Yesterday, I receive a review copy of Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods by Shel Israel. I started to read it beside the Country Club of Woodbridge swimming pool and thinking about how best to review the book. I'm only thirty pages into it so far, so I'm not ready to write a more traditional review.
However, one of the key points, at least in the beginning of the book is about how we are moving from an era of broadcast to an era of conversation. Twitter is a great tool to join into a conversation that may apply to your brand, your life, or anything else you want to talk about. With this in mind, I thought that it might be interesting to write a different sort of blog post, sort of like carrying on a conversation about the book and perhaps even like live blogging it.
So, I may have assorted posts up on Twitter about reading Twitterville. I'll also take time to share random thoughts about the book as I read through it.
This isn't a completely new idea for me. A while ago, I was rereading Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon. As I read it, I wrote blog posts about the places he had visited and what I could find out about them now via the Internet. You can read those posts in the Long Blue Tail section of my blog. Some point, I hope to return to this.
Meanwhile, back in Twitterville, the first thing that I noticed is that so many people are referenced by their twitter handles. If only to get a good list of interesting people to follow on Twitter, this book is worth it. I'll mention some of them in subsequent posts.
Shel starts off the introduction to his book by talking about when James Buck was arrested and posted that single word in Twitter. Arrested. It can mean to be taken into custody by the authorities. Yet there is another meaning to the word arrested. It can mean to stop. The moment that James' tweet reached Shel, through a serious of re-tweets, it seems to have stopped Shel in his tracks and caused him to rethink his views about Twitter. That is a great thing about Twitter. Through your network of friends you are likely, if you are open to it, to stumble across tweets that stop you in your tracks and make you think. To me, this is a good thing.
Joining the Conversation
As I noted above, an important focus about this book is on the conversations that take place within Twitter. Mr. Israel is a journalist who understands the responsibility of putting information into context, into a story that people can understand. I look forward to some of the stories that he will be telling. He also puts the nature of conversations into context as he talks about The Cluetrain Manifesto as a key book in getting people to think about the marketplace as a conversation. It made me think of all the discussions back in 2003 and 2004 about post-broadcast politics. Shel applies this to business and I look forward to seeing where he goes with it.
Twitterville examines the inefficiency of traditional marketing. It argues the case for using social media instead of ads. It argues that from a business perspective, Twitter is the most effective tool yet delivered into the growing arsenal of social media tools.
As I read this, I thought about the various Digiday events. I would love to hear Shel speak there.
The History of Twitter
One thing that always causes me to pause is when I stumble across comments about how Twitter Inc was formed in October, 2006. My first tweet was in October 2006 and I have to go back and double check, did I in fact tweet the first month they were incorporated? Yup.
Shel also does a good job of talking about how Twitter started, where the team came from and capturing some of the development ethos.
So far, I'm enjoying the book. Anyone else have a review copy and want to join the discussion? Do you have thoughts about what you've read about the book, either here or other places? Let me know.
@pistachio, @gruen, @geechee_girl
Do you know what #followfriday is? Do you know why I put a pound sign or hashmark in front of #followfriday? Do you know who @pistachio, @gruen, @geechee_girl are? Do you know why there is an at-sign at the beginning of their usernames? Do you know how I am getting this message to show up on Twitter and Facebook automatically?
Regular readers of my blog will recognize that #followfriday is a ‘hashtag’. It is a tag used on Twitter so that people can easily find it and other people talking about the same topic. On Fridays, people on Twitter often put up a tweet listing people that they follow that they think their followers might also want to follow. I post my message on my blog, and then use TwitterFeed to take the post and send it to Twitter. I use the Twitter Application on Facebook to take that tweet and then add it to my Facebook profile.
@pistachio, @gruen, @geechee_girl are three people from Twitter that have gotten together and written Twitter For Dummies. If you’re trying to understand what I’ve been talking about in the previous paragraphs, then this book is for you. If you’ve been to a party recently and wondered what this Twitter thing is that everyone is talking about, then this book is for you.
In the introduction, they write
We wrote this book for the first-time Twitter users. If you’ve already created an account that has some friends and followers, you can probably skip the chapters that talk about how to sign up and get moving – but you might find it useful to review the sections on how to dress up your profile. If you’re a business and have already gotten rolling on Twitter, you can probably safely ignore many of the starting chapters and check out Parts II and IV. If you’re a Twitter pro and could have probably written this book, feel free not to read anything, use this book as a doorstop and recycle it when you’re done. Okay, we’re kidding – it’ll make a great gift for the Twitter-skeptics in your life!
Well, I consider myself a Twitter Pro, I probably could have written this book myself, but I probably wouldn’t have done as good a job as @pistachio, @gruen, and @geechee_girl have. I get bored explaining to people how to set up user accounts, what CAPTCHA is, or how to customize a profile, which is another reason this book might be good for me. The next time someone looks at me cross-eyed when I try to explain Twitter, or the next time someone asks how to get started with Twitter, I can simply hand them this book.
