Sunday, April 13, 2008

What's in a name?

I woke up very early this morning which is unusual for me, given how late I went to bed. Maura and I interviewed a possible roommate yesterday for hours and spent the rest of the evening, into this morning, talking about this guy who found us on craigslist.

He was a nice guy; someone who, at face value, we feel comfortable not only cohabitating with, but leaving in charge of our property while we’re on the Vineyard for the summer. He filled out our rental application, complete with what I’m sure will be glowing references, and was very forthright about his life and issues. After he had gone though, I wanted more. I wanted to know what this dude was about. Figuring that someone like him who had contacted us online might have a presence on the web, I googled him.

Roomie has a not-so-common name yet one which he shares with an online poker player whose recent good fortunes have been much blogged about, thus monopolizing most of my search returns. On to his clever little screen name…

Ah, ha! There he is. Oh, and the crazy ex-girlfriend he told us about… And his photography work… And an old 2005 livejournal page. Yes!

Turns out, this guy is legit; or, at least his stories match up. Cool.

So, I woke up very early this morning thinking about web-presence, and what’s in a name. As infrequently as I post, I actually had sat down this morning to write a post about just that.

Wait, let me just check my mail and twitter… What’s this? Andrew Baron of Rocketboom is selling his twitter account on Ebay?!?

For Mr. Baron to do this raised a question for me that no one so far has touched in the couple of blogs I read about the Ebay offering. It points back to my morning’s musing: What’s in a name?

While I don’t think Andrew Baron is planning to rent a room in Pittsburgh anytime soon, I wonder if giving control of his prominent name on twitter to the highest bidder represents a liability to his web-presence or credibility; that is, should the buyer choose to keep his name. Could this impact him so negatively that the selling price would only cover a fraction of the reputation hit?

A commonly held and widely discussed (even in MSM) assumption is that what we do online is attached to us forever. My own anxiety associated with this assumption is a major cause for my lack of content or contributions to the community. Beyond the disappointment, and in some cases, outrage Andrew’s followers on Twitter have displayed, I don’t think that selling one’s name is a good idea.

As one who follows him, I don’t care if Andrew chooses to sell the account. In fact, I think people make too big a deal out of this, with comments like “I’m not for sale!”, or “you’re still my friend, but I can’t follow you anymore.” Why? I’m curious what might come out of the new @andrewbaron’s mouth! This has the potential to be a real version of the many faux-@chrisbrogans.

I’m not sure if anybody pays much attention to what @andrewsmith says, but I still want to make sure it’s me saying it. If roomie’s content had been objectionable for any reason, it could have been a deal breaker without him getting any chance to explain that he sold his name a couple of months back. We haven’t actually offered him the room yet.

You tell me: beyond the social implications, what effects might this have for someone who is trying to capitalize on their own notoriety?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oh wait, I do have a Blog!

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

I could be quite possibly the worst blogger in the world; what with leaving my little piece of the internet unattended for so long. Rather than offer up excuses to my non-existent readers (re: myself), I decide instead to cut back the brush, carry on, and build anew.

As dissatisfied as I am with the previous posts, I will leave them there to serve not just as a reminder of my blog infancy (see pic below), but so that I might hopefully in the future be able to see improvement in writing style and content.

Eight Months Later…

A couple of really cool things have happened since I’ve posted last and each warrants its own entry. To keep a list more easily accessible than one of the nine or ten notebooks I keep, I will just list them here as a sort of out-of-order table of contents for things to come.

• I’m married. None of my long-standing friends read blogs to my knowledge so I’ll assume readers wouldn’t be shocked. You should be. I am so happy and I can’t wait to go on about Maura and gush about how my life is improved every day because of her.
• We’re buying a house. In the midst of a credit and housing crisis this may seem odd, yet life has afforded us this opportunity during what is an optimal buyer’s market.
• I have a new job starting soon. I’m going to drive a taxi. Won’t be the first time, either. I love this sort of work. I’m independent, driven (no pun intended), and I like lots of frequent, short conversations with all kinds of people. Could you think of anything more ideal? …I bet her parents could!
• The time is coming for me to actually contribute to the new media community in a capacity other than being another set of eyes. I will, in the next few weeks, give up my self-consciousness and begin to pursue my Pittsburgh video-podcast idea: Thinkers, Drinkers and Smokers.
• Maura and I will be trying to get out and around the city more to not only take advantage of what Pittsburgh has to offer, but to support those who choose to bring (or keep) their talents here.
• We are both grudgingly continuing our college education. An explanation will follow in the not too distant future but suffice it to say, we don’t see much promise in it. College is expensive and the degrees aren’t worth what they used to be. …except for literally 100 times their weight in gold. Framed.


