Hashtags on Twitter: How do you follow them?

TweetDeck
Column-based Twitter applications like Tweetdeck can make following hashtags easy. (Image by Tojosan)

As I’ve mentioned before, hashtags are a powerful tool that allows Twitter users to track what many people (especially people whom you aren’t already following) are reporting or thinking about a particular topic or event.

Here’s the catch: Hashtags aren’t an officially supported Twitter service. They’re merely a convention that Twitter users have adopted on their own, within the 140-character text-only constraints of tweeting. So you can’t really “follow” hashtags through the main Twitter site.

Many third-party Twitter tools and services “play nice” with hashtags — but you must first know what these tools are and how to use them in order to get maximum value from hashtags.

This can lead to a bit of basic confusion, especially among people who are new to Twitter. Specifically, how exactly do you follow a hashtag?…
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Twitter Frenzy: “We’re rotting corpses grabbing for any glimmer of relevance”

That’s how Daily Show tech correspondent Samantha Bee explained why Congress and the news media are so fascinated with Twitter:

Hat tip to Adam Glenn

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What’s that Hashtag? New glossary tools for Twitter

On Twitter, hashtags are a powerful, simple tool for tracking topics, communities, live events, or breaking news. They make you findable, and they allow on-the-fly collaboration. When you insert one of these short character-string tags beginning with #, you make it easy for Twitter users who don’t already follow you (plus anyone searching Twitter) to find your public contributions to the coverage or discussion on that topic.

The catch is that hashtags are often cryptic — usually because they work best when they’re as brief as possible. So you might stumble across an interesting-sounding tweet containing a hashtag like #wci, #plurk, or #tpb and wonder about its context. Although you can follow a hashtag easily with tools like Twitter Search, Hashtags.org, Tweetdeck, or Twitterfall (which Paul Bradshaw recommended yesterday in Tidbits), those tools don’t easily tell you what a given hashtag means.

Here some promising new tools that can help you quickly put a hashtag in context — or let people easily look up the meaning of the hashtags you launch or use… Continue reading

My She’s Geeky Tweets, Part 1: Agile Methodologies

For me the session on Agile Methodologies led my Desi McAdam of Hashrocket was one of the highlights of January’s She’s Geeky unconference. It was one of those occasions when I felt several disparate pieces of context clicking into place and starting to make sense.

NOTE: This is part of a series based on my live tweets from At last weekend’s She’s Geeky unconference in Mountain View, CA.

Series index

My immediate need for understanding more about Agile development is that I’m helping to organize the new Reynolds Journalism Inst. News Collaboratory. The point of this effort, as Jason Kristufek recently wrote, is to be a “do tank,” not a think tank, for experimenting with new options for the news business.

That’s why we’re trying to engage in this community people with diverse types of “do” experience — technologists, librarians, entrepreneurs, financiers, advertising and marketing pros, etc. And, yes, journalists too. The point is to actually get people working together to try stuff and share the results, not just to talk about stuff.

The question then becomes: How do you get people to decide on which problems to solve or experiments to try, parse those out into doable chunks, move their efforts forward, and assess results? Rather than try to do this all on the fly, I thought it might be useful to borrow some ideas and practices from Agile development.

For context, here’s the Agile Manifesto, as well as an excerptWikipedia’s current article on Agile:

“Agile methodologies generally promote a project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices that allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals.”

So with that context, here are my live tweets from this discussion (cleaned up a bit). Unless otherwise attributed, all points made here came from Desi McAdam…

  • Now in the Agile methodologies session, which I hope will help with RJI collaboratory.
  • There’s a difference between Agile development & utter chaos. But Agile can devolve into chaos.
  • Agile is a very rigid process. If you don’t stick to the process, things fall apart quickly.
  • Agile is an iterative process: earlier work gets outdated quickly. Cycles are smaller, iterative, to adapt to change as change happens.
  • Pair programming is more popular with females — more interactive, cooperative. Keeps you on track, out of rat holes.
  • In Agile, you have to be disciplined: Organizations and your pair partner must be disciplined. Very accountable.
  • Pair programming is a wonderful way to do knowledge transfer.
  • Pair programming improves code quality. If you’re coding and someone’s watching, you’re less likely to do something hacky.
  • Pair programming is more productive. People don’t generally like to interrupt working pairs. (Interesting!)
  • Agile also is about sustainable work pace: Don’t burn people out, get the most benefit from coders.
  • Some companies require some up-front planning, like wireframes or mockups, before throwing Agile development team on it. Do you have a good base?
  • Agile used in Spot.us development process. David Cohn came to us with wireframes. We started storycarding. Right off bat, we had to prioritize and think about what desired feature could go.
  • Storycard = definition of a chunk of work. Say what the business value is first. Get client to tell you, helps set priorities
  • Glitches with Agile: Lack of quality assurance (QA): Developers should be writing test code. Pivotal tracker (popular Agile project management tool) doesn’t address QA.
  • Rally, other tools do account for QA — but they’re bloated and slow and tedious to use. Simpler configurable tools needed.
  • Standup meetings: key part of Agile process. Can work in any organization. Very short meeting: everyone stands up, gives recent and current tasks, identifies obstacles.
  • Agile is hard to do in a distributed environment (workers not in same location). iChat, screen sharing helps. Good manager/developer communication is crucial.
  • Good Agile stories follow INVEST principles (from Extreme Programming, a related discipline): Independent (self-contained), Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable (you can guess how involved/big it might be), Small, Testable.
  • ME: I’m liking the story analogy of the Agile process. I think media people will be able to relate to that.
  • Negotiable = not defining the story in such rigid detail that it can’t be changed.
  • Desi recommends Liz Keogh as a great resource on thinking about Agile.
  • ME: The Agile session is incredibly valuable! Desi rocks!!! I needed exactly this info right now!
  • I’ll be sharing more thoughts on Agile later — but for now here are a couple of takeaways that struck me:

