Category Archives: social media

Jake Tapper honors veterans with a #MemorialMessage

CNN anchor Jake Tapper has long been adept with online media, going back to his work at Salon.com. On the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend, Tapper showed how powerful a platform Twitter can be for collective remembrance when he catalyzed an outpouring of family memories from his followers.
  1. Tapper introduced the premise to his followers with a single tweet, sharing a hashtag, #MemorialMesssage, to organize the replies and modeling the response himself.
  2. Our hashtag game today is for those who serve. Send us your Memorial Day message. Mine? Thank you. We will not forget. Use #MemorialMessage
  3. Tapper received just one reply, at first.
  4. @jaketapper #MemorialMessage Remembering Captain Jeb Franklin Seagle a dear friend and hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in Grenada.
  5. Then he came back to Twitter, and shared more personal remembrances of those who served.
  6. This Memorial Day weekend i’ll be thinking about fallen heroes such as Lt. Col. Joe Fenty, Lt. Ben Keating, and Capt. Tom Bostick.
  7. RIP heroes of COP Keating: Kevin Thomson, Justin Gallegos, Chris Griffin, Michael Scusa, Vernon Martin, Stephan Mace, Josh Kirk, Josh Hardt.
  8. RIP this Memorial Day to Captain Robert Yllescas.
  9. Another fallen soldier I will be thinking about this weekend, PFC Chris Pfeifer projects.militarytimes.com/valor/army-pfc…
  10. And Pfc. Brian Moquin, who was killed in a helicopter crash in 2006 projects.militarytimes.com/valor/army-pfc…
  11. And SSG Ryan Fritsche sites.google.com/site/wryanfrit…
  12. And SGT Buddy Hughie projects.militarytimes.com/valor/army-sgt…
  13. More of his followers began chiming in — and Tapper began retweeting their memories of fallen service members to his more than 1 million followers
  14. @jaketapper CPL Robert Taylor McDavid KIA March 10, 2008. OIF. My brother-in-law.
  15. @jaketapper I’ll remember CTO2 Steve TESMER the sole operator type on board the EC121 shot down by NK in 68. my room mate and friend
  16. @jaketapper My daddy 1SGT Robert Scholz Died 2/7/2010 Served Vietnam and Korea twice each. Not in action but served our country for 20 yrs.
  17. @jaketapper Remembering Maj Charles Creech who passed away 2yrs. Ago after a distinguished career flying for the US Air Force. Dear friend!
  18. @jaketapper My great-uncle, MAJ Stanley Holmes, US Army, POW in Philippines during WWII, killed aboard the hellship Oryoku Maru, 12-15-44
  19. Thank you to my late grandfathers John A Petersen, Harry Gabbard #wwiiVets #memorialmessage @jaketapper
  20. @jaketapper CPT David Boris … Commander, A TRP 1/91 CAV, 12 Nov 2007
  21. .@jaketapper My wife’s bro, @USArmy Cpt Shane Mahaffee passed in ’06. 4 mournful Mondays in a row: death, burial, Memorial Day, b’day. #hero
  22. @jaketapper My Uncle, Maj. Kenneth P. Tanner. Killed In Vietnam in last major battle, Operation Ripcord. Left 4 children behind.
  23. .@jaketapper I’m remembering LT John Valek, USN. Served ’38-’52 – WW2/Korea. Survived the sinking of the USS Wasp in ’42. Passed in 2000 RIP
  24. @jaketapper Two Flight School classmates. ENS Ryan Anthony USN, LTJG Robert Roch, USN. Great friends.
  25. @jaketapper Sgt. Josh Madden, December 6, 2006, Hawija, Iraq.
  26. @jaketapper SSG Lillian Clamens. Saddest one I ever encountered. She was leaving the next day. 10/10/07 projects.militarytimes.com/valor/army-sta…
  27. @jaketapper I’m remembering my grandfather, Raymond Sanfilippo, who served on the USS Lake Champlain during WWII. #MemorialDayHeroes
  28. @jaketapper My Dad, Sgt William Lieder, served in US Army & Navy. Saw action in Korean War. Said he never should have left service, loved it
  29. @jaketapper Remembering Jerry Zovko. Killed in Fallujah. Still angry.
  30. @jaketapper RIP Jack Thurston-Bataan Death March survivor POW til MacArthur liberated-renaissance man from Corbin,KY #memorialmessage
  31. @jaketapper #memorialmessage Remembering my late Grandfather Edward and late Uncle Ricky; Ed – WWII, Marine Corps. Ricky – Korea, Air Force
  32. @jaketapper My father, SFC. Benjamin Davis Sr. US Army. 30yrs. WW2 Vietnam
  33. @jaketapper Specialist Theodore Matthew Glende – K.I.A. July 27, 2012 in Afghanistan. (23 years old. Husband of my best friend.)
  34. @jaketapper CPL Pruitt Rainey, 173rd ABCT, Chosen Company. One of 9 US KIA 7/13/08 at the Battle of Wanat. #ChosenFew
  35. @jaketapper my bro 1stLT Travis Manion USMC and his best friend SEAL Brendan Looney. Buried next to each other in Arlington. @TMFoundation
  36. @jaketapper My grandfather: Lt. Col. LeRoy Skaith. Passed in 1997. Bronze Stars WWII: Battle of Hurtgen Forest and Battle of the Bulge
