Who’s on deck? Oh, we all are

April 27, 2010

A few months ago, around the time this blog was born, I wrote a post about the Twitter Ecosystem. I attempted to (and still continue to) validate how I acquire music and interact through social media to do so.

In four short months, I have had the opportunity to blog about my city, my friends, my interests in arts, culture and sports, while communicating with many tweeples along the way.

It’s been fun and I hope that that doesn’t change.

What will change, though, is my usage of Twitter from my mobile device.

Once a solely-Echofon user, and after a brief affair or two with Twitteriffic, I have made the switch to a more user-friendly interface — by accident.

I read online about Twitter’s acquisition (and subsequent re-naming) of Tweetie, which I was meant to download for this blog and my continuing tweeting. The app, usually $2.99, was going to be free for a little while, so the miser in me thought, “Why not?”

Because Tweetdeck for iPhone came to me first, and it’s changed everything. I don’t even have an iPhone.

Like many of the popular social media apps, Tweetdeck looks to connect various accounts. I am hesitant to do this yet, as I still cater to my (perceived) audiences on varying channels.

The tone in my blog resembles that of twitter, and I may put a blog post on Facebook, but at this point I’m not sure I want my tweets showing up on my Facebook profile.

So, just as I wrote about global digital communication and its relationship with the idea of a Twitter Ecosystem, my personal communication is at risk of being infiltrated by the same ecosystem.

Is there really any point attempting to seperate and disperse my varying tones, thoughts and subjects among different social media channels? Pardon my Dale Gribble, but it’s not like the database storing all my FB chat sessions is any less extensive and incriminating than the one storing my Tweets (present and deleted).

If you have Twitter, I assume you have Facebook — Would you bother isolating the two from one another? Or are you more interested in forming a synergistic relationship in your own mini-digital ecosystem?

Comments? Questions? Hernias?

This is heavy, I know.

If You’re Having Url Problems I Feel Bad For You Son, I’ve Got 99 Problems But a Bit.ly Ain’t One

April 14, 2010

What came first: Twitter or the egg?  

There’s been a surge in the number of url shortening websites since Twitter’s explosion a few years ago. The first url service, tinyurl.com (the egg), is said to have been conceived as early as 2001, well before Twitter hatched. 

Are we too quick to proclaim Twitter as the shortened url’s raison d’etre? It may seem that way – as the convenience of short links are given their reason for being by tweeple’s use of them – but more surrounds this move towards shorter web addresses. 

I first noticed these tinyurls and bit.lys when I started tweeting in 2009, and didn’t understand where they came from or how to use them myself. Now, I see that they do more than give character space in tweets and mobile messaging. 

As a registered user, you can view the statistical history behind the web addresses you shorten and post. This is convenient for big-time bloggers and self-branding experts looking at their reader sources. Also, as I’ve discovered, it’s kind of useful as a motivational tool for those just starting out. 

Whether I shorten a url for a tweet to a post or a video, where ever that short link is accessed, the amount of clicks is logged and documented. 

As a user of bit.ly, I can access statistical data in various forms. Clearly, I am Canadian. For Pro users, the number of utilities and statistical services is much greater.

 

I would be interested in seeing a popular blogger or pro bit.ly user’s statistics, just to see the breakdown. 

For my purposes right now, bit.ly is a good fit. For others, though, there has to be some comfort in being able to choose the url shortening and statistical service that is right for them. 

While there are contentious issues related to these services, from the veiling of websites before they are accessed to the allocation of funds for these services, this trend is more likely a shift. 

The misdeeds of a few internet pranksters won’t sway opinion too negatively. Plus, with hundreds of these services popping up, they will be mass tested before being mass consumed. 

Those that don’t pass the initial tests of utility will fizzle out, likely without any chance of re-birth by an incubator not powered by Google: http://bit.ly/9A80Iq 

That’s What You Get For Being Cool pt. 2

April 11, 2010

The Canada Computers clerk was notable enough.

Helping me with specificity and insight on this battery issue, I was a satisfied customer without buying anything, and happy to take his tip on a spot for lunch.

When I got back from Big Fat Burrito I was ready to add this guy to my My Five.

