Don’t Get Cocky, Twitter

rach headshot kimberlyYesterday morning, I was up early with big plans for knocking out a few Twitter Lists, boom boom boom. Ha. As if. I could NOT believe how what a time-waster it was — not only do you have to add everyone one by one, but you can’t even type a name in quickly – you have to type in the name in the search box, search, then click on a drop-down menu to select the applicable list. Really? How about just go through your list and CLICK A BOX? But no, multi-adds aren’t possible and won’t be for a while. From Phil Bump’s excellent Twitter List FAQ:

The problem, right now, is that the API for the Lists feature isn’t quite done. Marcel Molina, an engineer on the Twitter API team, told Mediaite via e-mail that API will be ready for developers to use sometime next week. At that point, look for an explosion of browser-based tools which will allow you to quickly and easily build lists in a more intuitive way.

Unfortunately, though, Molina also indicates that having the ability to batch update a list (that is, to add a number of users at a time) is under consideration, but not currently supported. This means that creating or editing a large list will continue to be a little pokey – though resourceful developers may find a way around this limitation.

So why launch this now? Twitter knows that the early beta testing group will happily plug away at making their new feature pop — because it’s COOL to be one of the Twitter chosen, like Ashton — and then that everyone else will follow suit, not only because they’ve heard the buzz but because it’s essential to not falling behind (let’s inflate those follower counts, everyone!). I have no problem with rolling out a new feature and I have no problem with changing the way the game is played, but I DO have a problem with doing so in a way that creates a time-consuming, burdensome process for your users. It’s antithetical to everything that made Twitter work so well in the first place.

Or maybe not. I remember looking through the Twitter “Suggested Users” and seeing things like “Whole Foods” and “Britney Spears.” Hardly a list curated on based on quality. And there’s no application process so, say, a new charity can apply for that status (I spent a lot of time back in May helping to launch Elie Wiesel’s Twitter feed — a worthy one if ever there was — and it would have been great to be able to submit that feed for consideration). But no. I just went to check out the “Suggested Users” again and I kid you not, this was the very first one: Dell Outlet – “Refurbished Dell™ computers, electronics.” Don’t forget that TM sign! Somewhere, Jeff Jarvis is bonking his head against a wall.

I also remember Howard Lindzon of StockTwits complaining that Twitter didn’t promote the offshoot sites that used it in innovative, successful ways (like, ahem, Stocktwits) — instead cleaving to the celeb-tweeter crowd. Now, with these Twitter Lists, the usual suspects again got the first nod — and a critical jump of time which turns out to actually matter sort of a lot, since it takes about half an hour to make any list worth reading. I have been a huge Twitter booster and proselytizer since I signed on but part of that was the simplicity and ease of using it, and before it exploded. This is the first time I’ve been turned off by something Twitter has done. It reminds me of the awful Facebook redesign which basically drove me off that platform, except to post the occasional Mediaite link.

I know what you’re thinking, “Wah, wah, why does Twitter need you and your puny 9K following? The top 168 Twitter accounts have over 1 million and the top-thousandth person has 54,886. You’re bupkes.” Well yes, yes, I am. But an empire is built on bupkes, and Twitter’s whole enterprise has relied on people generating content for free. If it wants Lists to take off, it needs everyone to make them — which means incentivizing users to spend their (free) time to create their (free) lists which amount to (free) infrastructure. All of which Internerds have historically shown they’re happy to do, but only if it’s (a) useful and (b) easy. Tagging, organizing, curating — it takes time. If it takes too much of it, why bother? (BTW this is one of the reasons I switched from YouTube to Vimeo).

I’m still a Twitter fan and have said before that I would gladly pay for it — Lord knows I use it! — but even the most loyal users can get turned off by a bad user experience. This is the Internet — there’s always something else waiting in the wings. (For God’s sake, even Stocktwits decided they didn’t need Twitter anymore, and it’s part of their name.) So don’t get too cocky, Twitter. It’s early yet – and your users have to LIKE using you. Next time, think of them when you roll out a new product — not just yourself.


Twitter Lists S.A.Q. (Suddenly Asked Questions)

pbumpAfter weeks of teases from Twitter power players, in the last 48 hours Twitter rolled out its Lists feature to the bulk of its users. So what does this mean for you, Mr. or Mrs. Average Twitter User? What does it mean for the web? What are these things, anyway?

Allow us to answer these suddenly popular questions.

What are Lists?
Twitter Lists are collections of Twitter accounts that conform to any criteria you determine. You may wish to create a list of people in your home town or comedians or techies or, if you’re feeling snarky, winners of the 2009 World Series.

If you make these lists public, other Twitter users can follow them en masse. (It follows that you can also make them private, for lists that are important to you but not necessarily others.)

Why did Twitter introduce them?
With last week’s announcement of Twitter’s deals with Google and Bing, tweets will now be catalogued in real-time by the search engines. But how do you determine what tweets are important when they arrive in real-time?

