Too Many Tools

June 12, 2011

“Go where the conversations are.”
– Every PR and marketing person worthy of his/her job

There are things that I want to be able to communicate through my personal social media presence. For some time, I was desperate to grow the “social media brand’ that was “dtearl.” I use it across Twitter, Facebook, my email account and a host of other social tools. With more job security and greater devotion to my school work and job work, upping my Twitter followers and trying to connect with more people feels less critical.

Fewer people are now reading my blog, I tweet far less, and I hardly post on Facebook anymore. I check LinkedIn once a month to write requested recommendations and approve new friends. That isn’t to say I don’t have anything to say, but I’ve become comfortable with how I’m saying it and who I’m saying it to. My desperation for online attention is replaced by pushing a brand that I promote in my job. I tend to it on nights, weekends, almost every waking moment.

Both for my job and for my own personal amusement, I am trying to stay up on what is happening in social media and social tools. I also want to see how it fits my needs.

That’s why I’m signed up on Tumblr now. I’m certainly not an early-adopter, but I feel like I have virtually no choice – it’s growing faster almost anything on the web right now.

I’ve regularly checked Tumblrs for months, probably because nothing is better suited for generating memes. It’s multi-media friendly, it’s easily shared among users, and it’s easily maintained. I’m there now, at, surprise surprise, dtearl, and I hardly know what to do with it.

For long form writings, reviews and links, I use this blog. For sharing videos and other content that entertain and amuse, and to keep in touch with friends of a purely social nature, I use Facebook. For sharing non sequitur thoughts, links, following the news, and following people who I’ve found based on similar professional and academic interests or niche passions, I tweet. I keep half an eye on, quora and flickr too.

It is entirely logical, if not critical, to build your social media presence around your needs, not the other way around. Yet, new social media tools are a lot like sex, I think. Consider:

“Ugh, I haven’t had (sex/time to check my Facebook/access to Twitter) in (length of time that is supposed to sound long but is really bragging).”
“You did just fine without it for (length time from birth until estimated first exposure based on coolness) years.”
“Yeah [sigh], but now I know what I was missing.”
[Eyes roll, return to drink/plate/own computer screen]

You don’t know that you need it until you’re exposed to it, and then it becomes integrated into your life. Sure, I could write letters, read a newspaper, keep a journal, make phone calls, and turn on the radio, but I feel like I don’t know how I would keep in touch with family in friends, get the news, entertain myself or share my thoughts on things.

Here’s the thing. For the first time trying a new social media tool, I’m not sure what it’s giving me that I don’t already have. Yeah, everybody’s doing it right now, but why? I’m finding myself unenthusiastic about joining the crowd in a digital social space. I might sound like people who argued that joining Facebook was unnecessary when Myspace and Friendster were all you needed, but with the tools already available, aren’t we reinventing the wheel?


Tell It Like It Is, If That’s What It’ll Be

May 23, 2011

If there’s one article that everyone in sports read today (or at least tried to get through), it’s Jeffrey Toobin’s story on Fred Wilpon the Mets’ owner, the Ponzi scheme victim (we think) and, evidently, player evaluator hater. Watching the game from his box in Citi Field, Wilpon takes a hammer at the cornerstone of the franchise – the triad of David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran:

In the game against the Astros, Jose Reyes, leading off for the Mets, singled sharply up the middle, then stole second. “He’s a racehorse,” Wilpon said. When Reyes started with the Mets, in 2003, just before his twentieth birthday, he was pegged as a future star. Injuries have limited him to a more pedestrian career, though he’s off to a good start this season. “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money,” Wilpon said, referring to the Red Sox’ signing of the former Tampa Bay player to a seven-year, $142-million contract. “He’s had everything wrong with him,” Wilpon said of Reyes. “He won’t get it.”

After the catcher, Josh Thole, struck out, David Wright came to the plate. Wright, the team’s marquee attraction, has started the season dreadfully at the plate. “He’s pressing,” Wilpon said. “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.”

Wright walked.

When Carlos Beltran came up, I mentioned his prodigious post-season with the Astros in 2004, when he hit eight home runs, just before he went to the Mets as a free agent. Wilpon laughed, not happily. “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series,” he said, referring to himself. In the course of playing out his seven-year, $119-million contract with the Mets, Beltran, too, has been hobbled by injuries. “He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.” Beltran singled, loading the bases with one out.