  37. @jaketapper Uncle Al, 1st infantry division, Normandy, the Bulge, Germany
  38. @jaketapper My “Grandpop” Lt Walter Catanzarita. Wounded WWII, passed 1980.
  39. @jaketapper CIA Paramilitary Officer & former USMC Johnny Spann, KIA 11/25/01, Qala-I-Jangi, Afghan;1st KIA in country & a great guy. RIP
  40. @jaketapper RIP Jimmie “Sonny” Davis…Korean Conflict
  41. @jaketapper Remembering my great grandpa, Jesus Briseno – Navy – Pearl Harbor survivor. RIP.
  42. @jaketapper my grandfather, SSgt James Reynolds, 3rd US Army, Battle of the Bulge
  43. @jaketapper I’ll be remembering my friend, Capt Matthew Mattingly, Army 82nd Airborne, KIA in Iraq, 9/13/2006
  44. @jaketapper #memorialmessage remembering my CA grandpa, Captn (marines) WWII-Pacific & the brave woman he wrote love letters to back home.
  45. @jaketapper Remembering my Great Uncle, Salvatore Sanfilippo, Purple Heart recipient, Battle of the Bulge, WWII. #MemorialDayHeroes
  46. @jaketapper My Uncle Billy Knight, who died in ’82 from cancer caused by Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. Our memories are warm & vibrant.
  47. @jaketapper Spc Ross McGinnis, December, 4 2006 – Medal of Honor
  48. @jaketapper Remembering my dad. He was so proud to have served in the Navy in WW2. Love you, Daddy, and thank you. #MemorialMessage
  49. .@jaketapper Anthony Marangiello, Glen Cove, NY. Bataan Death March, WWII. Came back with the respect of all. #memorialday
  50. @jaketapper H.S. classmate Lance Cpl. Howard March killed in Iraq 9/24/06
  51. @jaketapper TY for sharing all these memories, very powerful. My late grandfather served in WW2. Father-in-law served in USN Korea(surgeon)
  52. @jaketapper Remembering my grandpa, James C. Evans – Navy – Pearl Harbor survivor. #memorialday
  53. @jaketapper RIP my grandpa Robert W. English. Navy. Battle of Midway survivor. 1918-2013
  54. @jaketapper CW4 Phil Garvey died flying a rescue mission that wasn’t supposed to be his.He volunteered so pilots w young kids didn’t have to
  55. @jaketapper remembering my Pappy: James I “Jack” Martin. Combat Medic, US Army WWII – Pelilieu and other hot rocks. Never talked about it.
  56. @jaketapper : I honor Lance Cpl Bob W. Roberts. Died OIF Fallujah. May 2004. Childhood friend.
  57. @jaketapper I #GoSilent for SSG Christopher Cutchall, KIA Baghdad Sept 2003. Best scout, wonderful father, husband, & friend ever.
  58. I’m remembering my grandpa, Carl Conrad, Army, WWII, both Pacific & European Theatres. @JakeTapper pic.twitter.com/CC9VJmgAK3
  59. @jaketapper Cpl George Anthony “Tony” Lutz II, killed December 29, 2005, 6 weeks into his first deployment.
  60. @jaketapper my great uncle Leslie Fleming 200th Coast Artillery. Survivor of the Bataan Death March.
  61. @jaketapper in memory of my grandfather, Hugo Smith, survived the Battle of the Bulge
  62. @jaketapper Remembering my grandmother Rifka Frank, Yeoman First class, enlisted May 1, 1918 WWI. 1900-1986.
  63. @jaketapper My dad – Army Air Corps Flight Engineer – China, Burma, India WWII. I still wear his wings as a bracelet. He died in 1990
  64. @jaketapper My mom Sgt. Ellen Shanahan, Women’s Army Corp, WWII. Very proud of her service.
  65. @jaketapper my dad, CWO Hank Meadows, Headquarters Company, 8th Air Force, Bushy Park, London, England
  66. @jaketapper remembering my father, Stanley Caplan, WWII 1922-2011
  67. @jaketapper : CPL Wesley Wells, 2-27th Infantry USA Libertyville,IL KIA Naka, Afghanistan 09/04 #memorialmessage
  68. @jaketapper Remembering my dad, Leslie N Webster, served in WWII with 535th Engineers building bridges. Miss you Dad.
  69. @jaketapper my father PFC John T Henley WW2 Mindinao Philippines. Henley Wilson Merrills marauders
  70. @jaketapper Remembering both my papaws & hubby’s grandad-all served our country. Grateful 4 & blessed because of their service @JustinDOwen
  71. At the end of that outpouring, Tapper signed off and suggested that his followers use the hashtag if they continue to share memories, sustaining the distributed conversation he’d sparked and empowered.
  72. Signing off now tweeps… Use #MemorialMessage if you tweet more remembrances so we can all follow by clicking on the hashtag… God bless
  73. And they did:
  74. @jaketapper #MemorialMessage thinking of Patrick V. Needham, #USArmy in Korea, 31 yrs #ChicagoPolice, passed away 1984, too young.
  75. @jaketapper Miss WWII dad; taught us 2 “police the area” -clean the yard & sing Army songs(Dirty Bill lived on Garbage Hill)#MemorialMessage
  76. This was one of the best uses of Twitter I’ve seen this year. Well done, Mr. Tapper.

