Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2013

Update: Please read the discussion of legal issues at the end of this post.

I was writing an email in a conference room between appointments at the Charleston Daily Mail when the newsroom erupted in commotion. Laughter, exclamations and a whirring sound. I stepped out to investigate. And I saw the maiden flight of the West Virginia Video Drone.

Retiring Editorial Page Editor Johanna Maurice wanted to leave her newsroom with something to remember her by. She says she’s not tech-savvy at all (not on Twitter), but she’s been watching as her colleagues have raced into the digital age. So she bought an app-controlled drone quadricopter, equipped with a video camera, to give to her colleagues.

It’s not the first Digital First newsroom to use a drone. I think that was the Macomb Daily last year in its coverage of Jimmy Hoffa dig. But it’s the first Digital First newsroom (that I know of) with its own drone. The staff had some fun testing it (see the Tout videos below).

The drone’s debut was perfectly timed for me, not just during my visit, but only a few hours after my Tout workshop. I was pleased to see staffers who had taken the workshop whip out their phones to capture the flight on video. (A few who hadn’t attended were shooting vertical videos, but I gently informed them that they needed to shoot with their cameras turned horizontally. (more…)

Read Full Post »

This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

Part of the culture change you need to lead in your newsroom is toward greater use of data in your journalism.

For most editors, this is a difficult transition to lead because, like most of your staff, you have little or no experience in data journalism. So you need to lead the staff in learning this essential journalism skill. Here’s what an editor with weak data skills can do to elevate your staff’s use of data:

State the priority. Tell your newsroom this is important. Explain why it’s important and make clear that this will be a continuing priority for the full staff.

Make this a “we” priority. You can’t tell the staff that “you” have to learn data journalism. Learn along with them and share the lessons as you learn. The top editor’s actions speak loudly to the newsroom.

Ask data questions in meetings. In daily meetings where you plan routine coverage and in long-range meetings where you plan enterprise coverage and coverage of upcoming events and issues, ask about the data opportunities for stories. Ideally, you want this to be a question that is naturally addressed in the flow of the meeting. But to start, you might at the end of the meeting review the stories covered and consider the data possibilities and discuss which ones the staff will pursue.

Assess the staff’s skills. Use Google Forms to set up a simple questionnaire for the staff to fill out, asking staff members to tell which tools and techniques they have used and their level of expertise. I didn’t develop a sample form for this post, but I’ll work with Tom Meagher and the Thunderdome data team to develop such a form for the first editor who asks. The results of your questionnaire will go into a Google spreadsheet, which is good because spreadsheets are one of your most important (and easiest) data tools, so you’ll get a little spreadsheet practice just analyzing the results of the assessment. MaryJo Webster of the Pioneer Press has a skills survey she has used with her colleagues and would be happy to share her questions with editors wanting to assess their staffs’ skills.

Designate a staff data leader. In your assessment, you probably will find someone who took a data journalism class in college or has dabbled a little with spreadsheets and mapping data. Designate this person as your staff’s leader in data journalism. Give this person the time and authority to learn new tools, to develop and lead staff workshops in data tools and techniques and to coach individual staff members. MaryJo has such a position and the Pioneer Press, and she contributed to two projects that won DFMies for 2012 and a third that was a finalist and she was a finalist for the DFMie for special contribution. A strong data leader can elevate the journalism of your whole staff.

Don’t let the leader become a silo. The leader’s job should be to lead the staff in developing data skills and doing more and better data journalism, not to do all the work herself. It’s OK to have a specialist who develops some high-end skills or even to have multiple specialists, particularly in a larger newsroom, perhaps one each with expertise in data reporting, data visualization and a couple specialists in news app development, one working on back end development and one on design and interaction. But you want the whole staff to gain some data competency and work data into their routine reporting and editing.

Specify data expectations. In job interviews, job descriptions, performance evaluations and other communication with staff about their work, make clear that you expect them to develop and use data skills. Set specific goals and not whether staff members have achieved those goals.

Reward data excellence. What you can do to reward journalists will vary according to union contracts, pay freezes, budgets and other considerations. But you should use whatever flexibility you have — including opportunities to fill vacancies — to reward and promote staff members who are excelling in data journalism.