I unexpectedly received a copy of the book for review the publisher and like Tara Hunt’s book The Whuffie Factor, I probably wouldn’t have read it if I hadn’t met @pistachio at some social media gathering or another and decided to follow her on Twitter.
Yet this illustrates the importance of The Whuffie Factor, the social capital that people build up on sites like Twitter. Twitter for Dummies is a great book for starting to get involved in Twitter and building your own social capital online.
I must admit, I have not read closely the book. With a cursory glance, it looks like they have all the correct details of how to set up an account and get started. Instead, I spent more time paying attention to the tips, technical stuff and other brief paragraphs scattered through the book on how to make the most out of Twitter. These are useful tips and I wish more people would read and pay attention to these tips.
So, that’s this week’s #followfriday. Follow @pistachio, @gruen, @geechee_girl. Go out and get their book and either read it yourself if you are new to Twitter, or give it to that friend that you’ve been trying to explain Twitter to. Then, come back next week to find more interesting people to follow on Twitter.
About a week ago, I was tagged in the Facebook meme “Twenty books you’ve read that will always stick with you”. As is typical, instead of just listing off twenty books, I thought I would write a blog post (which will automatically get loaded as a Facebook Note), where I list those books, as well as provide a little back story on them.
Unfortunately, when I started working on this, I was thinking it was twenty-five books, so you get five extra books at no extra cost. Also, I’ve sorted them in terms of when I read them.
The first few books are from my childhood. Flip, by Wesley Dennis was written back in 1941 and is about a young horse learning to jump. He has a dream about having wings, and this enables him to make his big jump.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf back in 1936 is another childhood favorite of mine. It is of a young bull that liked to sit and smell the flowers.
Lightfoot the Deer by Thorton Burgess rounds out the early childhood section. It was originally published in 1921. For some reason this book by Burgress is the first of his that comes to mind, although I read every book of Burgess I could find.
As I got a little older, I didn’t read as much. One series that I did read was the Danny Dunn books. Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine is the one that comes first to mind. It was written by Jay Williams in 1958. I read may of the Danny Dunn books when I was around ten and I believe I did a book review on this one.
Yet I enjoyed science fiction and fantasy much more. I read many of the Roger Zelazny books in the Chronicles of Amber, with Nine Princes in Amber being the most memorable.
Of course, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as the whole Lord of the Rings series was also important to me.
However, the fantasy book that most stuck with me was The Last Unicorn written by Peter S. Beagle and first published back in 1968.
As I grew older a book that especially caught my attention was Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany.
Another writer that greatly captured my attention around this time was Hermann Hesse. Like other writers that I enjoyed, I sought out and read every book by Hermann Hesse that I could find. Siddhartha was one of the most influential for me. I also sought out books by his mentor, Gottfried Keller and read some of his books as well.
When I went off to college, I ended up studying philosophy and Plato’s: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito was one of the important early influences on my interest in philosophy.
Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling was another very important book for me, as were the writings of Wittgenstein.
The other great philosophy book that I was introduced to around that time was Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. It is a book that I often go back to read.
My favorite philosophy professor encouraged me to take more literature classes, which unfortunately I ignored until my senior year, when I took some great literature classes. It was then that I discovered the writings of Virginia Woolf. Two of her books were particularly influential on me: Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.
Around the same time, I was introduced to James Joyce’s work. Ulysses is perhaps the one that especially jumped out at me, although all of his books have been important and I even read some of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to my daughters when they were young. They didn’t believe me when I talked about it being such an important piece of literature and then started reading about the moocow coming down along the road and meeting baby tuckoo. And yes, I had a hairy face when I the first few pages to them.
I also took a writing class in college where three books were added to my collection of very important books. Denise Levertov’s Light Up the Cave, Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading and T.S. Elliot’s The Sacred Wood - Essays on Poetry and Criticism stuck with me as books that have greatly shaped my thinking about reading and writing.
After college, I lived for some time on a sailboat on the banks of the Hudson River on the Upper West Side of New York City. It was a great way for a young reader to live. In the summer, I would sit on the back of the boat eating a salad I would pick up from one of the shops on Broadway reading one after another great European novel. In the winter, when life on a boat in the North East was harder, I would huddle under the covers with a bottle of Scotch and a long cold Russian Novel.
There were many great books that I read during that time and many of them have stayed with me. A few of the more important ones included The Brothers Karamozov, Remembrance of Things Past, Pride and Prejudice, and The Mill on the Floss
Another important book for me from this time was William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways: A Journey into America. It is another one of those books that I return to from time to time. A while ago, I started my Long Blue Tail project, where I was following Blue Highways, and searching to see what I could find of various stops along the way looking through social media. It has been several months since I added anything there, but I hope to get back to it again someday soon.
As my career took twists and turns, I worked with an organizational consultant who had been trained in the Group Relations tradition of Tavistock. Through her, I found many interesting books about group dynamics in the workplace. I learn of ‘Social Dreaming’ and was introduced to the book The Third Reich of Dreams. It is an out of print and hard to find book, but it is a very important book for looking at how all our dreams are inter-related.
