The New Yorker has an interesting piece on the Twitter revolution by Malcolm Gladwell. Basically Gladwell says Twitter is not the glorious social revolution we think it is. He points to the incredible organizing ability of the civil rights movement that happened without social media and says that Twitter could never duplicate that effort.
He’s basically saying Twitter can’t change the world.
He argues that the civil rights movement was powered by strong connections and organized hierarchy, whereas Twitter relies on loose connections and no central authority. The resulting mob mentality results in chaos, not organized action of the type that overcame institutionalized racism.
I think Gladwell has a point.
But we miss the point if we think Twitter can’t make a difference. Twitter and other social media tools are not going to replace the hard work of revolutions. But they do enable different kinds of change.
For a simple example, look at Mark Horvath and the work he’s done with InvisiblePeople.tv. Or Shaun King’s work with TwitChange and aHomeInHaiti.org. Or my own Bald Birthday Benefit or the recent well we funded in Ethiopia. These were all projects powered in part by social media tools. While they’re not revolutionary, they are changing the world, one person at a time.
Twitter alone isn’t going to topple great social evils. But it can make a difference. And that’s something.
Sidebar: Reading Gladwell’s detailed stories of the lunch counter sit-ins of the civil rights movement makes me want to dive into that history. What a fascinating time.
Let’s blog about something that’s not my book, OK? Cool. (Wait, did I just ruin it?)
So there’s this guy I follow on Twitter, Karl Pearson-Cater. I know him as bigboxcar. I don’t know him personally and I don’t remember how or why I started following him. He was probably just one of the interesting local people that folks kept referencing or retweeting and eventually I just went to the source.
Anyway, last week Karl was making dinner with the family and boiling water spilled on his 2-year-old and 5-year-old sons. Major accident. 911 called. Ambulance. Screaming children. Second degree burns. Parent’s worst nightmare. This week the 5-year-old will need a skin graft. How do you explain that to a 5-year-old? Your feet hurt so now we’re going to cut your head to make it better.
Today this post came up and all I could think was “yeah!”:
“We gave my 5-year-old the choice to shave dad’s head to look like how his hair will look after surgery. Thusly, I am bald now.”
One of my favorite comments from Karl’s whole experience:
“If I could trade feet with my 5-year-old for 2 weeks, I would. Someone please research this and invent it.”
Maybe some of those scientists I know could get on that? Thanks.
Karl has reflected on how weird it is to tweet/blog about this mess (he’s usually funny quips and videos) and has apologized for it, but he finds it therapeutic. I think we all find it therapeutic. As someone else responded:
“No need to apologies. It is good people talk about things, and life isn’t always a new baseball stadium.”
Yes! Sometimes Facebook, Twitter and blogs are all funny stories, wonderful news and stadium openings, but life isn’t like that. Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes we need to commiserate. We’re not all superheroes. I think the more we can be honest in these online forums the more healthy and beneficial they can be.
I’m happy to announce my new book, Addition by Adoption: Kids, Causes & 140 Characters. Allow me to quote myself from the backcover:
A work-at-home dad turns to Twitter to share updates about kids, causes and life. It’s a curated selection of bizarre quotes, funny stories and temper tantrums. Woven between potty-training woes and breakfast time songs is a family growing through adoption and learning how to change the world, one status update at a time.
You’ll find humor, parental commiseration and life-changing wonder mixed into a quick and compelling read.
Sounds awesome, right? I know. I’ve been kind of book happy this year, but this Twitter book has been in the works for a while. It’s full of the funny things Lexi and Milo do, the insanity of parenthood and the roller coaster of our adoption journey. The tweets are broken into chapters with their own introduction, making for a concise little 82-page book.
One of the best parts about the book is that a portion of the proceeds are going to go to charity: water. I’m hoping we can raise $5,000 and build a well in Ethiopia (not just raise the cost for a well in Ethiopia—actually fund a specific well in Ethiopia).
So when is it available? We’re going to do a limited pre-order starting next week—the pre-order will mean you can get the book cheaper and twice as much money goes to charity: water. Pre-order copies will also be signed by Lexi! The pre-order will last just one week though—April 13-20—so don’t forget to get in on that action. Then the book will officially launch on May 11.
We’ll have more details coming soon, but I wanted to get the initial information out there. My favorite part of this whole roll out is that it’s coinciding with the beginning of our next adoption. How cool is that? Not planned at all, but we’ll take it. [This roll out also coincides with this fancy new blog design, which is sort of planned and sort of not, as you can tell by stuff that isn’t quite right yet.]
Here’s a quick Twitter tip for you: Give context in your @replies and DMs.
“Yeah, that’s so true,” means nothing to me. I have no idea what you’re responding to. You could be reacting to any of the 8.4 tweets I post in an average day. Or you could be responding to something I said three days ago. How am I supposed to know?
It’s especially awkward when someone challenges or insults me. Sorry man, but I don’t know what you’re getting offended about unless you give me a little context. And I can’t give you a source on “that” unless you tell me what “that” is.
This lack of context for conversations is probably one of the biggest downsides to Twitter’s setup (which is saying a lot—this is a minor complaint) and it’s a definite area where Facebook is far superior.
(This is a fine example of when a 140-character limit would have produced a better result.)
