Technological haiku

I expected the ScienceWriters 2009 workshop moderated by Robin Lloyd and Christie Nicholson, social media mavenettes working for Scientific American, entitled "Social Media — Why, Where and How," to cover the whole Social Media scene for me so that I'd perhaps see some value to it all. Social media was defined by Lloyd as places where "you receive, consolidate, share information." Regrettably the well publicized social media websites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn were barely mentioned. This session was a sales job for Twitter.

 

I expected the ScienceWriters 2009 workshop moderated by Robin Lloyd and Christie Nicholson, social media mavenettes working for Scientific American, entitled "Social Media — Why, Where and How," to cover the whole Social Media scene for me so that I'd perhaps see some value to it all. Social media was defined by Lloyd as places where "you receive, consolidate, share information." Regrettably the well publicized social media websites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn were barely mentioned. This session was a sales job for Twitter.

Twitter's stocks-in-trade, tweets, are publicly posted phrases of no more than 140 characters. Blogging via the rules of Haiku. People can respond to your tweet. If someone likes what you are talking about, they can choose to "follow" you, which means that every time you post a tweet, your followers get the microburst of information. Our session hosts had followers in the hundreds or thousands, and were following hundreds of others themselves. Lloyd and Nicholson stated they ignore hundreds of messages a day, which I find disquieting.

Whether any of the social media are useful to you depends, as Nicholson stated, on what your goal is. Valid journalistic reasons for twittering included exchanging tips, sharing news and information, the usual chattering of fellow scribes these days about job information and self-promotion. Twittering can be a really good source for on-the-scene, by-the-minute updating of news in progress. The demonstrated example: scientists last summer at the fires near the Mt. Wilson Observatory in California became the prime source for Web news pieces on the fires.

Even without a Twitter account, anyone can use search.twitter.com to search the whole Twitterverse for topics being discussed and for finding sources you might not find otherwise.

Among the rare tidbits off Twitter that Lloyd and Nicholson pointed out were several good computer-assisted journalism tools for tracking what the sociable masses are interested in:

  • Google trends — a way to see what the populace is searching for via continuously updated statistics.

  • Google Insights — same idea but more searchable via filtering for time and geography.

  • Yahoo Buzz is similar but of a more limited pool.

  • Evernote and Delicious are the web equivalents of sharing your favorite links online for others to search, and for you to check for others' most favored sites. These "social bookmark sites" are apparently very useful for also storing videos and other information that can be a resource for metrics (i.e. numerical info) on businesses.

  • Google Docs is the business equivalent of shared workspaces or those experiments in group writing. I wonder if anybody has ever tried to have the citizen journalists out there group write a story in Google Docs (but knowing the bean counters out there may be searching for more ways to lay off real journalists, perhaps I should not write this idea . . .)

Larry Krumenaker prefers the real world socializing and while brevity may be the soul of wit, 140 characters of information isn't. Krumenaker was an NASW Freelance Travel Fellow at ScienceWriters 2009. He lives in Atlanta and is publisher of The Classroom Astronomer magazine.

Oct. 22, 2009