P016: One Question Asked, Ten Questions Answered

Erika Hall is Co-Founder of Mule Design Studio and a pillar of the web world. She literally wrote the book on design research for web projects and while I haven’t surveyed them myself, it’s likely that most of her nearly 10,000 Twitter followers work on the web. Today she tweeted:

@mulegirl tweets

… which elicited a wide range of responses:

response

(Advertisers have no taste.)

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(I’m equally sympathetic with and dismissive of implementers of online advertising.)

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(Agency life burned me out big time.)

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(My status as one of the all-time greats of Web 2.0 allows me to paint with a broad brush.)

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(Capitalism is to blame.)

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(I misread the question as a call to action.)

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(The X-Files is my favorite TV show.)

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(Everyone has an equally valid opinion.)

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(Here’s an ad!)

response

(Twirls mustache. Dramatic ellipsis.)

Huh. That was… interesting?

So you have a group of people who are passionate about the web all reading Hall’s 134 characters about web advertising slightly differently. She follows up with more context:

response
response

Which generates a huge amount of discussion (seriously, go read those responses) which yields a link to a Medium post about how Quartz is approaching this topic and a tweet linking two wonderful posts Karen McGrane (the X-Files enthusiast above) wrote back in the day:

With just a little more context the original point became clear, productive discussions were had and the question was answered in a number of interesting ways.

Shoot the messenger?

With only 140 characters at your disposal, every tweet is out of context. Twitter’s supremacy as a real-time awareness platform combined with its utility for linking and commentary has us using the tool in all sorts of different ways. But commentary is not discussion and the time it takes to write clearly and concisely betrays the in-the-moment spirit of Twitter. That said, without the network effect of Twitter, the question might never have been answered as fully as it was.

While some might wildly overreact when presented with the notion that Twitter is not the only way to communicate, I see it as a sign of maturity on the web. A blog post is different from a tweet which is different from a Facebook status update which is different from a Medium post. People are finding the right tool for the right job, which is likely a contributing factor of the rise of newsletters. The next time you try and get your message out there, take a moment to make sure you’re publishing on the right platform.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron

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P015: Periodically vs Rusty Foster

It has never been easier to communicate with another human being than it is today in 2014. We have limitless options and with those options come limitless opportunity to share, entertain, harass, defame and impact others across the world. There’s so much going on in this modern world that it would be useful to have a daily briefing on the best and the worst and everything you need to know. Well, sometimes, there’s a person – I won’t say hero, because what’s a hero? – but they’re the person for their time and place. That person is Rusty Foster and that daily briefing is Today in Tabs. With no further ado, The Periodically Interview Series is proud to present Rusty Foster.

Today in Tabs

Bob: For those who don’t know, how do you describe what you do to (a) a casual observer, and (b) someone who might be legitimately interested in the answer?

Rusty: I’m a programmer who is starting a software company and I’m also sometimes a freelance nonfiction writer. Today in Tabs has become a regular part of what I do, but it’s mostly something I steal time for from my real life. What I do in Tabs is write 600-800 words a day about whatever links have come across my various feeds since the last issue. It started as, and to some extent continues to be, a daily compendium of whatever was causing the day’s Twitter outrage. But even from the beginning, I also included things I loved reading, music, videos, weird gifs, whatever distinguished itself as either great or terrible from the mass of boring that mostly comprises the media.

“The basic format of Today in Tabs,” I was told by a writer friend who ought to know, “is a link and a joke.” Not all links have a joke, and not all jokes come with a link, but I try to keep it short and to the point, and not to weigh it down with a lot of disquisition. The point is the links, so I rely on the links to do most of the work, freeing me up to just say the five or ten words I actually have to say about a link or its author, publisher, thesis, or worldview. Or to just make terrible media in-joke allusions like my preëmptive use of the New Yorker diaeresis, or to quote from the book of Revelation, as the mood strikes me.

**Bob: “Tab” has become shorthand for a hateread, and while you embrace that aspect, the newsletter isn’t staring completely into the abyss. How do you decide where the balance point might be? **

Rusty:

Revelation, 3:15-16: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

See? It’s a surprisingly useful piece of literature, the Book of Revelation, the times being what they are.

Rosencrantz: “What are they?”
Player: “Indifferent.”
Rosencrantz: “Bad?”
Player: “Wicked.”