    Storycarding reminds me of journalistic news judgment. The process of breaking a project down into tasks that meet invest criteria reminds me how journalists and editors decide which news and information warrant development into a story. Both involve assessing a situation and needs, and matching it with criteria. Both appear to be more like art than than science or rote procedure.

    Applying Agile techniques to other fields (such as news and journalism) is itself an experiment that should be handled in clear storycard-like chunks. It may not work, and it certainly would be a culture shift. I think, for cultural reasons this is a strong reason to involve geeks, entrepreneurs, and others in this process — and to team them together with journalists to promote knowledge transfer.

    …More thoughts later. But for now, what do you think? Please comment below.

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    She’s Geeky: Great Opportunity To Step Outside Journo Culture

    Computer History Museum Logo
    Image by vanderwal via Flickr

    I’ve written before about how the culture of traditional journalism tends to be rather insular, self-referential and — increasingly — toxic. This is especially true of the events that journalists typically attend, and the communities with which they typically mix.

    Journalists mainly go to conferences specifically about journalism or specifically for journalists. While they also attend other events, this is usually for research or reporting — not to be “part of the crowd.”

    …And that, I think, is a huge missed opportunity. Increasingly, community building and team building are becoming core skills for a career in journalism. The fast-shifting news business requires that journalists personally know and be able to work well with technologies, business people, marketers, community organizers, financiers, nonprofits and advocates, and other people from complementary fields. Every profession has its own culture and its own events. Attending these events — not just for aloof observation, but in order to join those communities — can be a great way to expand your career options.

    Today and tomorrow I’m attending an event that represents a perfect opportunity to connect with geek culture. It’s She’s Geeky, a periodic “unconference” held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA…

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    Pew on Social Media: It’s Bigger than You Think

    An example of a social network diagram.
    Image via Wikipedia

    On Jan 14., the Pew Internet and American Life project released a report on Adults and Social Networking Services. It said, “The share of adult Internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has
    more than quadrupled in the past four years — from eight percent in 2005 to 35 percent now.”

    Over at the Knight Digital Media Center News Leadership 3.0 blog, Michele McLellan observed: “It appears that American adults are moving into social networks more quickly than top 100 news organizations…”

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    Windy Citizen Uses Cool Tools to Cover Blagojevich

    As the ripples spread from Chicago’s latest corruption drama, the community news site Windy Citizen is trying some innovative, fun approaches to online coverage and commentary. They did this using free online tools that anyone can use.

    Here’s what one of these tools can create:

    More about what Windy Citizen is doing on this front…
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    What ABCnews.com got really wrong about social media and Mumbai attacks

    On Nov. 28, ABCnews.com published a story by Ki Mae Huessner called Social Media a Lifeline, Also a Threat? about the role of Twitter and other social media in the coverage of, and public discourse about, last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

    Huessner interviewed me for this story because I’ve been blogging about it on Contentious.com and on E-Media Tidbits. She chose to include a few highly edited and interpreted quotes from me that I think grossly misrepresent my own views and the character of our conversation.

    Yeah, being a journalist, I know that no one is ever completely happy with their quotes. I’ve been misquoted plenty in the past, and normally I just roll with it. But this particular case is an especially teachable moment for my journalist colleagues in mainstream media about understanding and covering the role of social media in today’s media landscape.

    Today’s a pretty busy day for me, but I didn’t want to let this go unsaid any longer. So I made a little Seesmic video response to this story. Here I am speaking strictly for myself — not on behalf of any of my clients or colleagues. Yes, I am very emphatic here and somewhat critical. Please understand that my frustration is borne of seeing this particular problem over and over again.

    Tracking a Rumor: Indian Government, Twitter, and Common Sense

    This morning, as I check in on the still-unfolding news about yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, I noticed a widely repeated rumor: allegedly, the Indian government asked Twitter users to stop tweeting info about the location and activities of police and military, out of concern that this could aid the terrorists.

    For example, see Inquisitr.com: Indian Government trying to block Twitter as Terrorists may be reading it.

    Rumors — even fairly innocuous ones — really bug me. Mainly because they’re so easy to prevent!

    I’m trying to track this particular rumor down, but haven’t been able to confirm anything yet. At this point I’m skeptical of this claim. Here’s what I’ve found so far…

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    Following Mumbai Attacks via Social Media

    Right now, the Indian city of Mumbai is reeling under coordinated terrorist attacks. In addition to mainstream news coverage from India and around the world, Internet users are sharing news and information — including people in Mumbai, some of whom are at or near the attack scenes.

    Here’s a quick roundup of social media to check for updates and reactions. Some of this information is produced by professional news orgs and journalists, most is not. Use your own judgment regarding which to trust…

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