Posts tagged “twitter”

Reading Ahead: Managing recruiting

Reading ahead logo with space above

There’s always something new in every project. Often we encounter a bit of process that we may not know how to best manage it. So we’ll make our best plan and see what happens. We learn as we go and ultimately have a better way for dealing with it next time.

In a regular client project, we write a screener and work with a recruiting company who finds potential research participants, screens them, and schedules them. Every day they email us an updated spreadsheet (or as they call it “grid”) with responses to screener questions, scheduled times, locations, and contact info. It still ends up requiring a significant amount of project management effort on our end, because questions will arise, schedules will shift, people will cancel, client travel must be arranged, etc. etc.

For Reading Ahead, we did all of the recruiting ourselves. Although we’ve done this before, this may be the first time since the rise of social media: we put the word out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email to friends, and here on All This ChittahChattah.

While Dan lead the effort, we both used our own networks, and so we got responses in a number of channels, sent to either or both of us, including:

  • @ replies on Twitter
  • direct messages on Twitter
  • Comments on Facebook posts
  • Messages on Facebook
  • Emails (directly to either of us, or forwarded from friends, and friends-of-friends

A private dialog on Facebook

Comments on a Facebook status update. Note that Dan is able to jump in and make contact directly

Direct Messages in Twitter

Some people were potential participants, some were referrers to other potential participants, and some were both. And given the range of platforms we were using, with their associated restrictions (and unclear social protocols), we had to scramble to figure out who could and should communicate with who to follow up and get to the point where we could see if the people in question were right for the study. We didn’t expect this to happen, and eventually Dan’s inbox and/or his Word document were no longer efficient, and as some participants were scheduled or in negotiation to be scheduled, he ended up with this schedule cum worksheet:


Being split across the two of us and these different media, eventually we were interacting with people for whom we had to check our notes to trace back how we had connected to them, which was great for our sample, since it meant we weren’t seeing a group of people we already knew.

It was further complicated when we had finished our fieldwork and wanted to go back to everyone who offered help close the loop with them, thanking them for help. Technically, and protocol-wise, it took some work (who are the people we need to follow up with? Who follows up with them? What media do they use), basically going through each instance one-by one.


We haven’t figured out what we’ll do next time; we won’t forget the challenges we’ve had but there’s just not time or need right now to plan for the future. If I had to guess, I’d imagine a Google Spreadsheet that includes where we got people from, who owns the contact, whether they are participant-candidate or referrer, etc.). Despite being very pessimistic about the demands of recruiting, we still underestimated the time and complexity required for this project.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Shoddy Pear Analytics study of Twitter content – This is really bad research, but it's topical so it'll get press.

    Bad research #1: When creating content categories for your analysis, don't be so dismissive. They established a category for this analysis called "pointless babble" so obviously they have a strong point of view of the value of that content and it's hardly unbiased research.

    Bad research #2: Understand that Twitter (or any social, conversational medium) is a system. It's not an independent set of messages, it's a multifaceted conversation. Where's the analysis to look at the interrelationships and dependencies between "I am eating a sandwich" and "here's a great news story to check out"? That's much more difficult, mathematically, and to even consider that would require deeper insight than Pear showed here.

To Tweet or not to Tweet

I just got back from a medical leave, and while I was off work, I had to face an interesting new dilemma.

I usually post at least a couple of tweets a day on Twitter; it’s part of my work and how I stay in touch with people, events, and general whassup.

Because our work encompasses such a wide range–technology, pop culture, behavioral trends–there’s not much in my life that isn’t relevant content, but during this period I had a lot of downtime where I really wasn’t engaged with much beyond my morning coffee, my dog, and a couple of favorite movies.

I had to really think about to what extent I wanted to share my purely private, personal life on the Net.

After a tweet or two to let people know my general situation, I found that I just naturally disengaged from Twitter and Facebook. It was the first since I’ve started using these tools that I was only interacting (for the most part) with my immediate surroundings and people who were physically present, and I have to say that it was refreshing and relaxing.

Now that I’m back in the fray, it feels just as natural to be getting involved once again in all this communication, but I feel like it was really valuable, for a little while, to have a retreat.