    And thanks to all those who have served and sacrificed.

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Hi! Click here to stop from getting phished on Twitter

Today, Twitter finally started rolling out dual-factor authentication for its users. Twitter will allow users to use text messaging to a mobile phone to confirm their identity upon log-in.

In a post and accompanying video on the company blog, Twitter product security team member Jim O’Leary (@jimeo) explained how Twitter’s version of 2-factor authentication will work:

…when you sign in to twitter.com, there’s a second check to make sure it’s really you. After you enroll in login verification, you’ll be asked to enter a six-digit code that we send to your phone via SMS each time you sign in to twitter.com.

To get started, visit your account settings page, and select the option “Require a verification code when I sign in”. You’ll need a confirmed email address and a verified phone number. After a quick test to confirm that your phone can receive messages from Twitter, you’re ready to go.

Twitter has lagged behind Google, Microsoft, Facebook and institutions that allow online banking in providing this additional layer of protection. It’s showed: Twitter has been plagued by phishing scams for years.

Recently, however, high profile hacks of Twitter accounts at the Associated Press, the Financial Times and The Onion have put more focus on adding this feature. As Twitter adds more e-commerce deals and becomes more integrated into politics and business, improving security will only become more important.

Today’s announcement is a much-needed improvement. Here’s hoping it gets rolled out quickly to the hundreds of millions of users who can’t get someone at Twitter on the phone after they clicked on the wrong link.

Hat tip: The Verge

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Yahoo buys Tumblr. Keep calm and reblog on?

Yahoo buys Tumblr. Keep calm and reblog on?

Yahoo’s board has approved a $1.1 billion all-cash deal to buy Tumblr, a New York City-based technology company.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer tweeted that this is the first acquisition announced by an animated GIF and promised “not to screw it up,” keeping the team in place and offering support and integration, not re-invention. Yahoo famously acquired delicious, Flickr and Upworthy, amongst other hot online properties, only to let them moulder. Many users still haven’t forgiven Yahoo for its 2009 decision to close Geocities, an popular online community from the 1990s, without archiving it.

Tumblr CEO David Karp tumbled the news and sought to allay user concerns: “We’re not turning purple,” he wrote. “Our headquarters isn’t moving. Our team isn’t changing. Our roadmap isn’t changing. And our mission – to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve – certainly isn’t changing.”

$1.1 billion dollars is a lot of money for a (re)blogging network with tens of millions of users but scant revenue but it buys Yahoo a foothold in mobile social networking and, at least for the moment, many more young users — as long as the community doesn’t flee.