I consume an extreme amount of online media. Video, audio and blog; I’ve discovered that there are certain types of people who are creating to fill specific niches. I revel in my position as observer, audience member, and witness. Anything I attempt to do with this blog and with other New Media outlets I choose to experiment with is for the purpose of self expression, connection with a larger community and establishment of my place in the burgeoning e-universe. I welcome constructive criticism with the understanding that I have so much to learn. For my part, being a New Media Rockstar is not to goal, it is simply to be a fan and get into the show.

Well, maybe being a roadie might be cool….

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

the "Camps"

Over the past few months I have consumed more internet-based content that one might think possible. Being gainfully unemployed for half the year does have the advantage of offering plenty of time to pursue any activity deemed worthy…and many activities not so. New Media has proven to be more than worthy of my time in that it has relit my imagination and encouraged me to get involved.

PodCamp and BootCamp.

In the past two weeks I have attended not one, but two PodCamp events. The first, PodCampNYC, which was host to almost thirteen hundred people for all over the country, was an almost overwhelming experience. The presenters at this all day immersive “unconference” were the original pioneers of the medium and some of the best known names in the business. They covered topics like making your video podcast look more professional, developing your brand, and of course the ever-popular monetization of new media. While all these topics continued to spark ideas as to how I might make a contribution to the community, the fact still was that I hadn’t yet contributed. Without the experiences of creating a show or, at that time even a blog, I didn’t have any notes to compare. I existed as not much more than a mere spectator and ad hoc flack for Something to Be Desired. None the less, I thoroughly enjoyed my first real intro to the community.

This last weekend in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Justin Kownacki organized BootCampPGH, a far more appropriate venue for someone of my limited experience. BootCamp was designed to be a beginner-level introduction to the basics of new media for anyone who was or wished to create something for this space. Here again, leaders of the community covered topics which were more acutely suited to my needs such as finding your own voice, the basics of web design, and overviews of video podcasting.
Rather than the PodCamp assumption of working with or improving a current project, BootCamp offered an optimistic and encouraging message to those like me who are standing on the doorstep that we are welcome inside.

I am so happy to be apart of this family and I am truly committed to bring something to the table that viewers can relate to. There are several strategies being employed by podcasters and based on my personal viewing/listening habits, there’s only one that works: focus on people. Spending time in the community and seeing how much more I care about and relate to the work of those who value it, emphasizes in my mind its importance. No amount of flash on a website, cute visual effects, or flawless delivery can match someone who wants to connect to me as a person rather than a number on their view count or as a marketing demographic.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

May I come Aboard?

My first real Blog! Hello New Media ocean!

I can see!

Those of you who actually know me know that I am an infant in the world of New Media. My recent introduction to the medium being a result of a fortuitous boredom induced YouTube search for “Pittsburgh”, which led me to Justin Kownacki’s Something to Be Desired. This is where the story begins, with my eyes being opened. My parents always love to tell the story about me getting my first pair of glasses at around three months old. The story goes that when we went outside, I looked around at everything in the world--the trees, the car, the ground--with wide-eyed fascination; seeing them clearly for the first time. I, of course don’t remember this, but when I compare that story with my discovery of ultra-democratic, web-based, user generated content, I recognize how it has caught my attention as I’m sure a sharp image of the world would have caught that of a three-month old.


I live at home during the winter months when there isn’t any justifiable reason to be on Marta’s Vineyard where I work as a tour guide during the summer. My parents run a little Bed and Breakfast, meaning that a perk amongst many annoyances is that we have very good cable. From a very young age like many in my generation, I have been glued to the TV. As I’ve matured however, the search for programming that offers real substance beyond the consumeristic and sheep-mentality messages being pushed by mega-corporate Old Media have become more and more difficult to find.