A number of Mets fans are up in arms, or so it seems, with the fact that the actual owner of the ball club would actually besmirch the names of his own players. Amazin’ Avenue, one of the sharper blogs devoted to the team out there, has two insightful posts on the the mistakes that Fred Wilpon made. According to Matthew Callan’s analysis, Wilpon is going rogue because of a lack of willingness to care anymore:

Clearly, Wilpon is not above badmouthing his own organization, openly and otherwise. The fact that he’d do it so nakedly, so undeniably out of his own mouth seems the act of a condemned man who knows his time is short and no longer cares about the consequences of his actions.

James Kannengieser isn’t so friendly in another worthwhile analysis, calling Wilpon a “disgrace.”

This is undoubtedly difficult for an organization. As a full-time employee of a team whose sales goals are challenging and important, the idea that my boss would call us “shitty” is brutal. In a New York media environment, an owner shouldn’t be more critical than the back page of the Post or  Daily News. It’s called a PR disaster by pretty much everybody. That “shitty team” ranges form the General Manager (who probably gets a pass considering the brief time he’s been in Flushing) all the way to the scouts and bat boys, and every last one of them will feel the pang of embarrassment for those comments.

I’m not sure it matters, though. Not many people would disagree with Fred Wilpon’s analysis, and, if he’s committed to rebuilding the team from the ground up and starting over, then good for him for offering a dose of real talk. I concur with Craig Calcaterra’s write-up for HardballTalk:

Moreover, if you’re a fan of a “shitty team,” don’t you like it that the owner acknowledges it rather than play the Baghdad Bob routine and pretend that everything is sunshine and daisies? I want my team’s owner to acknowledge my frustration, even if I may take issues with his specific critiques and agree that he shouldn’t be the guy saying this stuff publicly. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if Wilpon said that Carlos Beltran’s contract was a bargain, Jose Reyes and David Wright were megastars and if he said that the Mets are fantastic and positioned for greatness?

Mets fans know that ownership doesn’t approve of the recent team failures. Fred Wilpon himself has personally apologized to fans in emails before, and GM Sandy Alderson was brought in for a complete rebuilding. The Wilpons need to renew credibility in the organization. Clearly, calling the players you signed isn’t a short-term solution, but a clear-eyed approach to the problems of the present and the solutions of the future is critical. The Mets aren’t going to get better as they are today, and the Madoff money isn’t going to come back. It’s time to set expectations both within the organization and among fans, and build from the ground up.

The days of “Captain Red Ass” and the happy-go-lucky veterans in their near-prime and young kids with unlimited potential are over. We’ve all known it, fans and foes alike, and I’m glad that Wilpon does too. If Reyes, Wright and Beltran are wearing different uniforms this season or next, then this moment will be looked on as nothing more than foreshadowing and a possible bogeyman for an unbalanced trade.

If any of these players are expected to help the team over the long haul, then that’s a very different problem.

Why Whitlock and Twhitlock Shouldn’t Share a Twitter Account

March 28, 2011

Shortly before 10pm eastern time on Monday, as word began circulating that Matt Painter was considering leaving Purdue men’s basketball for a similarly situated Missouri team, writer Jason Whitlock began tweeting some silliness:

Though even remotely sophisticated fans of the NCAA basketball scene recognized the lunacy of such a possibility. Whitlock himself pointed one of his victims out and kept the rouse going:

Finally, he took it a step further and incorporated one of the nation’s most famous and controversial coaches, Bob Knight:

I’ve followed Whitlock for at least a year now, and I get it. This is his brand, and he reminds readers (and ridicules them for missing) that there are two personalities: “Twhitlock and Whitlock,” – the journalist, and the entertainer/reactionary/regular guy.

The strategy has paid dividends. With more followers than five of my hometowns combined, in large part because of jokes like these, he’s driving clicks to his column, and legitimizing the investment in him. For these reasons, plus a sprinkle of ego, Jason Whitlock won’t alter the way he does his thing.

But he should.

