary is happening with our politics.

People are participating in it.

Are we sure we want to encourage this sort of nonsense?


Twitter’s Bridge to. . .Somewhere

28, September, 2008

Like Twitter itself, the site’s new Election2008. . .thing lives in that maddening zone between irresistible and pointless.

I guess you’d call Twitter’s Elections2008 a service–it aggregates all the Tweets on a particular topic. They spill down the screen in something like real time, one after another.

Twitter Election2008

Twitter Election2008

You can choose to witness Tweets for All Candidates, or any of the Big 4 individually. The latest “official” Tweets “by” Obama and McCain appear above the fold, along with other tags you can follow. [Ron Paul, Ralph Nader and Bob Barr silenced again–this time by the fatcats at Twitter, who are clearly in the pocket of corrupt conventional politics! Wonder where Twitter’s PAC contributions are going?????]

The updates slide down the screen so quickly it’s anxiety provoking. To read one, you have to pass your mouse over an update to pause the stream. Read it, unpause and you’re back to playing Election Tetris, trying to click fast before an update disappears at the bottom.

The Tweets are, as you expect, all over the map. Brief love ‘n’ hate notes, jabs, jibes, jive and jingoism, plus people trying to viralize their own blog posts and videos.

If journalism is the first rough draft of history, Twitter’s Election08 is the synaptic spatter that proceeds coherent political thought.

I suspect something will come of this. Tweet aggregation has become a low art practiced widely around the web, and Twitter itself is trying to make sure it has a place in the studio.

The underlying functionality of Twitter is so compelling that some smart people are likely, eventually, to figure out how to use this vertical streaming of the content for good rather than harm.

But as with the election itself, let’s not raise your expectations too much.  To quote a telling Tweet that just slid by: “USA Patriot: RaquelTWG you are pretty… McCain/Palin’08”

Rick Sanchez Direct: CNN ADD!

8, September, 2008

Well, Rick Sanchez Direct was unloosed this afternoon onto an unsuspecting world. The CNN program appears to be the first head-on, full-frontal attempt by a mainstream media organization to harness the social web, live and on the air, to report the news.

Promoted on Sanchez’s own Twitter feed as a “Twitter show,” the production turned out to be more like a FriendFeed Gone Wild.

While Sanchez presented the news of the day, he harvested real-time viewer comments streaming in via Twitter, Facebook and MySpace [what, dude, you’re like 15?]. Raw news came in via cell phone images, mobile phone calls and user-generated video. There was even a multi-culti touch, with a flamboyantly Spanish speaking correspondent from CNN Espanol.

Sanchez is full of himself as a broadcaster and 2.0h geek–a brunette Anderson Cooper with ADD and thousands of online friends. His patter was peppered with references to the whiz-bangery by which he was presenting things: “…here’s something from Twitter coming in now, just seconds ago…this is an interactive news broadcast, it’s your show…and this, from Facebook…tell us what you think, we want to hear from you….”

Sanchez clearly relished his role as info-hero, manfully maintaining control of the real-time news battlefield while taking incoming data from all sides. At the end of the broadcast he thanked people for their “openness to Twitter, Facebook”–and indeed, one suspects, to human interaction itself. It was that kind of performance.

It’s easy to ridicule Rick Sanchez Direct as hyperspeed slapdash news-spatter. But truth told I found myself sort of liking it–the hour went fast, I got quick licks of the headlines-of-the-day, and heard the [alas, predictable] voices of my fellow Americans chattering about it all. There are worse news shows, and many that are more boring.

Which is not to say RSD is substantial or of great public value. But let’s consider the context before we bemoan the shameful intellectual decay of cable news–the domain of Wolf Blitzer, Sean Hannity and those blonde women on Fox–wrought by Twitter and Facebook.

Network TV news as it is widely practiced is highly mannered, with carefully staged standups, scripted stories, well-spoken talking heads and press conference snippets, all presented with assertive declamations by people who, as they say outside major media markets, clean up real good.

The thought that this somehow constitutes “news” in its pure form is ridiculous.

The thought that adding social media to the mix could wreck it is fatuous.

News is stuff that happens that someone finds interesting. There are infinite ways to present it. As the culture changes, so does the way it’s delivered.

