In the last few months, Valleywag has integrated an interesting reporting technique – using public Twitter updates as first-party sources (and entire article topics). Examples include Yahoo’s Fire Eagle (screenshot below), Jimmy Wales plans quieter life, and the Twitter CEO’s upcoming big week. Here’s the first one:
This is one of the clearest crossovers between semi-private communication channels with “friends” and making public statements. Individuals use Twitter for sharing time-based nothingness with people they care about (and random stalkers). If you don’t lock down your Twitter stream – and it seems like very few people do, and you certainly can’t get “discovered” by friends if you do – anything you say suddenly becomes quotable. When you answer “What Are You Doing?”, you’re telling everyone. (I haven’t found any clear examples of anybody taking advantage of this – placing content in their Twitter to get picked up by Valleywag.)
Facebook is different, because since Facebook really does lock down the privacy of people’s profiles, the content that’s made it from Facebook to Valleywag etc. is always leaked by someone with access to the data – a more traditional way of getting unknown information.
There’s a legit case to make that this isn’t really article-worthy – what technologist launching a new product wasn’t cranking out bugs a few hours before a public release? – but that’s Valleywag’s MO, and you can’t fault them for using Twitter to do what they would have already done. It does place possibly-public figures in a bind, but it’s a bind of our own culture’s making. This wouldn’t be a problem for a generation earlier: they’d just say STFU. They’re probably right.
(Useless disclaimer: Owen@Valleywag helped me out with something once, and I still appreciate it.)