Tell us about yourself.
For as long I’ve been working, it’s been easy for me to write stuff quickly, and edit other people’s stuff so it’s better. Over time I added other skills on top of that, especially in the world of all kinds of online communications. So a keyboard is second nature, as is looking at a screen, as is being online. All three are core tools for me. In addition I’m a good observer and interpreter of human nature, and that’s helped me professionally. So has keeping a sense of perspective and humor about most everything.
What will you be talking about for this upcoming GOAT Salon?
I think that “content” (meaning everything from tweets to videos to podcasts to … copy) continues to ‘eat the world’. But outside of news organizations, companies don’t seem to put a lot of thought into the quality of all that content — whether it fits with business goals, has the right voice, is useful, and so on. Who does that work when everyone wants to hire either copywriters or web jacks-and-jills of all trades for cheap?! Editors are who they should want. With an editorial mindset, a point of view, and an understanding of cadence and continuity.
You formerly worked for Twitter as their editorial director before you quit last year. What do you think of the direction it’s going?
Well, this could be a long or a short answer. I think I’ll just say the company hasn’t changed as much as I hoped it would, by which I mean, I’m not seeing smooth and frequent execution of new features, clever marketing or compelling reasons why newbies should get into it. Nevertheless, I continue to love the imperfect (and so far unreplicated) service that Twitter offers.
Can we rely on machines to make decisions with any nuance about “good” content or “newsworthy” content?
A short answer is “no”, if you really mean “nuance”. But I will say there are learnable formats for all kinds of information: latitude and longitude, sports scores, movie credits, and so on - useful information that machines can identify and capture and present. And of course there is a formula for American-style news presentation that (I think) some machines have learned for very basic stories. But if there’s any complexity or real human interest, that’s not machine work. Machines are better for being able to identify points of comparison and contrast, fact-check (depending on the repository of facts!), and add the missing bits of content I mention at the beginning of this answer.
What can a smaller company do to manage content that they generate or is generated by their users so that it’s useful and safe, if they don’t have the means to hire editors?
Honestly, I don’t want to live in a world without editors. You can certainly populate a screen with the hideous acronym UGC, but there are going to be items you want or need to remove at a moment’s notice. Unedited content is not uniformly useful OR safe, to be honest. It might be entertaining, but it’s generally eye-glazing in a very short time.
Prepare your questions and reserve your seats here.