Non-TechWeblogs and Twitter

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From: Glenn Petersen1/27/2012 11:18:46 PM
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Censoring of Tweets Sets Off #Outrage

New York Times
January 27, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — It started five years ago after a young engineer in San Francisco sketched out a quirky little Web tool for telling your friends what you were up to. It became a bullhorn for millions of people worldwide, especially vital in nations that tend to muzzle their own people.

But this week, in a sort of coming-of-age moment, Twitter announced that upon request, it would block certain messages in countries where they were deemed illegal. The move immediately prompted outcry, argument and even calls for a boycott from some users.

Twitter in turn sought to explain that this was the best way to comply with the laws of different countries. And the whole episode, swiftly amplified worldwide through Twitter itself, offered a telling glimpse into what happens when a scrappy Internet start-up tries to become a multinational business.

“Thank you for the #censorship, #twitter, with love from the governments of #Syria, #Bahrain, #Iran, #Turkey, #China, #Saudi and friends,” wrote Björn Nilsson, a user in Sweden.

Bianca Jagger asked, almost existentially, “How are we going to boycott #TWITTER?”

Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, took the other side. “I’m defending Twitter’s policy because it is the one I hope others adopt: transparent, minimally compliant w/ law, user-empowering,” she wrote.

Twitter, like other Internet companies, has always had to remove content that is illegal in one country or another, whether it is a copyright violation, child pornography or something else. What is different about Twitter’s announcement is that it plans to redact messages only in those countries where they are illegal, and only if the authorities there make a valid request.

So if someone posts a message that insults the monarchy of Thailand, which is punishable by a jail term, it will be blocked and unavailable to Twitter users in that country, but still visible elsewhere.
What is more, Twitter users in Thailand will be put on notice that something was removed: A gray box will show up in its place, with a clear note: “Tweet withheld,” it will read. “This tweet from @username has been withheld in: Thailand.”

Think of it as the digital equivalent of a newspaper responding to old-fashioned government censorship with a blank front page.

“We have always had the obligation to remove illegal content. This is a way to keep it up in places where we can,” said Alex Macgillivray, general counsel at Twitter. “We have been working on this awhile. We needed to figure out how to deal with this as a company.”

The majority of Twitter’s 100 million users are overseas and it has several offices abroad working to expand its business and drum up local advertising. Twitter’s president, Jack Dorsey, said this week that it would open an office in Germany, which prohibits Nazi material online and offline.

The announcement signals the choice that a service like Twitter has to make about its own existence: Should it be more of a free-speech tool that can be used in defiance of governments, as happened during the Arab Spring protests, or a commercial venture that necessarily must obey the laws of the lands where it seeks to attract customers and eventually make money?

Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School and author of “The Master Switch,” said the changes could undermine the usefulness of Twitter in authoritarian countries.

“I don’t fault them for wanting to run a normal business,” he said. “It does suggest someone or something else needs to take Twitter’s place as a political tool.”

Professor Wu urged the company to use discretion: “Twitter needs to be careful not to be in a position where it’s no longer helpful to a rebellion against oppressive governments. It needs to remain its old self in some circumstances.”

Twitter’s policy of allowing its users to adopt pseudonyms made it particularly useful to many protest organizers in the Arab world, and its chief executive went so far as to call it “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party.”

But Professor Wu wondered aloud if the new policy would have allowed Egyptians to organize protests using the service.

Twitter insists its new system is a way to promote greater transparency, not less. The company says it will not filter content before it is posted. It will not remove material that may be offensive, only that which it thinks is illegal. And it said it would also try to notify users whose posts had been withheld by sending them an e-mail with an explanation.

The company identifies the locations of its users by looking at the Internet Protocol addresses of their computers or phones. But it also allows users to manually set their location or choose “worldwide.” Essentially that is a way to circumvent the blocking system entirely. A user in Syria can simply change her location setting to “worldwide” and see everything.

Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, successfully tried this herself after Twitter announced its new approach. “Unfortunately it is a necessary evil when offering a service in certain countries,” Ms. York said of the new system.

Critics on Twitter surmised that the company had been pressed to adopt country-specific censorship after a major investment by a Saudi prince, a theory that Mr. Macgillivray quickly dismissed..

Facebook also handles requests to remove content that is illegal in certain countries, though it does not explain what it removes and for what reason. In its search results, Google signals what it is required to redact under a certain country’s law — and in the case of YouTube, a Google product, it can block content country by country.

Twitter has followed in Google’s footsteps in another respect. It has opted to post some of the removal requests it receives on Chilling Effects, a site jointly run by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several American universities. Mr. Macgillivray was previously on the legal team at Google and, as a student at Harvard, he worked on Chilling Effects.

