Category Archives: social bookmarking

On online trust, reputation, satire and misquotation on Twitter and beyond

The issue of online trust deeply resonates with me. People can and do lose jobs or opportunities because of social media. I do not find intentional misquotes of someone, particularly any journalist or government official, funny. It’s happened a couple of times to me recently, so I thought I’d offer some personal reflections on why I asked those who did so not to change my updates or to substitute words I never used.

Andy Carvin talks with Jeff Jarvis

Andy Carvin talks with Jeff Jarvis at the 2011 SXSWi Twitter Retreat

1) The size of someone’s following is irrelevant. One tweet to 100 can easily be picked up globally. Context that one person has is also irrelevant to the choice, because the update can be quickly shorn of its origin.

2) I’ve heard that I shouldn’t ask others not to intentionally misquote me because it will “hurt public engagement” or diminish the interest of others in amplifying my signal. I accept that it could affect “engagement” with those I challenge. I prefer to correct the record, especially while history’s rough draft is still being written, to protect my reputation against a misinterpretation of something I never said than that abstraction.

3) With respect to tone, I don’t believe that asking someone politely, directly, to please retract or correct a update is unduly “harsh.” Similarly, I don’t think that objecting to someone else changing my words without indicating that alteration is insulting. In either case, I can also choose to share my request more broadly with an entire audience or use stronger language, though neither is my first or second recourse.

4) Whenever I have asked others to respect the integrity of my writing, whether it’s in 140 characters or 140 paragraphs, I stand by that choice. I’ve been making it for many years and will continue to do so. I’ve reviewed those decisions against the advice of journalism professors and open government advocates and am now in a relatively good position to make a judgment myself, often in a short period of time. It’s quite straightforward to natively RT someone without changing any text, or to share words on Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter.

5) I don’t see my presences here, on Facebook or Twitter as simply “personal accounts,” as I use them all professionally. I don’t see them as 100% professional, either, since my words any of them do not represent the official views of my employer unless they are shared on corporate accounts. My own accounts also travel with me between positions. Certainly, updates sent to family and friends via circles or closed groups are at least expected to be treated differently, though there’s no guarantor of it, aside from trust in the recipients. Over time, some number of people have chosen to regard me as a trusted source in those contexts. That’s a series of relationships that I’ve built carefully on several platforms over many years, with a great deal of time and attention built to accuracy and focus upon what matters.

6) With respect to scope, If anyone thinks his or her own “personal account” couldn’t inadvertently do damage to that reputation with a joke that went viral, I believe that they are very much mistaken. Here’s a Twitter-specific reference: The decision to place different weight on tweets @attributed to me is based on my history, reputation and trust, along with years of accumulated algorithmic authority. When someone tweets “RT @user: quote,” it indicates to everyone who reads it that the named @user wrote the tweet. To date, I haven’t seen those kinds of issues on Google Plus. Regardless, if someone keeps doing that after being asked politely to stop, the next step is to expose them and then, failing changed behavior, block them.

7) Satire is absolutely approved on social networks, including satiric impersonation. (Ask Rahm Emanuel!). If someone sends out a satirical tweet, update or ‘plus’ that “quotes” me, another writer or a public figure with a goofy picture, it wouldn’t be out of tune with what the Borowitz Report or @MayorEmanuel do. That’s fair game, like SNL skits. Updates that imply actual words (like RT @user”fake quote”) are not, at least in my book.

Are fake updates “allowed?” Governments, corporations, and all kinds of other agents put them up. I think we’ll see more of it. Someone can lie or obfuscate of they want — I think it’s increasingly difficult to do so, though it will continue to happen, particularly in conflict zones. The role of editors and journalists on these networks — and open government advocates or technologist — is to sift the truth from the fiction.

8 ) With respect to whether social media is used differently by journalists, whether different rules apply or whether there are “formal rules” applied to it, I’ve seen enough policies emerge to know that the same standards that apply to those employed by media organizations that distribute journalism on television, public radio or print magazines.