Learn by doing. I did my first data story — an investigation that debunked a lie state officials were telling about an environmental clean-up fund that was out of money — without any training. I’ll tell you the importance of training shortly, but however much training you and your staff receive, you learn data journalism by working on stories. Before and after training, you and your staff should feel your way with some simple tools such as spreadsheets and Google Maps. When you get more advanced training, be sure to use the tools and techniques you were taught right away, to implant the lessons you learned.

Provide training opportunities. You and your staff can get training in data journalism lots of ways:

  • Training should be one of the responsibilities of your data leader. He should lead staff workshops and provide individual coaching for colleagues.
  • Poynter’s News University offers a range of low-cost online courses in data journalism.
  • The Thunderdome data team can help Digital First journalists with particular data projects, helping local journalists on stories based on local data (and teaching those local journalists new skills in the process).
  • The Thunderdome data team also operates a Google discussion group for Digital First data journalists. You can ask colleagues when you have questions and learn a lot just by lurking.
  • Send staff members to the annual conferences, boot camp or regional training events of the National Institute of Computer-Assisted Reporting. (Digital First will pay most of the costs for three journalists to attend the next NICAR conference. Staff members should watch for information about how to apply for one of those subsidized slots.)
  • Encourage staff members learning data journalism to join the NICAR listserv. Even just lurking on there can be immensely helpful.
  • Read MaryJo’s Data Mine blog, which provides helpful how-to advice on data journalism and the projects she works on.
  • An opportunity for Digital First editors: MaryJo developed a workshop to give Pioneer Press a “bird’s-eye view of what data journalism is, and give them a bit of a roadmap for what questions they should be asking, what things they should be looking for, and what expectations they should (or shouldn’t) have when one of their reporters is working on a data-driven story.” She’s going to work with Tom on developing that into a webinar for Digital First editors. If you’re interested in that, let me know and I’ll make sure we get the word to you when they schedule that.
  • Sharon Machlis added this October opportunity in the comments, but I wanted to add it here, since it sounds like a good one: Data Journalism 101, free webinar taught by Michael J. Berens, 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner for investigative reporting.
  • Also added (thanks to Sarah Bartlett on Twitter): Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas online course Data-Driven Journalism: The Basics.
  • Anything else I should add?

Share examples. When other newsrooms use digital skills to find and present important stories, share those links with your staff. Especially if the stories are done by other Digital First newsrooms, email those editors to ask how they did it and whether the journalists responsible can confer with someone on your staff about how to do a similar story in your community.

Piggyback on national efforts. When the Thunderdome data team (or our ProPublica partners) does some analysis of a national database, partner with them to produce stories about the data for your community. Your staff and readers will benefit from the higher skill level of the national journalists, but your staff will probably learn some skills in the process.

You don’t need to be an expert in data journalism to make it a priority for your newsroom. Say that it’s important, show that it’s important and lead your newsroom in learning.

Want to contribute a guest post?

If you’re another Digital First editor (or a leader or former leader in another organization) and would like to propose a guest post as part of the series, email me at sbuttry (at) digitalfirstmedia (dot) com and we’ll discuss. Sue Burzynski Bullard provided such a post on organizational tools. Nancy March wrote about balancing work and personal life. Dan Rowinski wrote about mobile opportunities. I have a few editor friends who say they are planning guest posts, and I hope to post them soon.

I’m not interested in a post of general leadership tips. I’d rather have a post on a particular leadership topic. Feel free to suggest a post that might address a topic I’ve already covered, but from a different perspective. I welcome posts that disagree with my advice. I will invite a few editors I respect to write posts.

Earlier posts with advice for editors

Handle firings with honesty and compassion

Tips for interviewing job candidates

Check a job candidate’s digital profile

Hiring is an opportunity to upgrade your newsroom

Your newsroom is watching

Time is precious; manage it carefully

The digital audience values quality photos

Rethink your mobile approach

Lead your newsroom in pursuing mobile opportunities

The balancing act

Blog about your newsroom’s transformation

You’re a role model; be a good one, like Dave Witke

Respect personal life

Communicate face to face

Respect authorship

Ask, don’t tell

Make training a priority

Do what you say you’ll do — by being organized

Lead Digital First meetings

Lead and stimulate discussions of ethics

Stand up for your staff

Stand for accuracy and accountability

Admit your mistakes

Deliver criticism with a challenge

Praise is free but priceless

Disrupt your newsroom culture

Be aware of your example

Listen

How do your daily budgets reflect multi-platform planning needs?

