A work at home mom discusses social media and networking.

Interview With One Of The Twittertale And Politweet’s Creators, Doug March

Brian gave 10 great reasons to do interviews on your blog, so I took his advice and choose someone that I am quite fascinated with to do my first interview at Social Media Mom, Doug March.

Doug is one of the great minds behind the tattletale Twitter site, Twittertale, and the more recent Politweets, a site for political tweeting. Doug was gracious enough to find time over the weekend to do a candid e-mail interview with me, so without further ado, I’d like to introduce Doug March!

1. Tell us a little about your background, and how it prepared you for your break into social news sites?

In school I studied 3d modeling and animation (digital imaging at the University of Dayton), the internet was just a blip on the map at the time. We knew about it but people were not sure yet how to use it (circa 97/98). Post graduation I moved to the washington DC area and spent most of the first 7 years working as a contractor for the US government (Booz Allen and BAE Systems). Most of my work was design related. Creating various web based training sites, communication materials and conference materials. Those 7 years were beneficial to my career but it wasn’t till I read Jeffery Zeldman’s book “designing with web standards” that I started to see the light and understand what the web really is. I then began working on my own personal site, taking part in others and started hanging with the web community in DC.

I honestly don’t see myself as “breaking into social news sites”, In regards to Politweets a group of friends saw a need and we tried to help and close the gap. Between some conversations and then watching what people were saying and doing on twitter, we came to the conclusion that politweets needed to happen.

I also really don’t see the difference between social news and regular news. Sure NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and CNN have more money and resources to provide a service to you, however citizens also have a voice and those voices are being heard on sites like digg, mixx, reddit and other so called “social news” sites. All news is social so I have a hard time putting it in silos. The real power is getting stories out there that don’t fit into the 30min slot that the nightly news provides. That is what happens with the sites I mentioned and I also am starting to see that happen with politweets.

I personally have seen many stories break on twitter. The announcement of the iphone SDK, Heath Ledger’s death and many others of varying topics.

2. Are you pleased with the usage and turnout on Twittertale and Politweets so far? What are your goals?

Yes I am, I am really overwhelmed by all the kind words that people have posted online. It is a great feeling to see something that you created helping others or in the case of twittertale just allowing a quick laugh and a break from a normally hectic day.

Generally my goals are finding solutions to a defined problem. I know, I know that sounds like marketing speak. People are always referring to me as “the idea guy”, I think i just like to solve everyday problems. Twittertale doesn’t really solve a problem, some might say it causes one. You probably won’t see much changing on that site, we have talked about creating some fun charts and graphs but due to time I think more time and energy will be spent on Politweets and other ventures.

It was really cool to see Twitter post Politweets on their blog. It was sort of like “the father acknowledging the sons accomplishments”.

3. Besides foreigners swearing in English and being interested in American politics, what are some other trends you’ve noticed from analyzing tweets?

#1 thing is how people outside of the national news want to provide information. You would think that politweets would highlight a lot of negativity in politics, people like to complain for some reason. Except the exact opposite was seen, it has provided a place for citizen journalists to go to find and share posts. I believe we have made a number of connections that might not have been made without the site. I have even had people tell me that they signed up for twitter, used it for a bit but wasn’t till they saw politweets that they found the benefit from it.

4. Twittertale is a fun niche site, have you seen an increase in naughty word usage on Twitter since you launched Twittertale?

Not really, at first everyone was “testing the system” which provided a spike. I would say we might have created a meme though. I do see a lot of people saying “fucking bitch balls” or just “bitch balls” a lot. That order represents the top 3, 4 and 5 most said curse words on twitter, so that has been a lot of fun watching.

5. What, in your opinion, is the long-term solution for the monetization of Twitter and are there plans to monetize Twittertale and Politweets?
That is a great question. A number of people have come up to me and said “I didn’t understand twitter until I saw your sites”. What did they mean by that? Well twitter by itself is limiting in characters but not in usage. This is one of its greatest assets. People want more features but I believe it is close to feature complete. There is now a “river of information flowing though it” (see this post and associated links — http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/doc/2008/01/08/lets-call-it-a-twiver/ ) I am not quite sure how, but here lies the solution to monetization. One possible solution is creating small niche communities that come together around one topic (those already exist and can be seen by politweets and frozen peas/peaple) and then messaging them with unobtrusive advertisements that are more help than harm. I am not sure if you are familiar with “the deck”, but that has to be the best advertising model out there. A group of sites that believe in a set of products and unobtrusively advertise those products. I love google but how often do you think a contextual advertisement on a site has also been something that that site has used and supports?