My biggest complaint with RSD is that the need to generate a constant stream of real-time apoplexy to fill that Twitter screen, Sanchez & Co. will have to keep baiting the hook with red meat.

In today’s Episode One, the topics included “hard to watch” cell phone video of dead civilians in Afghanistan, a bunch of loony pastors who plan to take “all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary” their God-given right to endorse Republic–er, various candidates for public office, user videos of ginormous waves crushing the coastline of Cuba, the Government Bailout of Freddie and Fannie with Your Tax Dollars, etc.

And through Twitter and Facebook and god help us MySpace the people expressed their shock and disgust and dismay!

Sure, this is phony populism–“the issues that America really cares about,” overheated for the purposes of sensation. But welcome to our century. Later in the day, World News Tonight, Fox News and even NPR covered the very same stories, but without the public feedback.

As they say in the eye doctor’s office: Worse? Or better?

Is Rick Sanchez Direct a smart move for CNN? The 3 p.m. weekday time slot isn’t particularly valuable broadcast real estate. Why not turn it into a faddish, hyperkinetic, multi-screen, multi-media playground and see what happens?

Besides, think of the sponsorship opportunities.

For CNN sales reps, I have just two words: Red Bull.

* * * *

For more, see my previous entry previewing the program.

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Rick Sanchez Debuts Twitter on TV

8, September, 2008

Today at 3 p.m. EST, CNN’s promiscuous social media adopter Rick Sanchez debuts a TV show called Rick Sanchez Direct.

This may be of some cultural significance, in that that the program appears to be about/from/in/around [insert your favorite preposition] Twitter.

It’s hard to imagine the details of this first-of-its-kind broadcast. But in a Twitter message, Sanchez announced that it would indeed be “a Twitter show.”

Sanchez and other CNN anchors have been putting Twitter on camera as they report the news over the last week or so. Sanchez apparently had great sport with Twitter during Hurricane Gustav. I caught some of it, and it gave the news a sort incoherent, populist je ne sais quois I sort of admired. [See this Mashable entry for some details on CNN’s adventures in social media.]

Sanchez follows 4,607 people as of this writing. He has 8,766 followers. This appears to have generated some anxiety at Twitter’s San Francisco HQ, where the troops have been struggling mightily to keep the Fail Whale in its enclosure.

Sanchez’s producer Tweeted the following: **from Rick’s producer** working out a “follow limit” issue with Twitter. Stuck right now, unable to follow new folks.

Whether Sanchez will generate an entire show out of people’s messages to him, I have no idea. It’s hard to imagine how a Twitter feed from 4,607 users might behave live. The mind swims at the possibilities.

In his sign-off message Sunday night, just a little bit before I published this blog item, Sanchez Tweeted thusly:

heading out, c ya tomorrow THREE PM EAST, NOON for u california peeps, and everything in between. dvr, dvr, dvr,

Which is to say: Sanchez is asking us peeps to use our DVRs so we can time-shift a broadcast of his program that features Twitter. Talk about “appointment TV”!

As you can imagine, some see this as yet another sign that Da Man is appropriating social media in its evil plan to generate economic activity. You’ll find evidence of this on the blog Clips & Comment, in a post entitled  “Can Someone Shove CNN’s Twitter Screen Up Rick Sanchez’s A**?”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Code Blue!

* * * *

Note: The following added at 6:09 p.m.: For a review of the debut, see the next post.

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VanityFairer: The Magazine’s Social Faux Pas?

2, September, 2008

Seems like everybody and his posse is trying to figure out how to use Twitter to promote a business. A lot of these feeds are loaded with ham-fisted promotions that are as likely to repel as attract. Mainstream media have been no more skilled than your typical supplement pusher, for the most part.

Which brings us to Vanityfairer, a Twitter “fan”feed by someone who identifies “her”self only as Vanity Fair Wayfarer and whose bio reads only “I heart Vanity Fair magazine.”

“Her” updates are really pretty good–mainly pointers to stuff about, in or related to content from the celebrity-addled, scrumptiously visual, annoyingly literate and therefore-hard-to-ignore glossy.

So is this a real fanfeed, or a Twitter Potemkin village?

I couldn’t find any reference to the Vanity Fairer feed on VF’s website.

