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Answering TBD questions from 'tweet wall' at American University panel

September 22, 2010 - 06:29 PM
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The tweet wall behind David Johnson, Jim Brady, Mike Rucki, David Garber and Sylvie Nguyen. Not pictured is panelist Candace Hollingsworth. Photo by Jordyn Phelps.

Questions on Twitter came faster than Jim Brady or blogging panelists could answer them Tuesday night at TBD’s launch-celebration program at American University.

The AU School of Communication hosted the program and announced its partnership with TBD, a partnership that includes internships and workshops for our TBD Community Network. One of the smartest things AU organizers did was to show the Twitter back channel on a screen behind the panel of four bloggers from the network. The screen quickly became dubbed the “tweet wall.”

Moderator David Johnson (@darthcheeta) asked good questions, starting with some of his own but quickly switching to questions from the crowd (or beyond) being asked on Twitter. But it was impossible for Johnson to keep up. As the panelists and TBD General Manager Jim Brady were responding to a question, two or three more popped up on the screen behind them.

Panelists Mike Rucki of On Frozen Blog, David Garber of And Now, Anacostia, Sylvie Nguyen of Thrifty DC Cook and Candace Hollingsworth of Hyattsville Now did a great job of answering questions. But since they didn't get to them all, I will provide my own answers to some Twitter questions here (and invite the bloggers from last night and any others who would like to respond to answer below in the comments):

#tbdau With so many blogs, how does #tbd deal with accountability?less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

The community holds blogs accountable. We are pleased with the commitment to accuracy and accountability within the TBD Community Network. At one of our media previews before we launched, a reporter from a traditional media organization asked how we could trust bloggers to get their facts right. And in the story he wrote, that reporter made an error on a fact that he did not seek to verify with the people who could have confirmed or corrected his information. I pointed out the error to him immediately after his story went online, and it still has not been corrected. But we still link to that organization. We believe most, if not all, of our blogs are more committed to correcting mistakes and getting their facts right. If we learn of a blog that is not reliable and accountable, we would drop it from the network, but I have high confidence in them.

We will be including a workshop on accuracy and verification in the series of blogging workshops we are presenting in partnership with AU's School of Communication.

Do you find you pursue different angles on a breaking story than the mainstream media would? #tbdauless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Many of our network members break news that completely escapes the notice of mainstream media. Some localize a bigger story. Some link to mainstream stories. Some find different angles. I love the variety of approaches we see when several members of the network are covering the same story as traditional media.

#TBDau How much has your association w/ @TBD boosted traffic to your own blog compared to pre-TBD?less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

We have been pleased that several network members have told us that traffic from TBD has boosted their traffic considerably. Rachel Levitin says that TBD contributes 7 to 10 percent of We Love DC's daily traffic.

Matthew Boyle was the most skeptical questioner in our Twitter crowd (we welcome skeptical questions, which we ought to, since we ask a lot of them), asking three challenging questions:

#tbdau do you think allbritton has the capability to start asking u to do assignments? if so, do u do them? if u dont, how do u respond?less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

No, we don't ask our network members to do assignments. We let them know what we're up to, in case they want to participate in some way. For instance, we invited Mark Steven of The Om Field, John Jeffries of BGO.C.D and Ryan Estorninos of Riggo's Rag to participate in last Sunday's live chat during the Redskins game. And we hope to have some Redskins bloggers joining this weekend's live chat. But these are all invitations, not assignments.

#tbdau do you write rest/food reviews in favor or against people tbd likes or doesnt?less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Does TBD have any say in how you cover anything- has content-gathering/producing changed or has tone of news changed since launch? #tbdauless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

TBD does not exercise any control over the content of network members' blogs. We sometimes decide not to link to a particular post, but that would generally be because the post is not local in nature. We like disagreement. If someone disagrees with us (or with another network member), we would link to them or perhaps blog about the disagreement.

how do you work for a paid job and give enough attention to your blog? I need advice! #tbdauless than a minute ago via mobile web

I hope some network members answer, because the time-management skills of our network amaze me. Since I also do my own blog mostly on personal time, I will give two answers: First, a blog post doesn't need to be long. You can share a quick observation or link with your community and keep the blog active. Also, I have about an hour-long commute each way, so I flip open my laptop and start blogging on the Metro and the bus (when I can sit down). 

