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Twitter changes should concern journalists

The forthcoming changes announced by Twitter limiting what others can do with tweets has angered developers.

But news organisations and others involved in aggregating and curating material from social media should also be concerned.

The “Display Guidelines” will become “Display Requirements” and impose strict rules over how tweets can be shown, in order “to ensure that Twitter users have a consistent experience wherever they see and interact with tweets.”

As part of that “consistent experience”, the guidelines on the timeline say that “Twitter tweets that are grouped together into a timeline should not be rendered with non-Twitter content. e.g. comments, updates from other networks.”

In other words, don’t combine tweets with material from Facebook, YouTube or anywhere else. Yet this is exactly what many news organisations do when they cover breaking news, using tools such as ScribbleLive or Storify.

In his analysis of the guidelines, Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper noted that the rule “ is very broad and will bite more services and apps than you may expect. It’s probably the clause that caused the dispute with LinkedIn, and why Flipboard CEO Mike McCue just left Twitter’s board.”

The restrictions on mixing tweets in with other material could hamstrung news outlets. The practice of live blogging, pulling together material from reporters, news agencies and social media, has become common on news websites.

Live blogs have proved a powerful means to provide compelling and multifaceted coverage of news events, weaving a rich tapestry of human experience by pulling in from different networks.

It points to a more collaborative form of journalism, where the journalist acts as a curator, selecting the most relevant and powerful material, be it a tweet, a YouTube video or a photo on Flickr.

The stricter guidelines on the use of tweets go against the trend towards more inclusive, open and networked forms of journalism.

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