Read & Respond – Week 5

This week, we’re all about location, micro-updates, and (perhaps most importantly) checking in. Briggs (chapter 4) starts us off with a first look at microblogging and Twitter. Some of you have never used Twitter, some of you used it for the first time during our State of the Union assignment (notice the use of an anchored link there … and here!), and some of you have been resisting … but NO LONGER.

Once you’re through Briggs’ introduction to the subject, let’s look at some recent interactions of Twitter and location. FACT: You are students at West Virginia University. FACT: You are not currently in Egypt, yet you are able to get up-to-the-minute information on the recent uprisings via the #Egypt and #Jan25 tags. FACT: You are currently living in a city that was somehow not (yet) hit by last Tuesday’s massive snowstorm, yet you can see what’s happening through (floridly written) tags like #snowpocalypse (if you know of a better one, let me know). Take a look through – what’s being reported, and re-reported, and what does this tell you?

(UPDATE: Speaking of Egypt hashtags, check out this massive social media FAIL by Kenneth Cole)

What’s happening here is the ability to “check in” with information from all corners of the world, and in turn we have the ability to “check out” those check ins (check, please!). At its core, each user is delivering a little grain of information – of limited use on their own, but together they make up an interesting pile.

The idea of the check-in is also behind mobile apps like Foursquare, which I’ve asked you to start using this week. Far from just entertainment, Foursquare is now being for newsgathering and investigative journalism. Foursquare is easily the most popular location app – it just hit 6 million users (after reaching 3 million users just this summer) – but it doesn’t have a monopoly on the check-in. You can check in to what books you’re reading, how many miles you’ve run, what beers you’re drinking … just about anything! What ways do you see to incorporate the idea of the check-in with the future of journalism?

Last, but surely not least, check out this important video on the art of checking in:


I am truly sorry about that.

Read & Respond posts are due as comments to this post no later than noon, Monday, February 7.

23 Responses to Read & Respond – Week 5

  1. aarongeiger says:

    How do we connect with you via Foursquare? And since I don’t have a web-based phone, I texted my check-in this morning, but it’s not “connected” to the actual place I checked in at. Hmmm.

  2. jonvickers says:

    In the reading I really enjoyed the idea of “ambient awareness” and “ambient intimacy.” I had never heard those terms before, but with the new emergence of more intuitive personal interfaces for communication such as the ipad and iphone, I think this type of awareness will become easy and most will adopt these communication techniques. I am sure some Amish group will still use dial-up of something. I am also excited about the goolge interface that was mentioned (WAVE). Anything that streamlines all this stuff is welcome.

    I am joining foursquare at the moment and foresee potential for guiding groups through outdoor tours, getting people to remote locations, and a great app. for flaunting first accents of rock climbs. I have high hopes to get in on the ground floor of some of these ideas if they haven’t already been realized.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      I am keen to see what uses you can come up with for Foursquare, Jon. And for reference, my parents ARE still on dialup (and live about 2 miles away from an Amish community).

  3. K.Wish. says:

    First, can I just say I kind of hate you for that video? (LOL)

    Secondly, the Briggs chapter oddly reminded me of “The Office” and WUPFH. Here’s the video clip from what I’m thinking of.

    In any case, I’d say WUPFH is a funny way of looking at what’s going on with social media today, especially with web sites like Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, and mobile browsing.

    I’ve been using Twitter for a while now, and I go through moments where I’m tired of it and moments where I love it. In the instance of #Egypt, #Jan25, and #Snowpocalypse, I started writing this response and then looked at Twitter and had over 200 new tweets for Egypt and Jan 25 (sorry, Snowpocalypse, you’re not as popular). But my point is, the Brigg’s reading is correct in saying that all this information is an aggregate of what’s really going on in the world. For example, the Egypt hashtag is talking about current demonstrations and riots, perspectives and opinions, love and support, and various news stories. (And can I just say…oh Kenneth Cole…)

    As for the check-in and the future of journalism…I’m still a bit iffy on this question. Yes, Foursquare can show who and how many is where, find tips and trends, and crowdsource news. But I just can’t get over the fact that it’s just plain creepy. However, I do suppose that Twitter had the same negative backlash from people yet look at it now.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      That WUPFH link is fantastic, Kristen (and I really am sorry for the video. After writing “check-in” so many times, it’s kinda hard to keep out of your mind – like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man). From my perspective, Foursquare is a game, nothing more. It’s opt-in, so the only ones who know what you’re up to are those you’ve chosen to inform. Still, I get the misgivings many have, but what I’m most interested in is how the IDEA behind it might be of more consequential use.

