Friday, February 24, 2012

Let's Chat! (Twitter Chats)

I've had an account on Twitter for a long time, but only recently started using it regularly and exploring the possibilities. The other day my friend sent me this article, which talks about something I hadn't heard of before: Twitter chats. These are essentially set "meeting" times with an assigned hashtag so that anyone can participate or simply keep track of the conversation. There are hundreds of Twitter chats going on at any given moment, and they are organized around all kinds of topics. So how do you go about finding a chat that's right for you? A good place to start is this spreadsheet (linked to in the original article).

I have used the hashtag as a search function before, but it never occurred to me that it could be used for real-time discussion. Now that I know they exist, I'm definitely looking forward to joining some of these chats! There's even a service, TweetChat, that makes it easier to participate by automatically adding the hashtag for whichever chat you're participating in to your tweets - all you have to do is log in using your Twitter handle and password.

If that spreadsheet is a little much for you (it was for me - there are over 500 chats listed), here are several other articles to get you started:

Forbes, "How Twitter Chats Will Open Your Mind and Network"
(Original article linked above)

ReadWriteEnterprise, "How to Get Started With Twitter Chats"
(General advice and a list of popular chats organized by day and time)

Under30CEO, "25 Twitter Chats Every Entrepreneur Must Know"
(Includes several good PR, marketing, and social media chats, as well as things like advice for job seekers)

Social Media Today, "20 Game-Changing Twitter Chats"
(Also organized by day and time)

Social Fresh, "Twitter Chats, The Ultimate How To Guide"
(Just what it says - extensive advice on behavior and best practices for moderators and participants)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Remix Culture

The other day when I was trying to come up with a topic for a post here, I started thinking about what it is I do in the process of choosing something to write about. First I check Facebook. Then I check Twitter. If nothing strikes me, I go read a few blogs.

Now, this isn't always the case, sometimes I do have something I know I want to talk about. But a lot of the time I find myself going to others to see what they are talking about or have found interesting. I don't see this as a bad thing - in fact, I see it as necessary to the creative process, at least to some extent.

My point is, what is really original content? Don't tell me you've come up with an idea nobody else has had, because I won't believe it. You might possibly have a new way of presenting it, or maybe even of analyzing it. Anyway, all creativity - music, art, writing, etc. - has always been influenced primarily by others, but at the very least by the creator's experiences.

I think the difference right now is, as usual, the ease of access. Information has, throughout most of history, been difficult to obtain. You had to put forth at least a little effort to find out what you wanted to know. Now, you can get there in a couple clicks and a short typed query. This is why there are so many current issues with copyright law - it's just that easy to access (and, basically, own) someone else's content.

This has created what I think of as a culture of remix. Songs, videos, writing, photography; anything can be, and has been, remixed into something new. A viral video can be auto-tuned and turned into a song. It is easier than ever for people to "borrow" what they see as the best parts of others' work and combine them in a new way. This is not just happening on the Internet, either; I've heard it happening in popular music as well. When it comes down to it, what's the difference between "inspired by" and "created from?" As usual, social media is good at blurring the lines.

Anyway, in case you're still trying to figure out what to blog about, check out this infographic by copyblogger.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Too Many Causes

This morning when I turned on the radio, John Mayer's "Waiting On The World To Change" was playing. At first I wasn't really paying attention, but then for some reason this verse stuck out to me:
It's not that we don't care,
We just know that the fight ain't fair

So we keep on waiting,
Waiting on the world to change
It reminded me of a video a friend sent to me recently, a song someone had written and posted to YouTube called "All Good Causes."


The song describes how even though there are so many worthy causes in the world, we just don't have time to be passionate about and involved in all of them. Like John Mayer said, it's not that we don't care. But sometimes, as my Facebook and Twitter feeds fill up with pleas to support, it's easier to just not be a part of anything. Because when they are all good causes, just picking one or two to support can almost feel like a betrayal of the rest - so it's simpler to pick none at all. And as more and more of these causes and non-profits turn to social media to get the support they need to continue, the pleas become more personal, as we see friends or family posting about how deeply important something is to them. Because they or someone they know personally has this problem.

It's frustrating and overwhelming to know that so many things are broken and need our help, our time and money, to be fixed. In the end we can't care about all of them, so we ignore them all or pick a few, usually whichever ones have had an impact in our own lives. So which causes do you make time for, and why? Is there just one that's really important to you, or several? How many can you be part of?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Social Media and Politics

There's been a lot of talk about the 2012 presidential election being the "social media" or "Twitter election." Political ads are no different from regular advertising in that they are placed where the audience is. Added to this is the fact that people are more likely to trust recommendations coming from within their own networks and it's obvious that Facebook and Twitter are good places for political candidates to have a presence (in fact, 62% of Americans expect them to). However, this infographic from Mashable shows that not all candidates are created equal on social media.

President Barack Obama is by far in the lead on both Facebook and Twitter, with over 25 million Facebook likes and 12.5 million Twitter followers. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich make a showing for Republicans by sharing second place; Romney has 1.4 million Facebook Likes and Gingrich has the same number of Twitter followers. Ron Paul is the third most followed candidate.

