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Twitter Looks For Balance Between Curation and Noise


1064039_gas_hornTwitter CEO Dick Costolo took the stage at the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings yesterday to talk about changing the world in 140 characters. He referred to the social media network as the  “global town square” and like a busy town square some of what you pick up there is news and some of it is just noise. Twitter excels at both and Costolo’s team is looking for new ways to maintain the balance between the two.

Twitter’s real-time nature makes it an exciting place to be when you’re monitoring an event from afar. Sitting in Arizonia during the London Olympics? Twitter delivers the joy of the gold medal win straight from the gold medal winner. Even better, it delivers the pride of small towns all over the world as they watch one of their own rise to fame for a few minutes.

During the Olympics, Twitter used a curation team to highlight the best posts but Costolo wasn’t happy with the results.

“The amazing thing about that was that you lost the roar of the crowd,” he said. Twitter no longer felt like the town square it aspires to be, but became more of an aggregator.

He went on to say that journalists need to do their part by adding personality and tone to Tweets.

Asked to explain an instance of best Twitter use by news organizations, he said, “Tweets that are captioned to a thoughtful analysis or synthesis on news items, even on something others are reporting on.” A tweet of “goooaaalll!!!” during a soccer game would merely mirror the reactions of thousands of other tweeters, but one about an assist that led to the goal could add more value, he said.

Costolo said it’s even more important that journalists and editors play their part during a time of crisis. We’ve all seen the wave of misinformation that washes through Twitter every time there’s a natural disaster or a horrendous news event. He says Twitter is just a distribution mechanism and they’re not in a position to filter what’s credible and what’s not. But if journalists take care to only promote credible and useful links the phony Tweets will fall away.

Social TV

On the lighter side, Twitter is making huge strides in the area of second screen TV. More studios and networks are using the service to run real-time events – but there’s a problem with that. Real-time TV events only work if you’re on the East coast. Last season, my favorite new show, Vegas had a live Tweet session with the producer and one of the stars. But following the Tweets meant getting spoiled on an episode that was still three hours away for me. Even if they run a second session, usually they’re all Tweeted out from the first round. And what about the folks in the Central time zone?

To solve this problem, Twitter is working on what they’re calling “DVR mode.” This feature would allow viewers in every time zone to experience the live Tweet session at their convenience. You wouldn’t be able to ask questions and join in, but the Tweets would match what you’re seeing on screen. No more spoilers.

If you’re interested in hearing more of what Costolo had to say you can watch the full webcast over at the Brookings website.

One final note, when asked about his favorite Tweet, Costolo chose this wry reply to comedian Sarah Silverman from actress Mia Farrow:

Do you have a favorite Tweet? Hook us up so we can all enjoy it.