I also try to spue the lukewarm out of my mouth. Aside from that, the tabs are my guide. Some days are just terrible, and some days are… less terrible! I go with what the internet serves up and make of it whatever I can. Almost always, some theme emerges every day, and I’m not sure whether it’s the internet gaining consciousness or whether it’s me interpreting things, but it generally works itself out.

Bob: When it’s taken as read that everything is a hoax, the most hoax-sounding thing about Today in Tabs is that it’s syndicated by Newsweek. How has that arrangement shaped your relationship with the audience and the response to the newsletter, if at all?

Rusty: Newsweek right now is an odd duck. It’s like if a rag-tag gang of neighborhood kids noticed that City Hall was inexplicably abandoned and just moved in and started running the government. From the outside it’s this long-established brand, but inside it’s very much a scrappy media startup. Even aside from that, Newsweek has been in the business of watching conventional wisdom for a long time, and in some way Tabs is a cousin to that.

Syndication provided some pressure to watch my profanity, which I deploy a lot more sparingly now than I did when it was just me writing a Tinyletter to 100 friends. The constraint has made me a better writer because I have to work harder for ways to express my disgust with, for example, Buzzfeed’s morally and literarily repugnant Benny Johnson.

I think the audience’s reaction has generally been, like yours, bemusement? I have no idea if I’m doing Newsweek any good or if they’re doing me any good, but I like them and it’s nice to have a copy of the newsletter on the web, and they pay me, so I’m pretty happy overall.

Bob: Am I the only person who subscribes that knows you from Kuro5hin? What’s the overlap, and how has the community experience differed between the two?

Rusty: There’s a little overlap, but not as much as you might think, or as much as I expected. I started Kuro5hin in 1999, which was a billion internet years ago, and I was a completely different person then. In some ways this is the anti-Kuro5hin? It’s almost point by point the opposite of what I did there. It’s just me writing instead of a community thing. I don’t really encourage discussion directly–people do take things to Twitter and talk about them but honestly I prefer when they just make off with the links and ignore where they found them. And I made the syndication deal with Newsweek at least in part because I was determined to sell out as quickly as possible, before I had a chance to get all precious and lofty about Tabs, because that is the kind of thing I do.

There were some dark times with Kuro5hin, which were entirely my own fault. So I guess I’m a little gun-shy about really engaging with an online community to the extent I did there. I keep myself a little more guarded and if I feel like ignoring people I ignore people. Where Kuro5hin was a “let’s all do this thing together!” Tabs is more of an “I do what I want to do, and you’re not the boss of me.”

Bob: Your newsletter was recently the subject of a Tab with the whole “calling dibs on the internet” thing. Having been on that side of the drama, can you say if/how that affected your audience?

Rusty: The Heidi Moore thing, is what you’re talking about of course. I assume you’re going to edit in some links or something here so I don’t have to, right? Good. Well done. (Ed. note: Thanks!)

That was honestly the best thing that could have happened to me. Having beef with someone much higher-profile than you is a terrific way to get attention, but it can backfire if you start it yourself. It makes you look thirsty. So having someone with her media pull just pop up out of nowhere and start a feud with me over something completely absurd, where she was so incontrovertibly in the wrong that even Gawker could barely find any shade to cast on my side of it? It was a dream come true. All I had to do was manage to not look like an asshole, so I tweeted my two or three relatively polite responses to her and called it a day. If anyone else would like to accuse me of something wacky, please by all means. I will take those subscribers, absolutely.

Altogether I gained about 575 subscribers from that, which at the time was basically a 50% bump. I went from about 1100 subscribers to almost 1700 in four days. And aside from all that, it was just a good time. I feel like everyone had fun, and nothing brings people together like a shared enemy. So: good stuff all around. I haven’t really had a chance to say it, but if she happens to see this, thank you Heidi, I truly appreciate it. There are certainly no hard feelings on my end. I don’t even have you blocked on Twitter anymore.

There You Have It

Thanks, Rusty for the time an attention. Suffice to say it’s my belief that Today in Tabs is required reading. And if this is your first taste of Periodically, I hope you subscribe and follow along.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron

–30–

P014: Angry Man Sends Rambling Email

I am angry.

I am angry that former GitHub employee Julie Ann Horvath was harassed by the company’s cofounder Tom Preston-Werner, which resulted in her leaving GitHub last month. I am angry that GitHub’s sham investigation yielded quote no legal wrongdoing unquote and that Preston-Werner was cheered on by VC Marc Andreessen following his resignation.