Click through to see the original infographic.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

28 Twitter Stories

In a beautiful Pinterest-style layout, Twitter showcases 28 stories of unique uses of Twitter - everything from saving a dog's life to live-tweeting the Osama bin Laden raid to saving people trapped by an earthquake. The stories are from all over the world - and farther. One is the first tweet from outer space, by astronaut Mike Massimino.

And if that's not enough, here's one more about the chief of a Kenyan village who has used Twitter to stop thieves, find missing sheep, and rescue a man who had fallen into a pit.

One thing people will always do is find a way to communicate.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Twitter News

While here in the U.S. the biggest news this weekend was Whitney Houston's death and the Grammy Awards, in Greece a city was burning. Here, Mashable collects a sampling of the tweets, photos, and videos posted during the riots. As with several other recent events, the best way to keep up with things in real time was through Twitter, where people communicated, commented on what was going on, and posted updates including photos and video before official news sources could get things put together. Even here, Whitney Houston's death was reported first by Twitter - 27 minutes before the media.

People condemn traditional (and even online) news sources for being slow. And, comparatively, they are. However, I think it's worth it to take that time for confirmation, editing, and review to make certain something is correct before publishing it, even if that means it's 30 minutes, or an hour, behind the first reports. I hear a lot about how traditional news(papers) are dying, in favor of "citizen journalists." I don't know if that's a good thing. I suggest that what we need is a fundamental change in the way we look at and understand "news." It used to be that traditional sources really were not just the best and most reliable, but also fastest ways to find out what was going on in the world, and this is no longer the case. But I think that Twitter is not changing, as people believe, the way news is reported. I think that Twitter is changing the way news is experienced. Rather than reporting and observing, I would suggest that Twitter (and other social networks) are becoming an integral part of events as they happen, that it actually changes and affects the outcomes. When these tools are taking such an active role in what's happening, I feel that we should not consider them a news source, but part of the news.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

An Experiment in Information Consumption

I was realizing earlier that I consume ridiculous amounts of information each day. I read several blogs, and that plus Facebook, Twitter, various links, and after following all of those down bunny trails...I wonder how I get ANYTHING else done (answer: sometimes I don't). I do not have what I would call an Internet or social media addiction, but an information addiction. I'm afraid of missing out on something interesting, so I consume everything I can. It's not a stressful thing, but it is a time-consuming thing. I'm not certain I want to change it - I love learning things, even trivial or entertaining things, and sometimes there is truly useful information to be had.

However, because I do love information, I thought I'd find out a little more. I propose to track, for one week (starting Sunday), my entire information consumption on the Internet: every link, article, blog, and video, organizing it in percentages by day, type of media, source (social networks, blogs, searches, other browsing), category of content (i.e. entertainment, news, and any other categories that emerge), and see what patterns show. Maybe I will even work up some fun infographics, who knows. Depending on what I find (and how difficult it is to track, considering I'm on around 5-10 different devices/machines during the week), maybe it will be interesting to continue it over a slightly longer period.

UPDATE, 2/13/12:

Unfortunately, this will be postponed a week. I made the classic mistake of not backing up my information and lost everything I was keeping track of when Blogger glitched. I was saving all the links to things as an unpublished post because it was the simplest way to save things between school, work, home, and mobile, but as I was adding something the post blanked out and then saved. Empty. So I will be using a different method next week. However, I am still really looking forward to the results!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Musings On How Social Media Changes Connections

Connections is the title of the art show I put together as a senior in undergrad. It's also the specific title for this, my favorite piece from that show, which will be part of the Student Art in the Library Juried Exhibit this semester in the Hodges Library at University of Tennessee:

The show was about how we are always trying to establish connections and relationships with others in any way we can. Ultimately, this is the point of any type of art - to create a bond of shared emotion and meaning with even an unknown audience. I've always felt that if something I create makes an impression on even one person, then it has done what it was meant to.

I feel like these types of personal connections are very relevant at the moment as a topic, since one of the main criticisms of social media is that it may diminish their strength and depth. At the same time, this is what social media is all about, and why it has become so dominant. People are drawn to it because they want to make these connections, to share their lives with others. More and more, people are choosing to leave behind the potential loneliness of their private islands.

However, that doesn't mean they succeed. Sharing everything may have the opposite effect; if everyone knows everything about you, then are any of those relationships truly meaningful? Although I love social media and am an active user, I wonder if the way we share and think about sharing in the face of technology is creating poor habits when we look for relationships - basically, quantity over quality.

My point of view is somewhat more positive. I believe social media is indeed changing the way we interact and form relationships and interpersonal connections, but change is inevitable. Even before the Internet, culturally we already looked at relationships differently than we had a couple hundred years ago. For one thing, there's a lot more equality, and while hardly anyone now would try to argue that's a bad thing, in the past it would have been unthinkable. I don't think the changes happening now will be really measurable until time gives us some perspective on them. So when we say that social media is changing relationships, why do we assume it's a bad thing?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dropbox - A Great Tool For Students

Last semester I was working on my final thesis project, which in the Advertising department is set up as a group project. I was working with three other students.

