Twitter — Worth a Second and a Third Look

In one month, I gone from thinking of Twitter as a curiosity that didn’t fit in my toolset to the point where I am totally addicted to Twitter as a source of information and as a means of expression.

Today I believe the uses of Twitter are so diverse, profound, and revolutionary that it will be banned by many governments (already happening). Societies that maintain access to this kind of tool will flourish by comparison.

I’ve also come to believe that tweeting is a legitimate art form, and we have already developed some masters. Most people are still pretty bad with this tool, but expertise seems to come quickly to those who pay attention.

If you can dismiss Twitter without trying to find out why a government would ban it, then I am wasting my time here. If not, read on.

Giving Twitter a Real Try

FYI: A Twitter message is called a ‘tweet’, and a collection of such messages is called a ‘stream’.

Here’s what I recommend if you want to efficiently see what Twitter is about.:

  1. Join Twitter: Http://www.twitter.com
  2. Use the Discover function in Twitter to explore streams created by people and organizations.
  3. Decide on an intent for your output stream (self-expression, marketing, professional improvement, etc.)
  4. Create your Twitter Bio keeping your intent in mind.
  5. 5. Follow streams that provide source information or provide examples to emulate.
  6. Look at your input stream at least once every day.
  7. Try to craft at least one tweet in keeping with your purpose every day.

I guarantee that after two weeks that you will know enough about Twitter to know how you can use it. You might still decide it’s not for you, but I think you’ll surprise yourself. I certainly surprised myself.

General Rules

The only rule about consuming Twitter is don’t be a glutton. It’s really easy to get far too much information about exactly what you are interested in. You soon won’t be able to read it all, let alone get anything done. You might be able to read a couple of thousand tweets a day, but most of them point to far more significant articles. It’s nothing to be made aware of 500 articles a day that you really do want to read.

Writing is another story. Twitter is a place where you can say what you think within reason. You do want to keep future employment possibilities and business relationships in mind. Certainly don’t say anything that will land you in court if you can avoid it,

There are a lot of rules about writing tweets, but none of them are mandatory and you can make up your own. Here are mine:

  1. Intentional – just because a tweet is only 140 characters doesn’t mean that you should throw them out casually without a master plan. That plan can be to show people how demented you are, but you don’t want to do something like that by accident.
  2. Remember what public means. Remember that Private probably also means public when push comes to shove.
  3. Politics — Think carefully over whether or not you want to primarily do politics. If not, don’t do politics at all. Politics is the worst thing to do if the primary purpose of your stream is to foster business relationships. Keep in mind that taking any political position is going to alienate about a third of the population.
  4. Manners – Be nice unless the whole point of your stream is to generate a series of rude comments. People want to count on a predictable level of civility.
  5. Religion & Sex – avoid unless your stream is about religion or sex.
  6. Business streams must provide useful information along with their ads. No politics or religion. Make people glad to get your stream.
  7. Self-promotion – think about what each tweet does to advance your image.
  8. Avoid cat fights. It’s really easy to ignore criticism, and even easier to not respond to it. That may be my favorite aspect of Twitter.
  9. Ideas that you can’t fit into one tweet require more thought.
  10. Don’t post more than a couple of links a day to one of your own products. Don’t become clutter in your followers’ streams.

Possible Uses of Twitter

I use Twitter to note ideas, to register outrage, to convey humor, to ask questions, to indicate solidarity, to point to my work, to play at word smith, and probably most importantly for therapy. That’s covers most of my output stream, and I am not using Twitter to sell anything. I suspect that I am still scratching the surface.

One of the approaches that currently intrigues me is simultaneously tweeting and writing articles. I have watched the very funny Andy Borowitz do this several times now, and it’s quite efficient and impressive.

My input stream is mostly comedians and political observers. I also have subscribe to several special news sources, and several general news sources. I could easily add sports or business inputs. Input is news.

One of the pleasures of Twitter is that I can watch something on TV with other people watching the same event so I get to experience the event and commentators’ perspectives on the event at the same time. I watched the last Republican debate with my input stream in view, and the Twitter commentary was far more interesting than the mindless banter coming from the candidates.

Twitter is a tool like the printing press. When Gutenberg wanted a few copies of the Bible, he had no idea what he was setting Martin Luther loose. That was just the beginning. This is the beginning of Twitter.

My Personal Adoption Story

I’m not religious about New Year’s resolutions, but I do think the New Year is a great reminder that we need to occasionally take a look at our lives and make sure we are doing what we want to do. As we all know, it’s all too easy to fall off the path and do what’s convenient. We all have friends and relatives that still don’t even use email, and I didn’t want to be one of those guys. I was at least going to learn to use a few social media tools well enough so that I could articulate why they sucked.