“We have always tried to let people talk and tweet. That has not been good for despots,” Mr. Macgillivray said in response to the criticism. “There is no change in policy. What this does is it strengthens, when we are legally required to, our ability to withhold something and to let people know it has been withheld.”

Still, not long after the announcement, there were calls for a silent protest on Saturday — and naturally, a hashtag to go with it.

“I’m joining the #TwitterBlackout & won’t tweet tomorrow,” wrote a user identified as Omar Johani. “Time to go back to getting news 12 hours after it happened.”

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To: stockman_scott who wrote (898)1/28/2012 1:01:25 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
2 Recommendations   of 1267
While watching the GOP debates this year, or even if I am not watching them in real time, I follow the Twitter feeds for Larry Sabato, Nate Silver and Howard Kurtz.

In Nonstop Whirlwind of G.O.P. Campaigns, Twitter Is a Critical Tool

New York Times
January 28, 2012

When Newt Gingrich said in a recent debate that he was a man of “grandiose” ideas, Mitt Romney’s campaign pounced. It sent mocking Twitter messages with a hashtag, “#grandiosenewt”, encouraging voters to add their own examples of occasions when they felt Mr. Gingrich had been “grandiose.”

Within minutes, the hashtag was trending on Twitter. Reporters picked up on it, sending out their own Twitter posts and writing their own articles. The result: for at least one news cycle, the Romney campaign had stamped a virtual “grandiose” on Mr. Gingrich’s forehead.

If the 2008 presidential race embraced a 24/7 news cycle, four years later politicos are finding themselves in the middle of an election most starkly defined by Twitter, complete with 24-second news cycles and pithy bursts.

With 100 million active users, more than 10 times as many as in the 2008 election, Twitter has emerged as a critical tool for political campaigns, allowing them to reach voters, gather data and respond to charges immediately. But like most new media tools, it also carries danger for the campaigns. It can quickly define the political debate, whether candidates like it or not, and a single 140-character missive can turn into a nightmare.

“Twitter has changed the whole way that politics works,” said Teddy Goff, the digital director of President Obama’s re-election campaign. “Not just the press element, but the organizing element and the fund-raising element and the relationship building that all campaigns try to do.”

Perhaps no Republican campaign monitors Twitter more closely than Mr. Romney’s operation, which believes that it can ferret out bias among reporters by analyzing their posts. Top aides say they watch Mr. Romney’s events with a Twitter stream open on their computer. Their war room compiles all the Twitter messages from the press corps at every event and e-mails them to the campaign staff.

“Twitter is the ultimate real-time engagement mechanism, so it’s moved everything to a much faster speed,” said Zac Moffatt, the digital director for the Romney campaign. “You have no choice but to be actively engaging it at all times.”

Mr. Romney’s aides say they can get a sense of where a story is headed before it is published simply by reading reporters’ Twitter messages. If reporters have flagged a particular incident on Twitter — for instance, the woman who stood up at South Carolina event and asked Mr. Romney, a Mormon, if he believed “in the divine saving grace of Jesus Christ” — Mr. Romney’s aides might pull him aside before a press conference and warn him that the topic is likely to come up.

“It’s a leading indicator of what people are thinking about,” Mr. Moffatt said. “It’s almost like an early warning signal: ‘This is what someone’s thinking.’ ”

The campaign will push back on posts that it thinks are incorrect or unfair, and nearly every reporter who covers Mr. Romney has received a Twitter-inspired lecture, ranging from a simple “not cool” to something angrier. (This reporter is no exception.)

The Romney campaign is not the only one to use Twitter as a real-time news tracker. Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, said Twitter allowed the team to see what was resonating with both voters and reporters.

“If it’s headed in a way you think will be helpful, you can fan the flames,” Mr. LaBolt said. “Or you can reach out to people to say, ‘Oh, that’s not what we really meant.’ ”

“You catch problems earlier,” Mr. LaBolt added, “but things haven’t gone through a filter, so you’re almost playing Whac-a-Mole to shoot things down.”

With Twitter, rapid response has an even bigger role, with campaigns needing creative ways — video links, clever hashtags, pithy quips — to push their message, hoping to attract the attention of reporters and supporters. R. C. Hammond, a spokesman for Mr. Gingrich, explained: “There’s a bunch of Mountain Dew-drinking college kids that keep an eye on it all the time.”

Adam Sharp, who manages government and politics for Twitter, said the site provided “a scalable approach to retail politics,” giving voters intimate, one-one-one interaction with politicians.