Now, I've heard all kinds of complaints about group projects, but the one thing aside from personal or work-related issues that's always problematic is finding meeting times. The more people there are, the worse it gets to try to coordinate with everyone's school, work, and personal schedules. This was especially true in this case, since one our team members lived slightly over an hour from UT.

In the end, this meant we frequently had to coordinate our efforts remotely. Between texting, long and unwieldy email threads, and random Facebook messages, it could get really difficult to keep up with the conversation, especially when you didn't know WHERE the most recent exchanges had taken place. The first thing we did to help this problem was set up a Facebook group. This was extremely useful in that it kept all our communication about the project in one place that was easy to check and get notifications from. Unfortunately, it didn't eliminate the email threads, since we still had to have a way to share files with each other.

Enter Dropbox.

Dropbox is, basically, a free cloud service - it lets you upload and download files easily from any computer. Most importantly, though, it allows users to share folders, automatically updating the files for everyone when one person saves changes. Not only that, it tracks who was the last person to save any file, and keeps all previous versions so that you can revert back if there is a mistake.

The one real downside is the limited amount of space; however, there are several things you can do to expand your limit for free, including referrals,* and I was able to grow mine fairly easily just by posting to Facebook. Also, it allows students to get double the amount of space per referral (500MB instead of 250MB). Once you've signed up, go to and add an .edu email address to get the extra referral space.

This was quite possibly the best tool I have ever used for a group project, and is perfect either for school or for anyone who ever uses more than one computer. Stop emailing files to yourself or carrying around a jumpdrive that can get lost or broken - use Dropbox.

*Yes, I've used my referral link in this post. If for some reason you don't want to use that, the main website is

Saturday, February 4, 2012

First Friday: An Evening of Knoxville Art

Last night I went to First Friday - something I'd been meaning to do for a while, and finally did, after about a year and a half in Knoxville. Knoxville's First Friday is a monthly event on the historic 100 block of Gay Street and Market Square. Art galleries and businesses all over downtown stay open past their usual hours as people stroll up and down the street on what is essentially a local art tour.

A view down Market Square
Last night was a beautiful night for it, since it wasn't too cold, and there were crowds of people everywhere enjoying the night and the art - as well as the food and wine provided by most of the art galleries.

I started at the Emporium Building, which had showings for several different artists, as well as housing studio spaces where most of the artists were taking advantage of the event to meet and talk to people interested in their art. The place was packed and most of the artists were busy, but I did get the chance to talk to Matt Salley from Marble City Glassworks. He and Chris Szaton had some really gorgeous glass pieces on display, and Matt was kind enough to let me get a picture.

They also had some bookmark/flyers out for a glassblowing workshop, which I noticed largely featured a QR code along with only minimal information:

I thought this was neat, and although only a smartphone user could read the info on the card, there were also business cards available with the Marble City Glassworks website listed on them.

Surprisingly, this was the only nod I saw to social media the whole night. I had expected to find a lot more artists referring people to Facebook, Twitter, or other places (such as art website DeviantArt or other portfolio/image sharing sites that allow the user to keep the rights), but while there were websites listed on some cards, most only had basic contact info. I was wondering if this was because artists were trying to drive all traffic through their personal websites, or if it was (in the case of Facebook) due to copyright concerns over posting images, or maybe another reason. I feel like I see artists, photographers, and others all the time creating Facebook pages to drive local interest, but if these artists had, they weren't making it obvious to the crowds showing up to look at their work in person.

(More photos after the break)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Facebook is Delicious

One thing I love on Facebook is when people post awesome recipes. Most of the time it's just fun to see what others are making; it's a good way to get ideas for new or different meals (and if you want to spend hours at it instead of just happening across things, see Pinterest). But sometimes the picture is just too awesome for words. This is definitely worth a couple hours in the please. Just look at this.

Yes, it's a chocolate cupcake. Stuffed with an Oreo and a Reese's cup. With peanut butter Oreo buttercream frosting.

This is the kind of thing that is so epic there isn't much to say about it.

A friend of mine posted this from BuzzFeed, and luckily the original blog it linked back to included the recipe. The Sweet Life says this cupcake "tastes like Christmas morning and smush-face kittens and all the best things in life," and I'm inclined to agree. Even aside from all the fillings (and toppings), the chocolate cake itself was just fantastic, and I'm saving that recipe for use later.

Here's one of my batch. It's not as pretty, but then I'm not a professional cupcake inventor, and I bet it was just as delicious:

Also, the Oreo on the bottom has chocolate cream in it instead of the regular white. Yeah.

So if you're on a's too late for you, my friend. You have already gazed upon the glory. Either way, the recipe (and some more pictures, because they're almost as amazing as the real thing) can be found on The Sweet Life. You're welcome. As I told the people I shared them with, if these aren't the most unhealthy cupcakes you've ever eaten, it's not my fault.