On the tip of Kensington, on Augusta just south of College, the place is a haven if you are awfully hungry or an appreciator of the wrap game.

With veggie and beef tacos at 2$ and 2.50$, and a *noice* selection of burritos 8-10$, the three guys behind the counter meant serious burrito business. So did I.

The hotness is on a tiered scale. I usually love these scales and experienced one for the first time at a Noodle Box in Victoria. I asked the Big Fat Burrito man to mix something a little bit hotter than Chipotle with something not quite as hot as Chipotle.

They were as confused as I was new. 

An embodiment of @BabyDiesler’s McDonald’s go to (biggie-size combo plus an additional burger), I had a beef burrito and a veggie taco.

After a short wait with a number in my hand (that’s how you know a place is legit, if you take a number for your order) I brought mine to my table and got my herbivore on first.

I was expecting the taco to be a bit spicier, but knew le bouef was going to have me back at the counter getting a root beer.

When I picked up the burrito to unwrap it my wrist almost buckled. Things had gotten hot and heavy. 

Two ambitious bites in, I bought that root beer.

I never received any good news about getting a new battery for my netbook. The guy from Canada Computers told me straight up it was bad news. The price he put to me was about three times what we thought it would initially be.

Still, I walked out of his store truly pleased to have met him. The guy was cool.

Big Fat Burrito is near enough to my new place that I will frequent it without abusing it this summer. I promise.

I may never go in to a Canada Computers again, but that doesn’t mean I won’t think of them when I am next anihilating a Big Fat pulled pork burrito.

That’s What You Get For Being Cool pt. 1

April 11, 2010

Or, that’s what I get for the guy with the ‘fro being cool, and knowing about batteries – and burritos. 

I have withheld a lot of grief about my laptop. The Acer Aspire One Netbook I have been using has issues.

This thing has aspirations of being convenient: Acer 11.6inch Aspire One Netbook

One of the netbook’s top-of-the-list issues is the battery. The 3-cell factory battery doesn’t hold a charge or indicate power in any way. 

Hate is a strong word, so I’ll use it here. I hate this battery issue. I’m plugged in all the time. 

But what’s cool about all this hate? 

Zilch. 

So when I strolled into the Canada Computers store on College St., I never knew there would be burrito joint implications. 

The guy from Canada Computers was helpful enough that I wanted to come back with some money for a new battery. If not to get some mobility out of this laptop, to let him know he had done a good job of calming and informing an irritable near-customer. 

I would bring back my computer and be motivated to save some cash for this battery. 

Yesterday I went back with my Acer, and sought out the same short young man with a defiantly cascading afro. My issue became an issue for corporate. 

“You don’t mind waiting like ten minutes?” he asked, putting the phone down. We’d have to wait for the Canada Computers product location guy to call back. 

“Well, no it’s cool. I was gonna eat,” I replied unsurprised. I began pointing east and west all at once. “Where’s some good food near here?” 

His eyes lit up and I knew right then that my battery blues would be quelled. But by what? 

Burritos.

Killin’ Them Softly

April 9, 2010

The Score

What sports channel do you subscribe to?

For me, the days of TSN morning highlights are gone. I never watch Rogers Sportsnet unless it’s baseball season. I may have watched Hockey Night in Canada on a dare once.

So where does that leave us? And how did we get here?

I have been devoted to The Score since my first cable box.

The initial excitement of getting upwards of 70 channels was great, but The Score’s coverage of professional and college sports from the U.S. (as well as Canadian Interuniversity Sport broadcasts) was something to behold.

In Toronto, a city whose identity culminates largely in culture and sport, broadcasts from horse carriage racing to English Premier League is smart programming. Also, The Score leaves it to others to broadcast NHL games, but still devotes time to league highlights, reports and discussion.

I like the way The Score thinks outside the rink, something that its Canadian competitors dare not do.

Score Mobile

How do you make a BlackBerry or iPhone app one of the most downloaded ever? Considering mobile communication is now a part of the broadcast industry, ensuring your television audience can “stay tuned” to your channel via 3G or wifi is crucial.