6. Do you participate in any other social media sites and if so, which ones?

Yes I do, a lot actually (username is generally always marchdoe)
flickr,
last.fm,
del.icio.us,
pownce, and upcoming.org
just to name a few.

The only one I am not a member of is facebook, and don’t see that happening anytime soon. I am not sure why I never signed up, perhaps it is just the case that I have enough “noise” in my life.

7. Tell us about Min, Gabe and Jason and Character140?

Min and Gabe are amazing ruby on rails developers that I work with at revolutionhealth.
Jason is a front-end developer that works at mixx.

Gabe = ducktyper/
has created a lot of cool stuff, one site being dclicio.us/

Min = thoughtsatsix. Min created a cool iphone app for DC Metro riders called - meenster.

Jason sixtwothree blog.
Jason has been one of the key players bringing together the DC Tech Community, he started refresh-dc.org and also was one of the organizers of the first barcampdc.

We are all friends who have a passion for the internet and when the idea came to mind they were excited to make it happen.

Character140 is just a name to operate under, a collective of individuals that have come together to create sites based on mobile/sms technology.

8. What will happen to Politweets when the election is over?

Hmmm I haven’t really thought about that. It is really hard to say. That won’t be for another 9 or 10 months and a lot can happen in that time with technology. Hopefully we can keep it going and expand on the ideas we have for it. A local organization The Sunlight Foundation does a lot of great work enlightening citizens of their elected officials actions. Perhaps we could lean in that direction and help contribute to the great work they have already started, but with twitter as the engine behind it.

9. What is your interest in reality cooking shows and any chance you are looking to develop a Twitter-like site that has to do with cooking or food?

I love to cook and I enjoy the various shows out there about cooking. I won’t miss an episode of Top Chef and am really looking forward to the next season. As of right now I am not working on a twitter-like site for cooking or food. I will say that I am working on something that is food related. It is just in the beginning stages and when the time is right I will share.

An idea does come to mind though, perhaps a twitter restaurant suggestion app would be something that could be quite fun. Call it a “real time yelp.com“.

We also have a site in DC called “the dc concierge”, how cool would it be if you could send a tweet to a username “I am on 12th and m street and I am feeling like Italian, where should I go?” and get a response right back. I know this probably wouldn’t scale, but it def could be fun.

Oh I am also working on getting a reservation at the French Laundry, any suggestions on how to make that happen would be great.

10. Any advice to those looking to use the open API of Twitter to start their own sites?

I have some good friends in the film business. Mark and Jay Duplass (wrote and directed the Puffy Chair and another movie coming out called Baghead), I will always remember talking to them about “creating things”. It wasn’t till Mark and Jay just started shooting everything they could think of that they made it to the next step. They would shoot a short movie a each day over a summer. Whatever came to mind that day was the movie. They thought one of the movies was really good and showed it to friends, and on a whim decided to send it to Sundance. Low and behold it got into the festival (This is John = name of the movie).

I think we all should prescribe to that. Just create, find what you like and just make things. Sure “some of it is going to suck” (their words not mine) but you are going to create a lot of things that many people are going to enjoy. So just create, open your computer and make things. The things you are proud of share with others, post to the internet, print out and share with friends. Nothing but good can come from that.

I really believe it is easy to “talk”, but very hard to “do”. So put those words into actions and your work will be noticed.

Doug, it has been a privilege to get to know you and I so appreciate the time you took to share with us. I hope you will keep us posted on new endeavors and continue to “let us know what you are doing” in the world of microblogging.

photo via nowsourcing

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2 comments

1 feefifoto { 01.29.08 at 6:15 pm }

“8. What will happen to Politweets when the election is over?”

What an odd question. Of course it will continue because as soon as this election is over THEY’LL ALL START RUNNING AGAIN!!!

where’s my tylenol?

2 Rickman { 02.04.08 at 6:16 pm }

Interesting. I liked it.

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