Twitter at 10: I still #LoveTwitter

I #LoveTwitter so much, I even love the #failwhale
I #LoveTwitter so much, I even love the #failwhale (my 2009 Halloween costume)

Happy birthday, Twitter! The social media platform is 10 years old today, but Twitter kicked off the celebration early with this tweet and video on Sunday.

Over the past 24 hours, the love for Twitter has been pouring in from all across the globe in the form of tweets, articles and blog posts. I’m happy to see this, because Twitter has taken more than its fair share of grief over the past few months. Some people aren’t crazy about how Twitter has tweaked its timeline. Investors want to see more growth. And Twitter’s toying with the idea of expanding the character count from 140 to 10,000 has irked many users, including me.

I haven’t been with Twitter since the get-go. (Few people have.) But I signed up in September 2007 — so I’ve been on the platform for eight-plus of its 10 years. I’ve remained fairly active as a Twitter user, mainly because it remains my go-to learning network. It’s also been a way of connecting with many people I’ve never met in real life but feel like I know. Sometimes, those online connections lead to offline meetups, which is always great because I feel like I know some people — or something about those people — before I ever really meet them.

I think Lance Ulanoff best describes how I feel about Twitter in his Mashable article on the platform’s 10th anniversary:

My relationship with Twitter is best summarized as the kind you have with a sibling. I love it, deeply, but also question its choices. I can be vocal in both my admiration and my dissatisfaction. Yet, at the end of the day, we’re tied together.



Friday Five: A half-decade on Twitter

Tomorrow marks my five-year anniversary as a tweeter. It is, as the Twitter-anniversary-tracking tool @TwBirthday reminded me this morning, the eve of my TwBirthday.

I suppose I should get all retrospective, talk about how few of us there were back then, how it was a nice, close-knit community, blah blah blah. But frankly, I wasn’t even thinking about the personal historic significance of this day from the perspective of my social media use. I rolled out of bed with thoughts of GSD on my mind this Friday. Hell, I didn’t even have a Friday Five in mind.

But then the twitterverse and Domagoj Pavlesic, who developed the TwBirthday tool, handed me this gift. So, on the eve of my five-year anniversary on Twitter, I offer you my five favorite posts on this blog about Twitter.

  1. Twitter: My go-to learning network. This post really captures why I enjoy Twitter so much, and why it’s my social network of choice, far and above all others. And this post isn’t even original. I borrow heavily from the ideas articulated in a post by Nigel Cameron, who puts it much better than I can.
  2. Best Twitter guide ever — another recycled (read: stolen) post, one that lent itself nicely to a Friday Five.
  3. TwitterVerse (for World Poetry Day) — in which I offer this bit of doggerel: Social media’d be less sweet/Were it not for @jack‘s first tweet
  4. Fun with Twitter StreamGraphs. Remember StreamGraphs? I haven’t played with StreamGraphs since, well, probably since soon after posting this entry.
  5. Your tweet was over 140 characters. You’ll have to be more clever. This is the blog post I wish I’d written, by the pretty damned clever Todd Sanders (@tsand).

Twitter to the rescue (or, How I became a junior firefighter)

It was one of those mornings. A lot of interruptions, “urgent” calls for assistance, endless email loops, petty irritations, administrivia — all the stuff that sucks the productivity out of the day. You know those kind of days, right?

So I did what any passive-aggressive, digitally connected marketer would do. I vented my frustration to the twitterverse:


And the twitterverse, in the form of @smith_ron_e, responded:


@smith_ron_e is the Twitter handle of Ron Smith, the training officer for Rolla Fire and Rescue. Ron is also an avid social media fan and, like any good firefighter, always on the alert.

I didn’t think any more about Ron’s tweet. But that afternoon, he showed up at my office with several “junior firefighter” helmets for me and others on our staff.

And that’s how I became a junior firefighter.


Thank you, Ron. You (and Twitter) brought some joy into an otherwise frustrating day. And you also reminded me that the figurative “fires” I deal with from time to time are no match for the life-threatening conflagrations you and your fellow firefighters have to respond to. I tip my junior firefighter’s hat to you.