That’s likely one reason that both CEOs took such lengths to be reassuring this morning. Mayer joined Tumblr and has been posting cheeky animated GIFs that allude to seamier side of the social blogging service.

In the months ahead, Tumblr users will see more ads — “native ads” and dashboard ads from Yahoo’s ad network and perhaps in-line ads on the mobile app — much as Facebook users do. That’s no surprise, although finding the right mix of relevancy, frequency and intrusiveness for mobile advertising will be a delicate dance.
Mayer says that the two companies will work together to create “advertising opportunities that are seamless and enhance user experience.”

It will be interested to see if that means more sponsored posts and advertorial from “brand journalists” and corporate media writing for business tumblrs. John Battelle’s looks at on displays, streams and native advertising concludes that this move gives Yahoo “an asset that its branded display sales force can sell as sexy: native, content-driven advertising at scale.”

In an attention economy, ads need to be independently entertaining on their own to avoid the click away or being tuned out by the glazed, jaded eyes of young people exposed to an unprecedented bath of media before adulthood.

That’s a dynamic that WordPress founder Matt Mullenwag alluded to in a comment on his post on “Yahooblr“:

In an advertising business a lot of it comes down to attention: how much and where advertisers spend to get your attention usually lags 3-5 years from where people are actually spending their time, and when that gap closes it can be very impressive. Of course it doesn’t happen for free, there are lots of organizational changes needed to execute on that opportunity, and probably as many people screw it up as get it right.

I believe there is also an even-larger-than-advertising opportunity around subscriptions and products. The big shift from older forms of media is that people aren’t just passively consuming as they might in front of a TV, they’re creating. It’s a hobby and a passion, not a vice. In that context I think subscriptions are more aligned with users than advertising, and that’s the direction Automattic is pointed in.

The big question most technology pundits and business analysts will be asking today is whether this makes sense for Yahoo and puts them on a stronger course. The initial market reaction put Yahoo stock up nearly 1% at 11 AM.

On a personal note, I expect to keep tumbling, though I find WordPress to be a superior blogging platform. That said, my attention is spread across many different social platforms and media organizations, not to mention my inbox and iPhone.

If I’m confronted by too many ads on the Tumblr mobile app, I’m going to spend less time consuming and creating there. I’m sure I’m not alone.

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May 20, 2013 · 11:00 am

On unwiring


For the last decade, I’ve thought about going offline like Paul Miller. Turn off, drop off, tune in to life offline.

I’ve never done it. Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve been fully offline more than a month since 1999. I do periodically unwire. A night out here, a long bike ride there, a long weekend in the woods.

The last time it truly happened for more than 24 hours was in January in Anguilla, where I took long hikes, paddles, swims or went sailing without a connection. (I didn’t attempt a tweet during my kite boarding lesson.) Or last August, up in Cape Cod. Vacation is now virtually defined for me as being offline, without commitments. Before that trip, the last truly offline time was my honeymoon, in Greece, where, again, there was (often) no connection to be had.

I may still choose to share my experience and stay connected while I’m on vacation, or “paid time off,” as my former employer calls it, but doing so was always on my own time, at my own choosing. Each time I disconnect, I’ve learned something valuable about myself, both in terms of the person I’ve always been and the man I’ve become.

I’m glad Paul Miller did this and shared his experience. I think such reflection is important and the insight derived from it has always helped to shape and guide my subsequent choices about using technology.

In particular, his shift to finding other distractions, from games to television, was a reminder that we have agency in our own lives. We can choose whether and how to maintain our relationships, our minds, our bodies and our professional, intellectual or recreational pursuits, whether we’re connected or not.

It’s tempting to blame “the Internet” for poor choices or bad habits — and there are reasons to be cautious about how games or social networks tap into certain innate aspects of human behavior — but my personal experience with the network of networks has been enormously empowering and uplifting.

Your mileage, of course, may vary.

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The White House is tumbling further into social media

Earlier today, the White House officially joined Tumblr. A short initial post and a hand-drawn infographic explained what the 100 million or so active members of the social blogging platform what to expect when they visit whitehouse.tumblr.com:

We’ll post things like the best quotes from President Obama, or video of young scientists visiting the White House for the science fair, or photos of adorable moments with Bo. We’ve got some wonky charts, too. Because to us, those are actually kind of exciting. But this is also about you. President Obama is committed to making this the most open and accessible administration in history, and our Tumblr is no exception. We want to see what you have to share: Questions you have for the White House, stories of what a policy like immigration reform means to you, or ways we can improve our Tumbling. We’re new here, and we’re all ears.