What new beats would help newsrooms cover local news better?

Why editors should be active on Twitter

The Buttry version of social media best practices for editors

How the crowd can save your career

Leading your staff into the Twitterverse

Mentors don’t always see their seeds blossom

Upcoming topics

Here are topics I am planning on covering in this series (the order is uncertain). The pace of these posts has slowed, but I’ll still try to post something weekly. What other topics should I cover?

  • Developing new leaders
  • Diversity
  • Teamwork
  • Fun

Read Full Post »

This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

The most unpleasant task of my editing career has been firing staff members.

Whether you fire someone for performance or misconduct or because you have to reduce the size of the staff, you are disrupting the person’s career and life in ways you and they can’t foresee. You are delivering a blow to the ego as well as to the family finances. It can be devastating to the journalist you fire and gut-wrenching for the editor who makes the decision and delivers the news.

No advice I can deliver changes any of that. So one of the most important pieces of advice I can give is this: If you can’t handle that difficult task, don’t take on a top editing job. It’s a great job that includes a lot of exciting and rewarding work. But it also invariably includes this task, even in good times, and you need to be able to handle it. (more…)

Read Full Post »

This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

Interviewing job candidates will be a familiar task in many ways for new editors who are former reporters.

You approach hiring staff members similarly to reporting a story. You interview to learn the stories of the various candidates and you want to learn all the stories well enough that you know who is the best person for the job you’re filling.

Interviewing job candidates is different from interviewing sources, though. And editors without reporting experience may benefit from interviewing advice. So I’ll share some tips for job interviews (and a little crowdsourcing exercise):

Prep for the interview. Review the candidate’s résumé thoroughly before the interview and take a close look at her work – both the clips she sent you and others you found in your own research. As questions occur to you in researching the candidate, take notes and ask those questions during the interview.

Use multiple settings. Don’t interview a candidate just in your office. Go to lunch or dinner. Sit down in a conference room. Drive him around town (you want to show external candidates the community; even if you’re new to the community, they will be, too, and your perspective as a newcomer will be helpful to them). Give a tour of your offices (especially if you still have a sprawling newspaper plant or former plant). Go for a walk. Changing the setting changes the dynamic of an interview as well as giving the candidate a flavor of your community and workplace.

Give the candidate a chance to ask questions. This is more than a courtesy, though it is courteous. The questions may tell you as much about the candidate as the answers to your questions. This is especially important if you’re hiring a reporter. You’ll get a chance to see her in action, interviewing you about this job, you and your newsroom. Don’t take offense if she asks you a few tough questions, especially if he elicits candid answers that maybe you didn’t want to give. That’s what a good reporter does (and, even if you’re not interviewing someone for a reporting position, the journalistic sense of a good reporter is valuable).

Ask some ethical questions. Ask some what-if questions based on current issues in the news in journalism. (Right now, you might ask what he would have done if Edward Snowden had come to him with the story on NSA surveillance.) You want a good sense of the candidate’s decision-making process on ethical issues. The decision-making process here might be more important than whether the journalist would make the same decision you would (though discuss that if you disagree).

Start the interview in writing. When I was hiring community engagement staff for TBD and when we were hiring curators for Digital First Media, I asked candidates to tell me in their applications how they would do the job. If you’re hiring for a new job, the candidate’s vision for the job is one of the most important factors that you’re evaluating. While in-person questions help in evaluating that, you also want to see the thought and writing and creativity in expressing the vision.

Consider video interviews. In-person interviews are best, but you can choose the best candidates to interview in person by conducting initial interviews by Skype or Hangout, which, even with an occasional hitch in your connection, are far better than phone interviews.

Ask some of the same questions. One useful way to measure candidates against each other is to ask them each the same questions. Choose a few key questions relating to the job itself and ask them the same way to each candidate.

Don’t stick to a script. Other than those few questions that you will ask all the candidates, you want to react to the interview, asking follow-up questions, repeating a question the candidate doesn’t answer, etc.

Ask about challenges and failures. The candidate will come to your interview prepared to boast about achievements. That’s fine and you need to hear about those, but tough times tell us more about a journalist than the boasts. I often ask a candidate to tell me about her worst mistake ever. No one is prepared for that question (though people who do their homework will be prepared now), so you get a spontaneous answer, in contrast with the rehearsed answers you might have heard to questions they anticipated. You also get to see whether the candidate learns from mistakes, which is really important to me, or makes excuses or doesn’t accept responsibility for mistakes, which can be a red flag.

