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Social Media Portal - Profiled - Jason Preston - 140 Twitter Conference

Staff (Social Media Portal) - 08 May 2009

Profiled - 140 Twitter Conference - A dedicated Twitter event



An Interviw with Jason Preston, Director of New Media at the 140 Twitter Conference


Parnassus Group logoSocial Mdia Portal (SMP): What is your full job title and role at 140 Twitter Conference / Parnassus Group?

Jason Preston (JP): I am the Director of New Media at the Parnassus Group, and for 140: The Twitter Conference I’ve been working significantly on the event editorial and marketing aspects. That means I’m one of the people deciding what the event will cover and who will be speaking in which sessions, and I help craft and execute most of the outreach we’re doing to create awareness of the conference.

Jason Preston, 140 Twitter ConferenceSMP: Briefly, tell us about the event and what you are striving to achieve

JP: In 140 characters, 140tc connects developers & business, helping ppl understand the business value in tweeting & in application dev at an affordable $$.

SMP: What made you start 140 Twitter Conference?

JP: We’ve actually been talking to people at Twitter about a Twitter conference for a year or so and things finally started coming together in February 2009. By the time we launched on 09 March 2009, Twitter was getting a whole lot of attention from mainstream media and gaining a whole lot of mass appeal. In that sense, we sort of lucked out with the timing.

One of the major differences between Twitter and other social media tools like Facebook and Myspace is how “flat” it is from a development standpoint. What I mean by that is that Twitter is designed to integrate horizontally with other tools and services—basically anything Twitter offers on the web can be accessed, stored, and leveraged via the API.

Facebook, in contrast, works pretty hard to make sure you can’t do much with their API, and then when you do make something cool, it’s somewhat hard to spread it outside the confines of Facebook itself. I think the Twitter-style environment has a lot more promise.

And part of the reason we’re so enthusiastic about this space is that we have a good relationship with the guys at Twitter itself, and we’re really excited to have them speaking at the conference.

SMP: What is the most challenging part of building the event?

JP: Well, there’s so much to say about Twitter (and so many people who can say it well) that it’s been really tough to fill the session grid with the right topics and the right humans.

I hate having to turn away potential speakers because we just don’t have the space and the time to cover everything in this one event. Balancing all of this against the need to create some really killer sessions that have our attendees leaving with practical, actionable information (this means we can’t overstuff panels, for example) is challenging to do.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

JP: Our target audience overlaps a lot, probably because so many fields in this area of business are starting to overlap. For example, if you’re in customer support, it’s quickly becoming clear that you avoid Twitter at your own peril – it’s a lively platform for customer complaints. But the marketing department has a lot to do on Twitter as well, because it’s a very powerful communication tool, and a great place to establish relationships.

Of course, product development needs to be watching Twitter as well, because you can get a lot of insight about your products by paying attention to what’s being said.

And then if you’re a developer, knowing about Twitter and its API is absolutely essential. The kinds of innovation that we’re seeing in applications like CoTweet, TweetStats, Tweetie,TweetBrain, and a million others is insane.

So I guess our target audience is pretty much “anyone in business, and anyone who wants to make Twitter their business.”

SMP: How are you attracting users to your site / service (and the event)?

JP: Almost entirely through Twitter. We’re in the process of building a pretty decent following at our conference Twitter account (@140tc) and by working closely with our speakers and our friends at Twitter to make sure that the community is aware of the event.

Twitter is the number one source of traffic to our event site, and beyond that, the overwhelming majority of our traffic and signups come from ads placed in Google or through other ad networks.

SMP: What are your low moments of what you have been doing so far?

JP: To be perfectly honest, it’s always rough when you launch an event and the momentum starts slowly. We’ve been passed over by a number of mainstream media journalists as sources about Twitter, and as is always the case with conferences in tougher economic climates, people are hesitant to travel.

SMP: What are your high moments of what you have been doing so far?