As sociologist Sherry Turkle said during a discussion on the NPR show On Point, “In some ways we come to technology expecting to be nourished by it, and in some ways it’s eating us up.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Steven Johnson in TIME on Twitter and innovation – The speed with which users have extended Twitter's platform points to a larger truth about modern innovation. When we talk about innovation and global competitiveness, we tend to fall back on the easy metric of patents and Ph.D.s. It turns out the U.S. share of both has been in steady decline since peaking in the early '70s. (In 1970, more than 50% of the world's graduate degrees in science and engineering were issued by U.S. universities.)…

    But what actually happened to American innovation during that period? We came up with America Online, Netscape, Amazon, Google, Blogger, Wikipedia, Craigslist, TiVo, Netflix, eBay, the iPod and iPhone, Xbox, Facebook and Twitter itself. ..if you measure global innovation in terms of actual lifestyle-changing hit products and not just grad students, the U.S. has been lapping the field for the past 20 years.

    How could the forecasts have been so wrong? The answer is that we've been tracking only part of the innovation story.

  • New Yorker on the significant power of storytelling in the unfolding of the Parrot Flu outbreak in 1929-1930 – Press plays role in raising awareness, hype ensues (kill all parrots!), backlash ensues (Americans are hypochondriacs and there's no such thing as Parrot Flu), small but significant number of sicknesses and deaths (pre-antibiotics) occur, scientists triumph, National Institute of Health is founded. Curious to read this right after watching 1950s plague thriller "Panic in the Streets."

Station to Station

Today about 15 minutes apart I posted, “Digging in to a day of reading transcripts for one project and laying out findings for another” on Facebook and, “Wondering how many things I can do simultaneously before my head explodes” on my Twitter account.

Seems like a contradiction: one describes a deep dive and the other a multitasking frenzy. Yet both are true–each post represents a different way of looking at time and the meaning of “now.”

With all of the channels we have for letting each other know what we’re up to, there is a huge range of options for what to say where and to whom. And each channel and tool suggests different approaches.

There’s no doubt that these modes of communication are and will affect our ways of writing, starting and maintaining relationships…even our way of conceptualizing time.

Duty now for the future

Artpiece made of clocks, Chicago MOMA

This list of 10 workplace skills of the future is going around the various ‘Scapes and ‘Spheres (it came to me on Twitter via Chris23). Without getting into whether the list is entirely correct or comprehensive, I think it’s incredibly thought-provoking.

For anyone involved in designing products–especially work environments and tools–it will be crucial to explore people’s daily lives and see what’s really happening: how these types of shifts are manifesting behaviorally and emotionally, and what new opportunities are being created as a result.

10 Workplace Skills of the Future
(From Bob Johansen’s book, Leaders Make the Future. Originally posted by Tessa Finlev in The Future Now blog.)

Ping Quotient
Excellent responsiveness to other people’s requests for engagement; strong propensity and ability to reach out to others in a network

Seeing a much bigger picture; thinking in terms of higher level systems, bigger networks, longer cycles

Open Authorship
Creating content for public modification; the ability to work with massively multiple contributors

Cooperation Radar
The ability to sense, almost intuitively, who would make the best collaborators on a particular task or mission

Fluency in working and trading simultaneously with different hybrid capitals, e.g., natural, intellectual, social, financial, virtual

The ability to do real-time work in very large groups; a talent for coordinating with many people simultaneously; extreme-scale collaboration

Fearless innovation in rapid, iterative cycles; the ability to lower the costs and increase the speed of failure

Knowing how to be persuasive and tell compelling stories in multiple social media spaces (each space requires a different persuasive strategy and technique)

Signal/Noise Management
Filtering meaningful info, patterns, and commonalities from the massively-multiple streams of data and advice


The ability to prepare for and handle surprising results and complexity that come with coordination, cooperation and collaboration on extreme scales

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • A "Geography of Buzz" – Research presented at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers locates "cultural hot spots" by looking at frequency and spatial mapping of geo-tagged photographs. The exclusive use of for-sale Getty images to make up the research sample (as opposed to a diverse sample including photo Tweets, etc. that might have been more underground-inclusive) raises interesting questions about the definition of "buzz." What's buzz to one person–a Broadway opening, for example–may well be noise to another.
  • My photos from Los Angeles, Feb 2009 – I spent a week in L.A. doing some work, some cupcake shopping, and some vacationing. Here's the photos from that trip.

The power of pervasion

Last October I blogged about NBC’s use of “fusion marketing” with the show My Own Worst Enemy.

Are they at it again? A recent episode of the NBC show 30 Rock revolved around a mini-microwave, “The FunCooker“…


…and then a week later in some webvertising I saw an ad for this-


-the iWave cube, a tissue-box sized microwave.

I couldn’t help but wonder if there was another fusion marketing approach afoot.

Marketing is both ubiquitous and stealthy, and in this mashed-up and pervasive environment, any piece of communication in any medium could be a marketing effort. I find this simultaneously intriguing and disquieting.