Take notes. Record some of your impressions and some things the candidate says during the interview. If you’ve done a good job screening candidates, you’ll have multiple strong contenders and the hire will be a tough decision. Notes will help identify topics for further research and will refresh your memory as you’re weighing two close candidates.

Ask for clips. If the candidate mentions a story (or video, photo or other journalism work) during the interview that you haven’t seen yet, ask her to send you a copy or a link. You’ll want to see if you think it’s as good as the journalist described.

Check facts. If something doesn’t sound right to you, do your own reporting and make sure the candidate is being truthful. Even if you don’t have suspicions, some random fact-checking may be a good idea, mostly to reinforce the positive impressions you had, but occasionally fact-checking will help you identify a BSer whose dishonesty could be troubling if he joins your staff.

Follow up. You’ll think of questions (or answers) after the interview. Ask them with a follow-up email or phone call. This also gives the candidate a chance to make points she thought of after the interview and/or to ask further questions.

Now for the crowdsourcing exercise: What are your tips for job interviews? What are your favorite questions?

Responses

Jennifer Paluzzi of the Lowell Sun responded by email with this advice:

Before I joined The Sun, I founded and ran a chain of hyperlocal news sites, CentralMassNews.com, and hiring reporters was both my favorite and least favorite task.

One item you don’t mention about the interview: I always did a show and tell with the websites. I wanted to see if they had done their homework and actually studied them and I wanted to see them react to the realities of the job. Were they tentative about the technology in the content management system, or did they talk about how they used something similar in a previous job or while blogging? Did they ask questions about site metrics? Did they offer any critiques about layout, ask how we handled video, photo galleries and site promotion through social media?

On Facebook, Don Nelson gave this answer:

If you ask lame-ass questions like “what are your weaknesses,” “where do you expect to be in five years” and “tell me why I should hire you,” you are a lazy, unprepared interviewer and they will know it.

Links to help job candidates nail the interview

Some people reading this will not be new editors, but the journalists they might be considering for jobs. So here are some links that might help journalists seeking jobs to perform well in interviews:

Job-hunting advice for journalists selling skills in the digital market

Tips on landing your next job in digital journalism

Want to contribute a guest post?

If you’re another Digital First editor (or a leader or former leader in another organization) and would like to propose a guest post as part of the series, email me at sbuttry (at) digitalfirstmedia (dot) com and we’ll discuss. Sue Burzynski Bullard provided such a post on organizational tools. Nancy March wrote about balancing work and personal life. Dan Rowinski wrote about mobile opportunities.

I’m not interested in a post of general leadership tips. I’d rather have a post on a particular leadership topic. Feel free to suggest a post that might address a topic I’ve already covered, but from a different perspective. I welcome posts that disagree with my advice. I will invite a few editors I respect to write posts.

Earlier posts with advice for editors

Check a job candidate’s digital profile

Hiring is an opportunity to upgrade your newsroom

Your newsroom is watching

Time is precious; manage it carefully

The digital audience values quality photos

Rethink your mobile approach

Lead your newsroom in pursuing mobile opportunities

The balancing act

Blog about your newsroom’s transformation

You’re a role model; be a good one, like Dave Witke

Respect personal life

Communicate face to face

Respect authorship

Ask, don’t tell

Make training a priority

Do what you say you’ll do — by being organized

Lead Digital First meetings

Lead and stimulate discussions of ethics

Stand up for your staff

Stand for accuracy and accountability

Admit your mistakes

Deliver criticism with a challenge

Praise is free but priceless

Disrupt your newsroom culture

Be aware of your example

Listen

How do your daily budgets reflect multi-platform planning needs?

What new beats would help newsrooms cover local news better?

Why editors should be active on Twitter

The Buttry version of social media best practices for editors

How the crowd can save your career

Leading your staff into the Twitterverse

Mentors don’t always see their seeds blossom

Upcoming topics

Here are topics I am planning on covering in this series (the order is uncertain). I hope to post at least one more this week. What other topics should I cover?