In the beginning, the value of a Twitter user was determined by the number of followers that user had. Twitter, however, then offered new users a Twitter-curated list of people to follow. This “Suggested User List,” or SUL, caused controversy for a variety of reasons. Think about search engines in the late ’90s – Twitter chose to emulate Yahoo!, deciding what information was important, whether you agreed or not. The blowback was gradual, but severe, from concerns about the destruction of the built-in valuation system to questions about tacit political contributions. Understandably, Twitter is planning to end the practice.

Lists – groups of users that other users find most important – transition Twitter to a more Google-like ranking system. Already, in the first forty-eight hours of universal Lists, one can see the wheat of the Twitter crop being separated out. Lists provide a PageRank substitute, allowing for some real-time valuation of the usefulness of Tweets.

N.B.: This is not the official word from Twitter HQ. Lists are utilitarian in many other ways. This added benefit, however, seems of some significance.

How do I use Lists?
The interface is, almost necessarily, a little cumbersome right now. When you go to your Twitter page (and log in), you’ll see beneath the search box, if Lists are activated on your account, something that looks like this:

Click “New List”, and this window pops up:

(On yours, of course, “pbump” will be replaced with your username.)

When you’ve named your list (in this example, “Test list”), you’re taken to the page where you can add users, one at a time:

Start adding folks, and your list will grow. Slowly. (Ed. How slowly? As slowly as it takes to type in a name to the search box, search, then click the drop-down menu, select a list, and add the person. One. By. One.)

Where can I find these “Lists”?

To see all of the lists a user has created, go to http://twitter.com/USERNAME/lists.  To see what lists a Twitter user (including yourself) has been added to, visit http://twitter.com/USERNAME/lists/memberships. (Obviously, replace USERNAME with your or someone else’s username.)

Exciting news: I’m already on two lists! (This is not at all impressive.) (Especially since one of them is my own.)

Why is creating Lists so cumbersome?
Two reasons.

What makes Twitter so great is that the system more of a protocol than a website. Very few people actually add or read tweets through Twitter.com. In fact, 10 times more traffic goes through Twitter’s API (application programming interface) than through the website. This is the set of web tools that allows an application to use the Twitter system, and what has spawned the great tools power users enjoy, like Tweetdeck or Tweetie.

The problem, right now, is that the API for the Lists feature isn’t quite done. According to Marcel Molina, an engineer on the Twitter API team, that API will be ready for developers to use sometime next week. At that point, look for an explosion of browser-based tools which will allow you to quickly and easily build lists in a more intuitive way.

Unfortunately, though, Molina also indicates that having the ability to batch update a list (that is, to add a number of users at a time) is under consideration, but not currently supported. This means that creating or editing a large list will continue to be a little pokey – though resourceful developers may find a way around this limitation.

Should I add Mediaite editors and columnists to my Lists?
Yes. Yes, you should.


Reporter Twitters While Under Fire In Afghanistan

Want to know what it feels like to be a reporter on the ground in a war zone? How about while it’s happening? ABC’s Jim Sciutto, who was one of the few Western reporters on the ground during the Iran protests, found himself under rocket fire during last night’s attacks in Kabul. See his series of tweets below.

“Our hotel was then hit by a rocket, at least 3 rockets hitting central Kabul.”


Picture 3



StatShot: Dollhouse is a Doozy on Twitter

Because the Gleeks have basically taken over Twitter with their musical Tweets, crushing the competition on the Most Twittered TV Shows list, the good folks at Trendrr decided mix things up this week. With Glee’s dominance out of the picture the remaining graph looks more interesting.

Dollhouse scored nicely with roughly 8,500 Twitter posts on Friday. That was probably because of all the Whedonistas crying about the fact that the show is going on hiatus in November. Dexter slashed his way on the list with more than 5,200 Tweets.

newteevee_oct19-25

Of course we didn’t just ignore Glee, we just gave the show its own graph on account it being so darn popular. The show continues to grow, peaking at nearly 57,000 Tweets last Thursday.

glee_newteevee_oct19-25

NOTE: The weekly top five most twittered shows is put together from an analysis of tweets matching the exact names of 63 television programs. Trendrr looks at the source data to check that at least 95% of the tweets are related to the show. For more metrics surrounding your favorite show, go to www.trendrr.com and put the name of the show into the search tab.



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Shep Smith Has A New Site – But Now We Need Him On Twitter (Updated)

shep_10-26Fox News’ Shepard Smith is one of the most unique, and best, anchors on all of cable news, but he hasn’t exactly been new media friendly.

That’s all changing now – as a new Web site for the 3pmET and 7pmET FNC anchor debuts today.

Check out Foxnews.com’s Shepard Smith page here. An introduction video from Shep says, “What we’re going to have is unique content every day,” continuing, “We’re going to put it on here, stuff about my favorite places to go in New York or the places I travel. And then whatever you think.”