To make supporters feel invested in Mr. Obama’s re-election effort, Mr. Goff said, the campaign uses Twitter to provide them with “content that is real and interesting and timely and local.”

Andrew Hemingway, who handles digital operations and social media for Mr. Gingrich’s political team, said that during the South Carolina primary, which Mr. Gingrich won by nearly 13 points, he used Twitter to reach out to voters who had posted positively about guns, a group he felt would be receptive to Mr. Gingrich.

“I’ll e-mail them links and press releases and stories,” Mr. Hemingway said. “Almost every day, I’m pushing a bunch of that out to them, and they’re pushing a bunch of our message out to the public.”

Of the four Republican candidates, every one but Ron Paul is using Twitter in a coordinated effort to reach voters.

Campaigns can pay for “promoted” messages and accounts so that when users search Twitter for certain words or phrases, the campaign’s account or a particular post is the first result.

On the morning on the Iowa caucuses, for instance, when someone searched for “#IACaucus,” the first message that surfaced was from Rick Santorum: “Morning Iowa! Today is the day! Go here to pledge your vote for me & find info on how to caucus,” with a link directing voters to a caucus page on his Web site.

The campaigns can also monitor segments of the electorate to see what arguments are resonating. During a few of Mr. Obama’s recent speeches, his campaign posted some of the lines on Twitter and watched which were most shared. “It’s a fascinating piece of data,” Mr. Goff said.

For Stuart Stevens, a top Romney strategist, Twitter is the lens through which he consumes debates. “You can just follow the reactions,” he said. “It’s basically a focus group.”

Indeed, Twitter has transformed debates, aides to various campaigns say. Mr. Hemingway said he provided Gingrich supporters he considers “influencers” with debate-night instructions, from hashtags to the best times to post. And Twitter has reduced the influence of the post-debate spin room. When Mr. Romney made his now infamous $10,000 bet, Twitter erupted, driven largely by the Democratic National Committee, which immediately began using the hashtag “#what10Kbuys.” Before the debate had ended, the incident had crystallized as a Romney mishap.

“It was a bit of the tail wagging the dog,” Mr. Goff said. “By the time the talking heads came on for postgame commentary, who knows if they had noticed it as a gaffe themselves or not, but what they said was, ‘Twitter is exploding over the $10,000 bet.’ ”

Already, cautionary Twitter tales abound. In December, a reporter at Politico offered her personal assessment of a moment with Mr. Romney on the campaign trail and posted about it.

Answering a voter’s question about his parents, Mr. Romney seemed to choke up. When the questioner urged him, “Don’t cry,” Mr. Romney responded: “I won’t cry. No, no, I won’t.”

Mr. Gingrich had recently grown misty-eyed on the trail while talking about his mother, and the reporter posted that Mr. Romney’s comment was a “crack about Gingrich weeping.” The Romney campaign says her perspective, that Mr. Romney was making fun of Mr. Gingrich, was incorrect; Charlie Mahtesian, the national politics editor at Politico, said that he believed it “was a moment that was open to interpretation” and that he supported the one his reporter offered.

Either way, several other reporters not at the event reposted the original message.

The Romney campaign, loath to be seen as mocking Mr. Gingrich for crying, quickly jumped in. In addition to calling the reporter and asking for a correction, aides began tracking down reporters who had reposted the original item — which by then had developed into a blog post on Politico’s Web site — asking that they, too, offer a clarification. It took hours of work on a single, brief remark.

But a few frustrations aside, campaigns say they will continue to embrace Twitter.

“I’ve liked how it’s applied the Strunk and White rules to writing press releases,” said Mr. Hammond, the spokesman for Mr. Gingrich. “Be short, be pithy, be engaging. I think it’s a very healthy addition.”

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1027)1/29/2012 8:14:58 AM
From: ~digs
   of 1267
I'm starting to wonder if Twitter needs its own SI message board.

Despite being behind Facebook in terms of growth, I think its widespread use has much greater implications.

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To: ~digs who wrote (1028)1/29/2012 8:16:32 AM
From: ~digs
1 Recommendation   of 1267

HOW TO: Start and Run a Successful Twitter Chat

[most interesting] Twitter Chat Schedule

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To: ~digs who wrote (1028)1/30/2012 6:33:50 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 1267
Maybe you can incorporate "Twitter" into the Subject Title. My sense is that SI's members are more inclined to use Facebook than Twitter.

Twitter more popular than Facebook in 2011

By Emil Protalinski
December 26, 2011, 3:11pm PST

Summary: Twitter received more media coverage this year than Facebook did. More specifically, Twitter had 50 percent of the mentions when talking about social networks, while Facebook had just 45 percent.

