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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Beyers’

Writers and editors: Check out #editorchat at Twitter

In Culture, Freelance, Publishing, smartnews, The news biz on March 24, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Last week, I participated in my first Twitter chat session.

Twitter is all the rage, the latest social-media productivity sinkhole to come along. If you’ve been in under a rock for the last year or so, Twitter allows you to broadcase short messages (140 characters or less) about whatever’s on your mind. You can “follow” other “tweeps,” and they can follow you. You see the “tweets” of those who follow you, they see yours. And you can search by keyword for stuff that interests you.

It’s easy to get lost in the blizzard of raw stuff: links to the latest layoff news, a friend who wonders whether he can take yucky coffee back to the store, and people telling you to follow their friends and colleagues. Pretty quickly, you wonder how to organize Twitter so you don’t miss the good stuff: networking with cool new people and focusing on matters of importance to you. A chat session is one way.

A couple weeks ago, I noticed some folks tweeting about something called “#editorchat.” I don’t even remember what the subject matter was, but I was intrigued enough to look into it. Turns out, Twitter chat is a session in which like-minded folks tweet together in a semi-organized fashion. Much like a chatroom, but visible to anyone who happens along in the Twitterverse.

I tuned in Wednesday, enjoyed the vigorous conversation about the future of journalism and publishing, pimped Smartnews shamelessly, and followed loads of writers and editors. After, I spoke with the originators of #editorchat, Tim Beyers, a regular Motley Fool contributor, and Lydia Dishman, principal of LBD Communications Group:

Question: For folks who don’t know, what the heck is #editorchat? How does it work, what’s the format?

Tim: Twitter is like a noisy bar that never closes and which, thanks to hashtags, has spacious back rooms for private parties. That’s what #editorchat is — a private Twitter party for editors and writers. All the details for how to join are at editorchat.wordpress.com .

The rest of the sausage story is simple. Lydia and I talk by phone weekly to discuss topics and related questions. Rarely do we need more than 20 minutes to come up with something compelling. Once we have the topic, we write a post for our blog and tweet the URL.

Lydia: #editorchat is a place for professional writers and editors who use the micro-blogging service Twitter to discuss how best to help one another. The “#” sign, known as a hashtag, enables you to search for #editorchat and participate during the discussion held once a week on Wednesday nights. You can also use live-chat services such as TweetChat and TweetGrid.

SN: Why a Twitter chat for editors? Is it really for editors? I saw lots of writers, too, and everyone seemed to be welcome.

Lydia: It is really for editors.  And writers.  But not PR people.  The primary purpose of #editorchat is for editors to get to talk to writers in a casual forum to discuss the issues that are changing the face of publishing.  Although we have a large number of newspapers and magazines, there are book editors and authors as well. 

This is not intended to be a whine-fest about how the news media is dying, or a lament for jobs lost.  We are sympathetic, but we are also trying to host a proactive conversation to help editors and writers find a plan B (or C or D) to take publishing to its next chapter (pardon the pun).  As such we discuss the differences in writing and editing for print and web, what editors are looking for in their writers and new content, etc.  
 
We believe that by providing a neutral atmosphere that is supportive and non-judgemental, we can offer what a charged newsroom or publishing house (redolent with the bad stench of layoffs and the soundtrack of griping and fretting by an overworked remaining staff) can not.  This is the perfect opportunity for editors to really say what is on their minds and for writers to listen and learn as well as to air some of their own concerns and questions.

Tim: We created it because we saw a need. There are lots of writers and editors on Twitter yet very few of them talk to each other. That’s a wasted opportunity. With #editorchat, we tackle the big issues plaguing publishers, writers and editors. And why shouldn’t we? We’ll either succeed or fail together.

SN: How did you get started?

Tim: Both of us had been participating in an excellent Twitter discussion called #journchat, created by PR pro Sarah Evans to connect journalists and PR people. We still love it, but we think #journchat serves PR people more than the writers who congregate there. And it doesn’t speak to editors at all. That’s not a criticism; it just wasn’t designed to be a forum for editors.

So you might say that #editorchat was born from our envy of #journchat, and from a desire to connect writers and editors who had the tools (i.e., Twitter and a broadband connection) but not the means (i.e., #editorchat) to discuss issues that matter in a friendly forum.

Lydia: We started by talking about how great #journchat was for getting to know tweeps that we would not be in contact with in real life/business.  Our experience with that type of networking gave us the idea that we could improve on a good thing. By creating #editorchat we started a forum that was less about PR pitches and more about how to move with the changing industry by sharing ideas and information.

SN: How do you and Lydia know each other? Who else is involved in #editorchat?

Tim: Lydia and I met on Twitter. I’m not sure who followed who first but I do remember responding to a great post at her blog about the names we freelancers take on: contrbutor, contributing writer, contributing editor, even “special to.” Shortly thereafter, I added her to a list of writers I track for a guide called The Freelance Writer’s Helper. We started talking. And we realized, as we were creating #editorchat, that professional connectedness between writers (and writers and editors) produces better content.

No one else is involved in #editorchat right now but we’d be remiss if we didn’t give Sarah Evans some credit — #editorchat is as it is, in part, because of our envy of the #journchat format. Molly Block was another early supporter of #editorchat and J.D. Ebberly might be the most generous participant we host each Wednesday. (Though, honestly, I can’t name a single person I don’t enjoy seeing pop into #editorchat.)

Lydia: We do not have anyone else involved but would welcome guest moderators in the future.

SN: What are some other twitter chats we should look for?

Lydia: #journchat, #collegejourn, #journ2journ, #blogchat, etc.  I am sure there are others, but these are the most relevant to our business.

SN: Have you ever had trouble with trolls spoiling the fun?

Lydia: A few PR tweeps inserted themselves a couple of weeks ago.  We put a (polite) lid on that immediately.

SN: Any advice for someone who’d like to get a twitter chat going?

Tim: The chats themselves are wonderful but the blog and the transcripts are what keep those who participate coming back each week. So, if you’re going to try something like this, have a blog, make it rich, relevant and well-indexed, and invite your readers to connect with you directly.

Lydia: Decide who your audience/participants should be and create a forum that is informative, engaging and, most importantly, relevant to them.  There is no if-you-build-it-they-will-come.  It needs to have value.  Tim and I always plot the questions out in advance and invite others to add to the ones we generate.  Then we tweet the heck out of it before the actual chat so that people can plan to come.  Despite our best efforts to promote it, we always have stragglers who come in at the end and ask, “what’s #editorchat?”  and for them, and others who’ve missed the chat for the night, we offer a complete transcript on the blog the next day. 

One last piece of advice: If you feed your tweets into your Facebook (or other social media profile), turn off that feed before you take part in a Twitter chat. You’ll drive your friends nuts with all the status updates.