What if we’d had Twitter on 9/11?


If you're still able to hear from wherever you are, Amy, this is for you.

One of the more more formative events in my life — from the perspective of shaping my attitudes about politics, war and my industry (news) — was the series of terror attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, collectively known as 9/11.


Amy Toyen [via]
There is a whole cohort registering to vote this year who might vaguely remember their parents' reactions that day, another getting drivers licenses who were too young, and more becoming bar and bat mitzvot who were just being born.

It was 13 years ago, and it's very much etched in the brains of almost every adult today, but very soon that won't be the case.

I was walking my neighborhood at 4 a.m. one night last month – a night that ended with The Associated Press confirming the death of a sprint car driver after our normal closing hours. We found out minutes before The AP moved a story thanks to a Tweet from a local reporter.

We didn't have Twitter on 9/11. We didn't have Facebook. We didn't have YouTube. We had Google, but it was still nascent and not doing enough traffic to be archived multiple times daily as it is now — the Way Back Machine picked it up on Aug. 23, 2001 and didn't come back until Sept. 17 of that year.

Residential broadband was just coming into being. Cell phones were really just starting to become a thing everybody had, though most people were still hanging onto their home phones (many because they needed a home phone line to access the Internet).

Despite our seemingly limited ability to communicate (ha!), we still had a problem then knowing when to shut up. News went on for days about 9/11 to the exclusion of just about everything else. NPR, CNN, Fox, it didn't matter. The stock market was closed the rest of the week. Baseball was shut down. If anything else was going on in the world, it was invisible to U.S. media.

The early reports — yes, we did have 24-hour cable news and the Internet — were crazy. 10,000 were dead, another hijacked plane was heading for L.A. and one maybe toward Chicago. And then it was over, and we sheltered in place around our TVs for three days.

Despite the initial reports being highly speculative and wildly inaccurate, we did not yet have the dreaded Internet rumor mill — you know, the one that kills celebrities and retires basketball players.

Can you imagine what Twitter and Facebook would have looked like on 9/11 — especially considering that, even today, nobody with any first-hand knowledge (as in, having been there) would have had any cell phone service (much like that day)? It might have taken days to dig out some facts, instead of the hours it took us.

Let me ask, then: Do you use your social networks responsibly?

Related:
10 Septembers, 20 Septembers
Memorialize 9/11 by being more awesome






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Six of weeks of listening on Twitter: What I learned

My last Tweet was a share of launching a Twitter listening experiment back on February 19. I haven't sent out a Tweet in six weeks, then. I have responded to a couple of direct messages, but nothing any of you all would see.

My thinking was, "I spend an awful lot of time on Twitter, I don't follow many people, and I feel like I give a lot more value than I get." So I followed some more people, and read when I wanted to read, but refrained from tweeting. Here's what the last six weeks have shown me.

The numbers. I gained 20ish new followers and, after an initial drop, my Klout score increased by 4. I recognize that Klout is influenced by my other networks, and a short series of posts specifically influenced that jump.

I got engaged and didn't feel an immediate need to share. Major life event, yes. The world needing to know? Not right away. That felt kinda good. We actually waited a full 24 hours before telling anybody. We called our siblings, parents and uncles and aunts, emailed a bunch of people, and then put it on Facebook 30 hours later (it's amazing how many people are looking at Facebook after midnight on a Friday night/Saturday morning).

I went on vacation and just enjoyed my family. We went to Charleston, S.C., to visit my parents, with a side trip to Savannah, Ga. And, while I pulled out my phone frequently enough to log the places we visited, it felt good to be present with the people and places, without using Twitter as interlocutor. That included the drive down and the drive back, by the way.

New favorite follows. Among the new people I'm following I enjoy most for what they share are Maria Popova (@brainpicker) and Open Culture (@openculture). Dedicate a couple of hours on your next day off to reading the links from one of their feeds.