I’ve seen a lot of thought given to the issue of trust and its relationship to media using social networks, particularly by big journalism institutions and those that work for them. This isn’t about rhetoric: it’s about created trusted relationships online over time, where authority and truth aren’t simply stamped by a masthead by given by networks of friends, followers, colleagues and networks. The idea that you don’t need a reputation to succeed, at least as a writer of non-fiction, strikes me as patently false. Trust and reputation is why your pitch is accepted, why you are hired or retained, followed or unfollowed, feted or fired.

When journalists really get things wrong, they can lose trust, reputation and, in some cases, their jobs. And yes, that can include satire gone wrong. My point tonight was to recognize that the professional and the personal have crossed over on these networks.

What I say or what is incorrectly said on my behalf can and does have significant offline effects. In other words, it’s more than a personal problem, and it’s one that you can expect me to defend against now and in the future.

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Yahoo Research: 50% of tweets consumed are generated by 20,000 elite users

New research from research on Twitter found that 50% of tweets consumed are generated by 20K elite users. Based upon the more than 37,000 tweets I’ve posted over four years of tweeting, it’s a virtual lock that I’m one of them. Of particular interest was the “significant homophily” that the researchers found within categories. I’ve tried hard to escape that effect after reading Ethan Zuckerman’s post on homophily, serendipity and xenophilia nearly three years ago.

FULL PAPER: Twitter flow

Abstract:

We study several longstanding questions in media communications research, in the context of the microblogging service Twitter, regarding the production, flow, and consumption of information. To do so, we exploit a recently introduced feature of Twitter—known as Twitter lists—to distinguish between elite users, by which we mean specifically celebrities, bloggers, and representatives of media outlets and other formal organizations, and ordinary users. Based on this classification, we find a striking concentration of attention on Twitter—roughly 50% of tweets consumed are generated by just 20K elite users—where the media produces the most information, but celebrities are the most followed. We also find significant homophily within categories: celebrities listen to celebrities, while bloggers listen to bloggers etc; however, bloggers in general rebroadcast more information than the other categories. Next we re-examine the classical “two-step flow” theory of communications, finding considerable support for it on Twitter, but also some interesting differences. Third, we find that URLs broadcast by different categories of users or containing different types of content exhibit systematically different lifespans. And finally, we examine the attention paid by the different user categories to different news topics.

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What’s next for del.icio.us? Not shutting down, says @Delicious

Yesterday, a leaked screenshot from an internal Yahoo! product meeting created widespread throughout much of the Web: delicious, the social bookmarking giant, appeared in the “sunset” category. There are petitions to save it, offers to buy it, a movement to to open source it and even a suggestion that it should be moved into the Library of Congress.

Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote a beautiful euology on ReadWriteWeb, RIP delicious: you were so beautiful to me.

A day later, delicious has responded. Spoiler: they’re not shutting down. The statement on what’s next for delicious from the blog is posted in full below.

Many of you have read the news stories about Delicious that began appearing yesterday. We’re genuinely sorry to have these stories appear with so little context for our loyal users. While we can’t answer each of your questions individually, we wanted to address what we can at this stage and we promise to keep you posted as future plans get finalized.

Is Delicious being shut down? And should I be worried about my data?

– No, we are not shutting down Delicious. While we have determined that there is not a strategic fit at Yahoo!, we believe there is a ideal home for Delicious outside of the company where it can be resourced to the level where it can be competitive.

What is Yahoo! going to do with Delicious?

– We’re actively thinking about the future of Delicious and we believe there is a home outside the company that would make more sense for the service and our users. We’re in the process of exploring a variety of options and talking to companies right now. And we’ll share our plans with you as soon as we can.

What if I want to get my bookmarks out of Delicious right away?

– As noted above, there’s no reason to panic. We are maintaining Delicious and encourage you to keep using it. That said, we have export options if you so choose. Additionally, many services provide the ability to import Delicious links and tags.

We can only imagine how upsetting the news coverage over the past 24 hours has been to many of you. Speaking for our team, we were very disappointed by the way that this appeared in the press. We’ll let you know more as things develop.
-cyeh · Chris

I’m looking forward to learning what happens next for delicious; there appear to be a number of options that might be palatable to long-time users, particularly the developer community. While my usage took a nose dive over the past two years, I’d like to be able to keep using my 2353 bookmarks there and the service in general.

