- 5 Mar 09, 15:15 GMT
I'm taking part in a panel discussion on the role of Twitter in journalism at the DNA (Digital News Affairs) 09 conference.
I'm apprehensive, not least because of two tweets I stumbled across when searching for coverage of day one of the conference:
Paul Vereijken tweeted: "next year there should be more young people - less suits" while Bertiebee said: "If we didn't have Twitter, we would be bored to death."
So here I am dressed in a suit, decidedly middle-aged, and hoping I have something interesting to say about Twitter and journalism; at a time when many people are sick of hearing about Twitter on the BBC.
I'm also apprehensive because talking and thinking about how my colleagues and I do our jobs most often takes a back seat to just getting on with doing it. But in an effort to have something meaningful to say I have been ruminating on our use of Twitter.
What I hope to add to that is a sense of how an organisation like the BBC begins to formulate the use of these technologies once take-up has started and generated a critical mass among staff.
It's clear that the adoption of Twitter inside the BBC began, much as it did with blogging, on the fringes.
If you think of the BBC as a circle, those of us who began using Twitter a few years ago were sat on the rim and as its popularity increased lines were drawn inevitably toward the centre.
Rory was chided by some when it was pointed out that he talks a lot about walking his dog. I talk a lot about rugby and my family.
But in the past 24 months it is clear that Twitter has become another tool or conduit in our reporting.
So how do we use it?
1.Talking to and responding to queries from readers, fellow professionals and colleagues.
2.Asking the audience questions and using the crowd as a source of information
3.Reporting updates, breaking news, and giving colour and texture
4.Pushing out headlines and blogposts to Twitter via RSS and TwitterFeed.com
5.Getting a very fast and very global sense of events
6.Using hashtags to find viewpoints around breaking news as well as a source of user generated content
7.Unifying different threads of reporting - news website, blog, Flickr etc
This has been an evolving process and one that is a long way removed from the first time that empty box on Twitter asked me: What are you doing right now?
With any large organisation there is always a lag between take up of a new technology by staff in their own time and its adoption formally across all staff and structures.
The trick is, I think, to help the organisation understand the technology as those lines move to the centre so that when formal adoption is then pushed back out there is at least some connection between original use and 'sanctioned', structural use - for want of a better term.
So what else has the BBC learned about Twitter as it moved from the fringe to the centre?
One of the most popular engagements between Twitter and the BBC actually has little to do with us at all. Mario Menti is a web developer who has worked with the BBC's Backstage project, which aims to foster innovation using BBC content among external devs.
He built one of the first Twitter bots that pumps out headlines from the BBC News website's front page and many of our sub-sections, including Technology.
These are incredibly popular and showed the BBC more broadly how it could make use of the mountains of data within the BBC and connect it to Twitter.
One of my favourite more recent hook-ups is a Twitter bot which outputs the next programme to be aired on Radio 4.
In recent months there has been an explosion of Twitter activity from inside the BBC, and BBC News, although if I am honest, much of it remains uncoordinated.
We do not have a 'Twitter strategy' yet, which may not be a bad thing. Although we do have excellent people like Jem Stone, who helps us all to understand how to engage with social media.
A number of BBC Radio programmes now use Twitter as another channel of communication with the audience, alongside e-mails and text messages.
At the recent Davos economic conference a number of our journalists were Twittering alongside their other reporting and these Tweets were fed into a central BBC News at Davos Twitter stream.
BBC News' Entertainment team has started Twittering recently - adopting a more irreverent, side-on tone which hopefully resonates with their audience.
During breaking news events, BBC News is now incorporating viewpoints, eyewitness accounts and user generated content from users on Twitter into our developing coverage.
One of the biggest lessons I think we are beginning to learn from Twitter is in understanding the value of having a simple technology both to deliver and publish breaking news updates.
Twitter excels in its ubiquity and simplicity across different platforms and reveals the value in delivering real-time, sequential updates around breaking news.
For the BBC News website, it has given us much food for thought in the areas of reporting and publishing, particularly in terms of speed and scale.
There are technical and editorial challenges for us - BBC News does not allow direct publishing of news content by the source journalist without a second pair of eyes to check it over. We do this to ensure editorial standards.
So what does the future hold for BBC News and Twitter? That's not my decision but given the speed at which Twitter is growing it is clear that this is a mode of reporting and broadcasting that is here to stay. Facebook's recent announcement of real time updates also hints that there may be other similar dynamic platforms for us to engage with in the future.
For individual journalists who are grappling with issues such as workload, writing blogs, news stories, recording audio, shooting video and Twittering is a real juggling exercise.
Thankfully, at DNA today I will be "merely" blogging and Twittering. You can follow the event on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #dna09 and there are excellent updates on Journalism.co.uk.
As always, I'd appreciate your thoughts about Twitter, social media, the future of journalism, or of course suits!
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