(Photo by B.A. Rupert.)

A video I love and why

You may credit (or blame) Tim Nekritz for inspiring me to post the following. It’s in response to his “invitation to join me in the blogosphere for a conversation titled A Video I Love And Why, where anyone is welcome to blog about or discuss great web video.”

For his entry, Tim chose the poignant and powerful With Glowing Hearts video from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. It’s a great video, and Tim provides a solid list of reasons for why it appeals to him.

And now for something completely different.

I’ve opted for a less polished, animated piece called Battle of the Album Covers. (Warning: Nothing poignant to see here, but there is some blood, gratuitous violence and frontal nudity.)

Why do I love it? Well, let’s see:

1. The concept. Breathing motion and cartoon life into album art is just a clever concept. I wish I’d thought of it.

2. A tribute to a lost art form. Album cover art is an under-appreciated and nearly extinct pop art form. This video captures many well-known album covers, along with some obscure titles, and sets them in motion through some brilliant animation.

3. How many can you spot? Don’t you love those games that challenge you to spot as many things as possible? I do. Hence, I love this video.

4. Four Pink Floyd album covers. Did you find them all?

5. The humor. OK, so it’s sick, twisted humor, maybe. But it’s funny. At least I think so.

6. The production values. What production values? Precisely. This is not high art. It’s folk art — of the people, by the people, for the people. It’s what YouTube was created for. It’s punk.

So, there’s my entry. Let’s keep this meme going. Blog about a video love and tell us why, then let Tim and me know about it.

Off-topic: 15 minutes, 15 memorable books

Stephen Baker (BusinessWeek writer, author of The Num3rati and @stevebaker on Twitter) issued an interesting challenge via Twitter this morning:

In less than 15 minutes list the 15 most memorable books you’ve ever read. (Baker’s list.)

It was pretty easy to come up with an off-the-cuff list of memorable books in the alloted time frame (see below). But Baker’s challenge (actually a Facebook meme that he moved into the blogosphere) got me thinking about what 15 memorable books I would list that pertain to marketing, public relations and communications. That is a blog post for another day. For now, here’s my contribution to the 15 memorable books meme.

  1. The Collected Works of Flannery O’Connor. A master storyteller whose characters and descriptions offer a glimpse behind the veil of the material world. (I also recommend her collection of essays and letters, Mystery and Manners, for those interested in the craft of writing fiction.)
  2. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. Brilliant, spare tales from Vietnam, from one who was there.
  3. What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg. A great American novel about a great Americal obsession: blind ambition and the quest for fame.
  4. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, by Lester Bangs. Bangs was the mad genius rock critic. His style was over the top and excessive, as was his lifestyle, but also insightful. This is a collection of his best writings, published and unpublished.
  5. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. Greatest comic novel ever.
  6. Geronimo Rex, by Barry Hannah. An underrated coming-of-age story from one of the south’s great writers of fiction.
  7. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. This novel taught me more about theology and the human condition than any other book.
  8. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Not sure I have the fortitude to read this one again (read it twice) but its magical realism stuck with me.
  9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey. Randall Patrick McMurphy: Christ figure.
  10. A Confession, by Leo Tolstoy. The great author’s spiritual journey. Ecclesiastes has nothing on this.
  11. The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning. Here’s where I learned about the power of forgiveness — of self and others.
  12. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. The second-greatest comic novel ever written.
  13. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. Exposed me to my racist self.
  14. Hard Times, by Studs Terkel. This oral history of the Great Depression should be required reading in every business school.
  15. Tales of Mystery and Imagination, by Edgar Allan Poe. The best writings from the master of suspense. Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock owe a debt of gratitude to Poe.

Creating that list took all of 10 minutes. (The links and descriptions took longer.) I could probably list another 15 memorable in another 10 minutes.

How about you? What are the 15 most memorable books you’ve ever read? If you want to play along, post on your own blog (or in the comments below) and leave a comment with a link to your list.

