AP sticks their nose in reporters’ Facebook profiles

Wired.com’s Threat Level reports on a new Associated Press policy aimed at reporters. The intent of the policy is “to make sure material posted by others doesn’t violate AP standards.”

That would be all well and good. Except this is for employees’ personal Facebook profiles–and that is where I think this policy goes over the line. The policy is also vague, quoting from further down in the article:

It’s a good idea to monitor your profile page to make sure material posted by others doesn’t violate AP standards: any such material should be deleted.

This is in addition to these ominous and censorious directives:

[E]mployees also should avoid including political affiliations in their profiles and steer clear of making any postings that express political views or take stands on contentious issues.

Further down, in the Twitter-specific section:

Also, when tweeting, remember that’s there a big difference between providing an observation (“I nearly bumped into Chris Matthews outside Penn Station”) and an opinion (“I nearly bumped into the loudmouthed and obnoxious Chris Matthews”).

And it gets even worse:

Do these guidelines apply just to AP employees who are journalists?

They apply to all employees, just as the Statement of News Values and Principles does. We cannot expect people outside the AP to know whether a posting on Facebook was made by someone who takes pictures, processes payroll checks or fixes satellite dishes. We all represent the AP, and we all must protect its reputation.

This edict is most troubling when combined with the fact that the Facebook terms of service only allow one account per user. If you maintain two identities, you run the risk of losing both of them. So it’s not like AP employees can make a “work account” and a “non-work account.” Facebook has this as a term of service for several reasons, the first being that it provides one easy way to clamp down on flagrant dishonesty.

I can see an issue if one heavily advertises that one works for the AP right before launching into a heavily political tirade, but this is different than expressing one’s political views outside of working hours under one’s own name.

To draw an analog, I avoid wearing my work uniform outside of work; I made it a point to bring a change of clothes when I played in my bar poker league after work, and would change out long before the game began. (I will concede that comfort was a contributing factor, but I probably would still have changed clothes even if it were not.)

It’s the same with the AP. There’s a difference between “on the clock” and “off the clock.” Within reason, “off the clock” conduct should be “off-limits” for company policies.

Twitter: dead or alive, dying or growing?

Okay, I was really torn between going ahead with a very belated entry about this, versus just moving on to the next story. (Aside: I actually have a backlog of stories I wanted to blog, and deleted three draft entries about news articles that looked good when I landed on them in StumbleUpon but which turned out to be rather blah for writing a real blog entry about.)

But, given how much time I have spent on Twitter, I can’t very well just up and delete a draft post concerning a news story about it. Especially when the headline of the original is “Who Killed Twitter?” and the article is still relatively fresh.

I almost have to wonder if the question should be rephrased: Is Twitter dying? If so, who is really behind it?

Some very interesting claims are made. Among them:

Harvard Business School says the average Twitter user tweets once and never again.

I have yet to see any Twitter users give up after only one tweet, most maybe after 5-10. Maybe there are a few out there; I wonder if this study weeded out spam accounts, as most of those would appear to “give up” after one tweet, but their purpose is accomplished once they have tweeted once and followed 2,000 people.

TechCrunch says that the ol’ 80-20 rule is in full effect on Twitter: 20% of Twitter users are creating 80% of the activity. Harvard Business School says it’s even more extreme than that: 10% of Twitter users post 90% of the Tweets.

This is not surprising. I don’t think it’s any different for Twitter than it is for Blogger, Livejournal, or any other major online service. There are people who blog once a month, once a week, all the way up to once–or more–per day. There are people who blog for a few days and then say “this isn’t for me” just as much as there are people who have been blogging since the days before people abbreviated “weblog” to just “blog.”

It’s the same with Facebook. And I’m not going to lie, I almost gave up on Facebook. Heck, I almost gave up on Twitter at one point. I still feel like I have not truly mastered either, but then again I was a very late adopter for Facebook and several other services (Digg, StumbleUpon, and FriendFeed being most notable as I signed up for all three in the closing days of 2008).

A survey from Pace University and the Participatory Media Network found that only 22% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 use Twitter (though nearly all have social networking profiles).

I have to wonder how accurate this is. Maybe it’s too limiting for the under-25 set, though I fail to see how a generation that grew up with text messages can’t wrap their head around something that is, in essence, text messages that can be read by everyone even if they don’t have a phone.

It is entirely possible the non-Twitter users are using one of the other microblogging services such as identi.ca or simply using the status update feature of Facebook as a rather hackish substitute for Twitter. (Several tools exist to populate Twitter updates to Facebook status, and at least one exists that is selective and looks for a “#fb” hashtag.)

Personally, I don’t think Twitter is dying for me. Quite the contrary: I’m now north of 600 followers which is almost where I was a few months ago. I am at the point where I can’t follow everyone back that follows me.

The problem with stories like this, everyone sees them differently. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say almost everyone and their dog is on Twitter–literally.

The important things to remember are:

  • Twitter does not replace your blog. Not everything I say fits neatly in 140 characters.
  • Twitter does not replace Facebook, MySpace, or similar sites.
  • Oprah, Ashton Kutcher, and CNN did not kill Twitter.
  • For that matter, Cracker Barrel did not kill Twitter. (In fact, Cracker Barrel was probably the reason a lot of businesses all of a sudden hopped on Twitter.)