I’m particularly curious about whether delicious could up in the Library of Congress. If billions of tweets are worth storing, why not this vast collection of collectively curated hyperlinks?

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Why don’t more tweets get @replies or retweets?

As Jennifer Van Grove wrote at Mashable yesterday, “research shows that 71% of all tweets produce no reaction — in replies or retweets — which suggests an overwhelming majority of our tweets fall on deaf ears.”

Sysomos, maker of social media analysis tools, looked at 1.2 billion tweets over a two-month period to analyze what happens after we publish our tweets to Twitter. Its research shows that 71% of all tweets produce no reaction — in the form of replies or retweets — which suggests that an overwhelming majority of our tweets fall on deaf ears.

Sysomos findings also highlight that retweets are especially hard to come by — only 6% of all tweets produce a retweet (the other 23% solicit replies).

I’ll admit, this doesn’t shock me, based upon my experience over the years.

Many of my tweets are retweeted but then I have above-average reach at @digiphile and engaged followers.

I know I’m an outlier in many respects there, and that the community that I follow and interact with likely is as well.

This research backs that anecdotal observation up: people are consuming information rather than actively interacting with it. But my own experience doesn’t gibe with that greater truth, and that’s why I chimed in, even though I know it may expose me to more of my friend Jack Loftus‘ withering snark. (If you don’t read him at Gizmodo you’re missing out.)

Why Don’t People @Reply more?

So what’s going on? I have a couple of theories. The first is that @replies are much like comments. Most people don’t make either. Even though social networking has shifted many, many more people into a content production role through making status updates to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare (and now perhaps LinkedIn), the 90-9-1 rule or 1% rule still appears to matter most of the social Web. Participation inequality is not a new phenomenon.

That scope of that online history suggests that the behaviors of yesteryear aren’t completely subsumed by the explosion of a more social Web. Twitter and Facebook do appear to have diminished long form blogging activity or comments on posts, as netizens have moved their meta commentary to external social networks. And even there, recent Forrester research suggest that social networking users are creating less content.

In other words, it’s not that Facebook or Twitter sucks, it’s that human behavior is at issue.

It’s not that Twitter or its employees or developers per se are at fault, though you can see where, for example, Quora or Vark are expressly designed to create question and answer threads.

It’s that, for better or worse, the culture of the people using Twitter is expressed in how they use it, including the choice to reply, RT or otherwise engage.

If the service is going to grow into an “information utility” and become a meaningful venue with respect to citizen engagement with government, the evolution of #NewTwitter may need to add better mechanisms to encourage that interaction.

So is Twitter useful?

As Tom Webster pointed out at his blog [Hat tip to @Ed]:

As a researcher, if I were writing this headline, I would have written it thusly: “Nearly 3 in 10 Tweets Provoke A Reaction.”

I follow about 3,000 people on Twitter. If we assume that this lot posts five tweets per week (a conservative figure), that’s 15,000 tweets I could see in a given week, were I to never peel my eyes away from Tweetdeck. The Sysomos data suggests that of those 15,000 tweets, 4,350 were replied to or at least retweeted. See, I think that’s actually a big number.

In other words, 29% of tweets do get a response. That’s better than the direct mail or email marketing, as far as I know. I don’t expect a response from every tweet, though I’ve been guilty of that expectation in past years. That’s why I often ask the same question more than once now, or tweet stories again, or why I’ll syndicate a given post, video or picture into multiple networks.

I continue to find Twitter a useful tool for my profession. While inbound Web traffic from Twitter is negligible when compared to Google, Facebook, StumpleUpon or even Fark, I’ve found it useful for sourcing, sentiment analysis, Q&A, a directory, a direct line to officials and executives, and of course for distributing my writing. Twitter may not be essential in the same sense that a cellphone, camera, notebook and an Internet connection are in my work but I’ve found it to be a valuable complement to those tools. I’ve definitely sourced stories, gathered advice or recommendations through crowdsourcing questions there, with far less effort than more traditional means.

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Strong ties, weak ties, social software and online friendship

Relationships are hard. Friendships take time to build, even if annealed in the heat of a moment. Often they’re situational, forged in school, work, church, or sporting teams, and may fade over time if not renewed regularly.

