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Launch of Reporters’ Center points again to increasing politicization of social media sites
With tumultuous protests raging in Iran after a controversial election followed by the unanticipated death of pop star Michael Jackson, journalists of all varieties have had a lot to cover over the past couple weeks. On the Internet, we have seen social media users taking on an increasingly unique role in bringing breaking and often unverified news to the forefront quickly, sporadically, and messily.
Seemingly in response to this coverage, YouTube launched a tool yesterday called the YouTube Reporters’ Center, intended to instruct amateur journalists on the finer points of good journalism.
According to the blog post announcing the launch, almost every aspect of reporting seems to be covered: “Learn how to prepare for an interview from CBS News' Katie Couric; how to be an investigative reporter from the legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, or why it's important for citizens to participate in the news-gathering process from Arianna Huffington.”
They’ve even included a video from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on staying safe in a crisis, something that might have been especially useful to journalists in Iran filming unfolding events against the governments expressed demands.
The release of this new tool, coupled with reactions to large news stories of the last month, only provides more evidence for the increasing power of social media networks in the arena of politics.
In general, users on sites like YouTube and Twitter, equipped with computers and cameras, are truly showing the extraordinary influence of ordinary people. Indeed, on the same day that the Reporters’ Center launched, the YouTube Blog also announced that President Obama would be taking questions through the video site to discuss impending health care reforms.
Still, social media reporting is far from perfect. While everyone awaited official news on the status of Michael Jackson last Thursday afternoon, the tidal wave of content on Twitter and Facebook appeared to be more aimless banter than useful reporting.
In providing a service aimed at informing novice reporters on the importance of journalistic principles, YouTube is actively trying to develop or evolve the power of social media into something that is not just the wild ruckus of opinion that we saw last Thursday. Opening up the service with instruction videos from high-profile personalities like Katie Couric and Arianna Huffington, YouTube hopes that eventually users will upload their own instruction videos, tailored to more specific or unique topics.
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What is Twitter?
Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests.
Where did the idea for Twitter come from?
Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.
How is Twitter built?
Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes.
We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.
How do you make money from Twitter?
There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.
In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet.
At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.
Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.
What's next for Twitter?
We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users.
We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.