June 20th, 2010


Old music ...

So, Daughter #2 wants to learn to play violin, and The Wife has gotten her lined up with some classes this summer. One of my tasks last week was to run her over to this place which rents string instruments and get her set up with one. Fortunately I'd been walking around with the cash payment from re-writing the copy on this one small agency's site for a couple of months, and had cash-in-hand as the guy there didn't take plastic (things keep sinking closer and closer to a barter economy!).

Anyway, that's the set-up to what I'm actually here to blither about this morning (aside from the fact that I'm up and The Girls aren't, delaying what ever Fathers Day events that have been planned). On the way over to the violin place, I was regaling #2 with stories of Papa John Creach and the possibilities of "rock&roll fiddle" ... then telling her that I'd pull out the appropriate CDs and let her listen to same.

Uh-oh. It appears that I only have Bark and Long John Silver on vinyl ... which is buried within my Mayan-esque storage/filing system here, and would require Major Efforts to extract. So, off I go to Amazon to see what the new/used guys have going for these Jefferson Airplane classics. WHUH? The cheapest available copy of Bark was $27.77 and that was just for a "good" copy! There was also an import which had both albums in a dual-release edition but that was only available used for $29.99 ... not exactly the price range I was looking for.

Amazon has new copies of the remastered version of Long John Silver pretty much at list ($22.98), but that at least has "new" versions from the new/used guys for as little as $6.28 (I'll probably grab that for her). But for Bark ... dunno what to do. I've never bought an "MP3 Album" before so wouldn't have a clue of what to do with the songs ... how is that "delivered"? Just as a download of the individual files? Are those transferable between systems? I've totally steered clear of digital content due to the piracy issues (once you've been in Publishing you take Intellectual Property very seriously), and really don't have a clue what the dynamics of that runs on the "legitimate" side of things!

Daughter #2 has an MP3 player, and I'm assuming that she would be OK of having an album just in digital (unlike her Dad, who can't really picture either Bark or Long John Silver without the cool stuff that came with the original albums ... that would be like getting Alice Cooper's School's Out without the panties!), but I "have issues" with paying $9.99 for just the files without physical media.

Anyway ... as you may have noticed this was yet another The Job Staker entry ... this featuring the latest "book feature" as per the graphic ===> over there. Since these (as opposed to "author interviews") just feature me talking about my reviews, and since you've already read the reviews (yeah, I know, it's right up there with the Tooth Fairy, but I try to believe that somebody's reading), there's not much new for you to enjoy, but a "courtesy click" is always appreciated (especially if your ISP is in the "Chicago Market" which would then net me a whopping half a cent from the Tribune!).

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I Tweet therefore I am ...

I had Shel Israel's Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods on my “to read” list since hearing him speak at the Social Media Club of Chicago's meeting last fall. As regular readers know, I'm an avid Twitterer, and have been “following” Shel (@ShelIsrael) since that presentation. I did, however, wait to pick up a copy of his book until it had come down to my “price point” via the Amazon new/used vendors (sorry Shel!), at which point I snapped up a copy.

Twitterville is an odd sort of book, one that's sort of between genres. Israel's background is in journalism, and one one level, this reads like the stories of a “beat writer” assigned to the virtual locale of Twitterville ... these are the stories of the 140-character city, that Twitterin' Town. It starts with an American imprisoned in Egypt, whose furtive tweets to home unleashed a viral tide that managed to get usually slow-to-turn wheels of government to spin into actions that had him soon freed. This was the event that grabbed Shel's attention to the world of Twitter, and focused his attentions on its neighborhoods.

I have been involved in Twitter for several years, from my previous position as the Communications Director of a “metaverse developer” working primarily in the virtual world of Second Life … I had discovered there that much of the business of Second Life was not being conducted “in world”, but via Twitter by the likes of tech investor Mitch Kapor (@mkapor). I found that by following him, and those he followed, and the folks following him, I was getting massive amounts of “business intelligence” for the mere cost of my attention.

This is widely divergent to the attitude that many people have about Twitter … that this is the place where people who would typically be driving their friends nuts with texts about what they were having for lunch, or how crowded the mall was, etc., were now spewing their inanity for the whole world's consumption. Israel has a very telling description of this misconception early on in the book:
This {the live-blogging of South-by-Southwest conference programs evolving into live-Tweeting “collaborative journalism”} also became evidence to refute the conventional but misguided perception that Twitter was just another example of gabby kids' stuff. Adult professionals addressing a business problem had started Twitter. Its early adopters and proponents may have been young, but they were business professionals. This was an early – and important – differentiation from Facebook and MySpace, whose respective user bases were college and high school students.
This is the appeal of Twitter, a way to reach out to a whole world of opinion leaders and influential minds who might not have been accessible any other way. Much of what is covered in the book is the almost accidental discovery of the platform by various companies, and how it has been used and misused in various contexts by various groups.

Make no mistake, there are still fairly high-profile companies which barely register on the Twitter screen at all, while there are others who feel like they “live there”. In some cases, this simply evolved from a few key employees finding and using the channel, which then slowly spread through the organization and came to be accepted as a valuable tool. In others a top-down approach was tried where upper management requested a “Twitter strategy” and some versions worked and some didn't. There have been many cases where the dynamics of Twitter certainly clashed with corporate dictates (such as Nestle's recent gaffe where one of their Twitter reps was threatening users sporting Nestle-oriented user icons with actions on trademark violations). One of the concepts that the author floats here is of “lethal generosity”, ”a phenomenon used by the smartest companies … in social media the greatest influence invariably goes to the most generous participants, not the loudest” where if you give more to the on-line community than your competition, “the other player is forced either to follow you or to abstain from participating”.

If there was one thing I'd like to see different about this book it would be achieving a better balance between the broad social impact (such as the lead story with the arrest in Egypt, as well as the Twitter element in various global events), and the “business angle”. The narrative here keeps dipping a toe into a more “general” stream, but keeps finding its way back to the Business story. Sure, this is what gets focused on in the book's sub-title, but (as a user) this makes it feel like it's being limited. Going in to this, the reader should be very clear on the fact that they're reading a book about business operating within “Twitterville”, and not a broader survey of that world … almost like coming in to a new town and picking up a local paper and discovering, aside from a few highlights on the front page, there was only the Business section to be had. So, while this will (as detailed above) help to dissuade folks who lump Twitter in with other Social Media outlets, it is also not an “introductory book” to get people interested (outside of a business context, of course) in Twitter (while a “Getting Started” section is included, it's relegated to a 4-page Afterword).

Twitterville certainly is recommended to anybody with an interest in the business use of Social Media. Being fairly new (it just came out last Fall), it should be available at your local brick-and-mortar book vendor who has a business and/or internet section. Amazon currently has it almost half-priced, and the new/used guys currently have “like new” copies for under a couple of bucks (plus shipping, of course). Admittedly I'm biased, as I'm a long-term resident of “Twitterville”, but I hope a lot of people read this book, as I get tired of having to explain how Twitter is “serious business” and not just “chatting with (virtual) friends”!

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