For those of us who follow hundreds (or even thousands) of feeds, fresh information can be lost between endless retweets of old information. Massive retweeting also allows false information to spread globally, gaining credibility with reach RT. While those of us who’ve taken the time to sharpen the list of sources we follow are rewarded with accurate, timely updates, too many Twitter users fail to enjoy the tool’s potential because they simply don’t know which feeds to follow when news breaks.
I guess I cannot really fault author Robert Niles’ effort to suggest Twitter enhancements to make the social network work better for journalism. It’s just that Twitter wasn’t created for journalism. And asking people to change what they do to satisfy our needs seems a bit presumptuous. Besides being futile.
It is reminiscent of media’s big push for semantic web tagging years ago. Wouldn’t it be great, people said, if everyone who published information online included tags in the code to identify people, places and things? Then it would be much easier to find exactly what you’re looking for. Information would be made more available and valuable to everyone, including those in the business of ferreting out information for others – i.e. journalists.
It really is true that things could work a lot better with widespread semantic tagging. A lot of work has gone into it and most serious online publishers use some degree of it. But the vast majority of web content produced by the vast majority of average bloggers and web users does not. Instead, the trend has been for Google, Bing, Yahoo and the big commercial information intelligence services to constantly improve the contextual analysis capabilities of their search engines.
A related example is how full-text search has mostly bypassed massive keyword systems in news metadata for most everyone except news organizations themselves. I sat on the IPTC – International Press Telecommunications Council for a decade and endured so many painful hours of debate among wire services and various news organizations trying to maintain the keyword lists first implemented for stories back in the teletype days. Wouldn’t it be great, they said, if everyone used the same unique keywords in their web metadata? Then all online content could easily be categorized and organized by modern digital systems, particularly ours.
And it’s true; things could work a lot better with unique and unambiguious keywords attached to everything. But we can’t even get photographers at our own newspapers to fill out full caption info in their digital images, little less fill out the full IPTC header, little less get everyone on the web to keyword everything. Most people don’t even put much in the way of keywords into the metadata header of their own websites.
And now this push for more and standardized tagging (i.e. keywords) that everyone should use on their tweets. So ask me why I hear strains of “Blowing in the Wind” playing in the background.
All that aside, some of the suggestions in this article show a real lack of understanding about how real people, not journalists, use communications and communication channels such as Twitter (yes, it is a channel, not a medium). Like tagging a modified tweet with MT so people will know that a journalist has changed the original and added his or her own content — which is how exactly different than this being essentially a new tweet with new content?
And then there is the RR suggestion where journalists should now start retweeting themselves in order to duplicate their old content to appear as current content higher up in their tweetstreams. It’s for all the new followers they will have coming into a story midstream; so what if everyone else starts getting more repeats of everything than we already do with regular RTs.
I do like, however, the idea that part of the job of a modern journalist should be to hook people up with original source tweeters of value so that our audience can follow them directly. If we do that, we become a valuable resource to the audience. Plus we free up our own time from simply repeating what everyone else is saying so that instead we can create original material and a unique news consumption experience to go with it. Now that’s journalism.