Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Twitter, Tweets, and Twats

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Lots of chatter in the mainstream media about Twitter these days, thanks to Oprah and that Ashton jagoff for exposing the latest social media darling to the lowest common denominators, which makes it even less appealing to me. Anytime I'm lumped in with homemakers and booger-eating tards, I get a little antsy.

The day my 66-year old mother asked me about Twitter was the day when thy shark hath been jumpeth.

I was always on the fence about Twitter (moreso the moral and social applications, not to mention the vapidity of it all) and in the 15 or so months since I signed up for an account I employed many practical uses. Twitter enhances what I do as a living. Updating poker tournaments and set lists at concerts via Twitter is a helpful tool.

Most importantly, as a writer, I use Twitter as my own little black notebook to jot down thoughts (in 140 character or less) than will eventually get turned into concepts for blog posts or other literary endeavors. The fact that I can let others glance into that process is just a byproduct of the voyeuristic nature of Twitter.


Twitter is a means towards a larger goal. Each thought (or rather tweet) might be used in some sort of literary project. In 2005, I utilized Tao of Poker as an electronic notebook during the World Series of Poker. Instead of writing down notes with a traditional pen and pad, I posted those notes to my blog. At the end of the day, I cleaned up the blog notes and wrote a cohesive end of day recap. Some of those recaps were enhanced and weaved together into magazine articles. And some of those articles were eventually morphed into excerpts of Lost Vegas. The blog platform was a crucial element towards the completion a book project.

Now, let's apply similar concepts to Twitter. I'm using Twitter as an electronic notebook, but it's more like a single leaf of paper torn out of the notebook. I have to unleash my inner Hemingway and construct a concise thought. I'm sort of compressing a larger idea into a brief sentence, which I'll be able to revive at a later date. Some of these thoughts on Twitter are the genesis for posts on Tao of Pauly or short story ideas for Truckin'. You catch a glimpse of my madness on Twitter and sometime in the future that will get manufactured into... some sort of larger literary project. At least I hope so, otherwise I'm just shouting into the void.

Something serendipitous happened with the Tao of Poker. In some odd way, it's the raw and unedited live blog updates in the summer of 2005 that became wildly popular with poker fans and helped fuel a fervent following on the Tao of Poker. I doubt that the taopauly Twitter feed will ever come close towards the success of Tao of Poker. After all, more than 50% of my followers on Twitter are bots. The rest are degenerate poker players and stoned-to-the-gourd Phisheads.

I also found that Twitter can be helpful in a pinch. For example, earthquake survivors in China were discovered via Twitter. One journalist in the Middle East let his friends sand family know he was imprisoned when he simply tweeted, "captured." Since I'm in an Earthquake zone, Twitter might come in handy if the Big One hits and if I ever get pinched on Phish tour, the twitterverse will find out about it. And hopefully you guys can find me a local lawyer and raise bail.

Otis used Twitter to field book suggestions. Nicky picked up a smoothie recipe from a model-friend of ours. And me? I got plenty of responses when I wondered about synonyms for the word douchebag.

Iggy and I have talked at length about the positive and aspects about Twitter including the future of the latest fad. We decided that Twitter is what you make of it. I think that a lot of new users become frustrated because they are selfish sheeple and not imaginative types. Because every single day, creative types find new usages for Twitter. Social butterflies and scensters use Twitter to inflate their self-worth and making them feel better about themselves with hordes of new followers or fake friends. Savvy business types are using Twitter to potentially make a quick buck or promote their existing products/companies. And curious folks are simple giving it a test-run to see what all the fuss is about.

And yes, every other person on Twitter seems to be an SEO/Social Media Expert. I usually fart in their general direction.

At the same time, frustrated bloggers (either burnt out or lacking ingenuity or passion) embraced Twitter because they can get the same highs during a blogging fix but in a more compact manner. The pundits call it micro-blogging, but I like to call it fast-food-blogging. I'm happy that some of my friends who fit into that category are back sharing their wit. They were missed and reading their tweets breaks up the stresses and/or monotony of the day.

I'm trying to focus on the positives and discovered ways where Twitter is helpful, useful, and fun for me. Those perks far outweigh the negatives (and there are many). But just as I had a wave of trepidation come over me for many years before I actually joined the Twitter-cult, I continue to have doubts and fears about the latest web fad. The doubts are about the influx of new users. It went from something like 1 million to 10 million in a single month. And with so much fuckin' traffic, the site is a target for money-grubbing internet moguls who want to figure out how to generate Twitter into a golden goose and never ending stream of revenue. That's why I'm afraid that if someone swoops in and buys Twitter that it's a matter of time before it goes into the shitter.

For now, enjoy it while it lasts.

