Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Socializing In So Cal... all about Twitter!

Let's face it - we exist on our social interactions. The Internet has just made it easier to do so. Our social interactions are just a part of how we communicate with each other today and applications like Twitter form an important part of this...

My experience with Twitter has been interesting as it has been varied. I started off with a couple of dozen followers, all of whom left me within a few short days, only to be replaced by others. I am now approaching 250 followers and I am following nearly 600. There are people who are hell-bent on having 2,000 followers and wish to get there in a few days! I have no such desire apart from not having enough time to concentrate on this. Also, don't believe anything you hear about the right and wrong way to run your Twitter account. I have explored a lot of Twitter and the co-applications (such as FriendOrFollow or retweetradar or even the infamous Twitter Grader.) Indeed, I have found some really useful applications like Twitscoop and Power Twitter (which runs from within Mozilla Firefox 3.05 as an add-on.)

People who think they are knowledgeable have put links to their mini-tutorials on Twitter. Click the link and you will have a bunch of rules, from one to twelve about what you should or should not do. If there was one rule which I will shout over the noise it is: BE YOURSELF!

So many people think that there is a way to be if you are on Twitter. Just as an experiment, I started three Twitter accounts. If you have been directed here from one of them it is probably the main one, FYI there are two others: one which I started because I wanted to see how or if I could direct the kind of people who end up being followers. Don't worry! I couldn't. Twitter just took its own course. Now I find that people follow me and I just follow them. Every day I look at Twitter. Occasionally I will post an update. Some days go by with me posting nothing. It's nice and easy and laid back like that. Why worry?

My main interest in Twitter was to explore its use as a social networking medium and I picked up a lot of the focus for this from George Siemens's CCK08 course at the University of Manitoba last fall. Certainly, Twitter can be looked upon as a powerful phenomenon which is changing the way we think about a lot of things. Certainly we can look at it as being a worldwide news spreader. It is amazing how quickly news spreads over Twitter, (exponentially faster than over conventional news-breaking media.)

So, what do I think about Twitter? I'll tell you. It is a media to which everyone should be signed up. They should have a handle which reflects their personality and character. It can also reflect a brand name, to which an individual is tied in some way, perhaps because that individual has a financial interest in the brand, or that the individual is a key figure in the organization which is supported by the Twitter account. Another variation is the account which represents a somewhat anonymous brand (e.g.: NASA) but these are far and few between. In the main, Twitter handles are like JoeBlow or MaryAnn. Others are more descriptive like BirdWatcher or CupcakeLover. (I made these up - they may even exist!)  The most important thing is that the BirdWatcher does characteristic things as updates, not unrealistic things. For example: BirdWatcher should not be seen shooting grouse or pheasant and CupcakeLover oughtn't be peddling porn. Even more subtle, if we continually see updates from Birdwatcher which decries his love of the country: "Got myself real dirty the other day, shovelin some mud..." this might persuade someone like me to unfollow BirdWatcher. I think you get the idea.

And Twitter is really nowhere to be gross, profane or just plain nasty! (I have unfollowed people for their liberal use of the F word, (in the same way as I have unfollowed people who are overly religious and try and turn everything into a gospel.)

The people I am following seem to be split into three types: 1) plain ordinary folk who talk about the struggles they have with life every day 2) superstar professional microbloggers like Pistachio, ShelIsrael, Blonde2.0, Pop17 and CaliLewis, and others I have found who have a very defined avatar with an interesting slant on life like pastaqueen (and I love hearing what pastaqueen has to say!) and 3) everyone else, who can be a million different things.  If I have left anyone out, sorry! I am not superhuman. I remember most of you but not all 572 people! That's too hard!

One thing I have seen is the amazing way people manage to post videos which are not very good. Either they are unprofessionally made, or the person who is making the video hasn't bothered to write a script before talking directly to the camera for a whole twenty minutes, stopping every few sentences to correct something they obviously hadn't rehearsed. This is absolutely unforgiveable! And you really won't get a second chance! Others produce the slickest best-rehearsed material and stun me with their sheer professional ability. No wonder they are in the big league.

Above all - I think that people don't realize that the difference between having PowerTwitter and just plain old Twitter, is that pictures and videos come straight through, so if they are bad, I am going to be much more annoyed with them than if I was a plain old Twitter user. So pictures and videos should be looked at first before posting...

My Twitter wish list: 1) I would really like a way to head for a specific time in the time line to go back to something which was said (usually only a few days ago) and  2) it would be great if, next to the avatar picture on the left, there was a symbol which tells me they're not following me! I posted this on Twitter but so far, nobody has come back with the solution.

See you all next time!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What's New About Country and Western?

Well - it has been a while since I last blogged. Christmas and New Years was hectic like it always is... Meantime there has been time for me to reflect on the world.

Despite the horrible news from Gaza about so many people being maimed and killed, the world is trying hard to be a better place. I think the whole world is fed up with war-mongering and wants to do what it can to stop all the killing. Here is some good news, albeit only relevant for those folk in San Francisco, but anyway...

According to California Fire News, the response time to emergencies has improved enormously in the metro San Francisco area, and, following a new protocol, the 911 Call Center has improved the time it takes to dispatch emergency help to those people who really need it fast. For just about a year now, dispatchers have dispensed with the "further questions" approach before dispatching emergency teams, and, depending on the priority of the symptoms reported over the telephone, there is now no delay in getting people out to the scene of an emergency, whereas before, several questions needed to be asked to determine the priority, therefore taking up valuable time. This new approach has meant that now, instead of emergency workers arriving at a scene late one in four times, they now arrive late one in every five times. Although this doesn't appear to be monumental, try multiplying this figure by a hundred! This then means that whereas before, out of every 400 people's emergencies, 100 were late arrivals, now out of the same figure, 400, only 80 now are late arrivals, and we can expect the figure to keep dropping as the new technologies all take effect. Emergencies are really costly, and we should be very grateful for the support we get here in the USA. California had a record-setting wildfire year in 2008, with over 1.7 Billion dollars spent fighting wildland fires! There were some sad stories. But there were also many stories of heroism and courage too.

The other topic which came to mind was the film industry. Clint Eastwood has produced two new movies after a long time doing other stuff. He is 78 and still raring for more(!) He is going to be doing a story about Nelson Mandela this year. It is interesting that the film, "Gran Torino" is about an old guy who encounters some Asians who move into his neighborhood, and the movie deals with his very unique way of handling this. The old Eastwood of "High Plains Drifter" fame is still there, but, after the event, he has a lot to say about the presence (or lack) of political correctness, and somehow his old-style commonsense wins through in the end. 

This demonstrates the incredible changes we have gone through in just the last few years. Where did all the old cowboy westerns go? Why is all of this so foreign to us now? I think someone should do a remake of classic "western" movies like "Monte Walsh", "High Noon", "High Plains Drifter" or "The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance" dressed up in a modern "western" genre, just as an experiment. I have always believed that these films have a place in our current society too, since the "West" was won at some stage, and, if nothing else, they serve as a piece of history, however politically incorrect they may or may not be.

See you next time around... :)