Pervasive, cross-context marketing is producing some creative and thought-provoking experiences (the recent Skittles/Twitter (Skwitter?) campaign, for one). And it can be fun to spot marketing easter eggs–I felt a little thrill of potential discovery about the two microwaves.

At the same time, this lack of clarity about whether any particular piece of communication is company-sponsored or not adds another level of opacity to an already Filo-dough-like world of layered information. Will bionic critical thinking skills become the new common sense?

Related posts:
Interacting With Advertising
Collateral Damage
Crossover Hit

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice: the appeal of simplification by choice elimination – At the bottom of the Heaven's Dog cocktail list there's a category called "Freedom from Choice," where you leave it up to the bar staff to decide your drink. Diners choose the spirit they'd like and whether it should be "citrus-driven or spirituous."
  • Home + Housewares Show 2009…in Cartoons! – Pithy, brilliant, hilarious. Applies pretty much to every tradeshow I've ever been to.
  • Ask Jeremiah: The Comprehensive FAQ Guide to Twitter – It's a great document, but an online FAQ on someone's site is good for the type of user who is going to seek this document out…the mass adoption from Twitter is not going be as well supported by documents like this as it would be through the experience that Twitter itself creates
  • Lisa Smith and Caroline Linder at the Home + Housewares Show 2009 – "a maze of the bizarre and the banal, including picture frame air fresheners, pet hair picker-uppers, fingerprintless garbage cans, antibacterial marinaters, high-power vacuum cleaners, automatic hair-cutters, gas-powered blenders, anti-static dusters and instant boot dryers."
    "the spectacle is especially nightmarish; it represents the darker side of our discipline–product design gone wild and unchecked in the marketplace"
    "Who knew that both Miami Vice and the Southwestern pottery craze are preserved within the wide color range of KitchenAid Mixers?"
    "Q: How did you pick these forms? A:Oh, these are historical forms that we made up.""

Where does Twitter go from here?

(Originally posted on Core77)

It’s an interesting time for Twitter. Although the folks on Twitter are lead user/early adopter types, there is huge buzz about the service. And as with many disruptive innovations, this new-and-different-thing is not well understood and begins to evoke a backlash. The mainstream media (NYT, Daily Show) is enjoying the opportunity to portray the technology – and its adherents – as contributing to a social decline, wasting time, being foolish, self-absorbed, and other cultural sins. But we went through this with cellphones (self-important rich people only), the Walkman (self-absorbed anti-social jerks), and so on. Let’s understand the backlash for what it is: a society grappling with emerging behaviors that challenge social norms. See Evan Williams on Charlie Rose for a discussion of “normal people” using the service.

One way to normalize a new behavior is to think about how it’s going to make money. Because what’s more normal than capitalism, right? So we’ve got all the Skittles buzz recently. We’d rather consider the designed experience that Twitter is facilitating than the marketing, PR, and money stuff, though. For a primer, you can read our previous thoughts here (summary: What the heck is this thing for? You’ve gotta use it for a while and see). Of course, all ideas are brainstorming, and not recommendations. Brainstorming works best when people build on the ideas, so we’d love to see all the builds you can come up with on the issues and the stand-in solutions. Note: some of these things may already be available on; but we see them only when we log out, so not sure how much help that is?!

Out of Box or Is This Thing On?
Just for fun, we went and looked at some of the first tweets (or postings, if you prefer) from people we are connected with on Twitter. Here’s some typical ones

  • taking the plunge
  • ok, i’m here… now what?
  • teaching rissa what twitter is.
  • trying to figure out why i joined twitter

(side note: there’s a lot more exploration of what people’s first tweets are; see this analysis and this part of the My First Tweets project).

There’s nothing wrong with this sort of tweeting, it’s a way for people to explore and test the system out. But it reveals that tentative stage people are in (and some never leave) when first using the system. A general principle here is to give people scaffolding to help them move to a more comfortable, fluid, confident, and rewarding stage of usage. Twitter asks What are you doing? and people can answer that question. But without a more full-fledged model of Twitter, they are always going to be tentative in this stage.

One possibility: give people a backstage mode where they can just try posting stuff, and then once they are ready, turn them “live.” Maybe you get 10 free tweets that no one will see. I’m thinking of Practice Mode in Guitar Hero where the player strums and the disembodied voice urges “great!” “rock on!” “go for it!” Give people permission to play without an audience, and then go live with it.

