Keep in mind, though, that having a backchannel doesn’t guarantee that people will use it. For example, Craig Kanalley of Twitter Journalism and The Huffington Post chose to engage in a debate with Johnson by using Johnson’s personal account. So there’s another lesson here: people may not only use the backchannel you create. Be flexible and respond where needed.
2. On Twitter, one correction isn’t enough: Johnson tweeted several times about the Hekla situation, offering what was in effect multiple corrections (or pointers to corrections). Since Twitter messages flow by in a constant stream, it’s important to repeat your corrections. It’s difficult to say how many corrections are necessary, but one good way to gauge would be to see if the mistaken information is still being retweeted. As long as it’s being passed around, you should be issuing corrections and asking people to RT your correction. Remember that when something is retweeted, it takes on more authority among people and search engines—so your job in issuing a Twitter correction is to get it retweeted as much as possible. (Kanalley made this point during the Hekla story.)
3. Signal clearly: Johnson’s initial tweet about Hekla read, “Large plume indicates second Icelandic volcano, Hekla, has begun erupting…” For him, the use of “indicates” signaled the information not totally confirmed. But there are a lot of people who skipped over that word, or simply took it as an “indication” that a second volcano was erupting. A better way to hedge would be to begin a tweet with UNCONFIRMED or DEVELOPING or EARLY REPORT. The same goes for a correction: Put CORRECTION in all caps, or find another way of making the word stand out. You have to capture people’s attention as they’re watching all the other tweets stream by.
4. Annotate it: As I noted in last week’s column, I think Twitter and other new platforms have a role to play in creating features that enable corrections. At the very least, they can help popularize standards for indicating unconfirmed or corrected reports. Along these lines, this week ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote an interesting post about the upcoming “Twitter Annotations” feature. Of course, I instantly thought that Annotations could be a great way to embed corrections or forms of hedging in a tweet. As Twitter rolls out Annotations, people should be thinking about how to make corrections a part of this framework. Though he doesn’t mention corrections, The New York Times programmer Jacob Harris wrote about some related uses on his personal blog. I’d love to see smart people like Kirkpatrick and Harris think about marrying Annotations and corrections.
Correction of the Week
A REPORT in The Weekend Australian on Saturday (“Deripaska’s hard stare has vision”, Page 25) made reference to Russian businessman Oleg Derispaska and links to organised crime. The Australian accepts it has no evidence whatsoever to support the allegation, it withdraws any implication to that effect and unreservedly apologises to Mr Derispaska for any harm he may have suffered as a result of the publication. — the Australian
Correction: An earlier version of this column misspelled Craig Kanalley’s last name as Kanally.