Online social networking can change that, to a certain extent, but asking people with whom you have weak ties to continually renew them asks a lot. Those with strong ties may tolerate it and continue to follow new accounts, accept requests, correct links or the like. Or even a Like. Until we have an interoperable social graph that can be saved, exported and imported between social networks, we’re wedded to our investments in sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and whatever is coming next, whether it’s Diaspora, Foursquare, Ping or Twitcher. The relationships we build in those networks are the social ties that find, as Professor McAfee put it.

To ground that risk in recent events, my colleague in tech journalism, George Hulme, accidentally deleted his Twitter account this month and has had to ask people to follow the new one. Tough row to hoe, though all of the social capital he’s amassed means he’s already back to 583 follows and 42 lists.

People with weaker ties are unlikely to reconnect unless their interest is sufficiently strong based upon the perceived value of the reconnection. Social karma derives in part from the strength of that past relationship.

I think that’s variably true on the Web, at work or on private social networks. The value of link, follow or fan differs from network to network, as does its permanence. To stop following people on Twitter is much different than to unfriend someone or Facebook or delink on LinkedIn, for instance. In a workplace, where enterprise social software is deployed it could be a huge issue.

These technologies allow us to enrich our networks with many important weaker ties, although sometimes at the cost of investing in reinforcing the stronger ones.

In that vein, I’m looking forward to a family celebration tomorrow where the social circle is as wide as the dinner table, deep as a lifetime and the tweets come from the trees around the patio.

Here’s to being better friends.

UPDATE: Shaun Dakin shared some research in the comments from Paul Adams, a usability researcher at Google, that’s relevant. The Real Life Social Network v2.

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On the failure of Quit Facebook Day, Social Utility and Privacy

"How to split up the US" by Pete Warden

At 10:19 PM EST tonight, the organizers of Quit Facebook Day reported that all of 33,313 people had dropped out of the Facebook universe. That figure represents a tiny fraction of Facebook’s 400 million users.

That miniscule percentage does not represent all of the people that have quit or deactivated their accounts in the past month, but it certainly implies that there hasn’t been a widespread movement to leave the social networking giant.

I’ve been a Facebook user since 2006. I never had the “college experience” of having an electronic Facebook  but found it instantly useful as a means to stay in touch with family, friends, classmates and former colleagues.

It was, clearly, just what its creators said: a social utility. I didn’t care for Facemail much – and still don’t – but many features, like IM, the newsfeed, photos, people search and video are powerful methods for augmenting Facebook’s users to communicate with one another.

Facebook has become the Information Age’s White Pages, for good or ill, extending the service it provided Harvard students with contact details for one another back in 2004 to hundreds of millions around the world.

The changes to privacy and publicy from the past six months, however, fundamentally shifted the reality of using the platform for many users, particularly those who had trusted the site with sensitive information about their lives, friends or other affiliations. For those who never shared information that could be damaging, the shift to a public default meant little. For people with more to lose by virtue of the nature of the cultures they live within, gender or health status, such changes have much greater significance if revealed to a school, parent, employer or government.

By and large, research cited by digital ethnographers like danah boyd shows that many people remain ignorant of how public their updates are. And people care about their online reputation in 2010, given that every organizational gatekeeper or first date is rather likely to Google you.

Recent amendments to the privacy policy and user interface notwithstanding, concerns that those who have the most to lose are not being considered persist amongst privacy advocates. Reports of account deletions, page takedowns or harassment in other countries, with limited recourse for users, also reflect uncertainty over the future of the Internet’s #1 site. Recent shifts to Community pages have also resulted in consternation on the part of both brands and government, though Facebook’s spokesman promises that such features are in development and will be improved.

I have not quit Facebook. I continue to find it useful as a social utility, as before, applying Facebook as a “people browser” for those with whom I want or need to stay connected. I use LinkedIn as a business utility and Twitter as an information utility. I doubt those use cases will change for me personally this year, although I’m watching carefully to see how the most recent privacy controls are implemented.

Recent decisions of Facebook’s management around privacy and personalization may bring its operations under regulation by the FTC, as is already the case with privacy commissioners in Europe or Canada. If consumer harm due to management actions were proven by any of those entities, it would significant implications for the innovation in this sector, although it might also cause developers to build privacy into such platforms from the outset.

As government entities continue to create pages, they will likely be obligated or even required to archive conversations there using Facebook API or other tools. After all, there’s substantial utility to measuring and analyzing the interactions there for those that wish to understand public reaction to policy, candidates or initiatives. If the terms of service are not clearly described to those interaction with government employees, additional layers of complexity around privacy and the rights of consumers will also be in play. And problems in Facebookistan, as Rebecca Mackinnon writes, extend abroad to exposing at-risk members of society to abuse, deleting activist accounts and taking down Pages.

There’s much more to electronic privacy than social networking, not matter how large Facebook becomes. Putting online privacy in perspective is essential. And I tend to agree with danah boyd’s position that quitting Facebook is not enough, especially for those of us in the tech media that have some degree of influence in informing the public and holding the social networking giant’s management to the standards they and law set for ethics and business practices.

But, fundamentally, human relationships are about trust. If we cannot trust that the manner in which we connect, filter and share information with one another will not change with the business needs of a platform, our relationships will be damaged. We have only to look at the statistics on jobs lost, applications denied and romances sunk through virtual actions to understand how those consequences may play out in our offline lives.

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Using social media for better journalism: @Sreenet at #ONADC

“I used to say “justify every pixel,” said Sree Sreenivasan. “Now I say earn every reader.”

Sreenivasan, a dean of student affairs and professor at the Columbia Journalism School, went beyond “what Jeff Jarvis calls the blog boy dance,” offering up more than an hour of cogent advice, perspective and tips on social media to a packed classroom populated by members of the DC Online News Association at Georgetown’s campus in Virginia.

Where once he used to go around newsrooms to talk about email, then Google and blogs, now he’s moved to new tools of digital journalism grounded in a reciprocal relationship between the audience and the reporter. After all, Sreenivasan had to tailor his talk to the audience, a collection of writers, editors and producers already steeped in the tools of digital journalism, moving quickly beyond listing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to the tools and services that that enable journalists to use those social media platforms improve their reporting, editing and careers.

“The best people find the things that work for them and skip the rest,” said Sreenivasan. Services need to be useful, relevant and extend the journalist’s work. Quoting a student, now at the Wall Street Journal, Sreenivasan observed that you “can have greatest content in world but will die on the vine if we don’t have a way for our readers to find it.” He classified the utility of social media for journalists into four broad categories:

  • tracking trends on a given beat
  • connecting with the audience, where ever it is online
  • putting that audience to work, aka crowdsourcing
  • building and curating the journalists personal brand

“Tools should fit into workflow and life flow,” he said. “All journalists should be early testers and late adopters.” In that context, he shared three other social media tools he’s tried but does not use: Google Wave, Google Buzz and Foursquare. Sreenivaan also offered Second Life as as an example, quipped that “I have twins; I have no time for first life!”

The new Listener-in-Chief

One group that undoubtedly needs to keep up with new tools and platforms is the burgeoning class of social media editors. Sreenivasan watches the newly-minted “listeners-in-chief” closely, maintaining a list of social media editors on Twitter and analyzing how they’re using the social Web to advance the editorial mission of their mastheads.

He showed the ONA audience a tool new to many in the room, TagHive.com, that showed which tags were trending for a group. What’s trending for social media editors? This morning, it was “news, love, work, today, great, people, awesome and thanks.” A good-natured group, at least as evidenced by language.

Sreenivasan also answered a question I posed that is of great personal interest: Is it ethical to friend sources on social networking platforms?

The simple answer is yes, in his opinion, but with many a caveat and tweaks to privacy settings. Sreenivasan described the experiences of people in NGOs, activists and other sources whose work has been impaired by associations on social media. To protect yourself and sources, he recommended that Facebook users untag themselves, practicing “security by obscurity,” and use lists. As an example of what can go wrong, he pointed to WhatTheFacebook.com.

Where should journalists turn next for information? Follow @sreenet on Twitter and browse through the resources in his social media guide, which he referenced in the four videos I’ve embedded in this post. He’s a constant source of relevant news, great writing and good tips.

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