What Goes Where
Maybe it’d be helpful to provide a diagram that visually explains what you are broadcasting and to whom. What do you see as input on Twitter? Where does what you write go? Who can see it? And sure, if your stuff goes on the public timeline, then “everyone” can see it, but if Twitter is getting (say) 5,000 posts a second, that may change how you feel about your content being put all the way out there. But building that model in a realistic way for people so they understand how public they are being.

The Device Ecocystem
There’s two use cases here (for most of these issues): posting and reading, and you can configure your devices/technologies a few different ways. There’s a cliche of Twitter as a mobile device-only system, but it’s much more flexible than that. You can use IM, SMS, or PC and a combination or multiplicity. That creates a lot of options and customization, but people need a bit of help understanding what the options are, and perhaps why those options would be better for one situation than another (rather than realizing how much it sucks to get 30 texts in 4 minutes).

The External App Ecosystem
We could imagine why Twitter would not want to get involved in telling people about these things, but since they’ve opened up their API there are a ton of other services and applications out there. Designers of these tools are building in the viral aspect so that using this extra service (say, MrTweet which suggests new followers for you) creates a tweet that tells others about the fact that you are using it). But how does a not-so-new user find out what else is available? Sorting through the iPhone apps and desktop apps that let you manage your tweets and followers differently is not an easy task. And no doubt there are websites out there that have captured all that, but why not put it on

Terminology and Commands
We’ve learned most of this by watching other people. But it took a lot of Twitter use before we were clear about conventions such as @ to reply to another person (and to understand what that looked like to the recipient), D to directly and private contact another person, # for tagging, and RT for ReTweeting (we still aren’t sure if that’s an evolved bit of common language or a command that we can use somehow). Can we help people with this? Sure, help text on the screen, but also some sort of smart tech, like Google’s suggestions during search, or (God forbid) a Clippy-like solution that offers some suggestions based on what it thinks you are trying to do.

Social Norms
One of the consequences of new social media is that it creates unarticulated and emotional expectations on others. People that post too much are rude. People that don’t tweet enough are rude. People that don’t have a bio, or a good user name are rude. People that follow us back too quickly are obsessed. People that don’t follow us back are rude. People that …well, you get the point. We bring expectations about others into this new interactive soup, but we can bet that most people do NOT share those norms, and it can get ugly, or awkward. Twitter is in no position to dictate those social norms to people as they are evolving organically, but Twitter could provide some coaching. Why doesn’t Twitter itself analyze our usage and suggest – something – in a gentle way. Or at least help make us mindful that there are evolving and varying social norms here and we should take it easy on ourselves and with others. Note: David Pogue addressed this issue pretty well here.

What To Use It For
Twitter might not want to go too far with this either. People are inventing all sorts of new use for Twitter all the time. But highlighting some use cases would be interesting and eye-opening for people as they either are thinking about putting their toe in, or after they are users and considering what the heck this thing is really for. Although it’s rather smarmily self-congratulatory, the LinkedIn Blog does this fairly well.

I’m sure we’ve missed a ton of ideas. What do you think?

Note: follow us on Twitter at and (new)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Twitter's suggested users for you to follow – This lacks any personalization and reinforces the unfortunate star system that (social) media supports, but it's a good example of a "how to get started" scaffolding that I've written about before
  • Jimmyjane's Sex Change Operation – my article on Core77 – We were invited to designer-sex-accessory firm Jimmyjane to learn more about their history and their approach. My thoughts on the company and its mission are posted on Core7.

    "Ethan Imboden worked an industrial designer for firms like Ecco and frogdesign, cranking out designs for everyday products (i.e., staplers and monitors), but grew to feel that he had something more to contribute. After starting his own design firm, he went with a client to the Adult Novelty Expo and saw bad design everywhere. He founded Jimmyjane as a response to that, and set out to use form, color, materials and so on to create premium vibrators. Now he's a visionary creative, with strong ideas about the Jimmyjane brand and how to embody those attributes across a range of products. Imboden fits the Be A Genius and Get It Right archetype we wrote about in interactions."