Also: “It’ll have the most unique content of any television news personality, I guarantee it. Unless I get bored.”

Smith epitomizes the “fair and balanced” motto Fox News likes to tout about its news division, but beyond that, he’s a dynamic personality who can easily move from hard-hitting interviews to self-deprecating ribbing of his own network. If you’ve never seen Smith anchor during a car chase, you’re missing out on the best way to view a cable news staple. He’s someone who, frankly, I’m curious about his favorite places to go in New York. (On a personal note, while interning at Fox News, Smith addressed our entire group, and his f-bomb-laden speech and Q&A was a highlight.)

Now he’s got his own site, featuring live chats, behind-the-scenes video and more. On the right side of the page he has links to his Facebook and MySpace profiles – which brings us to the key point. Shep Smith needs to get on Twitter.

> Update: Well he has an account, but now we need to get him to use it. Follow him (and his two updates, none since October) at Twitter.com/ShepSmith1. And it’s not being promoted on his new site.

We’ve already got a campaign to get Glenn Beck to host Saturday Night Live (#BECK4SNL), and to that longshot we’ll add a new campaign – get Shepard Smith to start tweeting. It should go hand-in-hand with this new site! Someone was pretending to be him earlier this year, but that account has now been shut down and was proven to be a fake. Let’s make this happen.

Earlier: CNN.com debuts their new site today. Here’s our review.

Check out Shep’s introduction video:

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» Follow Steve Krakauer on Twitter


Jeff Bezos, Spark Capital, Bet on Aviary, a Web-Based Would-Be Adobe

aviaryLast week, Jeff Bezos made $2 billion in one day, courtesy of a massive spike in Amazon (AMZN) shares. What will he do with the extra dough?

Perhaps plow it into more startups like Aviary, a Long Island-based design software company.

Bezos, via his Bezos Expeditions fund, has followed up an 2009 investment in the company with another slug of cash. It’s part of a $7 million Series B round led by Spark Capital, best known in these parts as the guys who have made a very big bet on Twitter — which Bezos also invested in.

If you’re sick of hearing about Web startups with just a vaguest sense of a business plan, Aviary may be a refreshing change. It is trying to make money by selling cheap, Web-based alternatives to popular, expensive, design software, primarily the stuff that Adobe (ADBE) sells, like Photoshop and Illustrator. Granted, it doesn’t make much money yet: It only began selling $24.95 subscriptions to its software suite earlier this year.

Down the line, Aviary also imagines that it will be able to create an online marketplace where the creative types that use its software to bid on work assignments. Sort of like eBay (EBAY) meets Craigslist meets Etsy meets Amazon’s own Mechanical Turk.

Here’s the full press release:

Aviary Secures $7 Million in Series B Financing Led by Spark Capital

Provider of Creative Application Suite in the Cloud Makes Creation Accessible to All and Advances the Growing Digital Economy

LONG ISLAND, New York (October 26, 2009) – Aviary, Inc., a pioneer of a creative application suite in the cloud, today announced that it has received $7 million in Series B financing led by Spark Capital, with participation from existing investors, including Bezos Expeditions, a personal investment company of Jeff Bezos. With a suite of digital creation and editing software available as an online service, Aviary offers a simple and cost-effective solution for creators of all genres – from graphic design to audio editing – to express their creative talents and participate in the burgeoning market for digital goods. In conjunction with the investment, Mo Koyfman of Spark Capital will be joining Aviary’s board of directors.

“Aviary’s robust suite of online creative tools is fundamentally democratizing digital creation. Whereas the market for digital goods was once reserved exclusively for creators using proprietary desktop software, Aviary is delivering creative applications that allow anyone with a browser to participate,” said Koyfman. “And by doing so in the cloud, Aviary allows for seamless online creation, collaboration, distribution and ultimately monetization previously not possible. The Aviary model has the potential to exponentially increase the number of creators and collaborators contributing to the digital economy.”

Until now, the digital creation market has been largely dominated by desktop software solutions which are often cost prohibitive and involve complicated interfaces. By contrast, Aviary offers a powerful creative toolset in the cloud that enables professional and amateur creators alike to easily create their own digital works. The basic Aviary suite is available for free to users and includes an image editor, vector editor, audio editor and more. Users can also upgrade to the pro suite to gain commercial features such as unlimited private storage, as well as collaboration and community enhancements. For more information, visit http://aviary.com/.

“We are disrupting the status quo by eliminating the long-held barriers to digital creation and giving creators the tools they need to create, market and monetize their vision,” said Avi Muchnick, founder & CEO of Aviary, Inc. “We are extremely excited to have Spark Capital on board. Their broad-ranging internet, software and consumer experience will be a tremendous asset to us in furthering our mission to make creation accessible to creators of all genres.”