  4. Jazz says:

    It seems that my cell phone is too old to use Foursquare. That could be a problem. I’ll keep looking for work-arounds. Dunston himself could check-in better than I. It’s weird that I use twitter when I don’t have a smartphone- makes me an anomaly. Without one, how will I ever win a shorty?

    Speaking of hashtags, I’ve been trying to make snowmageddon to be the more popular term. It hasn’t worked so far.

    In regards to twitter and crowdsourcing, I do have a tendency to not give back to the community. I only have a few followers, but all I want to do is randomly talk about my life and spam this new blog. Might be alienating to readers if I were posting, say, every day. The only thing more irritating would be adding a “tw” to the beginning of twords to make myself sound twipper.

    My biggest worry is getting used to a new social media innovation and having it flop belly-up. Who remembers Friendster? Or even Myspace, really? But as long as people are connected, the skill of reaching an audience will be vital to Journalism- no matter the medium.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Good concerns. That’s one reason why we’re trying to get beyond the apps themselves to talk about the ideas behind them – although we’re experimenting with Twitter and Foursquare, I’m far more interested in how the “check-in” idea could be of use to journalists and audiences.

      And don’t worry about alienating readers with blog posts. Remember that this is an opt-in medium, and one that updates pretty frequently. Those who don’t care what you have to say don’t have to listen (and at any rate, it’ll be swept away in the feed before too long).

  5. When it comes to microblogging, I will never forget where I first found out that Twitter could be used for journalistic purposes. At an SPJ regional conference two years ago, there was a speaker talking about the importance of twitter. The whole time I sat there thinking it was the stupidest thing I ever heard of. All of the people I ever heard about on Twitter talked about the dumbest things that I couldn’t have cared less about.

    But things are changing now. After seeing how to use hashtags and how more journalists are using it, it is clear that it is changing for the better. Briggs intro reminded me of how important twitter and microblogging is. I especially liked how he said “Bloggers can intimidate writers who don’t feel they can consistently write anything of interest, but anybody can contribute something with a 140-character limit.” It’s an interesting way to look at it and it pretty much sums up my original and changed view of the site.

    I am also skeptical of foursquare. I do not have internet on my phone, and I am finding it difficult to find the point of foursquare if I dont have that. It makes it more difficult and it easy for me to forget about it. I felt that same way about Twitter though. I feel like I would be more interactive on Twitter if I did have internet on my phone because everytime I would see something or think of something I could tweet it. It seems irrelevant if I only get to a computer an hour later and then want to tweet it.
    But who knows, obviously foursquare is growing rapidly and can be used for positive purposes, but I have not been completely sold on it yet.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      You’re getting at an important restriction: With as much as we talk about democratized communication, without certain hardware, many people are still left out of this so-called revolution. This is the kind of thing initiatives like WV Uncovered have to grapple with. I’m glad to hear your evolving perspective toward Twitter – it’s a tool, like anything else. Someday I’ll meet someone who DIDN’T think it sounded idiotic at first – I sure did.

  6. capnwinters says:

    As far as the #snowpocalypse tag, I didn’t find it as interesting or informational as say, the #sotu tag during our liveblog assignment. The vast majority of tweets about the snow tended to be “can’t make it to work or class,” or “Curse you, snow!” The only interesting thing about it to me was seeing the locations of the tweets, which gave a more specific picture of which areas had been hit by the snow.

    And as for Kenneth Cole, wow. When you’re using such a public tag, you could’ve at least thrown in a shout-out to the revolutionaries in Egypt, not just plug your stuff.

    I’m just starting this check-in malarky myself, so I’ve yet to see how big of a pain it is. That said, it seems to me like check-ins eliminate the need for those old travel guides about a city with restaurant suggestions and ratings. Now you can just check a city’s foursquare and you’ll see a bunch of restaurants with various suggestions and ratings. In this way I see check-ins as useful. It could also be used by businesses as a way of measuring commercial traffic, but I find this less interesting. There’ll always be some businesses lining up to put a commercial spin on social media; they just can’t help themselves.

  7. deepafadnis says:

    Microblogging has been some sort of a miracle to our generation. The entire chapter by Briggs is informative, but there are two points that specifically stand out. The first one talks about how microblogging is a combination of texting, chatting and IM’s, which is so true because it is a conversation where you are not obligated to respond favorably or immediately. Unlike in the case of a text message or an IM, which is directed towards one and only one person. And the second point talks about abundance of information as opposed to no information or low information a few years back. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have given rise to some sort of a personal voyeuristic curiosity which is actually working well for most people.