When my children were born, I discovered some old books and some new books for children. No list would be complete without Goodnight Moon, and at least one book by Robert McCloskey, such as Blueberries for Sal.
Two other books I should add to this group include My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb. Ms. Lamb was the mother of one of my eldest daughter’s first playmates. The other very important book is The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story. It is also written by Gloria Houston and has a similar sensibility.
As my children got older, I read them Watership Down. It was an important family event, and now Fiona is reaching the age to read Watership Down to her.
One final book for the list, which has grown even further past the twenty or twenty five books originally intended. E. B. White’s One Man's Meat is a collection of his essays written on his saltwater farm in Maine. I’ve often thought that this collection of essays is a must for any aspiring blogger.
So, there you have my expanded list. What’s yours?
Last week, I received a copy of Tara Hunt’s new book The Whuffie Factor. By traditional marketing standards, it is everything I detest. It has an annoyingly cute and trendy title. It is about a subject I think I already know a lot about.
Too make things worse, the first paragraph inside the fly cover starts off “The book that catches the crest of Web 2.0 and shows how any business can harness its power …” If I were browsing books at a bookstore, that would probably be enough for me to put the book right back on the shelf, assuming I would have taken it off the shelf in the first place.
However, Tara Hunt sent a message out on Twitter asking for people to review the book, and because Tara has incredible whuffie and knows how to use it, I agreed to review the book and I’m glad I did.
So, let’s start off by talking about what ‘whuffie’ is. Tara writes,
Tara goes into detail about how social capital really works online with great examples of companies that have used whuffie effectively, as well as examples of when companies have blown it, severely damaging the whuffie.
She does a great job of explaining all of this in a way that I imagine technological troglodytes could understand and as I read through the book, I thought of all kinds of people that I think should read the book.
One good example is many of the people in the newspaper industry. There are many reasons that the newspaper industry having difficulty. However, the lack of a proper understanding of whuffie and the news industry is a compounding factor. It used to be that the local newspaper was an integral part of the local community. Everyone knew the reporters and the newspaper boys. You could talk to them and they would listen. They had a certain amount of whuffie. Yet as large companies came in trying to maximize ROI and depersonalize everyone involved with the newspapers, newspapers lost whuffie, and with that, are hemorrhaging badly.
Meanwhile, online bloggers engage in discussions and build whuffie. This helps the journalistic bloggers, but it also helps many other bloggers as well. One site that I find very interesting is EntreCard. This is a site that allows bloggers to drop cards on one another as a means of saying, “Hi, I visited your site and I like it.” It is a great way of building whuffie.
On the other hand, the folks running EntreCard appear to do everything in their power to destroy their own whuffie. This results in fairly frequent firestorms where the bloggers with the most whuffie leave, sometimes setting up their own whuffie exchange sites.
You will note that I still have EntreCard on my site, because in spite of the anti-whuffie actions of the folks running EntreCard, it is still useful for me in expanding my own whuffie. However, I now support Adgitize and CMF Ads which is where a lot of EntreCard refugees have fled.
Now, another EntreCarder, Greg Mathews, is considering setting up his own Whuffie Exchange site. So far, he is doing things right. He’s announced what he is planning to do and sought feedback and buy-in from potential users even before he brings up his new site.
So, I hope that some of my friends who are trying to salvage newspaper companies reads Tara’s book. I hope some of the folks working on sites like EntreCard also read the book, and I’m sure that over the coming days, I’ll think of more and more people that really should read Tara’s book.
A few weeks ago, I received a review copy of The Faith of Barack Obama. It is a short book, around 150 pages, and written in a light breezy style, so I figured I would get through it very quickly and get my post up reviewing the book done well before Saddleback or Denver.
However, while it is a quick read, it is also an enjoyable read, so I’ve stretched it out, savoring the experience. Today, the convention begins, so I figured I’d better get this finished.
First, I should give a little back background. The author, Stephen Mansfield lived in Texas before moving to Tennessee and wrote a book, The Faith of George W. Bush. With that, I feared that his religious and political viewpoints might be a bit more conservative than my own. If they are, it is not obvious, and certainly isn’t an impediment to enjoying the book.
Instead, Mansfield starts off by observing Sen. Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, where he stated, “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States”. He talks about the changes going on in religion and politics, liberals reclaiming their religious beliefs and chaos amongst various conservative leaning ministers.
With this as a background, Mr. Mansfield traces Sen. Obama’s religious journey, exploring what it was like to be brought up by an atheist, married to a Muslim and attending a Catholic school in Indonesia. He talks about Sen. Obama’s organizing in Chicago and the interactions with the black churches there. He explores black liberation theology. All of this providing grist for Sen. Obama as he works out his salvation with fear and trembling.
Even if you aren’t interested in what has helped form the faith of Barack Obama, the book is worth reading, simply as a well-written biography.
How will this fit with the stories that we will hear about Sen. Obama during the convention? It is hard to say. My sense is that it will supplement it nicely. I enjoyed reading the book. I think people who read this site are likely to as well. If you’ve read it, or have some other good books you would like to recommend, please let me know.