Fact is that Whitlock is a journalist, writing serious columns about serious issues like race and class in the gagillion dollar business that is professional and collegiate sports. In his industry, facts are sacred and credibility is all a good writer has. It is popular and it is successful, but Whitlock’s existence in the space between sarcasm and willful misdirection is unethical. Just because it’s a joke, that doesn’t mean people will get it, including your editors. Just ask Mike Wise.

Perhaps more importantly, Twitter isn’t context friendly. Tweet streams come to phones and computer screens fragmented. Streams of consciousness do not flow nicely together. A joke can be separated from its clarification substantially enough by other followed tweets that the truth is never seen. Knowing the medium is as important as knowing how the audience consumes via that medium, and Whitlock fails to recognize his responsibility to do either. Worse, he ridicules people who don’t take the time to understand what it all means.

Dude, it’s Twitter. It’s 140 characters. It’s not about taking time. It’s the opposite.

If it’s so important for Jason Whitlock to have a public Twitter account where the responsibilities that come with being a member of the media don’t apply, follow the model of Slate’s John Dickerson. For personal information, opinion and humor, you can follow John the person, or you can follow John the journalist for his job side. Like it or not, you can’t have it both ways on Twitter. A journalist in one public sphere is a journalist in every sphere unless there are CLEAR demarcations set forth.

I’m not going to stop following Whitlock, even if there is all the “Twhitlock” crap from time to time. He’s an important voice in sports media and he is often capable of providing a different approach to tired topics, but it’s time to draw the line. Fake news stories coming from real writers are unacceptable. End of story.



The Passing of a Friend and a Social Media Epilogue

December 15, 2010

Two nights ago, Steve Smith, a friend through the Colonial Army (GW Basketball’s student fan group) and WRGW (GW’s student radio station), was killed in a sad, disturbing, unbelievable accident on the way home from visiting a girl he was dating.

GWhoops, George Washington University’s most popular message board, has a thread talking about him that’s developing. Frank Dale, a friend of mine and leader of both the Colonial Army and WRGW’s sports department at points during our respective college careers, does a nice job of summarizing the difficulty of balancing the difficult process of focusing on your own personal sphere and maintaining the friendships that seem inconsequential until they’re gone. (ADDED: Jessica Quiroli posts a nice tribute too.)

He was passionate in sports, in relationships and he was never afraid to throw himself out there. I have little doubt that with his willingness to say something controversial and unpopular and his impeccable knowledge of the history, statistics and intangibles to back it up, he would have one day been a sports journalist or entertainer (or, both) that everyone loved to hate, but had to respect. He had the dedication, the work ethic and the ability.

I personally miss the kid, and spent a good deal of time with him, including a trip to New Orleans. Walking the French Quarter with him after a few difficult losses for GW basketball, I was struck by how good a person he was. He was provocative, but he did it for the fun of it. In those moments of frustration and irritation that he caused you by saying something you refused to agree with, he found a deeper level of you. That was the life he lived, from what I knew of him. Everyone knew who the stars were in Major League Baseball, so he learned all the rosters of Double-A ball. His knowledge of music was downright uncanny. And he wanted to share the love. He wanted others to know what he knew because it caused him so much joy and you deserved to experience it too.

This is the first time I’m watching the death of someone close to me evolve on Twitter and Facebook. The Atlantic has a great piece from earlier this year about social media and the death of someone you’ve watched from afar, but to comb through the Twitter messages and watch the Facebook wall of someone that you know who’s gone, it’s something unreal.

So many people have had messages for him, from those who knew him well to those who only knew the Twitter enthusiast that they relied on for New York Yankees news and opinion. Others remember concerts, radio broadcasts and hugs.

Painfully, the world can watch the grieving process of a girl who was falling for him up until the moment he died. I’ve elected not to put her account here because it’s something so private in a very public sphere, but to see the hour-by-hour account of happiness-turned-worry-turned-frustration-turned-loneliness is nothing short of heart wrenching.

It’s strange, knowing that your Tweets, videos, status updates, blog entries… they’re just going to stop one day, and will leave a personal history that contains no ending.

Instead, all you can do is hope that through the people you’ve known or the people you’ve impacted through the social media you’ve created and the ideas you’ve shared can write the epilogue to the story that ends without an ending.

Because of who he was and what he created, the epilogue is substantial and wide reaching. I can only hope that what I share with the world makes the impact that he was able to make.