JP: In the polar opposite of the above, it’s been really invigorating to watch some of our ideas take off; the t-shirt contest was a smash hit, with something like 40 entries, most of them in the space of a day or so. And just yesterday we put out that we’re offering a spot at the podium to eight lucky developers who want to launch their apps – that’s more than halfway filled up already as well.

SMP: Now that you are established, what do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities?

JP: I definitely feel we have an obligation to the community. We’re trying to do this event as low-cost as we possibly can, so we have to skate that balance between doing a good event and doing a cheap event. For what it’s worth, I think we’re doing a very good job of this, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to have a great set of sessions powered by a great set of speakers.

SMP: What are the next moves for 140 Twitter Conference?

JP: To put on the best conference we possibly can, and then do it again. I think that Twitter, as a platform, really has a lot of legs, and there’s a whole lot for the developer and business community to explore, especially since it’s still a growing platform.

I can give you a bunch of sweeping generalities about our plans post-event-1, but that’s really all they’d be at this point—generalities.

SMP: What’s the next big step for social media and networks (and micro-blogging of course)?

JP: Everything does seem to be gravitating towards real-time communications. Outside of Twitter there’s FriendFeed of course, and cliKball, and I think we’re only going to see an uptake in services that make the web look more like Instant Messenger.

This also lines up with the larger trend of consumers starting to use the web more on mobile devices.  

SMP: What’s going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media / technology throughout 2009?

JP: I think it’s going to be about how the transition to mobile and real-time applications and services start impacting people’s real-world experiences. Basically meetup.com 2.0.

SMP: What impact is the global recession having and what do you think the best way is to manage it for businesses such as yours?

JP: Obviously the recession is shifting budgets and probably product schedules for companies worldwide, but an interesting side effect (reported sometime recently in the New York Times, although I can’t seem to find it at the moment) is that the number of people who are striking out on their own entrepreneurial ventures rather than finding another corporate gig is at an unprecedented high. There’s a whole lot of innovation that’s going to happen in the small business space, and I bet a lot of it will be based on open APIs like the Twitter API.

SMP: The media has totally bought into Twitter, but what’s the next big thing?

JP: If I knew that, I’d be a wealthy Venture Capitalist by now. It’s nearly impossible to pick what’s going to capture the public attention next, but I think it’s safe to say that although Twitter may fall out of the limelight in a year or so, the tool itself is very powerful, and will not fade.

SMP: How does this fit into plans at 140 Twitter Conference?

JP: There’s a lot of long-term value in the Twitter platform, and I’m not in the least worried about it being out of the media – in fact, it might be better for the platform as a whole if our friends in San Francisco didn’t have thirteen reporters distracting them every day.

SMP: Best way to contact you?

JP: The best way to get hold of me is via e-mail: jason @ parnassusgroup.com. I should probably tell you to ping me on Twitter, though @jasonp107


Now some questions for fun


SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

JP: For breakfast I had a slice of toast, a little butter (on the toast), and orange juice. Lunch was leftover chicken and rice.

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

JP:
I’ve never done anything good for someone in my life. Whenever possible, I try to actively discourage friends from success and beat up on people who are weaker than me. Every once in a while I drive an SUV.

SMP: How many hours do you work a week?

JP: No hours. Everything I do is fun, which is the most incredible thing, really.

SMP: If you weren’t running 140 Twitter Conference what would you be doing?

JP: I’d probably be farming Jackalopes. I hear there’s a lot of demand for those things.

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

JP: I took my last vacation on my birthday (weekend) in April – went up to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

JP: Go to the bathroom. I have a looooooong drive.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?


JP: I think my superpower would be wearing sunglasses and looking cool at the same time. It just seems so impossible for me now.

SMP: Is there any other sites/s that we should be aware of that relate to the above?

JP:
Our company home page might be helpful: http://parnassusgroup.com

SMP: Is there a corporate or personal blog/s we should know about?

JP: You can find the company blog here: http://parnassusgroup.com/blog/


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