#TweetDeckTips: Q&A with Zach Seward

Friday, 6 September 2013

The TweetDeck blog recently caught up with Zach Seward, senior editor at Quartz (@qz), to find out how he uses TweetDeck in his work.

Quartz is a global business news site that launched in September 2012. Seward and his team track Tweets and mentions of Quartz with TweetDeck for real-time reactions to @qz stories, which helps them make better decisions as a news org.

I take the “all in” approach, with TweetDeck visible on a dedicated monitor at all times.

Zach at his desk in New York City. Credit @AnnaHolmes.

Zach at his desk in New York City. Credit @AnnaHolmes.

When did you sign up for Twitter and what drove you to join?
January 2009 — late by early adopter standards. I was working at the Nieman Journalism Lab and manning the @NiemanLab account. That turned out to be pretty fun and important to the Lab’s growth, so I figured, I should probably get one of these accounts myself.

What version of TweetDeck (web, Chrome, Mac or Windows) do you use?
Mac. Sometimes I use the Chrome app, too.

What does your setup look like?
I take the “all in” approach, with TweetDeck visible on a dedicated monitor at all times. It’s not for everyone, but I actually find it less distracting than if I tried to limit the amount of information on my screen. So I have nine columns spanning across my Thunderbolt display, which is admittedly a nicer monitor than necessary for this sort of thing. But I get to see those Tweets in really high definition!

The columns I use are a mix of personal and professional. My timeline is the far-left column, closest to me, so that’s what I see more than anything. Even if I’m not actively reading it, I can tell when something’s up because the speed of the column increases, like the ticker-tape machine stirring to life in a long-ago newsroom.

I have a search column of people tweeting Quartz stories or mentioning the @qz account, and it’s really the best user feedback we get. A lot of us here keep that column open, and we can see in real time how people are reacting to our stories and what they think about Quartz. That feeds right back into our newsroom and the decisions we make.

I also use a few lists: the Quartz team, Jake Harris’s “news hackers” and Heidi Moore’s “economy wonks.” When I need a break, I look at my list of accounts that tweet entirely in capital letters. Searches I use on an ad-hoc basis when news breaks. The filters to see only Tweets with images or videos can be really useful in those cases.

What’s your favorite thing about using TweetDeck? Why?
I never want to hit “refresh” or “load more” again. TweetDeck makes that dream possible.

What’s one thing you wish you had always known about TweetDeck but maybe just learned?
I can’t get enough of the “activity” feed, which shows when people I follow favorite a Tweet or follow an account. It’s the quasi-public underbelly of Twitter, so it feels a bit like I’m spying on people, and the signal-to-noise ratio is pretty high.

TweetDeck is a helpful tool for any Twitter user.

What advice would you give to a new TweetDeck user?
When I was social media editor at the Wall Street Journal, I made the mistake of assuming that TweetDeck was only a pro tool for advanced Twitter users. So I had people who were new to the service start with twitter.com. But for many journalists, at least, it turned out that TweetDeck was actually the tool that helped Twitter make sense to them — maybe because it resembles a newswire and helps cut out the noise. Whatever the reason, I quickly learned to encourage Twitter newbies to give TweetDeck a try and wait for that “aha” moment.

What’s one feature you wish TweetDeck would build?
Trigger an alert if the number of Tweets per minute (TPM) in any column exceeds the average TPM for that time of day by, say, 20% — an early warning signal for news.

This is one part in a new series called #TweetDeckTips that highlights the powerful features unique to TweetDeck. Read the original post and more about TweetDeck on the TweetDeck blog.