Friday Five: an open letter to eMusic

Blogger’s note: Today’s Friday Five has nothing to do with higher ed, but a lot to do with marketing, public relations and brand management.

Dear eMusic:

I’ve been a member of your subscription-based independent music service for five years now, and I’ve usually been pleased with your service and offerings — even when you bumped your prices that one time. More than that, though, I’ve come to appreciate what you stand for. (Or, maybe, what you once stood for.)

  1. You thumbed your nose at the mass music world of big labels and iTunes, offering music fans an alternative.
  2. While the RIAA bigs were pushing to limit mp3 usage by DRM (digital rights management) encoding, you stuck with your DRM-free philosophy. You sold the music, and didn’t interfere with your customers’ right to use the tunes as they wished.
  3. You offered decent, rare and eclectic music on the cheap. Very, very cheap.
  4. Unlike other pay-per-download services, you offered a menu of subscription plans, giving listeners options on number of downloads per month at different, very reasonable pricing.
  5. You built a brand as — in your words — “the internet’s corner music store.” You were a kind of virtual Empire Records that “offers a deeper, more personal alternative to mass market digital music retailers.”

You were punk, and then you got popular. You gained a big following — 400,000 members strong.

You built a brand out of sticking it to the man.

But now it’s sounding like you’re sticking it to us, your loyal customers.

Earlier this week, you announced you had struck a deal with one of the music giants, Sony, to add their back catalog to your service. I have mixed and conflicted feelings about that move. Yes, it’s cool to know that you’ll be carrying some of my all-time favorite artists — the Clash, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and others (whose back catalog I happen to already own, thankyouverymuch) — but by letting Sony in, you’re on the way to squeezing the little guys out, and you’re losing that “corner music store” vibe that forms your core.

If this were the only thing you were changing about your service, I might be able to roll with it. But what really sticks in my craw is that because of this new deal, you’re changing your subscription and fee structure, effectively doubling the cost of the mp3s for your customers.

So, instead of 65 tunes a month for $14.99, I’ll now get 37 downloads for that same price, effective in July.

I can hear the iTunes subscribers now: “Get over it, tightwad. So you’ll be paying 41 cents a download instead of 23 cents. You’re still getting music cheap.”

The fact that eMusic has offered such a great deal as compared to iTunes — and will continue to do so, even with the price increase — isn’t the point.

The point is that a mainstream corporate entity has entered the game, and the price goes up.

Your CEO, Danny Stein, claims that “Independent labels and artists will continue to be eMusic’s core” and expresses his confidence that “with this enormous, ridiculous catalogue and our shared musical philosophy (listen to the good stuff, ignore the rest), it’ll be that much easier and more fun to find records, to get inspired, to get into some phase that you never expected.”

I hope that’s the case.

Still, as i think of all that’s transpired this week with eMusic, I keep thinking about these words from James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. They seem to ring truer than ever today.

Every fury on earth has been absorbed in time, as art, or as religion, or as authority in one form or another. The deadliest blow the enemy of the human soul can strike is to do fury honor. Swift, Blake, Beethoven, Christ, Joyce, Kafka, name me a one who has not been thus castrated. Official acceptance is the one unmistakable symptom that salvation is beaten again, and is the one surest sign of fatal misunderstanding, and is the kiss of Judas.

By entering the eMusic fold, is Sony actually “doing fury honor”? Or is it a brilliant marketing move that will capture some dissident iTunes shoppers who figure out they can get tunes from mainstream artists at a cheaper price from eMusic? Is the RIAA giant swallowing up the independent guy, or does the independent have the upper hand?

OK, so it’s only rock and roll. (Insert Rolling Stones quip here.)

Will i stick with your service, eMusic? Let’s see what July will bring, but yeah, I probably will. But I won’t much like it.