ChittahChattah Quickies

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Paul Graham writes on "Why TV Lost" – Lots of interesting points in Graham's essay, but I found these two, about the underlying media component of many startups, and the temporal aspect of TV-watching especially thought-provoking: "Now would be a good time to start any company that competes with TV networks. That's what a lot of Internet startups are, though they may not have had this as an explicit goal. People only have so many leisure hours a day, and TV is premised on such long sessions (unlike Google, which prides itself on sending users on their way quickly) that anything that takes up their time is competing with it."
  • Where does Twitter go from here? – My post on Core77 about how Twitter can think about evolving its overall user experience as it straddles lead users and mass awareness
  • Logic+Emotion: Skittles Smackdown, A Sociological Viewpoint – Nice words from David Armano, pulling out something I wrote yesterday about the Skittles/Twitter PR experiement

Twitter’s User-Generated Disruptive Innovation


In the late 1980s, I had heard about spreadsheets (such as VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3). I had a general idea of what they were for (“what-if” calculations) but I didn’t have a clear model of how I myself would use it. I had the chance to sit down and try Excel. After it launched, I just stared blankly at the empty grid. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. And so I left it alone for many, many years. Now it’s one of my regular tools, but at that time I didn’t have the need to organize columns of data, or an application built upon the platform to address any need I might have, or the mental model to allow me to customize the platform to suit any need I might have.

I think of Twitter as an analog. Almost two years ago I wrote about my experience with Twitter.

I finally started using it and I’m not sure I like it.

I think it’s a really powerful idea, it’s an impactful side effect of some simple technologies like putting up your pictures on a website. It starts to evolve well-formed social interactions like party chat.

Twitter takes that behavior and blows it up. The side effect is now the main effect (and no doubt tons of new side effects are created).

And I don’t like using Twitter. It makes me feel lonely and isolated. I don’t know what most people are talking about, I sometimes feel bad I’m not included in their conferences, travels, adventures, dining. Maybe I’ve chosen the wrong people to follow, maybe it’s not the same people to Twitter with that I would LinkIn with. I don’t have a posse, a regular gang. I have social relationships with colleagues, but we’re not in each other’s lives in any sort of deep way.

I don’t dismiss or blame Twitter; I may find the experience evolves over time, or I may simply bail. It’s always interesting to introduce new layers of interface onto my social interactions and see what the impact is.

I’d love to hear from others how they are using Twitter and of course how I might start using Twitter.

I did abandon Twitter for a long time, and then came back to it. There’s more of a critical mass of people I know involved; there’s more evolved social norms around responding and interacting; I’ve started posting more non-lame stuff. When significant news events happen (Mumbai shootings, plane crashes), Twitter is the place I know to go to find out what’s going on instantly. I’ve had the experience of being involved in a massive-dialog-like exchange during election events and conference sessions.

I wrote before about ComcastCares, a Comcast VP who decided to respond to customer complaints on Twitter. This has made a lot of people very excited about Comcast and Twitter, although I maintain it reveals the tremendous failings in Comcast’s default customer support infrastructure (I did make use of the Twitter support after being frustrated with the phone support recently, and was mostly satisfied). Meanwhile, Wired points out that this effort is driving internal change at Comcast, and while the public isn’t seeing the results yet, this is looks to be a significant side effect of Twitter adoption.

Lately when I tweet about a brand, I will quickly hear back from someone associated with that brand, offering to troubleshoot for me (examples here and here). That induces a tremendous feeling of being-listened-to (how come there’s no word for that feeling in English?), especially when my intention was to vent or share, not to seek help.

There’s an important network effect here, but that’s not the only disruptive aspect. Users of Twitter continue to find new applications that are not inherently obvious in this minimally functional service: type up to 140 characters and people can see it on their phones or on the web.

For more, see David Pogue’s latest column where he describes the still-evolving social norms

One guy took me to task for asking “dopey questions.” Others criticized me for various infractions, like not following enough other people, writing too much about nontech topics or sending too many or too few messages.

and offers a set of hints for using Twitter including my favorite: USE IT HOWEVER YOU LIKE.

And to everyone that found this post on Twitter: hi!

Squeaky Tweets Get Grease

This article relates how a Comcast VP started using Twitter to track down and resolve customer problems, after a lot of bad news began appearing on blogs and websites.

But in portraying this as a big success, with social media mavericks working inside the enterprise to really solve customer problems, the article is missing the larger point: these companies (in this case Comcast, but substitute anyone else you like) are so bloated, bureaucratic, inefficient or corporate that the regular system can’t work. This is the problem resolution system that is available to the greatest majority of the customers, those who don’t know what Twitter is, who don’t start anti-Comcast blogs, those vast majority of customers who have either surrendered entirely or who only have access to the resources the company offers them: a toll free number to call. If Comcast (or equivalent) can’t solve problems that come in that way, they shouldn’t be lauded when customers are driven to the brink and complain in other channels that Comcast isn’t really and truly supporting.

While it’s great that there are motivated and creative folks at Comcast that are pushing the envelope of how to reach and support customers, it smacks of elitism to be applauding this thin veneer of problem resolution when what it reveals is the rotting timbers of the support infrastructure.


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