I hope I’m not aggrandizing a lucky click by saying that Old Media pushed me out of their boat, but if you consider this: I have 300 channels to choose from and yet I turned cable off and went to the computer in hope of finding a better distraction. Good wireless internet is another perk of BnB residence! What’s more; those 300 channels are still there and I, for any substantial amount of time, haven’t been back. I’m quite comfortable lounging on the decks of each boat in the New Media fleet. Alive in Baghdad, The Ninja, Britney Mason, The Ointment, Dutchwest, and of course my friends at STBD are all free agents who choose their own direction and message. No longer must I be towed behind the Old Media, whose “titanic” (I like the use of that specific word) vessel is steered by some unseen pilot whose intentions and course are suspicious.

Speedboat Vs. the Containership.

The biggest advantages of New Media that the Old will never be able to match are the ability of each viewer to become a participant and the nimble speed by which content creators are able to respond. Every show online has, somewhere, a contact link. Others have made audience participation integral to their entire scheme, like Using this added facet, many creators have been able to gauge their audience’s preferences quickly and respond. Rocketboom and Scriggity for example base most of their content on submissions from their viewers. In the case of narrative content such as STBD, Justin Kownacki was able to poll the audience by an emailed survey, get feedback on his own forums, and even invite audience members to be a part of his planning for the future. I can’t imagine Old Media’s daily audience gauge runs much deeper than the Neilson reports.

Beyond audience whims, other creators have been able to act on creative ideas that focus on up-to-the-minute events. Galacticast’s newest episode parodies the old “Dr. Who” and the new Tarentino movie “Grindhouse”, which has only been out a week or two. Only broadcast news can respond with that speed, but only to those things which they predict will be sensational and far reaching.

Big ships don’t fit in narrow channels.

Galacticast is again a good example of this. Old Media killed Joss Whedon’s series Firefly after an entirely too short run of only sixteen episodes. The fans of the show, who numbered in the hundreds of thousands, were insufficient to justify the show’s continuance in the minds of network execs. However, here in the new media realm, with the incredibly creative, inexpensive, and niche content that’s being produced, everyone can find something to get behind. I know Casey Mckinnon would not be unhappy with a couple of hundred thousand rabid fans and her product is worthy of such. The pioneers of web-based content have the opportunity to offer something to every group or demographic that will support them. If you want to see something, ask. If you see something you want, support it.

Little boats are easier to drive and less expensive.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Chances are you need to look harder, but if you really don’t find your type stuff here, you’re in luck! If no one has done what you have in your head, you are free to be the first in your niche. So many of the producers of online content are doing it on peanuts and resources like the PodCamps and numerous blogs are readily available to help you do it. Not saying anything is to miss out on another fundamental advantage of this platform: individual ability to produce content. Even I, cameraphobe extraordinaire, have begun to construct what will be my humble contribution.

Course and heading, Sir?

With all that I have found in this new community of creative pioneers, I’ve spent my first few months of infancy being totally overwhelmed by the scope of what’s happening at this moment. I am however finding my sea-legs and can’t wait to begin the adventure. I am so lucky to find this medium still in its initial growth period. Because it is so new, if I return to the infant analogy, there are no adults here yet. There are big kids, yes, but there is no one out there with such authority to say that “your ideas are bad”, or, “that will never work here”. CC Chapman described this as “The New Media Playground” in his presentation at PodCampNYC. He highlighted the truth that New Media is still enjoying the innocence of youth. I think youth is the breeding ground of imagination.

I am proudly shoving my little boat off the beach and into the ocean; initially in the form of this blog. My plan: Find a direction, make friends, have fun, and stay in communication with the fleet. I am looking forward to being a part of this new community. The knowledge that creators now want their audience to think critically about their content and respond is uplifting and far more satisfying than just being spoken at. Knowing that I have a voice is empowering and now I have to do what Ze Frank encouraged all of us to do: get from zero to one.

To all the ships at sea and to all the ports of call:

I love you all and thank you so much for your contributions to what I’m sure will be one of the historic leaps in human communication. As Chris Brogan says, you are all rockstars! Keep up the good work. I’ll see you out there.

Please, by all means be friendly…

You can find me on Twitter, Myspace, Virb, and Jaiku.