Why trust an editor with a reader’s job? (now publishing is not just for publishers)

There was a lot of recent buzz (at least here, here and here) when the NYTimes experimented by prompting readers to tweet links to specific sentences in an article about Lorne Michael’s interview process for Saturday Night Live.

If you skim down the NYT’s article, you’ll see some lines that are highlighted, an invitation to share with the world, each generating a pre-baked tweet. Here’s the editor’s selection from the first half of the article:

“I was a funny guy. I was taller than everybody, and very handsome.” – Chevy Chase

“They were guys who might make you laugh, but they could beat you up if they wanted to.” – @DanaCarvey on SNL

“I was married, I had three sons, and I was on welfare. I didn’t want that no more.” – @RealTracyMorgan

“You’ll never, ever get hired if you do that for your audition.” – Molly Shannon on “Mary Katherine Gallagher”

“Everybody else’s stuff sounds better than yours.” – @SethMeyers on auditioning for SNL

“The makeup person said oh my God what happened to you? I looked like I was in a car accident.” – Cheri Oteri

“I always played older women with short hair.” Kristen Wiig on impersonating Jane Pauley at her SNL audition

“I did Sally Field and Temple Grandin. It’s too bad she’s not in the news more.” Kate McKinnon on her SNL audition

No doubt those are some fun lines. (Or no doubt some of those are fun lines?) But there’s also no doubt that those are only some of the best lines in the story. Lots of fun and valuable ideas got totally ignored by the NYT editor’s highlighter, in many cases because each was slightly too long to cram into a tweet.

Twitter and the NYT report that the tweet ratio was up 11X, which is great news for the NYT and its amply edited peers. Personally, I’d like to make my own choices about what to link to. The following are some tweets I’d have written pointing to lines the NYTimes editor ignored:

Click on the link and you’ll see the full quote I’m excited about. And if you’ve got the Pullquote app or add-on installed, you’ll see the quote in its exact context on the page.

Here’s another:

Or this one:

So, kudos to the Times for pre-baking tweets for its readers. I passionately hope that readers take the read/write revolution one step further and control their own choices about what content to highlight and Tweet by installing a tool like Pullquote.

Why let the editors have all the fun?

Fixing a hole where the rain gets in…

The summer has been quieter than we hoped. Pullquote’s total user count has plateaued at ~600, after growing at roughly 20% a week throughout the spring.

We’ve been puzzled by the plateau, but have a hypothesis: some people tweeting Pullquotes have gotten complaints from followers who clicked on a tweet saying “Smart dogs bark” (for example) and then saw the same “Smart dogs talk” text again in the Pullquote shadowbox, which they then had to close before proceeding to the source page.

We just hadn’t anticipated that people would Pullquote fragments of text or even headlines this creating this UI redundancy. But it seems that’s what many people want to do.

So we’ve the updated code so that a tweet that links to redundant (or very similar text) won’t create an intermediate shadowbox containing that same text. For longer quotes, the shadowbox will still appear, since this is the best way to highlight the essential idea buried inside an article.

In short, no more redundancy. You’ll see a shadowbox for if you click on the link in this tweet…

but not this tweet:

(We’re still polishing the algorithm, so if you see places we fail to prevent shadowbox redundancies, please help us out by sending the offending example.)

Beyond this UX tweak, we’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning up code and integrating an ID system that will let people who don’t have Twitter IDs use Pullquote.

What’s ahead? We continue to be excited by the specificity of Pullquote in a web of generic links. People don’t think in web pages, why should they link to web pages? As a by-product of Pullquoting, some people are building up an interesting collection of quotes. (Here’s my collection.)

This approach also means that people can choose to follow a subset of all the quotes I’m saving. Micro-following? With Twitter and Tumblr with irrelevant information, maybe some people will find this granularity to be a relief. So we’re going to focus on enhancing that “quote collecting” and “micro-following” experience in coming weeks to see where this leads us.