I missed idle chatter. Sometimes we just talk to Twitter like we talk to the dog. We know the ears will perk up for a second but no one needs to respond. So let me tell you, I've done a lot of talking to the dog, and it's the wrong venue to share things like the story of the guy who was killed when he tried to ride his lawnmower across a highway.

I missed joining in. I'm a sports guy anyway, but my job has me covering a lot of sports in addition to what I'd normally follow, so I'm pretty well engulfed in sports from late afternoon until about 1:00 in the morning, when all the west coast games wrap up. I haven't joined any of the March Madness or, even more difficult, baseball spring training, talk.

I missed being helpful. I'm a reasonably helpful guy. I know some people, I know some stuff. When Twitter asks a specific question that I know the answer to, I get some satisfaction from knowing that answer and being able to help out someone who is asking for help. That hurts both me and the answer-seeker, which is just silly.

It may take me a little time to get back full force. Then again, first pitch of the Red Sox' season is in a little under two hours, so it might not. Ta.

A Twitter listening experiment

It's finally happened for me. Or maybe it happened a long time ago and I'm just realizing it now.

Twitter has become a giant time suck for me. I check it without purpose, just to see if anybody's said anything interesting. I write stuff here and there, and, in general, I've been following about a twentieth of the people who are following me.

I just followed something on the order of 100 new-to-me people on Twitter. A handful of them are people I know but for whatever reason hadn't been following. Some of them are complete strangers.

Some of them are just people whose bios sounded interesting. Some of them are people who do things I'm interested in.

From now until the end of March, I'm going to use Twitter only to listen and learn. I'll respond to replies and I'll favorite Tweets here and there that I'd like to refer back to, but I'm going to stop leaving the window open and reading the same Tweets over and over to see if anybody has said anything in the past twelve seconds.

I've been reading a lot of Joshua Fields Millburn (he of The Minimalists) lately, and some things are resonating with me, particularly with respect to relationships and productivity.

So, I'm going to listen and learn and expand my Twitter network and perhaps, from that, my real-life network. I'm going to write long-form a lot more (including here; grab the RSS feed if you want to be informed when I post), and I'm going to spend the time that I'm just staring at Twitter now to do more important things.

If you have some Twitter folk I should be aware of while I'm re-ordering my Twitter life, please @ me or leave a comment here.

Thanks.

[photo credit]

A week with Google+

Note: Yes, I have some Google+ invites available. Get in touch if you're lacking.

After trying to enter the social market ineffectively with Wave and Buzz, Google is trying something new this year: Google+ (g+).

On its surface, g+ looks like a cleaner (interface) version of Facebook. It's primarily a news stream of people you follow, but with some key features I'm starting to find useful. Ahmed Zeeshan writes more about Google+ for the average Facebook user, but these are the things I like most about g+:

Circles. You can break your Facebook friends into lists and vary permissions on those lists, but it's really difficult. I've seen this used most often by teachers who put their students into one list with very limited permissions, and everybody else in another list. Circles use a drag-and-drop interface to sort people, and as you go to share something, you can share it with everybody or with one or more of your circles. Maybe you're a photographer and a lacrosse player; you don't want to bore all of your g+ contacts with every aspect of your life, so maybe you only share your photography stuff with fellow photographers. Or maybe in your "other life" you're a bartender, and you only want to share the wild and wacky stuff with your patrons who are following you, not your boss at your accounting firm.

Lack of reciprocity. In Facebook, you have to agree to have your stuff shared with someone by accepting a friend request. Like Twitter, if you find me interesting, awesome. I don't need to find you interesting as well in order to let you see my stuff.

Discovery. Like Twitter and unlike Facebook, it's easy to find new people who might be of interest for you to add to circles. Cool.

Sparks. Get a news feed of your favorite topics (think location, sports teams, workouts, recipes, that kind of thing).

Another thing people seem to like is the Huddle feature, which is basically a group live chat (remember AOL chat rooms? yes, like that).

