Last night, under the banner of “You TWEET if you want to: the web is for opposition, not for governing”, Fishburn Hedges and Channel4 brought us Twinge. What was essentially a twitterfall page where us public could chip in with questions for Ed Balls, Miliband and others by adding the hashtag #twinge to our tweets.
And despite Simon Redfern declaring…
Suffering a bit of a hangover this morning.
Format worked well – perfect for conference, real engagement with outside world.
… It was a Twitterfall page. Nothing more and nothing less. Hardly what I’d call real engagement and more like standing outside the city walls in a big gang and shouting. And like all Twitterfall pages, it quickly succumbed to the inane (see screenshot below)… And yes, I took part in that inanity, the really funny thing was that everyone else I knew did too, at the same time.
Stepping aside from the sniggering masses for a while, there is so much more that could (and can) be done that move beyond the simplistic idea that a Twitterfall page is real engagement. As a participant you get to make and see your question amongst heaps of others which has a twinge of excitement because it feels like you are participating and more importantly, that hundreds of your fellow participants have read (and enjoyed) your tweeted contribution.
The fact is, however, that because everyone else in involved in the same activity… vanity tweeting (Ooh look I’m on telly) … they probably didn’t notice your hard wrought comment. Add to that the fact that when hundreds of people “engage”… you simply can’t read them all, there’s too many.
So, given that the technology is a bit rubbish, we have to improve it….for example…
Make the question selection process transparent
By this I mean.. Currently what happens is that everyone contributes and then “magically” somebody’s question gets used… Presumably there are some researchers queuing up good candidate questions, seeing a list of those would alter what I choose to contribute. I can imagine a sidebar of the tweets being stacked up, like Post It notes…
The fact that there were Fishburn Hedges employees taking part in the jollying along of the twitterfall stinks. It simply makes me feel that everyone else is a bot… a paid stooge, a hired hand. If you can’t get this bit right, Twitterfalls like this will be dead in the water before they’ve gained any traction because everyone will feel that the discussion has already been hijacked by PR wonks.
Cut the spam
How hard can it be to filter out some of the bots that jumped on the Twandtwagon (and don’t you hate it when everyone is still “tw”-ing words?). Looking at the remnants of the #twinge comments here, it’s unfortunate that there are so many “download a movie here” comments that need clearing up. Of course, clearing up tweets is a tricky one if you are then seen to be censoring dissent or trolling.
How about voting?
A simple voting up and down of comments may help with “making the selection process” transparent.
How about comment limiting?
What if you only get three tweets. You might use them more wisely. If you receive karma for more votes, maybe you get to make more comments. In effect this would be a real-time election of representatives from the masses on the fly.
How about a chuckle tool?
I have to admit, I like the silly stuff that people tweet in these situations but at times it drags. If a real engagement-oriented twitterfall page had a “chuckle” tool, then I’d be free to filter those too… and only let the ones with a guffaw ranking get through (or vice versa).
Add Some Bloody Value
There are so many functions and features that could be added to a Twitterfall page. You, or Fishburn Hedges, could even just make it look nice(r) like this, which might accompany watching the TV show better than a disorientating scrolling vertical list.The visualisation of the tweets could, potentially be wonderful, not in an eye-candy fashion but to empower the participant… What if all URLs mentioned were shown in a sidebar and summarized (in real-time)… what if the most RT’d items were kept on screen (this again might help with the transparency and selection process ideas).
But the important thing is that this could be a new form of engagement and isn’t.
Yes, I know it’s early days and broadcasters as well as audiences are still getting to grips with the tools, shaping them as we go but slapping up a Twitterfall is so unambitious.
I’m not even sure if the likes of Twitter will be able to deliver when it comes to engaging with the masses and maybe it will always just be like shouting outside the city walls at the silly burghers – but let’s at least have a try at enabling real engagement rather than something that looks like it.