  • Firing
  • Data
  • Diversity
  • Developing new leaders
  • Teamwork
  • Fun

Read Full Post »

John Lumpkin

John Lumpkin

My friend John Lumpkin is retiring as director of the Schieffer School of Journalism at my alma mater, Texas Christian University.

I learned a lot about journalism while I was a student at TCU from 1972 to 1976. I learned from my professors — Lewis C. Fay and Elden Rawlings, who were journalism department chairs while I was there; J.D. Fuller, Doug Newsom and Jack Raskopf and adjunct professor Jim Batts. I learned from my fellow students, working all four years for the student newspaper, the Daily Skiff. I learned from visiting speakers, including Bill Moyers and TCU alumnus Bob Schieffer.

When I graduated, my first job took me back to the Midwest and I wandered away from TCU. My whole career, I’ve been based in the Midwest and in the Washington area. I developed ties with various Midwestern schools, speaking at local colleges and universities wherever I worked and teaching as adjunct faculty at three schools in Iowa and two in Washington. TCU seemed pretty distant for most of my career, beyond the mass mailings to alumni.

When the school was named for Schieffer several years ago, someone from the school asked for a comment about my TCU experience and the quote was one of several from students and alumni used widely in promotion of the event (I said something about becoming addicted to journalism as a TCU student and not planning to enter rehab). But that was about the extent of my ties to TCU for the first 30 years after I left.

John brought me back, though. (more…)

Read Full Post »

This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

I hardly care about a job candidate’s résumé or the clips she sends me. That’s the story she wants me to know. What I’m interested in is the more complete story I can learn about her online.

When you’re hiring journalists, you need to conduct an extensive examination of their digital footprints.

Check social media

Social media use tells you a lot about a journalist. First, if a journalist isn’t even on Twitter or Facebook, that will raise significant concerns about his suitability for a Digital First newsroom. Beyond that, how they use social media will tell you a lot about their journalism. For one thing, social media posts are nearly always unedited. If you want to look at a reporter’s raw copy, Twitter and Facebook are great places to find it.

If you’d like a chance to watch a job candidate in action, look to see whether he has done some livetweeting events and/or crowdsourcing. You will see resourcefulness if she is resourceful. You will see how she relates to the community, whether she is engaging or aloof, arrogant or fun.

I like it when I see a journalist who can show some personality and still behave professionally. Personality is, after all, part of being social. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Some journalists who are strongly active on Twitter reach a ceiling on how many people you can follow.

The ceiling is a response to spammers, who used to follow people endlessly, but it’s ridiculous that Twitter hasn’t developed a way to waive the ceiling for valid users. More later on this frustration (including a weak response from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo last month).

But first, a #twutorial explanation of how the ceiling works and what you can do if you bump against it:

What the ceiling is

Any Twitter user can follow up to 2,000 other Twitter accounts without restriction. Once you hit 2,000, the number you can follow depends on how many people can follow you. The ceiling doesn’t limit me. Since I have 14K followers, I have been able to follow more than 3K without limit. Where you run into trouble is if you’re following more people than follow you.

The limit seems to be somewhere around 80 percent, though it’s not consistent. So, if you’re following 2,000 people but have fewer than 1,600 followers, you’ve probably hit the ceiling. But the ceiling doesn’t automatically come off as you go over 1,600. Once it comes into effect, it’s kind of a mystery how it works.

Chad Selweski, a political reporter at the Macomb Daily (follow him, please), wrote me about the problem earlier this year:

I was told that, beyond 2,000, you need followers that are at least 80 percent of the number you are following. I am beyond that 80 percent mark and I’m still banned from following anyone.

I asked Chad for an update this week:

My ceiling comes and goes. Very odd. The hard-and-fast ceiling that I talked to you about in the past – 2,000 followings — disappeared sometime in April or May.

This morning, after receiving your email, I added 12 followings and never received the dreaded pop-up message from Twitter that said I had exceeded my limit. That’s a good day in Twitterland.

My current ratio is: following 2,117, followed by 1,929. So, nearly 50-50.

Another Digital First journalist who’s hit the limit, Buffy Andrews (follow her, please), explained how frustrating the ceiling is:

Not being able to follow more people has been problematic in many ways.

Even though my followers continue to increase month over month, I cannot get past the ceiling. …

Since I do a lot of digital content marketing, my need to broaden my base is essential to building relationships and connecting with people from various fields. How am I supposed to build and nurture relationships if I’m prevented from establishing these relationships?

