The Trouble With The Trouble With The Twitter

Melissa Hart wrote an article about The Trouble with Twitter as a tool for journalism in The Chronicle of Higher Education today. Hart is a prof. at the University of Oregon, where I secured a degree in Political Science a handful of years ago. Hart’s article is worth reading because it’s funny and moving, even if (I think) it is wrong. Neglected are the ways that Twitter can supplement full-lengthed writing (no one just shares links on Twitter for a living and calls themselves a journalist, not even the awesome Breaking News Online guys) or the way Twitter can help with listening. I’ve written here about how Twitter is paying my rent (now my mortgage) and I like to point to this article from 18 months ago made up almost entirely of interviews performed on Twitter. I’d write that better today, I like to think, but it demonstrates the usefulness of the tool none the less.

The point is, Twitter is not just a broadcast system – it is at its most useful as a listening tool. (The White House suffers the same shortsighted thinking about Twitter.)

Do I think that Hart is right when she mourns the declining public appreciation for longer, more thoughtful and well-researched journalism? I do. If “reporting” tends to be faster and more superficial than “journalism” and the social web is pushing us towards writing that is faster than both – then I know I’m trying to have my cake and eat it too. I’m aiming to get my writing out at the speed of a Tweet, with the accuracy of a reporter and the thoughtfulness of a journalist. I’m not there yet, but there’s mostly bad habits standing between me and that goal, I think the goal’s in sight. It seems a shame to me when we focus so much on how the web is making our culture worse. I don’t think that’s the whole story at all.

Hart, incidentally, is here on Twitter. I hope she tweets some more, I enjoyed her article on the subject.

Article Idea: When the Public Square is Privately Owned Online

Something I’ve been thinking about for awhile is the idea that the primary places of public discourse are now privately owned online social networks. Facebook, Twitter, video games, etc. This is where we meet and discuss everything from matters of personal to social importance. This lawsuit about a game player suing over being kicked out of a multi-player game got me thinking about it most recently.

In addition to government laws, those conversations are now subject to company Terms of Service, profit motives and technical requirements. That strikes me as a negative turn for free speech and political discussion. On the other hand, the platforms are so much more powerful now than a physical town square or other older models. I’d like to find some good people to interview about this and see if there really is a story here. What do you think? Who would you suggest I interview? Let me know.

Another example: US Energy Secretary Steven Chu just joined Facebook in order to discuss energy policy there.

New Writing Routine

1. Find story idea
2. Reach out to sources for info
3. Research online using various magic research tools, while I wait for sources to get back to me
4. Stop and think
5. Talk to sources, maybe research some more based on what they say
6. Write!

All of that needs to get done in two hours, tops. Two or three times a day. When I can master that, with quality written output, then I will feel like I’ve made big, big progress in my work.

Several of those steps tend to get under-prioritized or put in the wrong order in my current workflow. Reaching out to sources right away and researching while I wait for them to respond is what really needs to get turned into a new routine. Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions?

Four Things I Wish I Could Add to My Computing Life

1. “Remember this iPhone app.” How often do you read some mention of an app, find it in the store and think “I might want to buy this later?” That happens to me often and I don’t end up buying those apps.

2. LinkedIn Connect – like Facebook Connect but for LinkedIn. When you see people commenting around the web or really doing anything – how often do you wish you could easily see what they do for a living? I wish for that all the time.

3. Desktop icon image selection for iPhone links saved to the phone’s desktop. I know I’ve got all kinds of links saved with ugly blurred text icons – why not let me flip through images from the page like Facebook lets you do when posting links?

I posted this from my iPhone in part to test WordPress 2.8 posting by phone and it worked pretty well. I wish (4.) there was a button on the iPhone keyboard to insert a link! UPDATE: What a wish come true! It appears I can select a word or phrase in a blog post here and click the WP visual editor button to add a link. They might call it copy & paste but clearly “select” has other uses as well!

How about you? What’s on your “little feature” wishlist for the web or mobile?

Researching Google’s Moves in OpenID

I wrote a post this evening about Google’s forthcoming announcement that all Google Apps for Your Domain customers would be enabled with OpenID provider functionality within the next few weeks. It was emailed to a public list and it seems pretty clear that it wasn’t meant to be.

I think this is very important. Writing the article was an opportunity to address the tension between small innovators and big vendors in the digital freedom space.  (Hey, new phrase for me, but isn’t that what this is?)  That’s something I’ve been thinking about peripherally for awhile.  Both are needed, people say.   Innovators on the edge to come up with crazy ideas and be authentic – big vendors like Google and Facebook to deliver the ideas to the people, validate them and grant the functionality only possible with scale.  It’s not always pretty, though.

I ran with this story just as fast as I could, but I think I will revisit it because it’s a big deal.  For what it’s worth, I sure didn’t start my RWW headline with “EXCLUSIVE” or anything like that – because that’s so crudely self-aggrandizing that it’s embarrassing to read.
Continue reading “Researching Google’s Moves in OpenID”

Making Some Changes At

Hello dear readers and thanks for stopping by again.  I’ve decided I’m going to try and make some changes to this, my personal blog.  Every day I write two or three blog posts over at ReadWriteWeb. They tend to be long and somewhat formal.  I have a lot of little thoughts in my head, though, and some that aren’t really appropriate for RWW.  So I’ve decided to change my personal blog from a seldom-updated site to highlight my (still available, but limited) consulting work into a place where I can share small thoughts with anyone who wants to read and discuss them.  I’ll probably share some long-term RWW article ideas here too, so we can discuss those projects I’m researching over time.

I might post a little tutorial type post here now and again as I used to do, but I expect it will mostly be ruminations on the web, on tech writing and on where it all seems like it’s going.  I hope you enjoy it.  I’m excited, I’ve been itching for an outlet like this for awhile.

Struggling with WP 2.8 Problem

I’m working on some major changes around here on this blog but before discussing them, I thought I’d post a note explaining that nothing but the front page of this site is visible right now. Go ahead, try to find another page – you will just come back to the beginning again! It’s a form of insanity, I think. In this case the insanity is caused by an unknown technical problem, which I described on the WordPress support forum here:

It’s interesting, I had loads and loads of people trying to help me on Twitter with it – but none of the proposed solutions have worked! It’s quite confounding. Since a whole lot of help on Twitter didn’t fix the problem yet, we’ll see what the WordPress support forum does for me.

Anyway, things are going to be very different around here – just as soon as everything works again!

Update:  Now that I had WP 2.8 installed, I got to do the handy automatic re-install and it appears to have solved my problem!  Way to go WordPress!