    The chapter also helped me get acquainted to some concepts that were totally alien to me while I used Twitter such as DM or Retweet and hastags. I knew how to use them, but I didn’t know what they stood for.

    The other reading this week was very interesting as well, KC hijacked the Cairo hastag, which is extremely dumb and any one would realize it is a mistake from the very beginning. Yet somehow KC did not missed it.

  8. coreypreece says:

    I too was a little cautious of “microblogging” from it’s inception, especially when Twitter started to take off. I remember thinking to myself “who cares where I am or what I am doing…or even what I am thinking right now?” Obviously over the last few years Twitter has taken on the “what’s new in your world” theme and is now viewed more in terms of a professional way to both network and share your thoughts on news and current events. It has essentially become one big chat room with no particular focus on topic line. Microblogging has recreated our views of how news is delivered to us, how we trust and cite sources, and completely removed the barriers of time, distance, and power in regards to sharing your views or news with others around the world.

    Now programs like Foursquare are doing the same thing in terms of being able to “check-in” at any location. While some people have noted that their phone technology does not currently support Foursquare, I can only imagine that in a few short years it will have risen to the same status as Facebook or WordPress. Why, you may ask. Because humans absolutely love information, of any sort and any kind, and particular information or details that have to do with friends, family, or acquaintances. In this case the information is angled towards where your friends and family or favorite celebrity is currently located at any given moment.

    However, Foursquare will also play an important in the future of journalism IMO. Journalists will be to show their legitimacy in regards to reporting breaking news by being able to link their location to their story or tweet. In many ways the idea of the “check-in” is creating a virtual tally sheet or video game-like attribute list for yourself, but hopefully journalists will be able to incorporate different aspects of the “check-in” into the future of the profession. Now, let’s SUPER BOWL.

  9. samandateets says:

    I should begin by admitting that I have been resisting twitter for some time, I just couldn’t get past the idea that I was going to hang on the words of other people. I did not want to get sucked into caring about what Justin Beiber ate for breakfast (eventhough I have a severe case of ‘beiber fever’, tragic i know) However, it is becomming increasingly more evident that in order to navigate through the jungle of journalism and stay informed, I must learn how to use Twitter as a informative tool.

    The ability to “check out” what’s going on around us (in our own backyards and across the world) by looking at the information other people have “checked-in” through twitter and four square some would argue has made journalists lazy. How tempting it is to take anyone’s word for truth and to report this information first without verifying the facts. On the other hand, tweets from the field have already changed the standards for journalists today to report news as it happens, fueling a 24 hour news cycle and providing information from all viewpoints and angles.

    Incorporating the “check-ins” of four square into journalism to me seems like it will be a tricky process Who will distinguish between what is insignificant and what is newsworthy, (will it be left up to the journalists or the audience)? Perhaps the “check-ins” will provide a jumping off point for potential news stories and most certainly in some instances they will offer valuable eye witness coverage of certain big events.

  10. lindsaycobb says:

    I thought the most interesting part of Briggs this week was the suggestion that we should split our posts 80/20. 80 percent of our posts should be about adding to the community and 20 percent can be about self-promoting. This speaks a lot of truth to what we’ve been discussing all along in social media. We have to give and take from our sources, not just take. My one problem with this chapter was how simple Briggs tries to make Twitter sound. I’m sure for technology savvy individuals its perfectly simple, but for people like me it takes some work. I understand the concept, but even as I tried to follow his tutorial on my own twitter page, I couldn’t grasp it all completely… I think its just going to take some time.
    The process of checking in really is remarkable. The fact that we have the ability to check in on Egypt and the coming weather in mere seconds is pretty impressive, however, I feel like so much emphasis placed on it isn’t necessarily the best thing. I think we should use these resources and appreciate them, but I will always be one of those people who thinks that technology is making us a very impersonal society. Why would I watch a television screen in a break room with ten other people if I can just check my Twitter. I’m never going to stop at a news stand to buy the paper if I can just take my phone out of my pocket. I won’t ask anyone if they know what the weather is going to be like if I just checked in on #snowpacolypse. So, yes I think that checking in is very useful, but I don’t think we should rely on it too heavily or else that may be all we will no how to do in the future.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Glad you seized on that 80/20 idea – it’s one that will benefit any new blogger. Good points on overreliance on checking in as well. Personally, there’ve been times I’ve gotten too focused on checking in with the world and have missed what I’m doing (although I have a wife to smack me in the back of the head on most of these occasions).