But back in June VF Daily did a characteristically high-ironic item about the magazine’s new Facebook page. Editorial assistant Bill Bradley writes that he’d been charged with getting 10,000 members for a VF page in two months, at pain of losing his job. [As of this writing, the Facebook page has 8,610 fans, and according to the site, Bradley is no longer in the employ of VF. Of course we have no idea whether this is true.] So clearly someone at VF has been pondering what the magazine should do in the world of social media.

[In fact, read this wonderful entry from Vantiy Fair Daily about VF mid-level editorial staff’s recent indoctrination to social media by Conde Nast, which led to the whole Bradley gambit.]

Back to Vanityfairer: It looks to me like the Twitter feed is an undisclosed VF inside job. Vanity Fairer is following a conspicuous list of 51 prominentos from the worlds of technology and media [including Tim O’Reilly, Esther Dyson, WSJ’s Kara Swisher, 2.0 author Sarah Lacy, John Dickerson of Slate, Gawker, Ana Marie Cox and TechCrunch, A-list tech bloggers plus a few C-list hangers-on like me].

The trick to building a Twitter posse, as savvy Twitsters know, is to “follow” people whom you hope will follow you back–or actually maybe write a blog item about the Twitter stream to gain some 2.0 brainshare [!]. So there is clearly something tactical and ambitious about Vanity Fairer’s “following” list. Vanity Fairer appears to be following none of her own personal friends, for instance. A bit curious.

[I should point out that as of this date, the only people who have taken Vanity Fairer’s bait are CNN social media ubiquitist Rick Sanchez, MSNBC cartoonist Daryl Cagle and someone named Vitor Fasano, who Twitters, I think, in Portugese. And me.]

I direct-messaged Vanity Fairer to see what’s up. “She” wrote this:

Good to hear from you, am actually a fan of *you*rs (Drama 2.0) too! Yes, I am just a fan of VF mag; pretty sure they have no idea I exist. [The reference to “Drama 2.0” regards a mysterious fellow from the world of online advertising and marketing whose schtick is a hilarious bitter cynicism about web 2.0 foolishness. Which is to say his blog is kind of like mine, but his is really good and apparently makes money.]

Then this, an hour later:

p.s. I wish VF HAD put me up to this, it’s something they should be doing!

Then this, after I asked why she was following only media luminaries but not friends:

Have another acct on Twitter 4 friends; this acct lets me “play” a bit anonymously. Media lums I follow here r people I think VF wld follow?


For now, let’s have some sport and, what the heck, assume the worst about Vanit Fairer.

If Vanity Fairer is an official VF venture–someone doing the corporate flagship magazine’s bidding but disguised as an independent fan–that’s a bad move by Conde Nast.

Rules No. 1 through 10 of social media are “Don’t f*ck with people.”

Don’t use social media to play pretend. If you want to make a cool Twitter feed for your publication, go for it. But don’t make like it’s not yours. If you’re a real independent fan of the magazine, launch a Twitter feed. But if you have some some sort of entanglement with the pub, say so. No shame in it.

Of course, circumstantial evidence notwithstanding, it’s possible that Vanity Fairer is an independent effort. In which case I am once again spewing nonsense into the digital void. The only consolation is that this is not the first time, nor likely to be the last.

But if I’m right. . .

Vanity Fair has made its reputation by illuminating the world of tuxedo-and-ball-gown “high” society.

Wouldn’t it be a hoot if it stomped into this foreign new social swirl like a drunken hillbilly?

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Brand Protection via Twitter

8, July, 2008

I’m getting used to hearing from folks who aren’t pleased [or, occasionally, are pleased] with what I write in my blog.

I know that people and companies use Google Alerts and other tools to monitor electroland for mentions of themselves. I do it too. I used to get alerts about another guy named Craig Stoltz,  who worked in the communications department of Bristol-Myers Squib. [In fact, he’s probably reading this right now. Hi, Craig!]

But a few days ago I was surprised that one of my carefree Twitter messages set off a PR alarm.

I had decided to give a try to, a ridiculously cheap service that conducts very basic usability testing on websites. I was using it on behalf of a client, to test a site I’d been working on for a while.

And so one afternoon, after I’d just gotten results from my first user tests, I Tweeted the following:

Trying for client. $20/user! May reduce my usability testing income. Results only OK.…

At 7:55 p.m., this note showed up in my e-mail box, from Dave Garr.