In many ways, Score Mobile operates just like the ticker at the bottom of your tv screen, and that may be the  reason for its heavy popularity. But beyond being a utility, and beyond the undeniable potential for brand extension, Score Mobile represents the boundless direction that fresh thinking (re: their programming) and digital innovation (re: their app) can take.

“Most Canadian media companies are used to working within their borders,” says Dale Fallon, mobile director, Score Media, “But thanks to mobile, The Score is looking to go outside of the country.”

There is a definite contrast with other specialized channels adhering to CRTC standards, such as MuchMusic. With a 95% Canadian TV audience, it’s safe to say that those viewers are the same online visitors at muchmusic.ca.

(Note: Music channels and their programming is another post in itself, and I’m not sure that it’s a debate made any less frustrating by its stagnance. The same arguments made against MTV’s Singled Out 15 years ago are made against shows like The Hills. It seems audiences like pretty people actin’ a fool more than ever.)

So, in putting The Score’s newsfeed in a mobile device, Score Media has developed and adopted new media forms. The live blogging trend in sports coverage is gaining momentum, and I don’t think that it’s a bad thing. The absence of personality inherent in simply displaying data is filled by freelance and staff writers lucky enough to be assigned to a Raptors or Leafs game.

I like to think of the live blogger as a sports diary keeper.

I also like to think that they don’t mind me living out my dreams (of sitting courtside and writing about it) through them.

Franchise Players pt. 1

April 8, 2010

Foreseeing big moves in the NBA this summer, I’ve been thinking about the franchise players and those friends of mine who sign long-term contracts with girlfriends.

There’s always a signing bonus going in to a relationship. In any great relationship, components like the chase, new love, and comfort are built in like contract clauses. What makes a player commit to a city, a team, a scene or a queen?

This trend in journeymen athletes and men allergic to settling down before age 30 is a sign of our times. Despite this, I was told twice this week that being middle-aged without any prospective partner is unsettling for guys. I agree with that sentiment.

But can we understand this disconnect through sports? We can sure try:

At some point in their careers, every player gets traded or shopped in free agency. I have long felt that most college sweethearts don’t have that storied longevity anymore, perhaps due to contemporary media which opens eyes to new people, places and ideas. 

Athletes, too, are more likely to be lured away from their franchises by more lucrative markets, as well as a promise to win, in today’s business of sports. 

Say it with me now: Le-Bron. We all have friends who have left arguably good situations in search of the upgrade. For those with league value, there is a market for them somewhere, they just need the right agent and attitude.

(Note: I have to acknowledge some couples who are going strong since high school and college. I consider these the Tim Duncans of the game. Also, some couples who have just started out show such  promise that they make you root for their solidarity. These are the Dwyane Wades of the game: proven winning formula, impossible to dislike, with undeniable potential.)

Please stay tuned for part two. In attempts to be somewhat clear about these player/franchise player comparisons, yes I have opted to use a part two.

Questions or Comments? Any and all reader feedback is welcome and uncensored.

 

A Touch of Incredulity

March 29, 2010

Watching Michelle Pfieffer cope with her son being baby snatched, and move on with her life in The Deep End of the Ocean, I knew it was baloney.  

When I lost my iPod last week, I wasn’t about to take up some timid hobby and focus on my other means of communication (read: Pfieffer’s other children) to deal with this sense of loss.

I breathe easy, and would like to document my thoughts on this short week of limited digital communication. My iPod has been found, and will be kept safe — at least until it’s on the party scene again.

Last Saturday I spent a hectic hour-long bus ride checking every pocket thrice, making calls and preparing a contingency plan in case I had in fact lost my iPod Touch. When I say tell people that this device has changed my life, I mean that it’s saved me from the BlackBerry.

Apple’s functionality alone has deterred me from becoming a BlackBerry user; it resonates with me like a 90s television drug awareness campaign. I know that the interface of the iPod is preferable, usability is smoother, and any and all hardware updates can be done to the same device. The more you know, the better.

I’m not being capricious: in each group of friends, those with the BlackBerry are prone to unexplainable useage tendencies and attention derailment, both synonymous with hard drug use. If they lose reception, battery power or their BBM is down, it’s like an irritable smoker trying to quit cold turkey.

