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?


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.



How to Tweet (Twitter? Twit?)

January 31, 2009


It’s my hope that I’ve somehow convinced you to become a part of Twitter. Now, you’ve got to develop followers and figure out who to follow. Mark Drapeau, someone who has beocme a leading authority on social media in government and society (and someone who seems to be able to go to the coolest events, impact branding, and drink with very cool people with great frequency), has his own How-To guide called “How to Win Friends and Twinfluence People.” Much of it is spot on, and you can follow that yourself.

How do you get involved in the conversation?

First, don’t be shy. You’ve either joined Twitter to follow your friends (which ought to be easy), or because you want to put yourself out there in an ongoing, fast-paced conversation about what’s happening now and what’s happening next. Follow people, send them @replies. Show them you’re fascinated by what you have to say, that you want to be part of the dialogue. It’s surprisingly easy to get involved.

Second, find the conversation: The People Search function of Twitter can be frustrating, and I’ve found that most Twitter novices I know don’t really have a firm grasp of the Tweet search at the bottom of the page. USE IT! Search terms that fascinate you. For me, it was “Mets,” for the New York Mets, “GWU,” “GW,” and “Colonials” for news about my alma mater, and “public diplomacy,” for well, duh. See what people are talking about, and check out their feeds. Do they seem interesting? Follow them.

Here’s an example of people discussing someone very much in the news these days – Rush Limbaugh:


The world discussing Rush Limbaugh.

The world discussing Rush Limbaugh.

You can make yourself a part of the conversation with your own @Reply to someone. Try following them too. They’ll probably have more to say that you’ll like.


Third, start the conversation yourself: It’s nice to relay people’s thoughts to your friends using the RT @user function, shows you respect what others have to say, but find relevant things to say. This isn’t just an AIM or Facebook status, this is a microblog. Don’t get me wrong, I tend to post mundane things that are interesting to few others from time to time, but I work hard to try to prod other people to offer their opinions. Next thing you know, you’ve got a core group of people, many you have likely never met, exchanging ideas and exposing one another to all sorts of new things and challenging what you think.

Finally, remember that it is a conversation. Have you posted to your blog? Great, but Twitter isn’t an RSS feed. Only the New York Times (and maybe a few others) can get away with treating Twitter as a one-way system of communicating. Expect to interact – that’s why we’re here. The use of hashtags (#) in front of a certain topic often allow people to discuss one thing and search it. You’ll see it for events, like the Consumer Electonics Show (#CES), Conservatives (#tcot) and Liberals (#topprog) are a way for you to track a conversation on a certain topic.

Tips on Tweets (this is only based on my pet peeves and likes):

– Offer resources, links, anything that can be considered interesting.

– Don’t go crazy with the punctuation. I mean you, Britney Spears (and all your huge entourage of people who think that we all should care)

– Don’t be TOO personal all the time. People are here for conversation, and it’s awkward to be following you while you offer web-kisses to your ultra-famous wife (or anyone you happen to be calling “baby.”

– I’m guilty of this too, but tweet often, but not all in one shot. A few tweets a day is cool, but unless you’re trying to liveblog something awesome, consider dividing it up some time. We don’t want you taking up our entire feed. The New York Times is ALWAYS guilty of this.

I’ll provide some tips on who you can follow to make your experience more awesome soon.

Why Twitter?

January 30, 2009

If you know me, you know that I cannot stop talking about Twitter these days. No really, I think I might be hemorrhaging friends because of my inability to talk about anything tangible, but those brave few who I can convince to get on the bandwagon, I think they begin to understand.
What actually IS Twitter? Well, for the 99.9% of the country under the age of 30 (and probably, [disturbingly?] the 50% of those above 40 and everything in between), your feed kind of like a running facebook status. You can look at an individual feed (like mine), or your home page, which will aggregate the “tweets” of those you choose to follow in chronological order.

If you’re able to create a solid list of people, organizations, and automated programs to “follow,” you’ve got yourself a great way to keep track of your friends and keep them posted on your life, a feed that allows you to examine when your favorite bloggers or media outlets are updating their sites, and the chance to meet people with similar interests and aspirations. Find a tweetup, and you might make yourself some real-life friends.
Maybe calling it a bandwagon is giving Twitter too much credit. It’s still a rather small niche, but it’s growing, and will continue to, at least for a time.
Sign up now. Your guide to Twitter will come tomorrow.