I was told about Twitter in 2006 by one of the original project members. They were an avid reader of Tao of Poker and encouraged me to give it a try. I didn't actually blow them off, but I didn't exactly embrace the idea. I had other stuff going on with work and the rest of my life. Highschool kids, hipster doofuses, and pedophiles propelled MySpace, as it ruled the interwebs. Meanwhile, Facebook (before it became a front for the sea-aye-eh) was slowly gaining on them. I had a dour outlook on social media websites in general because they were a waste of time, the scourge of the internet, and extending the retardedness and redunkulousness of high school antics into our adult lives. I wanted no part of those reindeer games. I was someone who preferred to live out on the fringe and hang out in places away from the masses.

Two years after the original invite to join Twitter, I made the leap. Two of my friends, Wil and Ryan, were early adopters. They were self-professed geeks in addition to being writers. I kept tabs on their Twitter feeds... mainly because I was interested in what they were doing with the new technology. Ryan often used Twitter to update his progress in poker tournaments. I have staked him in the past, so Twitter was an excellent way for me to keep tabs on my investment. A few other friends were early adopters of Twitter and I had a dozen or so friends already entrenched into the scene when I dove head first into Twitter 15 months ago.

And since then? It's been an interesting ride. I watched Twitter grow exponentially and I saw how inside of a 30-day period, every hipster in poker jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. Almost over night, the same people I have to deal with on a daily basis for work all of a sudden invaded my twitterverse which I sort of insulated myself away from mainstream poker. I loved the fact that not to many poker people were involved with Twitter. It was sort of like a dive bar that no one went to except my friends and then all of a sudden it got popular.

Yeah, I'm a little bitter because I can't make fun of poker people on Twitter. And the worst part? That inane industry politics in real life had taken root onto the intertubes. I started getting those, "Why aren't you following me on Twitter?" emails from scensters. (And I have sent a similar email on occasion but that was to point out that someone was following the wrong feed. My main feed is taopauly, but I also locked up DrPauly and taopoker before someone else snagged those and tried to exploit those Twitter names for their own financial gain).

I felt pressured to follow people that I really have no desire or interest in knowing what they had to eat everyday or how they busted out of a poker tournament. For the first time, I seriously considered ditching Twitter. But then I realized that I have a book coming out and need all the self-promotion that I can get.

I firmly believe that individuals should do whatever they want with blogs and art and things like Twitter. That's why I laugh and get angry when a group of followers get pissy about the content on Twitter and blogs. For example, Wil had a large city of followers (something like 573K). He's a hockey fan and likes to tweet during playoff games. These are among my favorite tweets from Wil. However, a group of his fans get so angry almost on the verge of a riot over his subject matter. Do they have any right to complain? Simply unfollow him. Or perhaps they should have a little patience. The hockey playoffs will end soon and Wil will return to discussing things more to their liking. Heck, I'm not into most of the same geek stuff that Wil is into, but I don't berate him for tweeting about comic cons or other weird stuff.

Selfish nits bitching about tweets. Shit, I'm even more lame for writing about them. OK, maybe not that lame. I'm defending my friend and my friend's right to complete ownership over his content.

I have to remind myself that as I criticize how others use Twitter. In the end, I have no say and I'm going against my general philosophy of do what you wish, with the one exception of locked/protected updates which I think is pretty lame. As the Bloggess stated, "What you’re drinking at Starbucks is not national security. It makes me want to create a page for my cat and make it private because it's that stupid."

Funny thing, is that I know someone who made a Twitter account for their cat. Too. Fuckin. Funny.

Overall, I respect everyone's right to speak their mind, but that doesn't mean I'm going to follow along. In the last few weeks, I gave up on many folks. I had a similar situation a couple of years ago with the vast expansion of poker blogs. So many new ones popped up and were simply... awful. I was wasting my time reading all that horeendous content that I slapped myself in the head and said, "Stop reading."

I'm taking that to heart with Twitter. I stopped following feeds with little to no nutritional value to my daily internet readings. After monitoring them for weeks and months and even a year, I realized that I wasn't missing anything important. And the folks who followed me and then stopped? They feel the same way.

In order to manage my time better, I have been actively weening myself on the time I spend on the internet. Since my career and businesses are based on the intertubes, I'm forced to deal with those situations. That's why I curtail the remainder of internet-related activities. That especially means Twitter, which is the most popular site that I visit. I have since cut back my time on twitter by 50% over the last 100 days, thanks to TweetDeck. It really helps filter out the static.

By the way, thanks to Maigrey who pointed out a funny blog post about Twitter and that's what sort of triggered this post.

And yes, you can follow me on Twitter here. And for you music lovers, we created a separate group feed for Coventry Music Blog.

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