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The move onto Tumblr is only the latest in the progression of the White House establishing beachheads on the most popular social networks on the planet.

Over the past several years, the White House digital team has used unprecedented scale of its connections on these networks to try to influence national debates on proposed laws, policies and rules, applying public engagement to politics with mixed results. Now the team will be  as well as tweeting, blogging, liking , pinning and plussing.

The White House had already joined other popular social networks over the years, including:

While the conventions of Tumblr will mean the way that the staffers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue communicates will be different than 140 character tweets, White House Hangouts or holiday pinning, the overall strategy is the same: use new media tools to go directly to the public. For a fun twist on that strategy, look no further than the White House joining Vine on the day of the White House Science Fair.

Tumblr’s culture lends itself to infographics and pictures, particularly animated versions of images in the Graphics Interchange Format. (Animated GIFs were a big deal in Election 2012, if you missed it.)

The White House clearly understands that context, given the nod at the end of today’s initial post: “…yes, there will be GIFs.” So, apparently, does the staffer running the Twitter account of First Lady Michelle Obama:


I can only imagine what might have been if these tools had been around two decades ago.

One detail in the first tumblr post shouldn’t go unnoticed: the White House is asking users to send them posts using Tumblr’s submission tool.

If they’re anywhere near as daring with resharing submissions as they’ve been with retweets at @WhiteHouse on Twitter, many political reporters will soon be adding “reblog does not equal endorsement” to their Tumblr profiles in the days to come.


Postscript on Pronunciation: At Buzzfeed, Ellie Hall noticed another detail embedded in the graphic accompanying today’s inaugural Tumblr post: the White House weighed in on the pronunciation of GIF, coming down on the side of the hard “G,” like “gift.”

As she correctly reports, however, the creators of the GIF format have long held that the correct pronunciation of GIF with a soft “G,” like “gem.” That’s how Compuserve employees pronounced it as well, back in the late 1980s.

Who’s right? The GIF Pronunciation page comes down hard (er, soft?) on the side of “jif.” As noted in Wikipedia, however, where such contentious debates never fully expire, the Oxford English Dictionary[5] and the American Heritage Dictionary.[6] accept both pronunciations as correct. Good luck successfully navigating this debate, Mr. President.

Post-Postscript: The White House made good on its promise quickly, publishing an animated GIF of President Obama brushing his shoulder off prior to his appearance at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner to Tumblr last Saturday.

Other posts include three pictures, in keeping with Tumblr’s visual style, including links to the White House blog and video of the President’s comedic set from the dinner.

Post-Post-Postscript: After a mechanical engineer named Claudio Ibarra commented on a Google+ thread linked to this post that he thought that staff making animated GIF was a “waste,” I explained why the White House be spending time making animated GIFs.

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Tweaser: noun — a movie teaser cut into a 6 second Vine video and tweet

I never expected to associate a “tweaser” with The Wolverine. (I assumed Wolverine’s healing powers would always extrude any splinter.)

That changed yesterday, when James Mangold, the director of the most recent cinematic treatment of the comic book hero’s adventures, tweeted the first “tweaser” of the new century. He used Twitter’s new Vine app to share the short clip, a tightly edited 6 seconds of  footage from the upcoming film. You can watch Vine’s big moment in tweet embedded below.

Twitter certainly has come a long way from txt messages. As Lily Rothman quipped at Time, the emergence of a 6 second tweaser that can be retweeted, tumbled and embedded gives “new meaning to the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.”

Jen Yamato has the backstory behind 20th Century Fox’s debut of a 21st century tweaser over at Deadline, including credit to Fox executive Tony Sella for the coinage:

Last week FilmDistrict was the first studio to use Twitter’s new looping app as a marketing tool. Here’s an even buzzier use of Vine: A 6-second “tweaser” (that’s Twitter teaser, or “TWZZR”) previewing Fox’s July 26 superhero pic Wolverine.

I suspect that at least a few of the tweasers that go flickering by on Twitter, Vine and blog posts will lead people to do what I did: become aware of the upcoming and film and look for a longer version of the teaser trailer elsewhere online. If a tweaser comes with a custom short URL, so much the easier.

