Thursday, February 26, 2009

Guest Post: The Blargument

Note: This is a guest post by Ian Sohn. It represents Ian's POV alone and not those of his employer or me [Lefty]. You can find my [Lefty's] counter argument at Ian's blog.

So here we go ...

A few days ago @LenKendall tagged me to participate in a Blargument. A what? A Blargument of course:

  • Two Tweeples decide they want to fight it out in more then 140 characters. [This is a particularly interesting bullet given the nature of this particular blargument]
  • They communicate with each other and agree to a formal blargument/topic(s).
  • Blarguing parties write a guest post on respective blogs making their case.
  • Two blarguars then choose two other tweeples to select “opponents” to battle it out.
  • So it’s kind of like a duel only with way less Aaron Burr.
Lefty and I agreed to argue about Twitter - total waste of time or effective communication vehicle?

First off, Lefty isn't even on Twitter, so I'm not sure how he can make a strong argument either way [I look forward to seeing his post]. If you aren't familiar with this "microblogging" service, I encourage you to visit the "about us" section at Trust me, it'll make this post a lot more relevant.

Second, when Lefty proposed the topic I was a bit turned off. It seems like everywhere I look I'm seeing one argument or another for or against Twitter. Then I thought about the fact that far more people are not on Twitter than are, and that I live in a tiny little social media bubble. Maybe beyond that bubble it's still a relatively interesting topic. So rather than try to make some faux heady argument, I'll give you seven simple considerations:

1. If you are a publisher of any kind, Twitter is a great distribution vehicle. I find it a very effective way to distribute the content I create (i.e. blog posts).

2. Twitter is a great way to meet interesting people. The example that immediately comes to mind is @Bogusky, Alex Bogusky of Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Alex is a guy I wouldn't normally have the chance to meet, let alone debate. Yet just last week Alex tweeted: CNN and NYT are already corrupted by popularity as a substitute for truth. There is no such thing as traditional news anymore. The following conversation ensued:

3. Twitter is a way of staying in ambient touch with old friends & colleagues. I can think of a former boss, a former colleague and a girl I grew up with - all of whom I am in touch with via Twitter. Do we have the deepest of connections? No. But at least we're still connected.

4. Twitter gives you a different perspective from interesting people. Sign up for Twitter and immediately start following @TerryMoran from Nightline. These are some of my favorites Tweets from Terry during President Obama's speech to congress [remember folks, he's limited to 140 characaters, and I think he still manages to engage, entertain and provoke]

5. Twitter can make you money. The most famous case study is Dell driving real revenue via Twitter, which you can read all about here

6. Zappos has famously demonstrated how effective Twitter is as a consumer relations medium. Trust me, just Google "Zappos Twitter Case Study." It's been written about ad nauseum.

7. Quite simply, Twitter is a delightful diversion. And that's not such a horrible thing, is it?

At the end of the day, Twitter is simply a communication tool [one of many that exist]. Tool-du-jour? Perhaps. Annoying name? Arguable. But what's wrong with all that? Rather than tear it down - as seems to be a popular sport of late - jump in. The water's warm and the conversation is good.

And with that I [Ian] tag @catchuplady, @kaimac
and @stevenoverman. If any of you dare, challenge a friend to a blargument and pass it along.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You may not be born to succeed

I've just started reading Malcom Gladwell's latest page-turner, the Outliers. I don't mention this to feign intellect or to appear well-read at all. I'm not. I mention it because the guy tells a helluva good yarn.

In typical Gladwell fashion, he makes some ludicrous assertions, then backs them up with countless examples that support his crazy claims. And usually in a pretty fascinating manner. In this particular case, The Outliers dissects how the most successful people in the world get where they are. Raw talent? Determination? Or just dumb luck?