Update: A few folks have pointed out that the thread of an @reply conversation is something Twitter is set up to follow. It’s just not immediately obvious. On the Twitter site, the tiny, grayed out text below an @reply will include a link back to the relevant tweet, assuming someone clicked on the ‘reply’ button in the first place. Most Twitter apps pick up on this and deploy the feature in some manner (though again, it’s not always obvious).
Good info to know, making me look kind of dumb.
Of course it still helps to give context in your response. Without context you have to assume someone knows about these features and assume that they used the ‘reply’ button. Sometimes just appending your “LOL” with a “Funky Chicken:” makes all the difference.
If you haven’t heard about it yet, Christian Chirp is a new Christian alternative to Twitter.
In and of itself, that’s funny. I’ll let you revel in it.
Now go look at the site. It’s down right now because of a massive attack (screenshot). Must be the persecution of the last days.
No seriously. That’s what founder James L. Paris blamed the attack on. That’s funny.
The mustachioed Paris has a Twitter account. And a financial advice site called Christian Money.
That’s funny, too.
Then there’s Christian author and humorist Matthew Paul Turner who discovered Christian Chirp and went from incredulous to curious to #1 chirper to deleted in less than 24 hours.
That’s funny. If you like Turner’s irreverent take on faith, you’ll love his skewering of Joel Osteen.
Then Michael Hyatt, CEO of the Christian publisher Thomas Nelson made a comment about Chirper being a Christian ghetto, prompting multiple responses from Paris.
Christian media “mogul” cat fight. That’s kind of funny.
Paris’ best insult? Pointing out Hyatt’s publishing history, which includes a trio of Y2K survival books (one is a novel!).
OK, no disrespect to Hyatt, but that’s hilarious.
When it gets less funny is this blog post, the Truth about James L. Paris and Christian Chirp, alleging that he lied about being banned from Twitter (part of the ethos of Christian Chirp), that he censors Chirp content and that he was indicted for securities fraud. The comments get even uglier as Paris himself shows up to argue the charges.
Oh, Christians. And we wonder why people think we’re so weird (I mean persecuted). Musician and rabble-rouser Justin McRoberts has a good take on Christian Chirp. It’s not ha-ha funny, but it’s good.
OK, never mind yesterday’s post. Looks like I will get to be a techno-geek while we’re in Ethiopia picking up our son. At least a little bit.
A friend has stepped forward and offered to pay for my Twittering. They shelled out for four updates a day for our 10 day trip (each international text message is 50 cents), and then some. How cool is that?
So when I’m thousands of miles away you can know almost immediately when my son spits up on me for the first time. Seriously though, we’ve had so many friends supporting us in so many ways, it will be fun to share this experience with you as it happens, a little bit at a time. Of course that assumes I can work the 9-button keypad fast enough to send four messages a day (I’ve used my cell phone exactly one other time to send Twitter updates).
I didn’t ask anyone to do this, I wasn’t expecting it and I’m pretty humbled.
Follow me on Twitter for the whole Ethiopia experience.
I watched bits and pieces of the Inauguration today and caught much of Obama’s speech on NPR. But I really enjoyed much of the festivities through Twitter and the various reactions, comments and snippets. Apparently I wasn’t the only one enjoying Twitter: Traffic was up five fold.
The breadth of opinions was hilarious. One person would be euphoric about an Obama presidency and the next person would be taking potshots at hope and change. One person loved the inaugural poem and the very next tweet called it a flaming failure.
It was also great to see people’s personal reactions, what lines of speeches/prayers/poems stuck with them, what made them laugh, what made them cry (quite literally).
Continue reading Enjoying the Inauguration with Twitter
Wow. That’s about all I can say. At least one person found poetry instead of weirdness in my daily digest of Twitter posts (which I’ve already deleted). And he turned it into a poem about breakfast and Billy Graham, among other things.
You can read the poem here or after the jump (poetry like that is too potent to not give you a little warning).
Continue reading Breakfast Time Twitter Poem
I’ve been doing a bit of blog housekeeping around here lately. Among the things you may have noticed:
Daily Digest of Twitter Feeds
For a few days I was testing a tool to import my Twitter posts into my blog. It posted them once a day as a daily digest of everything I’d said on Twitter. After four days it seemed like too much. Too often and too out of context, so I just disabled it. For now we’ll stick with my most recent Twitter posts in the sidebar.
I liked the idea of having my Twitter posts archived, but I’m just not convinced this was a good approach. I think it would work better as a separate blog and then it’s really only good for a private archive, so I’m not sure anyone else would care.
Continue reading Blog Housekeeping
On Tuesday I picked a fight with marketing guru Guy Kawasaki on Twitter. I called him out on what I considered to be a questionable marketing practice and he engaged in a little debate. I blogged about it in order to fully explain my position and Kawasaki linked to it, drawing even more attention.
In the end my traffic increased six-fold. For one day. You can see the lovely bump in the graph above. I’m sure there might be some residual folks—so thanks for sticking around. On Twitter I saw more than 100 followers in 24 hours (and they haven’t un-followed … yet). Wow. Kind of a wild ride. Not what I expected (or intended) from trying to point out a flawed idea. And thanks to the many, many people who agreed with me. The marketing guru isn’t always right (though he’d claim otherwise).
And for the record, I saw no corresponding increase in my Google Adsense earnings. The crap ads on the Kawasaki post didn’t help. Starting to rethink Adsense.