Twitter Opaque During “Lists” Launch?

The rise of real-time social media has made us all appreciate the value of transparency, right?

Wrong.

BostInnovation has reason to believe that Twitter – the very gatekeepers of of the real-time revolution – was specifically and systematically opaque during the launch of its “Lists” feature last week.

Not only did Twitter potentially eliminate the word “Lists” from its “Trending Topics” on the day of the roll out, it also offered this “secret” new functionality to a brand new user ID BostInnovation created that day.

On Wednesday, October 28th, Twitter made good on it’s promise to roll out “Lists” to Twitter users. While the feature was tested beforehand, the morning of October 28th marked the day most of the Twitterati in Boston were greeted by Twitter’s new banner encouraging them to try “Lists.”

This is how they explained it:

“New! Lists. A great way to organize the people you follow and discover new and interesting accounts. (BETA)

Lists are timelines you build yourself, consisting of friends, family, co-workers, sports teams, you name it. You’re part of a small group receiving this feature, so don’t tweet about it yet!”

Tweets including the operative word then exploded onto BostInnovation’s tweet aggregator. Ensuing usage from curious Twitter users bogged down Twitter for everyone in the Twitterverse almost instantly, and disrupted our flow in ways we didn’t even witness during the tweet boons occurring after the deaths of  Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy, both of which were extremely disruptive events at BostInnovation.

Twitter remained coy about the “limited” release of the Lists functionality all day long.

At 1:54 am on the following morning, BostInno’s staff, searched the term “Lists” using Twitter’s search bar, finding that 60 tweets including the term had been posted in the eight minutes prior to 1:54. Then, we searched “NBA” – Twitter’s lowest “Trending Topic” word at the time. According to Twitter’s search results, just 54 tweets had gone out in the eight minutes between 2:10 and 2:18 am…

A new Twitter account we set up following our search test on the morning of the 29th was offered the exact same banner announcing that it had been specially selected to try “Lists” as well. That newly-created handle was @UncKrunk.

We understand that Twitter’s search is problematic at best, and admit that this quick test wasn’t done at the exact same time. However, it seems plausible that Twitter meant to downplay the major roll out of “Lists.”

So why keep users in the dark?

Hypothetically, Twitter was sneaky about this launch both in an effort to protect itself from negative fallout if there were problems with the functionality, and as a way of allowing interest in the new functionality to be prefaced by a feeling that the user was somehow singled out for this special functionality.

In short, it seems likely that Twitter lied to its users on October 28th.

We’d like to think that being more transparent – being more open and honest about who you are and what you’re doing – in online venues is of crucial importance if you hope to gain the trust of your online contacts. Twitter may have just demonstrated that the old trolling and lying that used to occur in the days of the AOL Chat Room explosion may still be something we’re toting around with us.

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Boston’s Creative Economy Council Reveals Findings

The country’s first Creative Economy Industry Director, Jason Schupbach, released the Creative Economy Council Mid-Year Report today on the web. What follows is a summary of that document with points of discussion that might interest the BostInnovation community.

The Legislation defines the creative economy to include “without limitation the many interlocking industry sectors that center on providing creative services such as advertising, architecture or creating and promoting intellectual property products such as arts, film, computer games, multimedia, or design.”

Governor Patrick tasked the Creative Economy Council with developing solutions to help foster Boston’s creative culture on January 29th, spurring our website, Bostinnovation.com.

That council has responded with a detailed set of goals and initiatives. Early in the document, it’s authors stated the following:

The first phase of the Creative Economy Council’s work was to talk with members of the sector about needs, pressing issues, and potential places where the state government can intervene to sustain and grow its creative economy. These are the key areas it pinpointed.

-Support for entrepreneurship *(BOOM! We love it.)*
-Rebranding Massachusetts as a creative state *(Uh, hello?! That was OUR idea!)*
-Clarification on the data measurement for the creative economy *(We’re not sure how they’ll do this…)*
-The need for continued state-provided financial support for cultural organizations, artists and tourism efforts, both in operating and capital funding *(“It takes money to unite this community, and we understand that.”)*
-Coordinated talent and workforce initiatives to support future job growth. *(“Growing the community is job one!”)*

Next, “The Council will be pulling together a strategic planning group charged with compiling legislative ideas and other efforts into an implementation plan, an update on which will be presented to the legislature in our report due December 2009.”

What does all this mean for the tech and innovation economy of Boston?

Good things.

But why is this important to the state?

“The Creative Economy provides a viable path within Massachusetts’ innovation economy for sustainable growth and economic development,” wrote the authors. “Furthermore, many economic impact studies demonstrate that a strong creative sector translates directly to a strong economy – our creative economy’s economic impact is in the billions and well over 100,000 people are employed within it.”

The document lists film and new media among it’s highest priorities moving forward, isolating the gaming and design industries as ones that are already well-established in the area. There are 76 video game companies in the region and 400,000 designers, according to the council. Also noted for its foothold in the region was the advertising community.

The Creative Economy Council went on to state goals including:
-Making Massachusetts THE leading creative economy state.
-Providing funding to numerous non-profits within the creative economy.
-Understanding the needs of the for-profit community and incentivizing it.
-Creating seed funding for creative entrepreneurs and making them available.
-Developing a Video game designer’s tax credit.
-Increasing artisict/entrepreneurial education.

If you’re part of the tech and innovation economy but none of the above applies to you, don’t worry. You haven’t been forgotten. The document went on to state the following:

“The Council will work to support the next generation of creative entrepreneurs (games developers, design firms, social media companies, etc.), small businesses and artists by supporting artists retention legislation and incorporating creative entrepreneurs into existing support systems and opportunities, such as the newly announced MassChallenge (a venture funds competition to catalyze innovation and high-value job creation in Massachusetts).”

As far as events go, the Council has goals to “develop a new hot creative signature event like SXSW in Austin or Spoletto.” They’re also hoping to hold a first-ever Massachusetts Design Festival.

The bad news is that the Council carries a mandate that is unfunded, so it’s work, specifically, will be relatively low-budget. It hopes to spend the next year “put[ting] together a comprehensive piece of creative economy legislation, a ‘Creative Economy Omnibus Bill.’ This bill will compile suggested pieces of legislation into one bill to prepare the creative sector for growth when the economy recovers.”

Unfortunately, it looks like we won’t be seeing many changes designed to pump our projects and goals during this recession, but we can look forward to a decided shift in the way our government treats the creative economy and the roll of tech and innovation within it after the economy begins to recover.

Our takeaway from the document?

Hold steady, bide your time, and press on entrepreneurs and tech businesses! The shift we want is underway!

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