While the g+ mobile app is still awaiting approval in the Apple app store for iPhone/iPad/iPod (though there is good mobile website functionality), it did launch with an Android app, which has a clean, crisp interface. It's missing the ability to read sparks, and the ability to re-share, both of which I think are going to be important.

Due to its late entry into the social market, I'm initially wary of building out much of my g+ use. It's tough enough keeping up with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, while at the same time remembering to actually live life. What would entirely destroy my use of g+ is if people start moving their Twitter streams through their news feeds – it's why I only use LinkedIn for groups, and probably not as often as I should.

The other thing I need is the ability to play word games (seriously – it is by far the thing I use most on FacebooK).

Down the road, I'm likely going to have to pick either Facebook or Google+. G+'s entry after I've spent five years with my Facebook profile means I'm probably going to choose Facebook, unless g+ can reveal to me a brand new way to use the network that I haven't thought about (other than using a huddle to have a virtual meeting with my coworkers).

Turning around a customer using a Facebook-facetime combo

It was 10:30 on a Tuesday night when I got a notification that someone had posted on our Facebook wall – and he wasn't happy. Rather than respond right away, we discussed our response among management and slept on it, which led to a mildly productive exchange (blacked out boxes are the complainer's name, red boxes are the name of an employee):

The member came into the club a few days later, and I asked if everything had been taken care of, noting that I was the person responding to him on Facebook. He noted that it had, and apologized for the way he reacted.

That was all well and good until he went to work out. When he came back up, he told me the real story: He had a really bad experience at a prior gym and didn't want to get roped into anything. He described that prior experience, and it was definitely not the way any gym should have treated him. He seemed happy.

The next day, here's what came up on our Facebook page:

I think with the initial Facebook follow-up and the phone calls and emails from the membership team, we were able to at least get him into the gym. It was the experience of seeing us face-to-face and talking to us that really clinched the deal, though.

Remember that your customers are people, not just complaints (or kudos). Invite them into your world, and you'll learn a lot from each other.

Got passion? Good. Worry about content, not production value

Check out this video from strength coach Zach Even Esh. It's him holding a camera, pointing it at himself and his stuff. He's half-in, half-out of the frame much of the time. If you get motion sickness, it probably hurts worse than The Blair Witch Project did.

You know what, though? It's about Zach's passion, not about his camera skills. That's what I want to hear about. I don't need flashy editing, I need Zach's take on things.

On the blog post in which he used that video, there's a second video of a BMX race through Manhattan, much of it shot with a helmet cam. It's not winning any production awards, but it provides an energetic kick in the butt for the morning. Or your afternoon lull, whatever.

Check out Zach's post on not letting your passions slide. Go do something you're passionate about. Worry about the content of it, not the production value.

Self-reflection via Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam is a new app from Hettema & Bergsten, currently in private beta. It pulls together links from your friends' Twitter accounts to cull popular trends so that you can just get down to it and see what multiple friends are talking about.

» Follow @strawberryapp

It also allows you to search on a term, such as "Syracuse," and get popular links about Syracuse, not necessarily from your friends.

It appears they're also going to try to work with the Facebook API to do roughly the same, though I'm guessing they're going to have to come out of private beta before they'll be able to do that.

What I've discovered after two days of using Strawberry Jam is something that's probably obvious if you're an outside observer of my Twitter account: I don't like redundancy.

I follow about 125 Twitter users, and I'm followed by a little over 1100 right now (though by mentioning the follower number, I'll likely lose a few; weird how that works). When I run a couple of searches on Strawberry Jam with tweets in the last 24 hours, here is what I get:

• Syracuse: 2 links with 9 mentions and 2 with 6 mentions
• Red Sox: 1 link with 6 mentions, 1 with 4 mentions and a bunch with 3 mentions
• Obama: 1 link with 23 mentions, 1 with 12 mentions and a bunch more with more than 5 mentions.
My friends: No links with more than 1 mention

What that says to me about my own habits:

(1) I follow a few people with a lot of variety in what they like and decide to share, with no redundancy (I don't follow two accounts that are tweeting the same stuff).
(2) My friends don't retweet each other's links. Maybe that's a reflection of my own selfishness – I don't follow people who flood their timelines retweeting other people. They are, instead, creative and independent minded.