Although Facebook dominates Twitter in many areas, it lost to its smaller competitor in at least one metric for 2011. Twitter was discussed in about 50 percent of media coverage regarding social networks this year, while Facebook was only talked about 45 percent of the time, according to HighBeam Research. The report did not even bother mentioning Google+.

Twitter beat out Facebook in every single month of the year, except for February and April. It even did better than Facebook in September, which is when the social networking giant hosted its 2011 f8 developer conference and made a slew of announcements, including the Facebook Timeline and updated Open Graph.

This is impressive for one simple reason: Facebook dwarfs Twitter. In terms of active users, it’s eight times bigger, and in terms of content shared, it’s 16 times bigger.

Facebook has over 800 million monthly active users as of September 2011 while Twitter has just 100 million monthly active users, also as of three months ago. Facebook users share 4 billion “things” every day as of July 2011, while Twitter users shared 250 million tweets every day as of October 2011.

Twitter’s dominance in the media can be explained with one general rule: public first, private second. If you create a Twitter account, by default all information shared on it is publicly available. You have to secure your account if you want to keep your tweets private. On Facebook, it’s a bit more complicated, but by default only your friends can see your content. Menlo Park is, however, trying to encourage public sharing in various cases; I would argue this is the main reason for all those privacy gaffes the company has had over the years.

Three months ago, Facebook launched Subscriptions and this month, Facebook launched a Subscribe button for websites. Given how similar the first is to Twitter’s basic following feature and how the second is basically Twitter’s Follow button, I would argue Facebook wants to get its users (especially high-profile individuals) to share at least some content publicly. We’ll soon see how that plan works out: I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook has a higher media attention next year than Twitter does.

I’m not sure if Google+ was excluded from the report because its share really was insignificant or if it is simply too new to bother measuring. Either way, third, fourth, and five places were taken as follows: LinkedIn (3.33 percent), Myspace (1.3 percent), and Foursquare (0.71 percent).

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From: ~digs2/12/2012 4:24:22 PM
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7 Levels of Twitter Followers

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From: Glenn Petersen2/12/2012 8:32:42 PM
   of 1267
No surprise here:

Twitter Breaks News of Whitney Houston Death 27 Minutes Before Press

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To: stockman_scott who wrote (898)2/12/2012 10:39:20 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 1267
Twitter Is All in Good Fun, Until It Isn't

New York Times
Published: February 12, 2012

I was going to tweet about Roland Martin’s suspension from CNN, but I decided to write a column about it instead. It’s safer this way.

Let me explain.

Big media companies love when their employees hit Twitter. After all, the short-form social media platform gives consumers direct access to media personalities, and along with it, an intimate connection that large media organizations, and the public, revel in.

Until something goes wrong. Roland Martin, who is paid to spout opinions on CNN, posted a controversial one on Twitter and now he is on suspension.

Like a lot of us, Mr. Martin watched the Super Bowl last Sunday and like many of us, he frolicked on Twitter as one more way of “watching” the big game, including commercials.

Mr. Martin, a syndicated newspaper columnist and a political analyst for CNN, got in trouble for writing, “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl.”

Many, including gay advocacy groups, felt that the post advocated violence against homosexuals. Mr. Martin, a longtime hater of soccer, saw the immediate blowback on Twitter and said he was just mocking that sport, and nothing more. CNN also saw the outcry and suspended Mr. Martin indefinitely, saying in a news release that his post was “regrettable and offensive.”

This is not the first time someone who makes a living on one platform has been clobbered for making remarks on another. Octavia Nasr, senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs at CNN, was fired in 2010 for praising on Twitter Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a Shiite cleric and inspirational figure for Hezbollah, after he died. That same year, an Arizona Daily Star reporter was fired for writing posts critical of colleagues and of the city of Tucson. The National Labor Relations Board said his dismissal was legal, in part because he had been warned by his employers not to post about work-related issues. Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the Daily Kos, was temporarily barred from MSNBC after getting in a Twitter dispute with Joe Scarborough on his show “Morning Joe.”

The list goes on, but you get the idea. The great thing about Twitter is it offers a friction-free route to an audience — if it can be thought, it can be posted. That’s also the bad thing about Twitter. For employees of almost any company, but especially media companies, it creates an ongoing tension: Yes, build your personal brand and, by proxy, bring social media luster to your employer, but do it in ways that are consumer-friendly and taste-appropriate. That kind of contemplativeness is not generally a Twitter impulse, as Mr. Martin found out.