Plus, it seems that if I could follow more people I’d be able to grow my followers even faster. But I’ve been stuck at the ceiling forever, and I feel like it is preventing me from doing my job to the best of my ability. We know that Twitter is all about connecting, but I am being held back from making connections that could help me promote and share the great content we produce.

Bottom line, I need Twitter to lift the ceiling so that I can do my job. It is holding me back and I’ve been very frustrated by the lack of response to what I see is a real problem.

What to do

Unfollow some people. Use Friend or Follow or Just Unfollow to identify people you follow who aren’t following you back. Some of them might be important to follow, so you still want to follow them. Don’t unfollow people you recognize as those you’ve had meaningful conversations with or those who share links you find helpful. But some of those people may not be very active or otherwise aren’t a meaningful part of your timeline, even though they count against the ceiling.

Maybe you followed someone in the community, hoping they would follow you back, but they didn’t and they tweet about matters that are trivial to you rather than about community events and issues.

Unfollowing people has been helpful to Chad:

To give myself some extra space, I did weed out some of my lame followings from my early days getting started on Twitter. But my addition of followings comes in bursts.

Caution: Twitter’s rules don’t allow you to regularly follow and unfollow many accounts at a time. Odd that one Twitter rule might force some people into violating another rule. But I think if you unfollow and follow a handful at a time you should be fine.

Use lists to “follow” without following. You can make lists of Twitter users that you can follow in a column on TweetDeck or HootSuite or by clicking on the list from Twitter.com or a mobile app. These users’ tweets don’t show up on your timeline and they can’t direct-message you because you’re not following them. But you can pretty easily keep tabs on their tweets.

What you could do is identify a type of users whose tweets you want to monitor but with whom you’re unlikely to exchange direct messages and put them on a list but unfollow them (you can’t DM someone who isn’t following you, so they wouldn’t be able to DM you). You would need to check the list frequently, but you wouldn’t technically follow those tweets.

If you follow some national political, entertainment or sports figures, they are unlikely to DM you (unless you cover them, perhaps), and you could put them on a list.

Update: Steve Saldivar, social media coordinator at The Getty, added this advice on Facebook: “I would recommend listing organizations (and not people). The former tend to never DM.” What other advice would you suggest?

Twitter is no help

OK, here we move from providing advice on using Twitter to complaining about the company. My dealings with Twitter illustrate how cavalier the company is, from the CEO down, in terms of user service.

Most of my requests for help from Twitter have been met with silence or brush-offs. (Two exceptions: I had a nice lunch with Mark S. Luckie when he became Twitter’s manager of journalism and news about a year ago; and Erica Anderson helped me get whitelisted so I could tweet without limits during the Online News Association lightning round for board candidates last year, a few months after hitting Twitter’s hourly tweet limit during the American Society of News Editors convention.)

I think I asked about the follower limit in 2011 or 2012 on behalf of a Digital First colleague and was ignored. Optimistic that things would be better under Luckie, I emailed him earlier this year, asking for help with Chad.

Mark replied on Jan. 10 by carboning “Tyler Pilgrim from our User Services team who can help you get an answer.”

Pilgrim’s answer, also Jan. 10, was pretty much a raised middle finger:

Every user can follow 2000 people total. Once you’ve followed 2000 users, there are limits to the number of additional users you can follow: this limit is different for every user and is based on your ratio of followers to following. You’ll need to wait until you have more followers in order to follow more users—basically, you can’t follow 10,000 people if only 100 people follow you. Unfortunately, we are unable to change this limit.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

The words I italicized above are simply not true. Twitter works how Twitter engineers have designed it to work. They are able to change the limit just as they were able to impose the limit and to design it to work the way that it works. A ratio of 2-1 would stop the spammers without inhibiting legitimate users nearly as severely as the current limit.

Twitter engineers also developed a way to whitelist some users to exempt them from the limit on how often you can tweet. I’m pretty sure the same engineers are able to waive this limitation. But Twitter chooses not to.

My Jan. 10 reply to Pilgrim:

Chad has 1,662 followers and follows 2,001. Surely your ratio is not 1.2:1? That doesn’t make any sense. Why in the world would you want to limit the Twitter use of someone with that many followers?