I’d had a Twitter account for a while but I never used it. Conciseness is not one of my virtues as a writer, and 140 characters is what it usually takes me to say hello. I thought of Twitter entirely as a tool to express myself, and not at all as an information source. I still wasn’t thinking of it as an information source when I started to follow a few people. I didn’t follow them to get information; I followed them to see how they used the tool.

Unfortunately, I started with some really bad examples. I’m a political junkie and the Republican primary seemed to offer a perfect focus. Whatever your politics, any honest assessment says that these guys do not understand the media. They don’t even understand it enough to find someone competent to tweet for them.

The good result of following them was that it immediately made me feel smarter because I knew I could write better tweets than that. I also thought that it couldn’t do my writing any harm if I focused on conciseness for a while. I had to write a few tweets of my own, but first I needed a plan.

I decided I wanted to do a stream where I covered ideas and events. As much as possible, I would strive to be funny and profound. I wouldn’t talk about work or personal stuff at all. I’d badger a few friends into following me so I could get feedback. Generally speaking, the narrower your focus, the easier it is to build a following, but I have kind of an eclectic mind so I went for the eclectic stream.

It might be hubris on my part to cover any of the topics I cover, and it is certainly hubris to cover them all. I decided I am not going to let that bother me. If I’ve thought about something long enough to have a theory, I’ll lay it out there and let people tell me when I am wrong.

Although I would recommend that most people avoid political streams because they alienate so many people, I decided to make politics the main focus of my stream. I would usually have a hard time resisting this, and a presidential election just makes it harder. Besides, I’ve already left a broad trail of my beliefs.

I think my first tweets were just about a month ago. Some days I tweet a lot and other days not so much. I’ve already cranked out an amazing 1500 tweets, and I don’t think I have repeated myself yet.

I probably average 50 a day which is a lot, but I could crank out ten times that many if I got paid by the tweet. If you are doing over 50 a day, you probably need to do it through multiple accounts so you don’t drive all of your followers away.

I never get writer’s block with Twitter. I can always afford one more 140 character investment. Each thought has to fit into 140 characters, but it doesn’t have to fit with any other thought. That’s very emancipating.

I’m just starting to gather random thoughts into related piles to make articles and to start projects, and I find I have a gold mine of my own ideas. (Looks like gold to me right now any way.) I am going to have to invest in apps that allow you to store and organize your tweets. They are cheap but figuring out which one you want is a learning process.

If you want to see exactly how bad I am at practicing what I preach, check me out @alanbcorwin on Twitter.  http:\\www.twitter.com\alanbcorwin

The Sex Election

We all know it’s going to come down to the economy, but you have to enjoy the Republican attempt to make this election about sex. Democrats simply don’t have the guts to make these guys look as silly as they make themselves look, and for some reason there is no pro-sex PAC out there. The only way these guys really get to look like fools is to do it themselves.

What if we did have an election about sex? Choice A would be that sex was not allowed except for the purpose of procreation. Choice B would allow sex for pleasure. It’s a very simple choice, but let’s complicate it a little by making it binding. We all know that all of those sex for procreation only people feel kind of dirty just having neighbors who do it for fun. Let’s all agree to move to an area dominated by those who share our choice.

I’m sure the same kind of split is going on up in Canada and probably in Mexico too. Let’s see if we can fix the problem for the whole continent. We could have three choices in a whole continent election: the two choices above and a third choice which allowed sex for pleasure only unless you get a procreation permit. I could be wrong, but I think most people will go with Choice B even though that is by far the most complex option.

There are definitely people in category three, but they should be the smallest group because they are not breeding. They only grow by siphoning members from the other groups.

If we did a county by county color map of the results, the As would be red, the Bs would be blue, and the Cs would be green. I would have to bet that most of the map would be blue. The reds and the greens might find few places that would take them in, although the greens are growing all of the time as more and more people recognize the impact of a planet with seven billion people on it.

I suspect the red areas of the map would be far smaller than the red area displayed after a presidential election. I could be wrong, but I suspect that even most Republicans like sex. They’re just disgusted that other people are having a good time at it.

Of course this is silly. We don’t need to make this kind of separation because no one is forced to have sex with anyone else. However, when you try to define the election the way that Rick Santorum is, you’re really betting that you think the above map will be red. I welcome that vote. The rest of the world may think we are prudes, but I’m pretty sure that America loves sex. I could be wrong, but a few hundred billion dollars worth of advertising is on my side. They don’t spend that kind of money to turn peole off.

More comments exposing my fractured stream of consciousness can be found in my Twitter stream @alanbcorwin

Open Letter to Sir Charles

Dear Charles Barkley,

I am a great fan of both your basketball career and your sports casting, not to mention that you seem like an all-around great guy. You deserve to have more fun playing golf.