(I almost wrote about this a while ago: While conducting a client interview with my friend Tucci, both of us communication grads, his BlackBerry took a little bath on the same day that my LG phone started with its LG phone antics. Both our respective devices recovered, and the idea for this post was left lingering.)

In documenting my (less than a) week without my iPod, I want to see how it feels to go straight myself. Keep in mind, this is just an iTouch, and I have my LG phone. What I foresee missing (beyond the comfort of knowing its with me) is the quick  Twitter, Facebook and e-mail apps which probably amount to 50 views a day. Yes, I need wifi for these things, but between campus access and having a mental inventory of hotspots around Toronto, me and my iTouch have something like 3G… we’ll call it 3J.

For the record, I do hypothesize that any tweets or status updates I post this week will be much more thoughtful and without spelling errors. I also might finally get around to cleaning up my iTunes library. Might.

The Revolution Will Not Be Organized

March 22, 2010

The likelihood of Ford creating some sort of American automotive revolution is as likely as them using Gill-Scott as a spokesperson for their 2011 Fiesta model.

In assigning 100 individuals adept to social media their own vehicles, a good chunk of them with notable followings, Ford hopes to campaign for legitimate online buzz over the compact size car.

If we know anything about Fordism, the idea of efficiency, and separate parts of a machine working together to produce one whole product, then these collective social media efforts could turn the tide.

I put a lot of emphasis on could because it seems like there are some weaknesses about this idea:

Striving for Icon Status
Who better to assign the task of affecting buying habits in young adults and youth than their peers? Though, those peers promoting aren’t buying anything, and as for me, I’m not buying it either. There is a disconnect between the bloggers’ experiences with the 2011 Fiesta and how it resonates within their followings and fan bases. Where some bloggers may find success in focusing on their Ford, their brand would have to reach relevant iconicity to be linked to any affect in the 2011 Fiesta sales, and of course, to start a revolution.

The Non-Blogging Assumption
Any authentic revolution, whether stemming from a spurned group or a collective movement towards change, would be well documented. Why assume that there isn’t a Small Car Advocators for Sleeker Style group having online conversations online about how much they love cars like the VW Rabbit or Nissan Micra. The vastness of the net, already facilitated by social media, heavily indicates how likely it is that people are already blogging in this way. If there’s going to be an automotive revolution that establishes itself and thrives through social media (this is the making of a funny premise…) then I would prefer the kind of revolution that isn’t an advertisement.

Yes, centering the campaign around one Ford model yet to be released offers some cohesion in the adventures the agents assigned. But any inherent authenticity in the mandate of a make believe group like SCASS becomes windfallen by Ford’s organized buying-trend revolution.

Are the Blog Brands Relevant?
It’s not too overtly stated why people blog, but the number of people doing so is telling in itself. Seventy-seven millenials use some sort of social networking site, and 28 percent of them have personal blogs. In Ford’s social media news release about the campaign, they define the millenials demographic as “the next-generation consumer group born between 1979 and 1985.”

It seems that any millenial with a notable online following will be able to affect their readers’ ideas about the Fiesta, provide some thought on the model, and sculpt their content to maintain its appeal. Though, if the blogger’s content is usually devoid of auto talk, there’s a disconnect in the logic behind who has been chosen.

For some, blogging within this small car revolution might develop their brand further and add to their respective followings. For others, this could be an uncomfortable venture into unfamiliar content, and it’ll show in forced commentary unbefitting of their brand.

For more blogs, thoughts and analysis on Ford’s social media campaign, follow these links:

You Don’t Need Maracas… Megan Vickell talks about target audiences and possibly campaign oversaturatrion

Don’t Get It Twisted… Jackie Clarke looks at the slow response of the campaign and some opportunities for Ford

The Stanisblog… I spoke briefly on some discernable weaknesses, Mike Staniforth discusses the strengths of this campaign

May Contain Edgy Lists and Humourous Twists… Andrew Bartucci blogs about a social media campaign that works

 Digital Soapbox… Mike Thompson discusses the tactics of Ford’s social media campaign

The Death of Knowing

March 17, 2010

Before a stint in media studies made me a cynic of the music business in general, I would have paid anything for a former group or deceased artist’s early and posthumous releases. This is the reason I know the word posthumous at all. But since the internet allows me to preview some of this content which I would have paid [insert big business record store name here] for, I’ve started saving some cash on over-priced albums.