Despite his invitation to let him know if I had other questions, he never answered that question or answered the email at all. So I emailed Pilgrim, Luckie and Anderson Jan. 18:

I never got a response to this message. Can we get this fixed? If it’s your policy to limit Twitter use by journalists with this kind of ratio, that policy makes no sense. If it’s not your policy, this is a glitch that should be fixed. We’d like to get Chad freed up to follow people again.

Luckie was a guest Jan. 30 for one of our first Inside Thunderdome live chats. I asked the question there, but it wasn’t approved for addressing in the chat because Mark said he’d address it privately. So after the chat I sent him a private email, saying:

I just can’t believe that Twitter can’t lift the following limitation for a professional journalist with 85 percent as many followers as he follows. And I’m really disappointed with never getting a response to my questions from Tyler.

I got no response to that, nor to a brief Feb. 6 email to Mark, reminding him of my request. So I wrote a longer message Feb. 7, mentioning Buffy as well:

For crying out loud, both of these people have more than 80 percent as many followers as they follow. I think your limits aren’t working. What is the “ratio” Tyler referred to? Is it really higher than 80 percent? What sense does that make? Do you really want to limit people this active from using Twitter fully? Aren’t you supposed to be the advocate for journalists? This isn’t how Twitter should work. If we can’t get a better response on this, I’m going to have to blog about how pointless this limit is and how disappointing Twitter’s response has been. To wait this long to get blown off like this is really disappointing.

Again, no response.

Anderson also blew me off on another matter (about which Luckie had referred me to her) around the same time frame. Though I had carboned her on this issue, I never addressed it directly with her. I planned to raise it with her on the phone when we discussed the other issue. But she never replied to multiple emails asking to discuss the other issue with her.

I took another shot last month when Costolo, Twitter’s top executive, was a luncheon speaker at the American Society of News Editors conference. When Costolo was taking answers from the floor, I asked him about the follower limit and Twitter’s lousy user service and why they don’t figure out a way to waive the limit for journalists (and other people) who are obviously using Twitter conversationally.

Frank was right that the answer was longer than my tweet, but certainly it’s fair game to boil an answer from Twitter CEO’s down to 140 characters.

He said something about lots of other priorities for Twitter’s engineers. This was not long after he said that Twitter’s staff is something like 50 percent engineers. You can’t tell me that Twitter’s engineers aren’t smart enough to figure out a solution for this. They just don’t care.

I’ve blogged a lot about Twitter’s value for journalists. Occasionally I’ll get accused of being a shill for the company. Far from it. I’ve ripped the company before and probably will again. I’ve been repeatedly amazed at how unresponsive Twitter is.

When you hit Twitter’s follower limit (or want help from Twitter on pretty much anything), you’re on your own.

Responses on Twitter

Earlier #twutorial posts

Read Jeremy Stahl’s guide to tweeting during a crisis

#twutorial post: How to embed tweets and follow conversations

Step one for using Twitter as a reporter: Master advanced search

Use lists, TweetDeck, HootSuite, saved searches, alerts to organize Twitter’s chaos

Denver Post staffers’ #theatershooting coverage demonstrates Twitter breaking news techniques

Hashtags help journalists find relevant tweets and reach more people

Advice and examples on how and what journalists should tweet

9 ways to find helpful people and organizations to follow on Twitter

To build Twitter followers: Join the conversation, tweet often, be yourself

10 ways Twitter is valuable for journalists

Updated Twitter time management tips

Don’t be selfish on Twitter; tweeting useful information is good business

What’s the best way to view Twitter’s users? 16 percent or 30 million

Twitter data shows journos’ ‘burstiness’ boosts followers

#Twutorial guest post from Alexis Grant: A simple Twitter strategy that will dramatically grow your network

#Twutorial guest post from Deanna Utroske: Tips for twinterviewing

#Twutorial guest post by Menachem Wecker: How to use Twitter to find the best sources

#Twutorial guest post by Jaclyn Schiff: How using Storify can help you find great sources

Getting started on Twitter: #twutorial advice for a friend

Should a journalist livetweet a funeral? If so, how?

Use Twitter for conversation about an event, not just promotion

How to verify information from tweets: check it out

In addition, these two posts that predate the #twutorial series cover some of the points I’ll make in the workshop:

Suggestions for livetweeting

Updated and expanded Twitter tips for journalists

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »