01
Oct

How to Make the Most of Twitter

Posted by: Matt Saler

Last week, Calvin came across a three year old post listing tips for getting the most out of Twitter. Some of the advice is outdated (#1 was written before Twitter launched its official Retweet feature, for example), but overall it holds up. The author even called the Upworthy-ification of headlines on the web, though I would argue we’re entering a period of backlash against those.

If you want the “too long, didn’t read” version, skip down to the last point: Be Conversational.

There the author hits on the essence of Twitter: it’s a conversation, more akin to a water cooler gathering than the tabloid magazine parallel the author uses. Twitter is like no other social media platform in its ability to capture the Zeitgeist of a given moment, whether it’s a TV premiere, award show, big playoff game, or the final inning of a no-hitter.

Most importantly, it can bring the world in on what is going on in a particular place or story that isn’t being covered or broadcast anywhere else.

If you plug and engage that conversation in a genuine way, the other tips for using Twitter will fall into place.

02
May

A pre-emptive eulogy for Twitter

Posted by: Matt Saler

The Atlantic has a lengthy piece describing what it calls the twilight of Twitter:

Twitter is the platform that led us into the mobile Internet age. It broke our habit of visiting individual news homepages first thing in the morning, and established behaviors built around real-time news consumption and production. It normalized mobile publishing power. It changed our expectations about how we congregate around shared events. Twitter has done for social publishing what AOL did for email. But nobody has AOL accounts anymore.

As someone who is generally a fairly heavy Twitter user, I went into the piece intending to scoff at the premise. But there’s a valid point in there: the service and the feel of it has changed. There are still great sub-networks where the effects discussed in this piece aren’t as evident, but if you’ve spent much time investing into the culture of Twitter, you’ll have noticed these things.

At its best, Twitter can be one of the most fun places to frequent on the web. At its worst, it can be awful in ways it didn’t used to be. I’m conflicted about calling it a twilight when it could just be a phase, but it’s clear The Atlantic is accurately describing something, even if I’m not sure about the conclusions.

01
May

Followup on native advertising

Posted by: Matt Saler

Nieman Journalism Lab points to a recent study into the possible brand-damaging effects of native advertising on journalism sites. The study compared a younger audience’s perceptions of a test news site with those of an older audience. The researchers found that native ads did not damage the site’s credibility as a new source.

But lest you think that is a solid point in native advertising’s favor, there’s this: the younger crowd recognized the ads and had an overall critical, hard-to-impress stance toward the site, while the older participants didn’t notice the ads despite being more positive in their feedback. Critical users who can recognize native ads (and presumably know to avoid them) and uncritical users who miss the ads entirely don’t add up to an emphatic win for the medium.

Obviously, the question requires more research, which the team that conducted the study plans to do next. As I’ve already suggested, the credibility of news sites is at risk — if only because of increased cynicism.

25
Apr

Farhad Manjoo interviewed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about innovation recently and ended up touching on privacy and anonymity on the internet. As is usual for me when I see Zuckerberg comments on these topics (like these), I got an uneasy feeling.

Q. We’ve seen a number of apps that are playing with anonymity, and apps like Snapchat that are ephemeral. Are those modes interesting to you? Do you expect Facebook will do things with anonymity?

A. I don’t know. I do think more private communication is a bigger space than people realize. You were asking if I was surprised that WhatsApp and Messenger’s use cases were so different. They fit into this framework of private communication. That’s what people like to do, and that’s why there are so many different services. I think there is going to be even more stuff like that.

Anonymity is different. I’m not going to say it can’t work, because I think that is too extreme. But I tend to think some of these interactions are better rooted in some sense of building relationships. There are different forms of identity you can use to form a relationship. You can use your real identity, or you can use phone numbers for something like WhatsApp, and pseudonyms for something like Instagram. But in any of those you’re not just sharing and consuming content, you are also building relationships with people and building an understanding of people. That’s core to how we think about the world. So anonymity is not the first thing that we’ll go do.

Something about the way Zuckerberg talks about privacy and anonymity strikes me as not how average people talk and think about it. I read his definition of anonymity as extremely narrow—you can only be anonymous if you’re not building a relationship of any sort? Whereas I think most people might define it is as simply not using your real name.

Zuckerberg continues to demonstrate that he doesn’t quite get it when it comes to privacy — yet we entrust him and a company staffed with people who “think about the world” that way with some of our most personal information.

21
Apr

If you’ve heard about Heartbleed but aren’t sure what the big deal is, web-comic xkcd has a great explanation. After you read that, check out LastPass and make your passwords more secure.  You can even determine the status of the sites you frequent using their security check feature.

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