James Cox, on the creation of CNN’s breaking news Twitter feed (10/14)

James Cox, on the creation of CNN’s breaking news Twitter feed (10/14)


James Cox.
– Christian. – How are you doing?
– Doing good. Or should we use, your
bleeding nose, and Twitter name? It’s good to see you here. – It’s good to see you too.
– You’re talking, aren’t you? Yes. I’m talking about how I managed to
overthrow big media in S1 platform. Big media being CNN. That would be the one, yes. In 140 words or less,
tell us exactly what happened. I built something
that was kind of cool, the community liked it,
we got some followers, and I worked with them
to make it better. Go on, give us some stats. Well, we ended up, I think we did
the deal with a million followers. So, it was a case of
building something in early 2000, letting it run for two years. So, you were sitting on
the Twitter account, you built it, built it, built it, you were almost doing the job
of the CNN by… Yeah, all the audience participation stuff
and feedback stuff was what I was looking at, and helping out with, but these things work by themselves. I don’t have to do a lot of work. It happened and it was great. It was a really nice experience
just to be able to do the right thing, in the right kind of way without it
being a big evil takeover grab. So, it wasn’t just twitter.com
forced out CNN? twitter.com forced out CNBRK,
CNN Breakin trying to… trying to keep it on message,
on brand, cos it’s a CNN product but not,
you know, stealing the whole thing. Did they initially say,
give us our Twitter account? No, actually the first contact
was really easy. It was, hey, this is cool,
we like what your doing. We can’t do anything with it yet,
cos we’re not there yet, but, hey, here’s some graphics,
and here’s some contacts to use, if you have any problems,
you know, and have fun. So, with a million followers,
valued at about… A million followers had a lovely little
product and everyone was happy. Yes,
and you’re doing consultation? Yeah, helping people
get to use that kind of stuff, but also getting into the whole
rapid prototype of apps, exploring new ideas.
When you build something like this, in two or three hours
on a bank holiday, it’s kind of fun that you can
sort of try things out. If it doesn’t work, all you’ve lost
is two or three hours, and the rest of life is easy, so, yeah, it’s just about experimenting,
exploring. Some stuff sticks,
some stuff doesn’t, and that’s the way of the web today. One of the questions
on the panel today to the newspapers
and the media was: how many followers do you have… I was like
oh, no, they’re asking that question! ..and how many
are you following back? It’s a really silly question
because it doesn’t really matter. Actually, I’d rather have
less followers than I have now, because I’ve found that
as I get more followers, I say less. Now I’m onstage a bit more, and it’s different problems that you end
up having to think about. It’s not conversation
with your friends, so much as conversation with
random people you don’t know. Also I find that the more people
that are following you, the less likely you’ll be keen
to follow other people back. You don’t wanna bloat your account, so you might miss out
on some valuable contacts. I’m about nine to one in followers. I have nine followers
for every person I follow. I don’t think that’s good or bad,
I don’t know, it’s definitely very hard, and, you know, I don’t believe
that if you follow 1000 people you’ll have 1000 followers
and they’re happy clippies, is the right way to go. It’s much better to have
good conversations, with Twitter grouping… There are things that the sort of
live stream interactive stuff, that Twitter has developed
the trial for… it means that we’ll still… Twitter is a broken conduit,
it’s not gonna work for a long time, and we’re gonna move a bit more
towards focused conversations. So, if you wanna talk about
a brand or the conference, we’ll have focused places
where we can go and collect, and we’ll have lightweight identity
and lightweight profiles, and we can go and do that.
I think that’s important to education. If you wanna talk about,
as a group, about… about a study topic or a class you’re
taking or a degree or whatever it is, you can go to that group
and you’ll have a conversation. It’s good
but it comes back to that idea of you wanna have those
focused chats with the groups. Somebody mentioned how you
can only have about 140 friends that we can remember,
and have connections with. – The dumb man
– Exactly, the dumb man. So it’s kind of the case
of saying well, we can’t have a conversation
with 9000 people, it’s just not realistic, but a conversation
with 100 people in a room, that kind of works. We need to start moving
more toward that, and make that more interesting,
interactive, multi-media platforms
and all that kind of stuff. So, I think there’s that
bigger conversation to have, and that’s really important. I guess that’s making
the differentiation between a multi-media RSS feed, which a lot of people
seem to be using Twitter for, until they get the fact, it’s about engaging, communicating,
conversations. People saying they can ditch RSS
and use Twitter now, is interesting, but it’s not quite right. Twitter’s about engaging
in those e-factors, it’s not about saying
hey, look at me, look at me! You know,
I’ve written something cool. That’s what I’m using to publish all
my photographs, if you can find me, but it’s definitely a case
of being able to do both, and I think there’s a space for that. One of the things I’m looking at
in prototype at the moment, is a newsbucket ap, where you can throw in media,
you can throw in video, there’s text, like a chatroom, but it’s very much like an
ongoing activity stream of events. If you had like, for example, a rag, you can start bringing in the ground
media, the professional media, and if you bring
that kind of stuff into a place, people begin to sort it out. The idea is that maybe the output is a
Wikipedia page or something like that. There’s definitely space for saying, we wanna have a conversation,
we wanna explore it live, we’re gonna throw this stuff away,
it’s been wrong, we’ve now refuted it, but this stuff is good
and we want to understand it, because sometimes
that makes a lot of sense. Brilliant, OK. Thank you very much indeed.

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