Category Archives: Social

Should a newsroom babble on Twitter?

My gut says no. yes. no. yes … well maybe, but not too much.

I recently attended the Social Capital Conference hosted here in Ottawa (a great event, if you’re thinking of attending the 2013 event) and attended a great session hosted by Kelly Rusk on using social media for research. You can read a recap of her presentation on her website,

At one point in her presentation, Rusk talked about ‘babble’, the seemingly inane, which allows companies to connect with individuals. “I love babble,” she said.

I put up my hand, and asked her – and the room – if they felt the source of the Twitter account determined whether or not they were interested in babble.

This is something I’ve been thinking about in our newsroom, where we have two Twitter accounts: @OCHeadlines, which is a robot-feed of headlines as they update in the various sections of our site; and @OttawaCitizen, which is operated by ‘humans’, who can respond to reader questions about stories, delivery, etc. as well as post breaking news – and tell you why  you might want to read a story (providing as much context as possible in 140 characters).

Do people really want us to babble?

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The power of Bieber: a case study

This is the story of a lovely, simple story by Postmedia’s Misty Harris about a 71-year-old grandfather suffering from advanced prostate cancer.

Peter Johngren,  found a YouTube video of Justin Bieber performing for U.S. President Barack Obama during his chemotherapy treatments.

In her piece Bieber beats the blues: Grandfather finds hope in cancer fight as a Belieber, Misty writes:

In the years since, Bieber’s music has become a soundtrack of hope for the retired medical doctor and grandfather, whose collection of fan paraphernalia is as impressive as his spirit.

This is also a story about how this lovely, simple story exploded today – a day after  it was originally posted – when the Biebs himself thrust it into the spotlight.

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Booze, Twitter and what people really want out of a tweet

A friend of mine, recently promoted to an executive-level position, asked if I could help her with Twitter.

“I’ve been told I need to twit,” she said.

It’s extremely (if dangerously so) easy, I told her, and I offered up this gem: don’t drink and tweet.

Indeed, when Jeff Jarvis was in Ottawa last fall promoting his book Public Parts and advocating for publicness, he spoke of an incident where he did just that.

After a few glasses of wine, he was watching a TV report on the debt ceiling, and he tweeted this:

One of Jarvis’ followers suggest he use the hashtag ‘#fuckyouwashington’ and things took off – a week later more than 100,000 people were using the hash tag. (Jarvis has a hilarious account of the incident, and a data visualization of the flurry of #fuckyouwashington tweets)

But at his Ottawa talk, Jarvis said that while the flurry of the hash tag was interesting and exciting, he wasn’t sure twitter was the right place to go after a drink or two.

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Product and its place in your Facebook timeline

Photo: Pat McGrath/Ottawa Citizen

The products in our everyday world are as much a part of who we are as the friends we keep, according to Jordan Banks, the managing director of Facebook Canada.

For this reason, it’s as natural for brands to be a part of our Facebook timeline as important life events like marriage, the birth of a child, or a new career, he said Tuesday during a lunchtime address to The Canadian Club of Ottawa.

In his presentation titled ‘Organizations are better in a connected world,’ Banks spoke of the early days of Internet, which began as rudimentary browsing and searching. It has evolved, he said, into a domain filled with social context.

“It was all about search,” he said. “it had no social context; it was using an algorithm that had nothing to do with you.

“People want personalized, timely results that reflect who they are and what their friends are interested in,” he said.

Continue reading Product and its place in your Facebook timeline

Sorry Facebook, there are some things I won’t share

You may have seen a friendly offer from Facebook to ‘help subscribers find you by verifying your account.’

Click on the link to verify your account, and you’ll see a screen asking you to upload a photo of a government-issued, photo ID from your passport, driver’s license, work/military ID.

Don’t worry, the message continues, if you don’t have one of those, you can upload two of these alternate IDs:  a school or work ID card, library card, credit card (!!), birth certificate, Social security card.

These IDs must show my name, picture and birthday, be in colour… but here’s a key point:

“Have any sensitive information (ex. your credit card number of driver’s license number) blacked out or covered up”

I suppose I should be reassured by this message from Facebook:

Once we verify your account and name, we’ll permanently delete your documents.

Uh huh. Yeah.

Continue reading Sorry Facebook, there are some things I won’t share

Pinterest, Google+ and the gender divide in social media

As we set up our Pinterest page, a colleague said to me, “You know that it’s mostly women on Pinterest.”

I paused. “And?…..”

“Well, that’s a good thing, because our Google+ page is seen by mostly men.”

Uh huh…

“And it’s mostly crafty lifestyle stuff on Pinterest, so we should put that kind of thing on there.”

I’m not even going to comment on the sexist comment that women are only interested in “crafty lifestyle stuff” (feel free to do so in the comments area below), as such is life in a male-dominated newsroom.

And he’s not off. We set up an Ottawa Citizen Homes page on Facebook last fall, and it has 16 fans. In the first 8 minutes of its existence, our Homes pinboard on Pinterest had 39 followers.

Continue reading Pinterest, Google+ and the gender divide in social media

The challenge of opening up Government

Open government, open data and and open dialogue : These are the goals of Canada’s Treasury Board President and Member of Parliament Tony Clement.

“Today, citizens demand more accountable and transparent government to know their tax dollars are being well managed,” Clement said to a crowd gathered for a Third Tuesday event in Ottawa on Monday night (yes, I know.. not a Tuesday).

Clement spoke optimistically about social media platforms making it easier to engage with Canadians, and giving citizens more immediacy, and a “powerful way to create dialogue that can bring about better government.”

He has big goals, great goals. But it’s a huge shift. Clement’s task is not unlike trying to turn an aircraft carrier around with a canoe paddle.

Continue reading The challenge of opening up Government

Pinterest and social media triage

Over the weekend, I dove into Pinterest, and thought about how we can use it.

It’s pretty exciting, and there’s a lot of buzz out there. Poynter explained why it’s time to for journalists to embrace it, 10,000 words explained 5 ways Journalists can use it, and Mashable bettered this with its 7 ways Journalists Use Pinterest.

I got it. I’m on it. I’m in love with Pinterest. Trouble is, I’m also in love with Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Foursquare, Instagram, Linkedin and of course my new passion for Google+.

That’s a lot of love.

The problem is, as newsroom editors everywhere know, while more there are more and more ways to share our amazing content – there aren’t any more people to do the sharing.

In our newsroom, we’ve developed a kind of social media triage.

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Politicians, social media, and why journalists should pay attention

If you were living under a rock and missed it, U.S. President Barack Obama held a town hall ‘with the people’ via a Google+ hangout this week.

“Hunh,” said a colleague in the newsroom, “That’s neat.”

It’s more than neat – it’s a big shift we need to pay attention to.

As journalists, we have often functioned as ‘middle men’, the only way the public can access politicians.

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Cocktails and community in news

There’s a quasi-time-honoured tradition of cocktails and banter that have led to news leads.

But a party I recently attended reminded me of the importance of involving the community in news. (By this I mean more than the lot of us getting hammered.)

Typically, party music is the job of the host. Indeed, for this party, the host spent the day on iTunes, downloading and cultivating the perfect playlist that would create the absolute ideal atmosphere for merriment.

She needn’t have bothered.

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