Andrew Careaga
eMusic member since 2004

* * * * *

This is a Friday Five, so here are the obligatory links, all about how eMusic’s PR and customer relations folks bungled this situation:

  1. One step forward, one big step back with the eMusic-Sony deal
  2. Did No One At eMusic Think About PR Impact Of Raising Prices At The Same Time Sony Signed?
  3. Ten years later crushes its brand values in one day
  4. eMusic faces PR challenge in the wake of Sony partnership, pricing announcements
  5. eMusic and Sony – It is getting worse

Friday Five: 1-2-3-4! edition (or, A tribute to Hilly Kristal)

I figured the guys over at Punk Marketing might write something about this, but they haven’t, so I guess it’s up to me to put a marketing/PR spin on an obituary mainly relegated to the music scene.

hilly_kristal.jpgHilly Kristal, the man who put punk rock on a stage and let it scream at the world, died on Thursday at age 75 from complications of lung cancer. Kristal was the owner of the seedy New York club CBGB’s, a venue that put early punk and new wave on the map — and gave performers like Ramones, Blondie, Television, Patti Smith and Talking Heads their start when they had few other options. (That’s him on the right, sweeping up outside the club sometime in the 1970s, probably.)

CBGB’s, which closed last October, was the birthplace of punk rock, and Kristal was punk’s father figure. In the words of The New York Times‘ obit, Kristal, “with his bushy beard and ever-present flannel shirt … cut an unusual figure as the paterfamilias of the noisy downtown music scene. But for nearly 33 years his club was an incubator for generations of New York rock bands, and performing within its dank, flier-encrusted walls became a bragging right for musicians everywhere.”

So what does it have to do with higher ed marketing? Absolutely nothing — at least not on the surface. But punk rock never was an overt operation. Punk was underground and viral, and its roots are entrenched and entwined in Kristal’s dingy club at 315 Bowery.

As Alex Remington explains in his tribute to Kristal (linked below): “The music that blared across the Bowery soon emanated across the Hudson and ever outward from there. In London it got politicized by anarchists and spiked with eyeliner by goths; in Los Angeles it snarled faster harder until it became hardcore; and here in Washington it turned into an underground movement described by two phrases: DIY (do-it-yourself) and emotional hardcore. It could credibly be described as the parent of both indie rock and current emo, whether or not it recognizes its own paternity.”

The roots of punk — with its DIY ethos, amateurish attitude, underground vision and scabrous, anti-corporate stance — have sprouted an above-ground movement that flourishes in today’s disintermediated marketplace. We who make our living in trying to keep everyone “on message” in a world where the middleman is quickly vanishing have Hilly Kristal to thank for making the traditional aspects of our jobs more difficult — and the less traditional aspects much more interesting. Punk gave rise to The Cult of the Amateur, which writers like Andrew Keen disdain. Heck, you could even trace blogging’s roots to punk rock, maybe. The idea that “any idiot can do this” — whether it’s play three power chords, scream 1-2-3-4! into the mic, or create a blog on the Internet — is a very punk thing to do. Of course, even more punk would be to not do any of these things, a sentiment which probably makes no sense to some of you, and makes absolute sense to others.

But I digress. This is a Friday Five, after all. So, in memory of Hilly Kristal (may he rest in raucous rock-n-roll heaven), here are five links that have something to do with him, CBGB’s or punk rock:

  • Alex Remington‘s tribute to Hilly via Huffington Post. “He was an entrepreneur who saw promise in a neighborhood crawling with junkies, poets, beatniks and bums — not that there was much of a difference between them all — and built a bar in a former flophouse.” And with his death, “American degeneracy is more aimless than ever.”
  • Hilly Kristal’s last interview, from his hospital bed in July. “We all have regrets. I’m not satisfied with anything that I’ve done or not done. With the club, I did most of the things I wanted to do. But I regret that I don’t have much time to go places or the money to do things that I’d like. But I’m an optimist. I will make time to do more things.”
  • The artists speak. Rolling Stone talks to Debbie Harry (Blondie), Chris Franz (Talking Heads), Patti Smith and others about Kristal. They all share good words, but the best sentiment comes from a commenter: “Put Hilly on the cover, he is most deserving. Hilly cared, in an industry that mostly doesn’t.”
  • A song for Hilly. Listen to Ramones cover Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” (mp3 file).
  • Ode to CBGB’s, a podcast of early punk tunes put together by some old washed-up punk wannabe.