Tools of the Trade - by on Thursday, December 13, 2007 14:51 - 2 Comments

A Posse to Improve Interviews: Tools for Microblogging

Yesterday I sent an email to Craig Newmark, of Craigslist fame, to see if I could interview him. I was a bit surprised when he suggested “sometime after 4pm,” which was only 30 minutes away.

Think Quick David!

One of the first things I did was send out a twitter message: “Interviewing Craig Newmark (craigslist) in 30 minutes. Anyone got any questions for him?”

I received five responses, including two from Ryan Budke and Ryan Sholin who opened up entirely new angles towards the interview (thanks!).

This morning Amy Gahran had a post on Poynter with advice (from J.D. Lasica) for any beat blogger:

“A beat reporter could enlist a dozen or two dozen passionate, driven
readers to serve as a kind of Twitter posse. Whenever she was about to
tackle a big story or difficult interview, the reporter could begin a
mobile dialogue with her posse members, who could pose questions, much
like the ‘backchannel’ IRC feed at conferences such as AlwaysOn or
Supernova. …We’ll see how it plays out. Wired News may start
experimenting with this in limited fashion early next year.”

I have my ups and downs with Twitter. For one – it requires a certain level of phone or PDA. I integrated Twitter into my Gchat, so I can only use Twitter when I’m at my computer. Much like Facebook, Twitter is often assumed to be the only option out there – and while it has the most market penetration (and probably has the most “sources” on it) – there are others.

If you are brand new to micro-blogging: An Overview


If you don’t care whether or not your microblog lands on phones, there is also Pownce, which allows you to send links, documents, or events. What’s also nice about Pownce you can select who you send your micro-blog post too. So you have have groups of sources on different subjects. Right now, however, the community on Pownce is younger and more artsy. I would recommend Pownce to our Wired beat blogger who is covering music (LOTS of music sharing happens on Pownce), but I wouldn’t recommend it to Ed Silverman who covers pharmaceuticals.

I have not used Jaiku myself, but I do get the sense that it is the second most popular micro-blogging format for geeks (behind Twitter). Perhaps that’s why Google recently bought Jaiku – and perhaps we can expect more from them.

Bid Me
Bid Me, made by Connectme360, is an easy way to manage sources or writers by microblogging (texting) requests. Example: I need someone to write 500 words on X.” The request goes out to 15-20 people (whoever is part of the network) and they have the option to respond “I’ll take it” or “No thanks.” The first person who responds postively and gets your approval gets the gig. If you are second, a “sorry, this has already been assigned” is sent back. This could also be used to find sources: “I need somebody who can talk to me about X by 3pm.”
(NOTE: This project is still in alpha testing, but if you are interested, I believe they are looking for testers).

SugarCandy is licensed to individual organizations instead of running all users off of one site, so they customize it for each user.

(UPDATE) Tumblr
I can’t believe I left Tumblr out (Thanks Amy). I’m not 100 percent sure – but I believe this was the first Microblogging platform.

More alternatives that we don’t know enough about.
Upoc -From the looks of it Upoc appears to be marketed towards younger people
and Zemble.

ReportingTwitter – another angle to the love affair between journalists and Twitter.

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  • Amy Gahran

    Great roundup of microblogging tools, David! Another one to check out is

    Re Twitter: On the mobile side, I only use it to occasionally post alerts at present, since I currently have a very low-end phone. I don’t receive alerts on this phone. But next year when I upgrade to a serious smart phone, I’ll do more with mobile Twitter.

    On the laptop side, I’m enjoying experimenting with the Adobe AIR-based Twitter apps Snitter and Spaz.

    But other microblogging tools are cool too. Definitely worth experimenting and finding what you like.

  • Mary Specht

    I second Amy’s comment, this is an excellent roundup.

About was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.

About the Author of this post
David Cohn is the founder of Spot.Us and former editor of BeatBlogging.Org.