Saturday, February 28, 2009

Official University Twitterers Lead Students?

Both the Radford University and Virginia Tech public relations folks are already using, but the majority of my RU students hadn't heard of this rapidly growing social network site before I mentioned it in class.

Is this the first time college PR departments have been ahead of the students at adapting a new technology? Maybe its too similar to the status-update feature on Facebook, which most students seem to be familiar with. Well, if they want to see what the college publicity folks are saying, here are the local feeds:

Forget ? Someone in the .ru domain apparently grabbed it -- all tweets are in Russian

A sports stats outfit is also using college names and logos on its tweets, such as

In addition, there is a twitter account for, but nothing had been posted when I looked.

I wonder whether the VT and RU public information offices' interest has something to do with the presence of Roanoke Times ( refugees on the staff at both universities. The newspaper's blogs and editorial pages have had twitter feeds for almost a year.

In fact, media organizations and college journalism faculty members were the first people I saw using Twitter, after the Web technology insiders like Dave Winer (, who is "following" 879 feeds on Twitter, has 19,068 "followers" and has posted 12,750 updates to his Twitter feed as of a few minutes ago.

The TV Watch - Media’s Big Names Can’t Resist Twitter -
"The Internet has revolutionized society by giving anyone an instant and unfiltered outlet for self-expression. But it has also turned journalism into a year-round, ever-updated “Dear Friends and Family” Christmas newsletter."

Speaking of media and twitter, I noticed the other day that the Charlie Rose Show has had a twitter feed -- but that that it missed posting the news that Charlie was interviewing twitter's Evan Williams. Weird.

Meanwhile in London, The Independent says "February 2009 might well go down as the month when Twitter replaced Facebook as the hottest and coolest company in Silicon Valley."

Unless you read it there (or somewhere else), you read it here first.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Reboot .Gov" campaign for Internet public info

Carl Malamud of has been making imaginative contributions to the Internet since before the Web began, especially by campaigning to get more and more technical and government documents online.

(He also started the first Internet radio station in 1993 for his "Geek of the Week" interviews.)

Now he is asking President Obama to consider him for the position of "Public Printer." See his platform at Yes We Scan!

Check out his site, or watch his speech at Google about some of the things Washington could be doing to make government more open online.

Case in point, here's a recent New York Times story about his efforts to get more court records online in a free and easy to use system.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

So who and what is Twitter good for?

A tech-savvy guest coming to one of my classes assumed college juniors would know all about Twitter. Either my media studies crowd is being shy or Radford students are out of the loop.

I asked who used Twitter in one class of 24; I don't remember anyone raising a hand. Maybe there were a couple of nods, but definitely no enthusiasm. I'll ask my other classes today. (I did -- and found a half-dozen Twitter users in the crowd.)

Perhaps that (media history) class's advertising, broadcast production and journalism majors just aren't interested in something the campus PR folks and student entrepreneurs started using before them? I think they -- the journalism students, at least -- should be more curious.

Anyhow, I've been looking for a good, recent, novice-friendly introduction to Twitter, and Andrew Ratner at the Baltimore Sun has one here: Twists on Twitter, by the people who use it:
"About a year ago, the free micro-blogging service got about 100 mentions in all media in a given week. Maybe a dozen or so of those were in major newspapers and magazines. Last week, by comparison, Twitter was mentioned more than 1,000 times in all media, and more than 200 times in major publications.
Twitter users are overwhelmingly young, but unlike most of the other social networks, Twitter is not dominated by the youngest of young adults, according to a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project."

If the old (Dylan, wasn't it?) line about not trusting anyone over 30 holds for this campus generation, maybe that explains it. That Pew survey Ratner mentioned gives 31 as the median age for Twitter users, compared to 26 for Facebook.

I'll admit to using, median age: 40.7, but I'm trying to keep up with all the others, too. Hence this blog and my token twitting @bobstep.

Here's a slightly older post on Five ways smart people use twitter, including both news and marketing folks. And another, coincidentally picking the same number: five ways to use twitter for good. Or does twitter have some connection to the number five?