  11. tonicekada says:

    Well, I no longer see Twitter as pointless. Briggs used Twitter as an example of microblogging. Twitter really is one of the best ways to stay on top of breaking news, get your name out there, and crowdsource. Even this past week, when I’m driving to my car listening to the news, I catch myself thinking “Oh! I could post this on Twitter! (If only I weren’t driving).” As journalists, it’s important that we all have a high proficency in social media. we must be widely interconnected to “be in the loop” and “stay on top.” If we journalists ever needed to be more interconnected, the time is now because of the new “digital age” that we face. To me, everything going digital creats more competition because anything and everything can be published so quickly over the web. But using a microbiology tool such as twitter helps the news spread even faster. I have been trying to move away from facebook and spend mroe social networking time on twitter, and trying to figure out foursquare, which I made an account for and downloaded the app on my android.
    I agree with Lindsey’s comment that twitter is not as simple as Briggs made it seem. I log on mine everyday, and I’m still haveing trouble figureing it all out. an important part of checking in and being interconnected is know how to do all if this stuff, and it takes time and willingness. Though I did really appreciate Rob Quigley’s advice on tweeting. Especially his second point, asking for feedback. It’s all give and take.

  12. Shay Maunz says:

    Looking at this week’s reading, and at everyone else’s responses, of course led me to think about when I got started on twitter. I’ve been tweeting for a while – since April 9, 2009, at 3:24 p.m., actually, according to my twitter profile. It seems like when I started using twitter, the entire site revolved around “What are you doing right now?” Everything was geared toward letting people share personal things with people who were interested in their lives. Of course now we know it’s worth so much more than that (and twitter seems to have adopted a new approach, now the home page reads “The best way to discover what’s new in your world” – a much more noble pursuit, eh?)

    I really hope the same thing happens with Foursquare. It’s not so much that I think it’s creepy, as it is that I don’t find it particularly interesting – yet, at least. I think we saw a glimmer of what Foursquare could be during the midterm elections, when people were checking in at polling places all over the country, and even at the Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear) because so many people checked in there. And I found that info-graphic on the growth and usage of Foursquare fascinating. (I think I originally saw that on your twitter, actually, Mr. Britten – ha. Anyway, I’ve started using foursquare this week, albeit reluctantly, and I hope I come to love it.

    I also loved what Briggs said about balancing posts that relate to the community, with self-promotion. I think I’ve come to a point where my blog itself is actually too much about me. But at the same time, I’ve always kept my social media accounts work-appropriate but fairly personal – I hate the idea of posting as a pseudo-authority figure on things I’m not an authority on at all – so I don’t like using them to promote my work too much. Just don’t want to come off as ego-centric, or something.

    Blech. Need practice at all of this.

  13. aarongeiger says:

    Briggs notes that when you retweet other people’s links, posts, and ideas, then you’re giving them a “virtual pat on the back.” I’m growing a little more sad each day that I realize almost all of our services are extensions of our egos. I’ve noticed on my blog email that people will write me and ask me to come comment on their blogs and posts, simply because they’ve commented on mine (or at least they offer to post regularly if I’ll post on theirs). My response? “If you’re interested, you’ll post; if I’m interested, I’ll post.” The same thing happens with Twitter. It seems as if we must craft these organized alliances with a game of give-and-take. I would much rather focus on producing quality posts and responses. That being said, I’ve been connecting to publishing houses and independent firms so I can see what they’re producing, and how the industry is working. Via Twitter, I’ve learned a lot of new information, and I’ve been getting an insider’s look at the huge turmoil in the industry, such as the hiring and (mostly) firing of high-level staff members. I also learned about the firing of our direct rep for our distributor over Twitter before we received a hand-crafted letter of explanation from the president of the company. I think microblogging is going to change the way companies work, their protocol for certain situations, and overall business practices.

  14. rdlwvufan says:

    So, none of the twitter links on this post worked for me. Do you have to have a twitter account to look at them, because it just told me the page didn’t exist?

    I’m one of the twitter hold outs from this class. I’ve never seen the purpose of having a twitter account. It seemed like it was all about people posting drivel about their everyday lives and following celebrities.

    Another hangup I had was, “I’ve already got facebook, why do I need twitter?” While reading the chapter, I got to thinking about how twitter is so much easier when connecting with new people. You don’t have to be “friends” with anyone, you only have to follow that person. It’s much easier to build a large community because the burden of “friendship” isn’t there.

    After reading Briggs, I can see where it can be useful. Its usefulness comes in its ability to pool information together that on its own might not mean much. This is especially true when users can provide real time updates from different events, thereby providing instantaneous varied perspectives.