To that point, If you want to watch a higher quality “full-length” version of the teaser, there’s now a teaser trailer available on the iTunes Store and a YouTube version:
… which, it’s worth pointing out, can also be embedded in tweets.

Hopefully, history remember will remember “The Wolverine for more than being the subject of the world’s first “tweaser.” Then again, our attention spans may not be up to it, particularly if the length of the interactive media we consume continues to shorten at this rate.

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Can journalists change their social media avatars to political symbols?

Nisha Chittal asked a number of journalists (including me) about where they stand for on using same-sex marriage symbols on their social media profiles.

Here’s what she found: “The answer is a multi-layered one: it depends on the journalist, the outlet they work for, the social media platform, and whether the journalist is covering this week’s Supreme Court hearings.”

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I was honored to see that Nisha gave me the “kicker quote” at the end. If you’d like to weigh in on your stance on this ethical issue, comment away.

Here’s the statement I submitted to her inquiry:

In general, the consensus answer amongst the journalists I respect is that changing your avatar to a symbol like this is not OK, based upon the ethics policies of places like the AP, WSJ, NYT, PBS or NPR.

I think the capacity to demonstrate support for one side of a contentious social issue like this varies, depending upon the masthead a journalist is working under, the ethics policy of that masthead, the role of the journalist and the coverage area of the journalist. Staking out positions on a reporter’s beat is generally frowned upon.

Opinion journalists who regularly take positions on the issues of the day as columnists have often already made it clear where they stand on a policy or law. Advocacy journalism has an established place in the marketplace for ideas. Readers know where a writer stands and are left to judge the strength of an argument and the evidence presented to back it.

If a reporter takes on overt, implicit position on an issue that she is reporting on, however, will it be possible to interview sources who oppose it?

On the other hand, there are a number of social issues that may have had “sides” in past public discourse but have now become viewpoints that few journalists would find tenable to support today.

How many journalists were able to remain neutral or objective in their coverage of slavery in the 1860s? Womens’ suffrage in the early 20th century? Civil rights in the 1960s? Child slavery, sex trafficking, so-called “honor rape” or the impression of child soldiers in the present?

Interracial marriage was illegal in some states in the Union, not so many years ago. That is not the case any longer. It seems to me that gay marriage is on the same trajectory. The arc of the moral universe is long indeed, but I tend to agree with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on its trajectory: it bends towards justice.

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Want good online comments? Create communities and moderate them.

I’ve been clear that about why I value blog comments before. If you’ve spent any time online, however, you know how bad many comment sections are. Why is that the case? Read Bora Zivkovic on commenting threads, in easily one of the best posts on the topic that I’ve ever read. It’s a long post, but it’s well worth your time. Zivkovic links to a forthcoming paper [PDF] that anyone in charge of comments should read, regarding how the tone of comments affects readers.The short version is that unmoderated, acidic comment sections polarizes readers and can lead them to believe in science less.

I discovered the post through NYT Journalism professor Jay Rosen, when he tweeted it:

Zivkovic, who is the blogs editor at the Scientific American, did nail it. I guessed that the answer to Rosen’s tweet was a lack of active participation by a moderator/author, and that’s more or less what I took away from this post. (I suspect he may have been directing his tweet at journalists who don’t — or can’t — spend the time moderating blog posts and social media profiles, along with the editors and publishers who employ them.) Rosen explained more about why he thought the post was important on a public post on his Facebook profile:

Nothing gets people pumped to denounce the Internet for destroying reasoned discourse like the state of online commenting. And it is difficult to deny that many comment sections are sewers. Also, it’s not true that to be a smart, web-smart publisher you MUST have comments. It’s a choice. There will always be good reasons not do have comments, and good reasons to have comments. But as to *why* the comment sections are sewers, we actually know a lot about this. We also know a lot about how to make them better. But many online publishers and newspaper journalists don’t want to know because they are looking for a “set it and forget it” solution that does not exist. Bora Zivkovic covers all of this and more in one of the best posts you will read about online commenting. Well worth your time.

I think good comments require persistent identity (not “real” identity), moderation tools and active moderation. Without that mix, you get the toxic stew that is pervasive across far too many forums online.

Agree? Disagree? Hey, let me know in the comments!

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I Heard It Through The App Vine

After surfing around a bit tonight, I’m not sure yet whether the new Vine App will be to video what Instagram is for pictures. (Vine went live last Friday, when I was on vacation in Anguilla.) The amount of buzz I’ve found upon returning from vacation suggests at least a few of the people I follow and read think it’s possible.

