Real-Time Tweeting with Becca Alper

Case Studies in the 9 to 5 alternative: No. 10

Welcome to a series of profiles on alternative lifestyles. If you think that you (or someone you know) would make for an interesting interview, get in touch!

Meet Becca Alper. For the last several months, Becca has been living in New York City, working for a real-time media company called Sulia. I’ll let her tell you more, but Sulia filters Twitter content into a series of specific content channels, many of them on timely events and breaking news. These channels are made available to other media companies like Flipboard and WSJ.

I chose to feature Becca (and Sulia) for two reasons. Not only do I adore Becca–she’s a close friend of mine–but I think her situation makes a great point, that not all 9 to 5 jobs are [insert negative connotation here]. Becca raves about her job and had been given a fantastic opportunity to exploit her interests and to provide value in a corporate structure. I applaud her for sharing her experience.

How and when did you end up joining Sulia?

I started at Sulia in October of last year. My friend from high school has been with the company almost since its inception and reached out to me as soon as she learned Sulia was going to start curating Portuguese twitter content.

What are your job responsibilities? What are you working on these days?

When I arrived at Sulia, they had one Portuguese language Channel, Brazil. Sulia has thousands of live, English language Channels, so I had to play a lot of catch up. By now, I’ve built over 300 channels, based on our English taxonomy: sports and teams, fashion and beauty, politics, business and professions, living, etc. Only a few of the channels I’ve built don’t have English equivalents, like samba and Spiritism, a religion that believes in communication between spirits and living people, that is hugely popular in Brazil.

I also build channels around breaking news stories. I recently covered a horrific shooting that happened in a Rio middle school. Combing existing channels about Rio de Janeiro, public safety and national news, I created a live stream of updates from major news outlets, political leaders, and community activists. It’s fascinating to see how these live Channels evolve. In this case, from the time the story broke with few confirmed facts, through the funerals of the 12 school children who were killed, to the discovery of a video the shooter recorded before he executed his plan.

What are your hours? How is the office laid out?

I get to the office by 9:30 am and leave between 7:30 and 8 pm. The Internet doesn’t close after business hours, though, so it’s not unusual that I find myself tweeking Channels that need help or building Channels around breaking news early in the mornings or on the weekends.

You told me you loved your job. Why is that?

I have been passionate about Portuguese language and Brazilian culture, ever since I studied abroad in Northern Brazil my junior year of college. To be paid to know everything that is going on in the Portuguese speaking world and curate Portuguese Twitter content to reflect that is a dream.

I also love living in New York, which, in my book, is second best to Brazil. Part of covering trends and current events in the Brazilian Twittersphere is immersing myself in all things Brazilian, even when I’m not at my desk. I go to Brazilian bars and shows, I take samba lessons, and I even celebrate the Jewish holidays with a Latin American congregation. Not only do I love being able to pursue all these extra-curriculars, but I also appreciate that my co-workers at Sulia encourage and take an active interest in my endevors.

Where has Sulia come from, and where is it headed? What role do you see yourself playing in the future?

Sulia has not always been Sulia. CEO, Jonathan Glick, started TLISTS back in 2009 as list-making tool for web publishers and Twitter clients. Lists are a way to begin organizing twitter to make it easier for users to follow topics, instead of hunting for accounts one by one. We quickly realized that lists need a filter to sift out junk and off topic tweets. So last fall, TLISTS rebranded and launched Sulia, a realtime media company, focused on filtering Twitter into compelling, high-quality content Channels. There are lots of great lists out there in the Twittersphere, and by crowdsourcing lists on topics, we create Channels, filtered streams of Twitter content from only the best-regarded experts on any given topic.

Sulia’s Channels on thousands of evergreen topics, timely events and breaking news are available on its own website. In addition, Sulia makes its Channel streams available to media companies through its API and customizes the channels to their specifications. FlipBoard, WSJ.com, Gannett properties and Everyday Health are some of the companies currently featuring ourChannels. We’re also working on a bunch of different consumer experiences, across platforms, in collaboration with our partners.

Sulia has already proven it can successfully adapt to the changing media landscape, so I’m confident we will be around in some form or another, for a while to come.

I am building our Portuguese language content to the point where Sulia can start working with Brazilian media groups and American media companies with Brazilian users. A little farther down the road, I see myself spending more and more time in Brazil as Sulia begins to work more closely with Brazilian media companies and eventually opening Sulia’s first foreign office in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.

I have a personal goal of living in Brazil by the start of the World Cup in 2014. I’m optimistic I can achieve it with Sulia.

You can reach Becca on Twitter (@GringaInformada) or on her newly launched blog, Manhattanlandia.

3 thoughts on “Real-Time Tweeting with Becca Alper”

  1. There is no greater gift than loving your job. So many people hate their life solely because they hate their job. I’m proud to not be one of those people. Hooray for Becca!

  2. It’s great to hear about people being passionate about your work. I come across too many people in life that thinks working for a company is a bad thing and strive to be self-employed. If you don’t love your job, get a new one!

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