    I wasn’t sure about the whole 140 character limit. I wondered how anyone could post anything meaningful in such a short space. However, if anyone has ever bothered to read my comments on these read and responds, I tend to be verbose. It would serve me well to become proficient in saying my piece and getting out.

    As for checking in, I guess it could be useful to know who has been somewhere or done something, because it brings people together with a common interest. On the go, if a journalist checks in at some major event, followers of that person can know instantly about it, and a conversation can get started even sooner.

    • rdlwvufan says:

      Oh yeah, I forgot to mention something. There was another Super Bowl commercial with apes in it last night. I feel like the only one who doesn’t find commercials or movies involving apes to be funny. And poor Jason Alexander. It’s a shame he had to be in this awful movie.

  15. I started using Twitter in the spring of 2009 after I attended a Society of Professional Journalists conference and, literally, every speaker talked about how Twitter was the future of journalism. I love Twitter. For a newspaper, it allows us to personally connect with our readers. We have people tweet at the DA (@dailyathenaeum). Last week, during the big snowstorm, we people tweet photos of their view of Morgantown covered in snow and put them in the paper. Briggs comment that retweeting someone’s tweet is a “virtual pat on the back” is kind of true. It’s just interesting to see how everyone uses it – for news, to connect with friends, to connect with an audience, to be updated where journalism is going. I use it for all those reasons, so sometimes managing Twitter can be difficult. However, nothing beats having a Twitter account during major events (football games, breaking news, etc). Seeing everyone’s reactions to events going on and to see what upsets the audience the most is interesting. We’ve also found breaking stories multiple times through students’ tweets. These can range from a bus accident to the PRT breaking down (or on fire) to administration problems with the university. It’s really funny to see how popular Twitter has become though, especially considering I just watched a Wheat Things commercial referring to Twitter.

    As for Foursquare, I started using it because I feel obligated, as a journalist, to be updated with all things social media. I liked earning badges (though hated when they tweeted on my account automatically) because that, just like Briggs’ implication with Twitter, was basically a pat on the back. Mashable’s ideas for using Foursquare directly with users and readers are really incredible. I think creating a badge that people have to earn for your publication is a great idea. While that one really stuck out to me, I love the idea of following trends through Foursquare. I think that could be really useful. I think for our use, however, Foursquare needs to be more popular in Morgantown. While it may have 6 million users, the site is not popular here, with really only a small community using it.

    I love the idea of using social media for investigative pieces. I think what really makes that stick out is the fact that many older people don’t understand these websites or the potential power that lies within them. (My dad for instance has tried to become a tweeter, but he has failed miserably so far). Mapping is a great way to really find things that are popular (or unpopular) in your area. By involving your audience in the investigating process, you can get more information and learn to think in different ways. I think it would also make the reader feel really involved in the process, which would make them come back for more in the future.

    As for the video, I believe I used to love that movie during my childhood, but I couldn’t even remember the title until the end. Does that mean I’m getting old and losing my mind?

  16. bostonkid124 says:

    I enjoyed reading Briggs’ chapter on microblogging and twitter. I had signed up for twitter when we started this class and wasn’t very sure how to use it or what it was for. Whenever I heard twitter referenced it was usually with athletes tweeting about their games or their emotions. I thought it was basically like a facebook status but without all the other junk.

    Boy was I wrong. After the reading and playing around with twitter, its a great source of information quickly. Whether your sending information or trying to find information its updating so fast its unreal. Actually yesterday when I turned on the Celtics game the first thing I saw was a Celtic player being put on a stretcher, but there was so many people around him I couldn’t tell who it was. I knew Yahoo or ESPN wouldn’t have the story up that fast(as it was happening live) so I went on twitter and 15 seconds after I signed in I got a tweet from the Boston Celtics saying that Marquis Daniels was put on a stretcher after a collision with Gilbert Arenas. It was perfect how quickly I got the information when I needed it.

    I checked out the Egypt link and before I could read the first three tweets there were already 25 new tweets. Briggs explained it perfectly. Microblogging is popular because its concise and you can update very frequently with no limitations. In order to have people follow you though you need to make your “microblogs” creative so people can catch your personality with it. For example you cant just say “Celtics Game today at 2,” you have to add a little personal flare and say “Celtics have a showdown with the magic today. lets gooo” or something like that.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the check-in feature yet. I feel like we no longer have any personal privacy, but I guess if your letting people know where you are, you want them to know. If your phone checked-in automatically I don’t think I would like that. I played around on foursquare and I after watching the Howcast I feel like it’s a great idea. I’m not sure just how popular it is yet but I know a lot of people check-in with facebook but with foursquare there are a lot more added benefits (such as the badges and potential rewards from the place for being mayor).

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