What Could AOL/Huffington Ever Want More Than To Have Us Sucking On Their Media Aggregation Website?

On Friday I was watching CNN's phone interview with Wael Ghonim in which he praised Facebook for its help in bringing about Mubarak's ouster. Here's a link on Huffington Post about it. Why Huffington Post? I Googled "wael ghonim cnn facebook" and that was the first link that came up.

Here's what Huffington Post says he said:

I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg one day and thank him […] I'm talking on behalf of Egypt. […] This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook. This revolution started […] in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians started collaborating content. We would post a video on Facebook that would be shared by 60,000 people on their walls within a few hours. I've always said that if you want to liberate a society just give them the Internet. […]

Jen and I were watching this together and she sort of poked at me when he said this — like, "See?" I shrugged. I know her argument.

As background, a continuing debate between Jen and me — and whoever else I can corral who will listen to me — is over stuff like Facebook and Twitter and other social media. I sort of understand the usefulness of Facebook (connect with friends!) and other sites (upload your band's demo to MySpace!) but something I never understood was Twitter. I've mentioned before that I feel strongly that it's unwise to provide content for other people. If you have thoughts — any old thoughts — then those are yours — control that. Don't let Twitter build an empire from your thoughts, no matter how mundane you (and everyone else) think they might be.

Jen disagrees in part. If you don't have your own website, Twitter provides a platform that you would otherwise not have. If you do have your own site, then Twitter provides a platform that gives you access to more people. Besides, Twitter helps sell stuff, especially if you are an established commodity. And she notes, more and more it seems that Twitter is helping overthrow repressive regimes.

Fine, I understand that — #jan25 helped bring together disaffected Egyptians. The people who started Twitter should feel proud that their invention helped bring about something remarkable. That's like their pro bono work for the year.

So anyway, Jen and I go back and forth on this, but in the end I always feel more and more resolute about my position: I don't want to supply content for Facebook or MySpace or Twitter. I'm happier creating my own content, even if "the reach of my brand" is more limited. In my very small way I feel like an indie band that never signed with a major label; In my mind, I am my own Ian MacKaye!

The Times' David Carr has a column today about some of this stuff, mostly in the context of the recent AOL/Huffington Post deal. Although his takes tend to focus on the effect of the Internet on print media outlets, some of what he says today points to the idea of controlling your own content:

The Huffington Post, perhaps partly in an effort to polish the silver before going on the market, did hire a number of A-list journalists, but the site's ecosystem of citizen bloggers and its community of commenters represent some share of its value. (How much is open to debate, as Nate Silver pointed out on the FiveThirtyEight blog.) Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Quora have been positioned as social networks, but each of them hosts timely content that can also be a backdrop for advertising, which makes them much more like a media company than, say, a phone utility.

. . .

Last time I checked, I had written or shared over 11,000 items on Twitter. It's a nice collection of short-form work, and I've been rewarded with lot of followers … and exactly no money. If and when the folks at Twitter cash out, some tiny fraction of that value will have been created by me.

The Nate Silver link he mentions — it's there on the online version, but missing from the print version — is interesting and useful, but I think part of what his analysis overlooks is that Huffington Post benefits from being a platform that many people use — an indispensable part of one's Internet mental space — that helps strengthen the overall site, even if many of the smaller blog postings don't receive much attention. In other words, Twitter is only useful to the big Tweeters because everyone is on it; if you're on it at all, you're helping strengthen its presence, both in terms of Search Engine Optimization and the more elusive concept of Internet mental space. I think the online community at Huffington Post works the same way.

If you're interested, here's the CNN link from the link above. You might want to choose one over the other. Sort of like choosing "debit" over "credit" when you're asked which one you prefer.

Posted: February 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Broken Link | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

So Nice, We Posted It Twice

50 Reasons to Be Pretty Damn Euphoric You Live in New York City:

50. Sending your laundry out for someone else to wash and dry it is not only convenient, it's just good business. Especially since you will probably never own a washer and dryer. Which means you never have to feel guilty about not doing your own laundry. Next.

49. Drinking coffee four times a day, every day, isn't the exception, it's the rule.

48. The secret Chick Fil-A at the NYU dining hall.

47. There is always someone crazier than you. ALWAYS.

46. The view from the Brooklyn Bridge.

45. The view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

44. The epic feeling you get running to catch a train and succeeding…just before the doors close.

43. Bored to Death. 30 Rock. SNL. And a million other things that film here and we love. RIP Law and Order.

42. Manhattan-Brooklyn/Brooklyn-Manhattan wars never cease to entertain. Nor do hipster-Hasid wars. Or hipsters in general.

41. We get the inside jokes. Because, actually, we made them up in the first place.

40. That horrified look on our parents' friends' faces when we tell them we live in "Hell's Kitchen."

39. Sure, we work out next to Alec Baldwin, Padma Lakshmi, and Bridget Moynahan, and walk the streets with Willem Dafoe, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Tina Fey, but, really, we're kinda too busy with our own lives to notice.

