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June 15, 2009

Can you guess today's theme?


And how did you like the first-ever bookofjoe Theme Day?

Should I make it a regular feature?

Not again centering on Twitter, sillybilly — with other themes.

Your wish is my demand.

Wait a minute joe, that's not right....

Never mind.

June 15, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

169,659 — with a bullet


You could look it up.

Or just look up.

June 15, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is being named to Twitter's 'suggested user' list the new million-dollar home page?


Long story short: that's the gist of a fascinating article by Noam Cohen and Brian Stelter which appeared in yesterday's New York Times.

Consider science and technology writer Steven Johnson: almost immediately after he made the list, "In short order, [his] following rose from 5,000 to more than 630,000 (and the number keeps growing every hour)."

Johnson's essay on Twitter recently appeared in Time magazine (top).

"'It's funny, everybody has been asking me, you got your Twitter ID on the cover of Time magazine, you must be getting an insane amount of followers,' he said. 'And I say it's nothing compared to the steady influx you get from being on the suggested user list.'"


The Tweet Smell of Success

Mr. Rogers had many neighbors, but was always looking to add more. On Facebook, people who have hundreds of “friends” still collect them avidly: “Will you be my friend, we already have 15 in common?”

Twitter, the social-networking site of the moment, traffics in a different currency — “followers,” who presumably are loyal to you, fascinated by you, enthralled by you. Imagine what you could accomplish with an army of followers, the lands you could conquer!

Twitter could help you. In the last few months it has plucked a few hundred users from a sea of more than 30 million and put them on its A-list, deeming them particularly worthy of being followed.

In separating the wheat from the chaff, Twitter has become a kingmaker of sorts, conferring online stardom to a mix of writers, gadget geeks, political commentators and entrepreneurs.

After being named to the “suggested user” list, Twitterers can gain more than 500,000 followers who get their brief updates via a cellphone or the Internet. A writer with an interest in comic books can become the expert on comic books; a political pundit with a radio show ends up having a greater audience online than on the air; and an actor like LaVar Burton, decades away from his glory days as a star of the TV drama “Roots,” has a personal audience of 635,000.

And just as publicity agents used to inveigle syndicated columnists like Walter Winchell into giving their clients a mention, modern-day publicity hounds are already trying to game the list.

The Web entrepreneur Jason Calacanis declared that he would pay $250,000 to be on Twitter’s suggestion list for two years. He says the offer was only “half-real.”

But in an e-mail interview he explained that had Twitter accepted his offer he would have used his enhanced status to promote his search engine, Mahalo, not himself. “If they had taken the money I would have two or three million followers on that account,” and at 10 cents a follower, he would consider it to be a bargain.

Twitter is not believed to be profitable, and some wonder if it won’t end as a flash in the pan like other online ventures that could never turn public fervor into a going business. Could selling placement on the suggested users list be used to generate revenue? “Not as far as I know,” said Jenna Sampson, a spokeswoman for Twitter.

Later in the conversation, though, she hedged a bit. “Everything is an option at this point,” she said, reflecting the company’s relatively recent arrival.

Complicating Twitter’s decision is the recognition that its users themselves presumably could sell mentions on their feeds to businesses and personalities. The power of getting placed in the column of J. J. Hunsecker (a thinly disguised version of Winchell), for example, is what drives the plot of the iconic film “Sweet Smell of Success.” It was Hunsecker’s wheels that were greased, not the newspaper’s.

Kathleen Hessert, whose company, Sports Media Challenge, advises athletes on how to extend their popularity online, says that cracking the suggested user list could become an important goal for some of her clients. Not for clients like Shaquille O'Neal or Peyton Manning, but for the B-list celebrities, like, say, the solid basketball player Troy Murphy of the Indiana Pacers, who uses Twitter to share his concern for the environment. (She said that she would like Twitter to put placement up to a vote that would genuinely represent potential public interest.)

“They are making celebrities by choosing who to follow,” she said. “What their system is for picking people, I am foggy about — and they want it to be mysterious, I’m thinking.”