GitHub is literally at the center of my professional world. We had followed its rise and learned about its processes and believed that they were serious about being good citizens in the community and even working to address past problems.

Now? Now it’s all this. Now your choice of version control providers is a political statement. Now everyone’s motives are second-guessed.

This is the world we have built for ourselves on the internet and surprise, surprise it’s just like the real world we left behind.

And don’t even step to me with that whole we-don’t-know-all-the-facts-it’s-a-he-said-she-said garbage. The GitHub Tragedy (don’t call it a “scandal”) is more than just the consequence-free actions of a brogrammer, it’s the inescapable result of the systems that we have built from the ground up. Our society is the way it is because that’s how it was designed.

What now?

If you want to look at this whole debacle as a teaching moment or a potential turning point because that helps you sleep at night then go ahead. Me, I can’t rationalize away a person’s pain by pretending that things are going to change because we’ve finally seen the error of our ways. The industry that I choose to participate in is a never-ending nightmare of sexism (and let’s be real: all the other -isms, too) and it makes me sad and angry.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron

–30–

P013: The Nostalgia Trap

“The best minds of my generation spend their time trying to find a better way to send pictures of their junk,” I said the other day, paraphrasing both the opening line of my favorite poem and a quote from Jeff Hammerbacher from a 2011 article about the (still pretty much un-popped) tech bubble. The article is chock full of the kind of utopian wisdom that can only come from a Facebook millionaire:

After a couple years at Facebook, Hammerbacher grew restless. He figured that much of the groundbreaking computer science had been done. Something else gnawed at him. Hammerbacher looked around Silicon Valley at companies like his own, Google, and Twitter, and saw his peers wasting their talents. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” he says. “That sucks.”

And while I generally am less-averse to advertising (I work at an ad agency after all), I ended up falling into the same trap as Hammerbacher while grousing about all the stupid “anonymous” sharing apps that seem to be the flavor of the day.

The Thing About Expertise

We go to school to acquire the knowledge that lays the foundation for the skills of our trade. We use our skills each day and with that repetition comes expertise. The expertise leads to increased compensation, elevated status, a sense of comfort and complacency. We plateau, our focus shifting to maintaining our position in life rather than forging new skills. Upton Sinclair said it best:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

But while our evolution slows, the market does not. Every day something new is identified as worthy of praise or attention. Some of those things gain momentum and become trends, some of those trends fizzle and die while some become institutions. How do we identify which is which?

The Nostalgia Trap

Humans are pattern matching machines. We use our experiences to inform our best guess as to what happens next, and our expertise in a particular area of subject matter serves to increase our confidence in finding those related patterns. But our experiences are, by definition, backwards-facing.

To me, Snapchat and Secret and Whisper and Sneeky and all the rest of those dick pic apps are patently ridiculous. Their staggering valuations are another sign that we are, as an industry, doomed. But my assessment of the situation is limited by my set of experiences – and I know it. If I was an investor, I’d be missing out on the next big thing, but that’s OK.

I’m Not Much Of An Investor

I resolve this conflict by building the things that I want to see in the world and paying no mind to the rest. I’m aware of my blind spots and am especially open to being convinced that I am wrong in those situations – just reply to this email to tell me how wrong I am about Snapchat. And maybe someday I’ll be convinced to make an anonymous sharing app, you never know.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron

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P012: I Can Explain

Last summer, there was a Groupon for a year’s subscription to The Economist for something like $50, a steep discount on the regular cover price. I’ve long been a fan of the magazine newspaper, so now I’m the proud owner of a stack of mostly-unread issues of The Economist. Despite the gnawing guilt and proto-hoarder organizational dilemmas that are fast becoming A Thing in our house, I’m happy I subscribed for a number of reasons:

  1. The mix of stories is better than what I’d get from other media outlets.
  2. The politics are pretty much in line with my own beliefs, but not so much that it’s a warm, cuddly cocoon of confirmation bias.
  3. The nearly total lack of bylines is an interesting if disorienting change of pace in this era of personal brand journalism.

While the first item is just the latest volley in my never-ending smacktalk campaign against CNN, the last two have been top of mind for me recently with the launch of two hotly anticipated journalistic enterprises: FiveThirtyEight and Vox.