Maybe he had too many nachos as he watched the game, or a few too many adult beverages, but when you are using Twitter as companion media to big events, be it the Oscars or the Super Bowl, it’s hard to resist the urge to say something sassy, transgressive or inappropriate.

It’s been a busy week for the intersection of Twitter and mainstream media. The BBC instructed its reporters to make sure they were breaking news on the BBC and not only on Twitter. Chris Hamilton, the BBC’s social media editor, said in a blog post, “We’ve been clear that our first priority remains ensuring that important information reaches BBC colleagues, and thus all our audiences, as quickly as possible — and certainly not after it reaches Twitter.”

Sky News took an even more aggressive Twitter stance in an e-mail to its staff last Tuesday: it banned the posting of stories from other media outlets, saying, “don’t tweet when it is not a story to which you have been assigned or a beat which you work.”

That is a sure-fire way for the Twitter accounts of Sky News employees to get little traction going forward.

In the current paradigm of media organizations and Twitter personalities, good reporters are expected to serve as a kind of wire service for information, and that includes providing links to important stories that they themselves may not have written. There is an expectation that good journalistic posters will be agnostic and even gracious about where information comes from. (Rupert Murdoch, a prolific Twitter user himself and someone who links to media whether he owns it or not, took to Twitter to say: “I have nothing to do with Sky News.” Well, other than owning a chunk of it, but why split digital hairs?)

Twitter’s speed and ease make it the world headquarters of snap judgments. From reading Mr. Martin’s post about Mr. Beckham and another one about a Patriots fan dressed all in pink, I saw little evidence per se that what he said was homophobic. So I could have joined the digital debate with something like: “Hey haters, cool it, let Martin be Martin. Let’s move on, people.”

But I didn’t, even though I am something of a free speech absolutist, partly because my Twitter bio identifies me as someone who writes about media for The New York Times. When I do post on Twitter, I often look at it through the eyes of my boss and his bosses and ask, is this congruent with the journalistic values of the institution — or, more succinctly, will it create a headache for my employer?

In the 15,000 or so tweets and retweets I have written, there are a few I’d like back and a few that probably made my betters uncomfortable, but mostly I’ve stayed out of the ditch. The rule at The Times is that there is no rule, but there is an expectation, as Philip B. Corbett, the standards editor for the paper, told me in an e-mail: “We expect Times journalists to behave like Times journalists, and they generally do.”

A Twitter post is not a small news story or a column. It is a thought burped up, generally without consideration. Most big media organizations mediate the discourse of their employees because that’s the business they are in. More and more, media outlets may be seen as a federation of voices, but there has to be a there there, a single unifying principle or value.

And even though I write a column, it has to be based on reporting. A funny thing happens when you report — things get more complicated, and less tweetable.

When I thought of writing about Mr. Martin’s suspension, I was inclined to believe it was a bone-headed move by a company drunk on correctness. I found some agreement from James Poniewozik at Time, who said, “Denounce the remarks, but as I’ve said before, I’d rather journalistic outlets, which are in the business of expression and ideas, err on the side of letting people screw up.” (He also said that Mr. Martin, who is fond of wearing ascots, should probably not point a crooked finger at the fashion choices of anyone else.)

But I also asked around among my friends — something I would never do as a precursor to tweeting — and got this response from Simon Dumenco, a longtime media observer and a Twitter savant.

He wrote in an e-mail: “The idea of joking that a ‘dude’ expressing a positive opinion about a David Beckham ad — which was really not about David Beckham the soccer star, but David Beckham the half-naked sex god — merits a smack-down? That’s actually not hilarious to me. It’s actually scary to me because it reminds me of social situations in my life where I’ve felt like it would be literally unsafe for people to learn I’m gay.”

Obviously, what seemed like harmless knuckleheaded banter to me landed very differently with people who generally share my values about free and unfettered discourse. I heard the same thing from other smart people who spend a lot of time on both reporting and Twitter.

So while I’m all for letting the tweets fall where they may, I’ve come to understand that just because a thought is tapped out on Twitter doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously. Complicated, I know, and just the kind of nuanced conclusion that would never fit into 140 characters.


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From: ~digs2/14/2012 7:33:42 AM
   of 1267
How to deal with Twitter overload

this was written from the perspective of a mac/iphone user, of which I am not, but there are some good tips here

a couple weeks ago I started creating lists for my @funhawg account, where I tend to follow too liberally

I'm about a quarter of the way thru categorizing everybody, and once that's done.. I'll start an unfollowing binge

I use Tweetdeck to follow my lists


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From: ~digs2/14/2012 8:27:45 AM
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Twitter: Should You Have Multiple Accounts or Use Lists?

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