Twitter says the list was created in January to solve a vexing problem: people who first subscribe to the service often are overwhelmed by the experience. Suggested users become a welcome wagon.

“People were signing up and then they weren’t following anyone,” said Biz Stone, one of Twitter’s co-founders. Did he realize he was helping to create an arbiter of popularity? “We didn’t think that far ahead,” he said.

The list is cobbled together by a team of employees whose identities were withheld, lest they be bombarded with Twitterers trying to manipulate the process. The company says it compiles the list by tracking fast-growing accounts and then deciding whom to anoint.

Ms. Sampson said “there’s sort of a criteria” for the list “but not really.” Twitter says it wants to highlight personally revealing accounts, not promotional ones, although businesses like The New York Times, JetBlue and the N.F.L. are represented. In essence, the list indicates “this is how we think Twitter should be used,” she said.

Web users are already well aware of the role that powerful sites like Apple's iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon.com play in the promotion of music, films and books. Twitter is taking this influence in a new direction, however, by applying its recommendation power to people instead of products.

Twitter’s list includes many celebrities as well, like Lance Armstrong, Mr. O'Neal and Britney Spears. But, naturally, it is the once-obscure users, like the science technology writer Steven Johnson, who are most changed by the experience.

Twitter doesn’t notify the people on its list; Mr. Johnson says he only learned about it in January when he was on a book tour in the Northwest and suddenly received 200 e-mail messages in a matter of hours, each informing him that he had a new follower. “I sent out a tweet saying ‘where did you all come from?’ ” he recalled.

In short order, Mr. Johnson’s following rose from 5,000 to more than 630,000. (And the number keeps growing every hour.) “That is a big force,” he said. “I’m not Oprah, but I can get some chatter about something going pretty effectively — I put a link to something and I can see it repeated.”

In the process, Mr. Johnson said, he has been able to witness the rising importance of new-media outlets and the lessening influence of traditional media outlets like Time magazine, which recently printed his essay on (surprise!) the transformative power of Twitter.

That essay was featured on the cover with a sample tweet of Mr. Johnson’s. “It’s funny, everybody has been asking me, you got your Twitter ID on the cover of Time magazine, you must be getting an insane amount of followers,” he said. “And I say it’s nothing compared to the steady influx you get from being on the suggested user list.”


Biz Stone explains it all for you here.

The Guardian weighs in here.

June 15, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Twitter Spam: How you know Twitter's the real deal


Yesterday the steadily dwindling ranks of my Twitter followers were augmented (for the few minutes between an email informing me 33Drugstore was now following me and my blocking their follow) by this UK-based Internet drugstore.

June 15, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Would you put a up a sign in front of your house saying 'Away on vacation in Tahiti for two weeks?'


Not likely.

Which is the point of an interesting June 11, 2009 article by Anne Wallace Allen about the security risks of social media.

Long story short: If you're not home, and you publicize that fact widely enough, whether via tweets or Facebook updates or any other of the zillion other social media applications out there, someone who may not  have your best interests at heart may stop by to confirm that fact.

Here's the piece.


Do 'I'm on vacation' posts pose security concerns?

Like a lot of people who use social media, Israel Hyman and his wife, Noell, shared real-time details of a recent trip on Twitter.

Their posts said they were “preparing to head out of town,” that they had “another 10 hours of driving ahead,” and that they “made it to Kansas City.”

While they were on the road, their home in Mesa, Ariz., was burglarized. Hyman has an online video business called IzzyVideo.com, with 2,000 followers on Twitter. He thinks his updates tipped the burglars off.

“I just have my suspicions,” he said. “They didn’t take any of our normal consumer electronics.” They took his video editing equipment.

Most people wouldn’t leave a recording on a home answering machine telling callers they’re on vacation for a week — or let mail or newspapers pile up. But users of social media think nothing of posting real-time vacation photos on Facebook or sending out automatic e-mail messages that say, “I’m out of the country for a week.”