I think this app has a future; I can think of a few ways I'd like to be able to integrate it into my reading (particularly in partnership with other API-based apps), but I'll need to flush those ideas out before I share them with the folks who make the magic happen.

Crowdsourcing news coverage: Springfield, MA tornado

This video has an AP logo on it, but that's primarily because it was shot from a camera that happens to overlook the Connecticut River in a television newsroom. I don't think it's significantly different in quality than this one (other than the NSFW audio):

We've heard a lot about the Joplin, MO, tornado over the past month. Even with video, it's tough to understand until you know the places you're seeing, and you hear voices you know describe people you know and neighborhoods you know. When all the traffic lights are down, it takes three hours to get a cell phone call out, and the highway through town isn't accessible.

This is when even a privately held, monopoly newspaper in town can open up and say, "We can't be everywhere. Help us out." And people did.

Videos from the tornado | More on YouTube
Newspaper photos | Reader photos
Full story »

I'm sure there will be more photos and videos today, both from people venturing out for the first time, and from news outlets getting out into the neighborhoods in daylight. Wow.

Why I’m becoming a HootSuite affiliate

I've been using HootSuite for a couple of years now to manage multiple social media networks – multiple Twitter accounts, my Facebook page, LinkedIn and Foursquare. In addition to the multiple accounts, it allows you to schedule tweets, which I do daily for the Gold's Gym account I run, because it gives me the opportunity to get through my feed reader in the morning, space tweets throughout the day, and be present to handle mentions and DMs without having to bounce out to my reader for more links.

HootSuite - Social Media DashboardThey also allow you to manage teams (multiple users on one Twitter account) and give you analytics.

HootSuite went freemium in late 2010. You can still use it for free, but if you want to fully take advantage of the analytics and multiple accounts, you pay a nominal rate (about $5 a month).

I'm not nuts about ads everywhere on a blog, and I don't expect to make my living (or even a decent secondary income) from affiliating, but I'm a big fan of HootSuite, and I'm willing to recommend them without being compensated – so why not get compensated?

Check them out (they'll give you a free one-month trial), and if you like them, stick with them for a while. If you click on a link from my site, it's an affiliate link.

Promoting vs. Engaging

There's a product I've been following the last couple of months, and, while I find it intriguing, I haven't tried it. It's called Fitness Coffee – a coffee meant to aid in weight loss (my best guess is there's some additive, probably natural or near-natural, designed to kick your metabolism into high gear).

They're fairly active on Twitter and Facebook, and they're looking to get further into the social space by giving away an iPad.

You can enter by sending them a picture, blogging, vlogging or doing some Facebook or Twitter something.

OK, comprehensive-ish, but there are some instructions I just don't get. For the blog entry:

Blog about us on your blog with by posting the following and send us the link...

Twitter:

Once you are signed up and following us, simply tweet this to your list of fellow tweeters...

For Facebook:

Simply become a fan or like of Fitness Coffee on Facebook and post the following on your wall...

So, rather than hearing what their customers think about their product (except the vlog, where they want a 15-second clip – not exactly a review), they're steering the message. Why bother?

If you really want to spend $500 on a give-away, get something out of it. People who read blogs, by-and-large, are not stupid. They'll know the copy was written by someone other than the blogger, and they won't care about your product.

Instead, ask for links of reviews to your product. You'll learn where you can improve, and...wait for it...when you get a positive review, you'll get more customers. Because I read blogs written by people I trust, and if someone I trust thinks enough of your product to write a positive review, that might be the thing I need to push me over the edge to spend $10 on an 8.8-ounce bag of your product (when I'm more than happy to spend $6 on a 40-ounce tin of Folger's at one of those bulk membership clubs).

When people are talking about you on the social web, are they really talking about you? Or are they just regurgitating canned copy for a reward?