The net also allows for a more uninvolved, yet periscopic monitoring of these artists. I want to look at what this monitoring might mean:

For the last two months I have involved myself (via Twitter) with DJ Brainchild, the mastermind of melody for the heavily followed Gordon Gartrell Radio show. The GGR podcast combines uncensored, free-flowing commentary from Phonte (the emcee, crooner, and social commentator of Little Brother and Foreign Exchange fame) and a serving of beautifully selected music mixed by Brainchild. I first heard him speak on the GGR podcast after Michael Jackson’s passing, and liked his points on the global impact of the King of Pop in the 90s.

I started following @djbrainchild after growing restless waiting for GGR episode 17 (released hours after this post), and soon found that he had fallen ill. Now, as I understand it, he has recently gotten better, which is great news.

With each tweet documenting his symptoms and ailments, with however much sarcasm or seriousness implied, I was becoming invested. After some time, I couldn’t help but feel like George Costanza buying a painting of Elaine’s once-boyfriend while the artist was on his death bed. (I sincerely hoped the end result here would be similar: a healthy artist beaming about his recovery, feeling forever indebted to the timely support of his fans.)

Now, I don’t mean to imply Brainchild was deathly sick, but after explaining to a friend why I believed episode 17 had been delayed (after a half-year hiatus between episodes 15 and 16), I began reconsidering the nature of my knowledge.

Where ten years ago I was still paying $20 or more for deceased artist releases that gave me no real insight to personality or character beyond the music and CD insert, look at me now.

I can hold a device in my hand, type in a URL, and be sprung in to the personal ailments and every day (non-)issues of an artist’s life. As a consumer, is this a healthy relationship I’m establishing with them? You can infer a lot about someone by the way they tweet.

Then again, you can infer a lot about me by my writing that last statement. Maybe you think I am being introspective; maybe you think I am being a tit.

My periscopic view of individuals via social media (whether they are artists, peers, celebrities or the like) allows me to believe I know in a way that is not knowing at all.

It’s the new knowing, and you should know you’re doing it right now. Know what I mean?

I’m That Shade of Jaded

March 13, 2010

Love doesn’t just pass us by. It sprays pretty graffiti in the form of abrasive lettering all over us. Some of us wear the heartbreak more than others. It’s in our expressions and our strides.

In each instance of the art we love, is it possible to recreate that first taste of a song, painting or piece of literature?

That feeling of reminiscence is so gripping because it usually reminds us of an era, and not necessarily an instance.

Marty McFly travels back in time to the era of his mother and father’s courtship, not just to the instance of their meeting, at the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance (Why this reference? Just as we waited for Back to the Future III, we will wait for the relevance… probably with an equal let down factor).

In anything near attempting a recreation of first love, we begin to project, and what we think is something we love because of what it is becomes something we love because of what we’ve made it.

A work of art, yes. But work, nonetheless.

One perfectly sunny morning this winter, while riding the 501 streetcar into the downtown core, I caught up on some much needed rest, and almost fell in love.

Eyes closed, mouth open, with my headphones creating that familiar vacuum seal on my head, I straddled my unconscious. For about a half an hour I walked a fine line between being cognizant and comatose on public transit.

It is this morning I wish to return to.

As notes from the vocal chords of Jose James careened into my head, I thought, I love this.

In that first hazy listening, I found his jazz lyricism to snail its way into my mind from a place not distant from outside my streetcar window: scenes of desolute love and life. It was as though my unconscious allowed only part of his The Dreamer album through the turnstyles of recognition that morning, and I’ve not been able to return.

So, unless you’ve got Doc Brown on speed dial, or your time-machine hot tub isn’t over 104º, the p-p-p-p-Power of Love for Jose’s album has been lost.

Mind you, I like the album a lot. It’ll always remind me of that first awesome encounter.

Unfortunately, much like the loving we earthlings adopt and foster for one another, the thrill is gone.

Try as I have, in varying levels of wake and slumber, I have not been able to re-form that initial bond with Jose James.

I don’t think I’ll try to force it; but I do think I’ll love again.


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