Here is how to fix your swing. It will take some drudgery, but nothing is hard.

Theory:

All of your problems are caused by your right hand. The kinds of things that go wrong in your swing are not left-handed problems; they are right-handed problems. Take your right hand off the club, and even a big monster like you cannot stop the club halfway down. The right hand may be not be the cause of your problem, but it is certainly critical to the implementation of your problem. You would be better off not touching the club at all with the right hand than letting the rght hand dominate the swing the way you do.

For a right-handed golfer, the left hand swings the club and the right hand hits the ball. The swing must dominate the hit. That is, the effort of the right hand must mesh with the timing of the swing. The swing is a train that the hit jumps on board.

When you stop your swing, you are saying that you are simply going to hit it, that you don’t need no stinking swing. If that was really the case, the answer would be to start your swing at your pause point. Everything else goes to waste as soon as you stop anyway.

Clearly, however, you need to swing because that’s the way the game is designed. Therefore, let’s make your swing more natural.

The first drill you need to adopt is the three o’clock to nine o’clock drill, sometimes called the Thumbs Up drill. You can do it with any club, but most people use a wedge. Address the ball, swing smoothly back until you arms are parallel with the ground and your thumbs are pointed straight up. You can stop right here to check your position if you want. Swing down through the ball to where your arms are pointed right at the target and your thumbs are once again pointed to the sky. Concentrate on making a smooth swing. Do not worry about the position of the thumbs at impact.

Do this drill for 15 minutes every day. If your swing goes wacko on the course, retreat to this restrictive swing and simply take one more club. You’ll do fine. You can always be master of the little swing.

That’s easy, but I know you want to smash the ball. We all want to smash the ball. You feel like a more highly evolved being when that ball hangs in the air forever, and you can’t get that feeling with the little swing.

The drill I chose for that will take longer to assimilate, but it should be well worth the effort. It is based on one of Johnny Miller’s practice routines. He used to hit five irons at a target 150 yards away with only his left hand. Johnny ranks up there with Ben Hogan and Tiger in the annals of deadly iron players, and I think this drill was a key to that.

There is a lot of value in swinging with just the left hand. You have to swing the club along the proper path. You have to get to the proper position at the top. You have to use your feet and your weight correctly. You have to turn through the impact zone. You have to swing all the way to the target. We all struggle to do all of these things with two hands on the club, but they are natural enough so that we can instantly feel what is going wrong and correct with one hand on the club. It works so well that I often do this with the weighted practice club to magnify the sensation.

Step One:

Just swing any club with only the left hand. Swing smoothly back to where the club is pointing at the target. Accelerate smoothly through the impact area and release to the target. The right hand never touches the club. Repeat until tired or bored.

You should do this exercise with all of you clubs whenever you get a moment. You do not need to hit balls in this exercise, but be careful. You will have a much wider swing arc with only one hand on the club. Make sure you have plenty of clearance.

When You get so that you can consistently make a smooth swing with just your left hand, gradually begin to increase the power you apply by increasing your turn speed. After a few weeks, you should be able to whip that club though the impact area like a backhand from a left-handed tennis player who discovered an unguarded alley. It’s all just practice and timing.

Step Two:

Once you get to that point, you are ready to start hitting balls. The right hand is still not touching the club! Using just the left hand, hit shot after shot until you can consistently hit the ball square with just the left hand. Make sure you strike down on the ball.

Because you’re bigger than Johnny, You should have no trouble getting your six iron 150 yards with just the left hand. When you can hit eight out of ten six irons past the 150 yard marker, you are ready to go to the next step.

Step Three:

In the next step, you can put your right hand on the club, but you cannot close it. As a result, you are still doing the entire backswing with the left hand, but your right hand can participate in striking the ball if it can stay in synch with the left. The left hand cannot stop if the right cannot close on it.

What happens here is that you should still hit the ball pretty well if you continue to hit it with your left hand, and there is nothing to stop that. Getting the timing right when you apply the right hand will determine how much power you can add as the timing is far more important than the input power.

Step Four:

The right-hand may now close on the grip as lightly as possible. The right hand is a bit player here, providing gentle guidance to smooth the swing and a bit of extra acceleration at impact. This is still a swing done with the left hand, and the right hand is a friendly hitchhiker.

Completion:

The swing is still mentally left-handed, and the right had still grips very lightly. The right hand just rides along until the last possible moment, then it explodes into action at the ball. You can have a really good golf swing without that explosion and you can have that explosion in a poor golf swing, but what you want is the explosion at the right time in a good golf swing.

Your irons shots will be as good as you ever want them to be before you get to this stage. You really only have to master this stage if you want to hit the ball over the horizon.

A concerned fan,

Al Corwin