38. Drinking is like breathing. Or slightly more acceptable.

37. Because it's not enough to just love New York. New York needs to love you back, too. Hey, we have high standards.

36. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, there is someone who will bring it to you for a price, which may or may not be negotiable. (Or legal.)

35. By the time the rest of the nation has bedbugs, we'll have figured out how to get rid of them. In the meantime, we'll mock them by dressing our dogs up as bedbugs for Halloween. Laugh in the face of fear, New Yorker!

34. There are almost 200 bars in the East Village alone.

33. There's no shortage of stupid rich people to make fun of.

32. The endless delights of the New York Post.

31. You don't even need a passport, or a license, to partake in goat-eyeball tacos.

30. The fact that one-bedroom apartments cost an average minimum of a half-million dollars means we think nothing of spending $12 on lunch.

29. Restaurants are as common as single men and women. And equally diverse. And you never have to see either of them again after the initial awkward encounter.

28. The omnipresent opportunity to Gaga-ify yourself. And the chance that it will seem, just, normal.

27. Runnin' Scared lives here! (And so does the Village Voice.)

26. Smart people are the norm, not the exception. (Which doesn't mean they're sane, but at least no one's boring.)

25. Except in select 'hoods like Park Slope and perhaps the Upper West Side, children are viewed as mysterious beings, rarely sighted and only occasionally understood, like pixies or magical small butlers. Until they scream, in which case, they are banished from the palace.

24. When you fly back into the city after a vacation or business trip, no matter how long you've lived here, you get that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling.

23. Efficiency in a drugstore checkout line.

22. How easy it is to find doughnuts, pizza, Chinese food, or any other snack your drunken self desires at 4 a.m. Or to continue to drink. Responsibly!

21. Broadway. Museums. CULTCH-AH. Even if you never actually go to see anything (though you should, at least once).

20. Yelling "fuck" is just a mild obscenity.

19. There's no shame in sticking your fingers in your ears like an anal weirdo when an ambulance goes by screeching.

18. Summer concerts at the Williamsburg Waterfront.

17. So many Missed Connections, so little time.

16. Other places have dog and cat people. We have ferret people.

15. The splendor of the Union Square Greenmarket.

14. A bagel with cream cheese and lox from Russ and Daughters.

13. There is an insane Korean day spa (Spa Castle) waiting for you in Flushing. And Russian and Turkish baths in the East Village.

12. One of our bars has 100-year-old urinals.

11. Complain about the MTA, but you can get anywhere in the city for just $2.25. Or $2.50 single ride, come 2011. Still pretty damn cheap.

10. Subway rage. Bike-lane rage. Walking rage. Random rage. These are our therapy. Although we all go to therapy, too. No judgments! We bitch, therefore we are.

9. Jaywalking is an art form.

8. The free Ikea ferry to Red Hook on weekends! Plus, Red Hook in general. Can you say "Lobster pound"?

7. Subway "prewalking," in which you walk to the exact right spot on the platform to board the train car that will save you the most time upon exit, exists and has a name. Gotta respect.

6. You can be alone, but never feel lonely. And vice versa. But if you die and aren't found until a year later, you won't be the first.

5. We are, as a group, anti-fanny-pack as much as we are pro-gay-marriage. Hetero marriage, on the other hand, we can pretty much take or leave.

4. 35 is the new 26. Or is it 45? Whatever, age ain't nuthin' but a number, and as long as you're younger than your IQ score, no harm, no foul.

3. Finding your "local" is that much better here.

2. There is absolutely no reason to ever drink and drive. Added bonus: Spontaneous, fascinating conversations with cab drivers.

1. If you can make it here, you really can make it anywhere. But why would you bother to go anywhere else?

Posted: November 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Broken Link | Tags: , , , ,

Here Are Three Ways We Can Punch Up Your Sunday Styles Piece

There is an article in today's Sunday Styles section called "The Great Unwashed," a trend piece in which the author somehow tracked down at least three people who don't bathe everyday and who are willing to be quoted in the newspaper.

Maybe you think this kind of contrarianism is dated, a vestige of oughts-era American culture. Personally, I think it's fantastic to see quicker nostalgia. It's like it's 2003 again, and I'm reading Christopher Hitchens in Slate — on a computer monitor! — and I find myself nodding in agreement, maybe even vigorously nodding in agreement, about just how low the Axis of Weasel can go.

That said, here are three ways this really, really great trend piece could have been a really, really, really great trend piece:

1) An Economy Angle: Some people — OK, one person — don't shower for environmental reasons, but isn't there anyone out there who has cut back on buying deodorant because it's a luxury item? Everyone's feeling the pain; that part writes itself.

2) Limited "Scope": Why stop at showering and deodorant? I bet there are a lot of people out there — three, at least! — who have eschewed brushing their teeth, as well. This would be fascinating to try to understand.

3) Missing "To Be Sure" Paragraph: I like the idea of legitimizing the concerns of those who worry that they're going to get cancer from aluminum, but whatever happened to good old "I'm lazy and don't give a fuck"? The piece feels like it's missing that extra oomph a real dirty dude could provide.

Posted: October 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Broken Link | Tags: , , ,