Hi Craig,

I just saw your Twitter about As one of the founders of, I really want you to be satisfied. Two questions:

1. Can I ask why you felt the results were only OK?

2. What can I do to make it up to you?. . . .

That’s an impressive pounce–fast, concerned, generous. I guess that increasingly, this is all in a day’s work. It’s a noisy, unruly social world out here. People who need to protect their brands and reputations have to be on alert and ready to respond.

What surprises me is the speed with which reputation monitors appear to have added Twitter to their must-check lists. This is made possible due to the rise of Summize, a search engine that sweeps the text of Tweets. [Google seems to notice some Tweets, but I haven’t figured out how or which.]

I know it was a delusion, but there was a time when I thought that my Twittering was semi-private, a way of speaking casually to folks who’d decided to follow me and whom I’d accepted into my posse.

But of course this is foolish sentimentalism: Like everything else in the digital world, Twitter content is forever. And everywhere. And immediate. I’m sure that within the next few weeks some kid just out of college will be rejected from a job not because of something she posted on Facebook, but due to some unguarded Tweet.

So it goes.

And I guess now I’ll have to use Summize every once in a while to what’s being said about me on Twitter. In fact, I just did.

Note to that other Craig Stoltz: I think we’re fine for now.

And to Dave Garr: Hi again!

How Twitter Finally Taught Me to be an Editor

27, May, 2008

I’ve been an editor for 20-plus years. But Twitter—that idiot desktop companion for the work-averse—has become my mid-career editing coach.

This may be due to how I use Twitter, at least some of the time: Less for top-of-brain me-spatter and more for tiny reports or editorials.

Fact is, it’s tough to convey any substance in 140 characters. You have to carefully weigh every word, letter and space. Even punctuation.

Here’s an example. I wanted to share a delicious, fantastically gross item of neighborhood gossip. But it’s not for this blog. So I Tweeted:

House that was site of mass murder 30 years ago–and where following owners’ dead body sat for 4 weeks in Dec–for sale in my ‘hood! Cheap!

Or this (unattractive) detour into moralizing. I Tweeted this after I observed the right-wingnuts’ tasteless glee at Kennedy’s brain tumor news:

The hate for Kennedy online right now is horrific. USAToday comment ref’d Kopeckne family. People can be so small. *That’s* the tragedy.

Okay, the prose is cramped, the comments elliptical. But writing substantial Tweets teaches a key journalism skill: Make every word count.

If I were teaching journalism (the academy shudders), I’d have students edit 500-word stories as Tweets. Not for the result, but the process.

I’ve edited miles of copy in my day. Nonetheless, I find that every time I sit down to write a meaningful Tweet I hone my craft a bit more.

Thinking about all this today, I decided to try a music review. It’s labored, I know. But I had my (brief) say about a song that moved me.

Nominate Tom Waits for Pulitzer: “Road to Peace” is growly, pounding, horrific news report on Mideast bloodwars. Quotes Henry Kissinger (!)

Yes, I may have lost it entirely. I’m writing in 140 word chunks and just nominated a musician for a Pulitzer. Go ahead. Tweet about it.


p.s. Every paragraph in this item is 140 characters or fewer. Whether it’s admirably tight, barely coherent or pointless, I leave to others.

Business Week’s Twitter Article in 140 Characters

15, May, 2008

Maybe a million users, enthused/baffled/addicted. Business infiltrates. Maybe a legit interlinked social media platform. But where’s money?

n.b. The article itself is so full of show-offey, high-concept, meta-media hyperlinks it’s nearly unreadable. The above is my public service.

John Edwards’s 2.0bituary and the Big Social Media Lie

23, April, 2008

This seems like an odd day to write about John Edwards, whom some of you may remember was running for president at some remote time in the past, like February.

But a blog entry by Stowe Boyd includes a fascinating–if obvious-when-you-think-about it–observation about politicians’ use of social media that’s worth carrying forward into the general election.

The 2.ghost town–an abandoned blog, Twitter account, etc.–that Edwards left standing when he suspended his campaign make a vivid illustration of how social media is seized upon by politicians to create “two-way communications” with the public–and then dropped the instant its utility as a vote-generator is exhausted.

