The Oscars as seen on Twitter

While we live in the era of digital media, and more specifically the era of social media, it’s undeniable that mass media still have a lot to say. I believe the reason is simple: online conversations wouldn’t happen without things to talk about.

That is what events like the Oscars have been providing for 87 years: conversation topics. The difference is that now we don’t have to throw a party at home or wait until we get to the office or the school the next day to talk about it. We can do it live on Twitter, and not just with the people we know but with the millions of people watching the same thing.

On this cool data visualization from Twitter you can see exactly that: the Oscars led the online conversation, minute by minute. People quickly forgot about the movies that were not being mention on the screen, but kept posting about what they were seeing live.

the oscars on twitter
Same on WordPress.com: the embed code won’t work and you don’t get to see the animation. Click on the image to visit Twitter’s site.

What should social media be like

The best thing about the Internet is that it’s an open network. You can just connect your computer, open your browser and see any website you want -except if you are using some versions of Internet Explorer. You can open your email client or web-mail service, and email anybody you want as long as you have their email address. And of course you can create your own browser or email client knowing that, following the existing standards, it will work.

This quality of the Internet, its openness, is so important we fight fiercely against any attempt to kill it (SOPA, PIPA, Ley Sinde, Hadopi… you name it). Yet we are letting social media destroy the openness of the Internet by creating closed platforms that get so big you can’t just leave them.

Imagine that you could only call or send and SMS to those friends who have the contracts with the same provider than you do. Or that Gmail users could only email Gmail users. That’s exactly what happens with most social media platforms: you need to have Facebook to interact with your Facebook friends, WhatsApp to talk to your WhatsApp friends, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Skype, Google+, Messenger, BBM, iMessage… there is even a whole business of services like Hootsuite or Sproutsocial just to manage all your profiles from one place!

Think about it. How much time do we waste keeping all those profiles up to date and checking if any friend posted something somewhere? How many people would like to quite Facebook but can’t because all their friends and literally 10 years of their life are already there? What’s the point of uploading all your pictures and tagging everyone if sooner or later that platform is going to be done, closed and forgotten? How on Earth are you going to try something new if first you need to convince all your friends to try it too so it actually makes sense to use it?

I believe the need of supreme power and control that companies like Facebook or Google feel is killing our relationship with the Internet. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have your personal profile in a way that you can do whatever you want with it? Just think of a supercharged email system. Some kind of standard format to keep your digital history (posts, links shared, images posted, profile picture, contacts…) in one place, and do whatever you want with it. So if I like Facebook but you are done with it and want to try Google+ we can still be friends and talk to each other without both having to keep two accounts in different places.

This system would also be tremendously beneficial for new businesses. Instead of having to steal millions of users at once from other platforms you could go ahead and create your own system, conquering users one by one. Platforms focused on design and customization, platforms based on ease of use and strong privacy settings, platforms supported by advertising, platforms where users have to pay to keep their accounts…. we could have specialized platforms for small niches with specific needs, something that currently is just unthinkable because it’s not a sustainable business -and because it doesn’t make sense if you can’t talk with everybody else.

In brief, the idea is that with a standardized social media environment the possibilities would be endless. As they always have been with the Internet, and as they should always be.

What do you think?

How to correct tweets

It happens to everyone on Twitter: once in a while post a tweet with a typo. It’s actually becoming really common thanks to iOS and Android auto correction tools, because the software checks for spelling mistakes and literally changes your words (normally to something either dirty or just really funny). But it can also be that your link doesn’t work, you link to the wrong page or you just got a name wrong. And then what?

Twitter doesn’t allow you to edit tweets, which protects the whole concept of retweeting and replying to them. A lot of people and companies just delete the tweet with the typo and post a corrected one. This would clean up your timeline, but has some disadvantages. For example, even though the tweet disappears from Twitter some third party clients like Hootsuite keep displaying it (if they retrieved it when you published). Also, some people might have seen it already, replyed to it or retweeted it. In any case, it could be considered that a tweet is not a transparent policy because of its similarity to trying to delete parts of your news release or public speech once it’s out there.

That’s why I like what Time Magazine seems to be doing. One easy, fast and very transparent way to correct your tweets: just post a second one and let people know it is a correction. You see? Social media can be as easy as just talking to a friend. Just make sure you double check all your tweets so you don’t have to post a lot of corrections, but don’t be afraid of publicly fixing your mistakes.

Linking the two screens: from TV to Twitter

This week the TV show Bones returned from its Christmas break. It’s one of those shows that has embraced social media, showing on each episode the Bones hashtag to guide the Twitter conversation into a common place. This allows the producers to monitor what the audience is saying about their work, and it makes it easier for the show to appear as a Trending Topic. It’s a promotion tool that is easy and free, plus the little sign doesn’t really bother anyone because we are already used to have the broadcast channel logo on-screen. They also participate in the live conversation from @BONESonFOX, for which using a hashtag helps them reach an audience larger than their followers base.

But after the Christmas break they played a really smart move, and changed the common, plain hashtag to something more engaging: #bonesisback.

#bonesisback
#bonesisback

It’s more dynamic than the common hashtags, better linked to the now and here of the episode, meaning it actually promotes the real-time conversation. It won’t work for next week’s episode, but that doesn’t matter: it has done its job and there will be another hashtag to use. This simple change proves that whoever is in charge of the social media buzz for the show is listening and understands their audience: this week the episode could have been better or worse, but what was really important for the fans was that the show was back:

tweet-bonesisback

I would like to see TV channels doing something similar in sports. Lets say Leo Messi scores an incredible goal, Dwyane Wade and Lebron James do a mind blowing alley-oop, Juan Carlos Navarro breaks Barcelona’s total score record during the next game, or for some random reason James Reimer scores a goal for the Maple Leafs. Those would all be great moments that would go viral and generate tons of comments, so if the broadcaster is fast enough to catch it and show a little message along the lines of “wow, that was incredible! #MessiGoal” the audience would probably fall for it. I hope to see a lot of this during the next Olympics, allowing fans to find a common place to talk to other fans from all over the world about what they are all watching at the same time, whether it is football, gymnastics, track and field, tennis or any other discipline.