Despite the fact so many people share their vacation plans on the Internet, most Americans don’t think private information is secure online. “We actually polled on that question, and the majority of people, teenagers and adults, think that a determined searcher can find them — no matter how careful they are with information,” said Lee Rainey, who has studied Internet behavior extensively as director of the Pew Internet and American Life project in Washington, D.C.

New communication technology has always brought with it new risks and rules, usually learned the hard way. When telegrams were a primary means of long-distance communication, correspondents struggled to craft messages that would convey meaning without revealing private business to the operator. Party-line phones were often conduits of news and gossip. And Prince Charles showed the world painfully that mobile conversations could be intercepted when his pillow-talk call to Camilla Bowles was made public.

Facebook and Twitter are so relatively new that users may not consider all the risks. For Hyman, Twitter was a way to connect with fans of IzzyVideo.com, where he offers how-to videos on video production. His wife teaches scrap-booking through videos at Paperclipping.com. About half of the new episodes they release are free, but viewers pay to access their archives.

“The customers have never met me in person,” Hyman said. “Twitter is a way for them to get to know me. You do business with people you know. I’m a real person. I take my kids to the park. I go on vacation. I’m not just some company.”

He added: “I forgot that there’s an inherent danger in putting yourself out there.”

Detective Steven Berry of the Mesa Police Department, which is investigating the burglary at Hyman’s home, said, “You’ve got to be careful about what you put out there. You never know who’s reading it.”

Despite the risks, some social media fans say they have no qualms about sharing their whereabouts.

“I don’t worry about it,” said David McCauley of Boise, a social media consultant who posts a running update of his activities for his Facebook friends. McCauley also communicates constantly on Twitter, where anyone can sign up to read posts.

“Most people who want to follow you (on Twitter) are typically not thieves, or they’re not looking to take your stuff; they just want to follow you and understand you,” he said. McCauley plans to describe, via Twitter, a trip to adopt a child overseas.

“In the grand scheme of all the noise that’s out here on the Internet and in Facebook and Twitter, there’s so much going on that it would be hard for somebody to zero in on me, looking for me to be gone,” he said. “I’m just not worth that much.”

June 15, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

twit: contraction of to wit?


The penny dropped while I was composing the previous post, to wit:


You could look it up — but you wouldn't find it in the dictionary.

Maybe in the Bizarro World lexicon?


Fer shur.

Yo, joe — anyone ever tell you that you're an idiom?

Not yet — but not never....

June 15, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are... tweeting?


So wrote Peter Aspden in his June 13, 2009 Financial Times column, to wit:


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not only alive and well; they are tweeting. Their dispatches come from the current filming of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent production of Hamlet, starring David Tennant, due to be screened by the BBC later in the year. The location is semi-secret, for it seems there are no lengths to which Doctor Who fans will not go to catch a glimpse of their sprightly time-travelling master turn to more earthly existential matters.

On the RSC’s twitter site, there is lyricism and the odd glimpse of pathos as R and G, played by Sam Alexander and Keith Osbourne, come to grips with the filming schedule. “Up @ 6, sleep washed away with large mug of tea, bathe, dress, drive into the coolness of milky grey English morn 2 Elsinore,” reports Guildenstern. His friend dutifully chronicles the growth of his stubble for his scene as the second gravedigger. Both give the impression of alternating boredom and excitement, which sounds about right.

These are small and seemingly insignificant matters. Nearly 3,000 people follow the RSC’s tweets, which is not a large number relative to the company’s “proper” audience. But like all the country’s cultural institutions, the RSC has been quick to seize on the spread of a new medium. Its opportunism is well-placed. Dissemination is the keynote of culture in the 21st century. By coincidence, just as that message began to make itself felt from politicians, technology obliged with the perfect means to the end. Who knows where it will lead; but all must follow.


After I read "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" for the first time toward the end of the last century, I was changed forever.

Might be time for an encore — it wouldn't be the first and hopefully won't be the last.

June 15, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Anonymous Twitter Shirt


Please, tweet responsibly.


June 15, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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