Writes Stowe:

So, you opt to try to exploit the edglings by signing up to Twitter, and writing a blog, and all that newfangled web stuff, trying to mine the potential there with ersatz involvement and cheesy, inauthentic participation: cramming old one:many messaging into a conversationally rich environment.

Then, you drop out. And proof that it is totally bogus, you just stop. Bam. No ‘thanks for the memories’, no ‘see you in the funny papers’, and certainly no ongoing involvement, since after all, there really was no involvement involved.

Proof of old politics wolf in new politics sheep’s clothing: they assume the ways of the new social web revolution as a means to come into contact with us, but when they lose (and maybe when they win, as well?) they drop the pretense of involvement, and go back to whatever they really believe in. Which is clearly not this new emerging whatever-the-hell-it-is on the web.

Okay, he’s being tough and a bit theatrical [as one commenter points out, Edwards’ wife has cancer, for god’s sake]. But the startling question Stowe raises in passing is this:

Will the winner of the race continue to use social media after installed in the White House?

Or will that “two way communication” that social media provides be shelved, along with negative ads and yard signs, until it’s time to fire up the campaign engine?

As it happens, I follow “Barack Obama” [or whoever types the vapid Tweets that represent the great orator’s voice in Twitterdom]. The day after Pennsylvania, “Obama” is eerily silent.

I just “nudged” him. Wonder if he’ll post!

Punchline: around 2 p.m., “Barack Obama” posted this Tweet: BarackObama In New Albany, IN at a town hall meeting at Indiana University Southeast.

[Thanks to Josh Levy at TechPresident for the pointer to Boyd’s post.]

The Twitbin of History: A Failed Experiment

9, April, 2008

I keep reading stuff about how people are using Twitter for legit business purposes. With trepidation, I decided to try it myself.

I’ve been Twittering for a couple of months and have actually come to enjoy what’s called [my favorite highbrow term of Twitter art] the “ambient intimacy”–the background of friendly, if usually vacuous, chatter of my smallish Twitter “posse” [my favorite Twitter lowbrow term of art].

So I proposed to a working group of mine–a threesome in an office, me from my home-office HQ–to create new Twitter handles known only to us, and create an invitation-only Twitter group in which we’d share our links, momentary observations, quick questions, etc. Essentially, we’d use Twitter as group IM.

We all installed the dead-simple Twitbin plugin for the Firefox browser. This displays a mini-Twitter-interface in a sidebar of your browser. We chose to “follow” each other’s new handles, closed the group to outsiders, and we were off.

We continue to soldier on, but the project isn’t working.

1. For quick group questions, this system works only when one or more members of the posse are at their desks, typing [none of us it a mobile Twit yet]. Otherwise I find myself sending a regular-old e-mail to one or several of them to get an answer. I’ve been known to use the phone.

2. Many times I’ll return to my desk–sometimes after an hour, sometimes when the sun is gone–to see a lonely message in the Twitbin: “You there? When’s a good time to call?” “Can you send me that draft?” It seems so sad and. . .defunct. I may answer: “Here now: Give a buzz.” Or “Talk at 4?” Then I see my sad, defunct message in the bin. It’s rarely responded to.

I suspect our group is too small for this to work effectively. Perhaps a dozen people would ensure someone’s around to create that efficient call-and-response. Our team should expand to 6 or 8 shortly, so maybe it’ll take on some momentum.

But, truth told–and I’m not proud of this–I miss my “real” Twitter posse. The links from friends, the brain-spatter of people I admire, the updates from the far-flung, the mundanities of car repairs, minor injuries, funny quotes, memorable meals, reported observations, and even the odd bit of shameless hype (how the hell did @supplementsforfree! get into my posse?).

And no, the thought of following multiple Twitter feeds is more than I can bear. Just one is sucking away my precious lifeforce–and time from other “important” social media tasks like reading RSS feeds, checking my Facebook profile, responding to LinkedIn mail. . .you get the idea.

[They say ADD is a structural or chemical condition. I’m wondering if you can’t bring it on with your own unwise, repeated behavior, the way you can get the flu by slow-dancing with the wrong person all night.]

But back to the question: Aside from promoting blog entries (which I do with my “real” Twitter account and will, in a curiously reflexive exercise, do with this one too)–has anybody out there found an efficient way to leverage Twitter for some professional purpose?

Leave a comment here. I’d tell you to find me on Twitter, but I’ll be away for a while.