Is it hard to keep your blog content local? Do you ever feel like covering national issues? Can you? #tbdauless than a minute ago via twidroid

We don't restrict what our network members blog about. We recruit blogs with a local focus because we're a local news site. These people blog about their communities, local sports teams and local dining because they are passionate about those topics. Sometimes they do take on a national topic (local sports bloggers might take on the big national story in the leagues they cover, for instance). We might not aggregate those national posts, but we share the passion for local news and issues with our network members, so we don't really have any problems here. 

#tbdau what made you sign up with the @tbd blog network and not @washingtonpost's local news initiative?less than a minute ago via txt

Well, I should leave that question for network members to answer, if any wish to. But I will say that TBD Community Network members are not restricted from belonging to other blog networks. Several blogs are members of both our network and the Post's.

Two suggestions (I’ll ask Johnson and the panelists if they have any others to add) for other event organizers planning to use the “tweet wall”:

1. Rucki suggested that when panelists are going to have a tweet wall behind them, they should have monitors in front of them, so they can follow and respond to questions before the moderator even asks them or riff on comments from the crowd (or know what the crowd is laughing about when a funny tweet appears).

2. The moderator should limit answers to most questions to one or two bloggers, so you can field more questions. If a blogger disagrees with the first response or has a significantly different perspective, you would go with a second answer, but you would generally favor moving the discussion along. The moderator could be sure that everyone gets a chance to speak by asking some questions directly to a panelist who hasn’t answered the last couple questions.

One final question from last night's tweet wall:

Did someone say tweetwall? Sounds like a good talk. Maybe one at #gwu next? #tbdauless than a minute ago via ÜberTwitter

 We haven't been invited yet, but TBD is pleased to bring our story to other universities and organizations. If you would like to schedule an event with TBD, just email Steve Buttry. We encourage using the tweet wall.



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  1. Mike Rucki Mike Rucki

    Mike Rucki

    Sep 23, 2010 - 12:00:51 AM

    OK, a comment specifically regarding TBD's commenting (a meta-comment, I suppose): All my line-breaks, or hard-returns for us old typewriter-trained folks, disappeared when I posted the comment below. So now it's a huge, eye-crossing block of text. Please tweak your code to keep formatting as it's entered into the comment box! :)

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  2. Mike Rucki Mike Rucki

    Mike Rucki

    Sep 22, 2010 - 11:54:28 PM

    A few reasons in response to "what made you sign up with the @tbd blog network and not @washingtonpost's local news initiative?" 1. When TBD approached us, their philosophy seemed a perfect match with ours—mutually-beneficial cross-promotion, with no restrictions or assignments for our writing. Their local-only focus also appealed. 2. We like the TBD policy of linking to the already-existing blog via headline/blurb on TBD. We had no interest in abandoning our domain, nor in having our content reprinted elsewhere that no longer brought visitors to our site. This arrangement gets OFB content in front of more readers and (hopefully) stimulates more discussion; TBD gets content to fill a locally-focused niche (Capitals hockey). 3. We've butted heads with the Post over Capitals coverage before, and likely will again (in fact, tune in to the blog tomorrow morning). While the Post has some great individuals working there, their overall Redskins-obsessed approach isn't very hockey-friendly. 4. Finally, the TBD philosophy just feels right: You keep doing your thing, we do ours, and we all go home happier than before. Thanks again for having me on the panel last night! Mike Rucki On Frozen Blog http://www.onfrozenblog.com

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  3. Tiffany Bridge Tiffany Bridge

    Tiffany Bridge

    Sep 23, 2010 - 12:15:41 PM

    To answer the time management question (I'm from We Love DC), the answer is... Very carefully! And with lots of communication/cooperation. None of us at We Love DC is full time (people keep thinking we have a full-time editor, which I suppose is flattering, but we don't), so it's important that none of us let the site keep us from being great employees at our day jobs. We Love DC generates a lot of content during the day, but our goal is always that the work of creating that content is spread out across as many of our writers as possible. We maintain an editorial calendar in Basecamp for our longer pieces. This helps our writers plan to write these pieces in their non-work hours and get them pre-scheduled, as well as ensures they will have a certain block of time where their hard work is showcased in the top slot during the day. We also coordinate the posting of our shorter pieces together, spreading them out to reduce dead spots, and allowing people to again, plan ahead and pre-schedule things the night before, or during their lunch breaks for the afternoon. That means that when there's something that happens during the day, frequently someone has to squeeze in a post about it between day job tasks, but we work hard at making it as easy as possible for people to handle both their jobs and the labor of love that is our blog.

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