It sounds like the initial launch was a bit buggy for some users, though I had no issues when I downloaded and installed Vine tonight. I found it quite easy to join, find friends from Twitter and my address book (if not Facebook) and then to create and share a 6 second spot using the app, which I promptly deleted.

Vine is Twitter’s first standalone app, like Facebook’s Poke or Messenger. As is the case with tweets, vines have their own permalink and play in embedded tweets, like Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s tweet that shows how to make steak tartare:

A mobile social network that’s built around mobile sharing of videos from iOS devices and integrated into other media, particularly tweets and blog posts, could have legs online — along with many other body parts. Tonight, posts on multiple outlets suggested that Vine has a “porn problem.”

I’m not sure if this revelation will not shock many long-time observers of people’s behavior online, when faced with webcams. Exhibit A: Chatroulette. I instantly thought of Avenue Q’s classic assessment of what the Internet is for.

(With a little help from Twitter, I was able to source the quote to Ethan Zuckerman’s 2008 talk at ETech on the cute cat theory.)

I tend to agree with Joshua Topolsky’s assessment at The Verge: it’s Apple that has the porn problem, not Twitter or Vine. We’ll see how Apple responds. Steve Jobs was clear in 2010 when he wrote that Apple has a “moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” Apple does not, however, censor the websites or, critically, user-generated content (UGC) on them when users access them through the Safari mobile Web browser. Treating UGC platforms like Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ like Web browsers might make more sense to users. (I don’t know how that approach would sit in Cupertino or the Federal Trade Commission.)

Regardless of the larger issues surrounding Apple’s policies as a powerful gatekeeper for app makers, parents take note: letting young children search raw Twitter feeds or Vine apps for #porn is going to turn up media that’s NSFW, much less NSFK(ids).

While there’s certainly porn to be found, I didn’t see any when I watched the automagically randomized selection of vines at Vinepeek, which I found thanks to a tweet from Mitch Kapor. Despite inevitable flashes of crudity and banality, I found many of these glimpses of shared humanity endearing, just as YouTube can be at its best.

There are many other ways Vine can be used for business or other less salacious purposes, however, as Chris Brogan pointed out on Friday. Given my interest in cooking, I think creative spots that show how to make different recipes, like the one Costolo filmed, could be particularly interesting. While there are plenty of possibilities for media creation, for I’m not sure whether journalists will wholeheartedly move to quickly adopt Vine professionally, although there were certainly plenty of early adopters on Instagram.

I remember the idea of a social network of video shorts when it first floated to the top of my social stream: it was called Seesmic, and Loic Le Meur shuttered it in 2009. That said, the context for Vine is different, given the tens of millions of iPhones and iPads in people’s hands today.

I think Vine will be worth watching, so to speak. If Vine does catch on, expect “vining” and “vines” to become part of the tech vernacular.

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Are online petitions the next step in e-democracy or an e-exercise in futility?

At noon today, I’m going to be on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU, DC’s local NPR station, to talk about the power of online petitions.

What do you think of them, in general? Have you signed one or more? Why? What outcomes have petitions created at Avaaz or Change.org had? What about White House e-petitions? What about e-petitions in the UK or in other countries? If you have comments on these questions or relevant research, please let me know in the comments or email me at alex [at] oreilly.com.

On one of those counts, I’ve linked up some relevant reading below on the White House e-petitions platform, “We The People,” which has been getting much more mainstream media attention in recent months. (The response to an e-petition to build a Death Star, at least, was epic.)

1. Jim Snider, White House’s ‘We The People’ Petitions Find Mixed Success, NPR’s All Things Considered, January 3, 2013.

2. Micah Sifry: How We The People could help form a more perfect union, TechPresident, 2012

3. Jim Snider: The White House’s We The People Petition Website: First Year Report Card, Huffington Post, September 23, 2012.

4. Jim Snider: The Case of the Missing White House Petitions, Huffington Post, October 31, 2011.

5. Nick Judd: Is the White House doing enough for We The People?, TechPresident, November 2, 2011.

6. Jim Snider: What Is the Democratic Function of the White House’s We The People Petition Website?, Huffington Post, October 20, 2011

7. Jim Snider: The White House’s New We the People Petition Website, Huffington Post, October 31, 2011

8. Alex Howard: White House launches e-petitions, National Journal, September 10, 2011

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Filed under government 2.0, journalism, social media