Ten Questions with Chris Brogan
Chris Brogan is a social media expert specializing in building communities using digital tools. He is co-founder of PodCamp, a free unconference exploring the use of social media like podcasting and videoblogging to build relationships. He produces the Video on the Net conference for Pulvermedia and blogs at Chrisbrogan.com
Question: What problem does Twitter solve?
Answer: Twitter connects me to my friends, and introduces me to people I don’t know. It lets me reach an audience all at the same time which means that I can tell them what’s got my attention. THAT’s how I answer the question on Twitter because I think “What are you doing?” is too focused on me. I’d rather tell you about something I think is interesting, and show you how to get there. Sometimes it’s about me; sometimes it’s about someone I think deserves more attention.
Question: Why is knowing that your friend’s cat rolled important?
Answer: It’s not that I really want to know about my friend’s cat, but I sure want to know about their lives. Why? Because it helps everyone feel connected across the distance. With the Internet comes the ability to have global friends, and a friend’s life isn’t just what they blog or podcast about. There’s lots of stuff that goes on in between. It’s like the commercial: “For everything else, there’s Twitter.”
Question: When I go to the Twitter home page there’s nothing but tweets about people’s cats, people waking up, people going to sleep, and tweets in other languages—what do I care about this crap?
Answer: The Twitter public feed is only interesting in the sense of thinking, “Wow, even with a big group of connections on Twitter, there’s these other several thousand people I have no idea about doing their own thing.” This almost immediately gets boring. Don’t care about it. Twitter is about you and your connections. It’s a tool that requires you to refine a bit.
Question: Then who are the “must folllows” on Twitter?
Answer: My Twitter “starter pack” includes:
NewMediaJim—he’s a mainstream TV news cameraman. His travels make news real to me.
DaveWiner—Dave’s pushing lots of great thoughts into Twitter, as well as working with the medium itself.
BassGhost—a high school friend, but generally fun for any old soul to follow.
Mochant—Marc Orchant, interesting and often with neat pointers.
Scobleizer—If you don’t have him, you’re missing a pulse point.
AnnOhio—she rocks out the “human” face of Twitter.
iJustine—makes me laugh out loud. A truly underrated comedian.
Question: If Twitter didn’t exist, what would you use to solve this problem?
Answer: Facebook does something similar, but it’s still so closed in and not as multi-modal feeling.
Question: Why does the New York Times, CNN, and International Herald Tribune bother when they only have a few thousand followers?
Answer: In one way, all the major media sources are using Twitter as a test. In another, it’s allowing those few thousand to propagate news fairly fast. Remember, it’s a network effect. 2,000 followers all have tangential overlaps that span the majority of Twitter. When news happens, we get it fast on Twitter.
Question: Why Twitter versus Pownce or Jaiku?
Answer: Twitter works best for me because it has a US-based SMS short code and because it offers multiple modes of SIMPLE interaction. Jaiku is a little too feature rich for me to spend time there—this is odd to say, but the extra features make it feel more like redundant blogging. Pownce just never struck me the way Twitter did. Maybe too much of an “also ran” feeling, though I think it’s a good app.
Question: What do you consider the ideal mix for the subject matter of someone’s tweets? That is, news, cool sites they found, personal updates (“Getting on a plane to Boston), opinions (“Cheney sucks”), trivia (“My cat rolled over”).
Answer: It’s nice to address your friends and followers using the @person convention and holding little mini conversations on Twitter can be fun. People have a low threshold for someone who just lobs links over the wall unless those links are almost always really interesting. However, the true magic is in answering the right question: “What has your attention right now?” Because the answer to this can span a wide range of topics.
Question: I’ve been accused of not following enough people. Why do people care how many people I follow?
Answer: People view the number of people you follow as a measure of how engaged you are with this community. If you’re just following five or six people, you’re probably a link-lobber. If you’re following tons of folks, nearly equal to who follows you, you’re probably interested in them. It’s a matter or trading attention. Mind you, the more people you follow, the less directly readable it becomes. I have to use Twittersearch and Terraminds to get the most out of Twitter.
Question: But if I follow many people, then the feed is busy and therefore useless. What should I do?
Answer: You could always have two accounts: one to follow the people you really really really need to stay on top of, and the other to hold larger conversations. Or, do what I do and use tools to mine for conversation.
Question: If you were the owner of Truemors, how would you use Twitter?
Answer: If I owned Truemors, I’d build a Twitter-to-Truemors bridge that lets me start a twitter with “tr” and then a space, and then everything after would go in as a “Twitter-Truemor” or whatever you want to call it. This would make for lightning fast news-transfer. I’d make this a stand-alone topic because it wouldn’t look as nicely formatted as other truemors.
The news here would be a little more “unprepared” because how much can you say in 140 characters? But I’ve got a sense that Twitter is faster at finding information, just because it often becomes the dumping ground of what has our attention, and we send links so others can watch too.
I’d probably also do just what you’re doing and find me some of the best/funniest/most engaging articles on Truemors and tweet them in between other things you’re twittering about.
To follow Chris on Twitter, click here. And there’s me.