He makes a case for the idea that often times, it is the latter. The book begins with an example about the Canadian youth hockey leagues. He figures out that the players who reach the height of this national pastime are most often born in January, February and March. He attributes this to the January 1st cut-off date for the junior level leagues. Thus, kids born in those first few months of the year are held back, so when they are ready to play, they are the biggest, strongest and most coordinated. They then get the most attention and the best coaching in those first few years, and they quickly move up into more competitive ranks. Of course, they don't go on to become the Jagrs and the Prongers of the world without a fair amount of talent. But as Gladwell contends, it doesn't have to be extraordinary talent if they're born in the right month and the system takes over.

As it happens, my wife is from Canada. Winnipeg actually. During a recent visit back, our 7-year-old nephew (born in October, mind you) was told that he didn't make the A or B squad. He made the C squad. We knew he was disappointed, so we were prepared to commiserate when we picked him up from school that day.

Apparently, our nephew wasn't the only one who felt wronged. In the parking lot of his school, I overheard a large, barrel-chested father screaming into his phone, reminiscent of a younger Harvey Weinstein, that his kid may be a little slow on the ice, but his stick-handling skills far surpassed some of those other punks that made the A squad. He plead to have his 7-year-old reconsidered, as if the poor kid's very future hinged on this critical decision. I still don't know the outcome.

While reading this excerpt from the Outliers, I couldn't help but wonder, did Mr. Gladwell ever consider the difference a whiny parent can make?

WARNING: May not be cool to listen to out loud. Anywhere.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Simplicity May Be Making My Kid Dumb

Last week I waxed naive about man's need to simplify. I dropped a lot of shit about how those who live simply would be best suited to navigate this re-depression. Basically, a bunch of blabber I really didn't know a whole lot about.

But I like the theme. I'm fascinated by the musical artist who bucks the big labels, and makes a name for him or herself online.

I love that I know people with a remodeling business geared toward reusing and recycling whatever they can find for the project, and they promote it as Roosevelt era, post-depression rebuilding. It's just fuckin' smart.

So I'm gonna continue the theme here in the blog for a bit. I'll throw out some examples of simple stuff I like - film, music, lifestyles, etc. Of course not all that is simple is good.

My 3-year-old kid and I are mesmerized by this show. Simple and cool, or just simple and making us dumb?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Keep it Simple, Stupid

Simplicity is not my strong suit. Never has been.

I tend to elaborate, complicate and confound. But I'm determined to change. You know, like Obama says.

A couple nights ago, I decided to join an old friend for a drink. This friend has a voracious appetite for news and an uncanny ability to retain the most minute details, effortlessly jumping from Carlton Fiske's 1982 batting average to the last Presidential appointee to go down in flames, Daschle style (some guy I never heard of from the Reagan administration who got caught with a bunch of whores). And he's intensely cynical - a trait I truly admired in him but one that was truly bumming me out the other night.

Among other things, we discussed our newly appointed, first gay mayor's indiscretions, the ramifications of Tom Daschle's
ouster, the foreshadowing of the DOW Jones going as low as 6500 points and the LNG (liquefied natural gas) trade that's threatening the Oregon coast line for no apparent gain and the dangerous pipelines that will surely follow.

My second Jamesons started loosening the synapses as I took in all this doom and gloom and my mind couldn't help but wander, thinking I had done a horrible thing by bringing a child into this hopeless place. I wondered if it was unfair to leave her here without a sibling, or if it's just best to leave unwell enough alone.

A stranger at the other end of the bar, a local building contractor, listening intently to my friend's diatribe, chimed in. Turns out, he was equally well-read. He spoke to the issues with a similar fluidity and agreed with my friend's general malaise.

I finally stopped them both - mostly because I couldn't even begin to contribute to the conversation - but under the guise of not wanting to go home miserable and to please allow me to just enjoy the rest of my drink.

And then this man at the end of the bar said something so poignant and wonderful. He said, "The world will go on. It will just do so with fewer resources and those who can adapt to a simpler lifestyle will be the best prepared for what's to come."

So right now, I'm gonna hop on my bike and ride into work (oh, for those paying attention, my job has been restored. For the time being), and just try to keep it simple. Stupid.