Who Explains the Explainers?

Unveiled less than a month apart, these two sites are opposite sides of the same coin: data-oriented publications helmed by precocious young white guys (Nate Silver and Ezra Klein) who parlayed previous success (50/50, Wonkblog’s rise) into a flagship property for a larger, more progressive institution (ESPN, Vox Media).

And while most of the media focus has been on the sudden popularity of explanatory journalism, the reason Silver and Klein got these juicy deals is the stone cold fact that they will bring their audience with them wherever they roam. They, and others (Bill Simmons, Andrew Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, etc.) are widely read because, in part, people like and identify with them. This leads to social sharing, which leads to pageviews, which leads to money. So it’s true that we are now living in an age of personal brand journalism.

Have You Met My Brand?

Of course, by projecting a brand, the author risks overstating their case and alienating their biggest fans. Vox avoided this by sprinting to market and using their first post to properly set expectations – maybe someone over there has been reading this humble newsletter?

In the end, the simplest way to shake the new-brand smell is to make your brand the best version of yourself. Never in recorded history have we been more encouraged to share our thoughts and actions at every step of the way. If you combine that expectation with your true passions, your work will be honest and your “brand” will be “aligned” by default.

Periodically Yours,

Bob Sherron

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P011: Towards a New Sincerity

Editor’s note: Yes, it is April 1st. If you are worried that every link will be a Rickroll, don’t be. I got it out of my system ahead of time.

In an effort to combat the ridiculousness and insincerity that abounds on the first day of April, I have taken to celebrating this day by sharing an epic rant from Dave Eggers, founder of McSweeney’s and one of my favorite authors. Originally published in the Harvard Advocate back in 2000, it is an email transcript of an interview-gone-wrong that morphs into a sprawling monologue directed at Eggers’s 20-year-old self about the pitfalls of hyper-authenticity and the perils of “keeping it real.” The prose is profane and incisive and flows with the momentum that marks the Pulitzer Finalist’s best work. Having lived the life of the hipster absolutist, Eggers is well aware of the appeal of that mindset, sharing an anecdote where he empathizes with an acquaintance who had dismissed The Flaming Lips for appearing in an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 (this really happened):

“Oh how gloriously comforting, to be able to write someone off. Thus, in the overcrowded pantheon of alternarock bands, at a certain juncture, it became necessary for a certain brand of person to write off The Flaming Lips, despite the fact that everyone knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that their music was superb and groundbreaking and real. We could write them off because they shared a few minutes with Jason Priestley and that terrifying Tori Spelling person. Or we could write them off because too many magazines have talked about them. Or because it looked like the bassist was wearing too much gel in his hair.”

And it is comforting to be able to do that. To take something you had paid attention to, maybe even cherished for a time, and ignore it? It’s the real-world equivalent of mark all as read, a moment of trepidation followed by a wave of relief. Because it’s hard to like a thing if you are constantly compelled to justify your fandom.

I Come to Bury Irony, Not to Praise It

Jesse Thorn is a podcaster, blogger, proprietor of Maximum Fun, and the flag-bearer for unironic appreciation of things that are awesome. His groundbreaking piece A Manifesto for The New Sincerity puts into plain language the thread that runs through all of the Max Fun shows, most notably Bullseye (then titled The Sound of Young America). Distilled to its essence, it is the idea that it is impossible to enjoy something ironically. Or as Austin Kleon put it so eloquently, No More Guilty Pleasures.

Thorn and Kleon are not alone in this. While the continuing evolution of social media has made it easier than ever to find a community around even the most specific interests, it has also made it easy to identify, harass and denigrate those community members. This is untenable and we should all take it upon ourselves to be mindful of the impulse to ridicule others based on their likes. And yes, that means you might end up having to accept bronies as A Thing, but if you don’t speak up when they come for the bronies, who will speak when they come for you?

It’s Not Me, It’s You

In the olden days, if you wanted to be cool you had to worry that you had the right shoes, the right haircut, the right jacket, the right speed metal band logo on your Trapper Keeper. Today, all those signifiers are on the internet where they will remain for anyone to see forever. If you want to be cool, you can fill your life with anxiety over how your tastes will be perceived or shut out the entire world and remain a cipher, unknowable to those outside your real-world social circle. Or you could just give up on trying to be cool and focus on treating those around you with dignity and respect.

Periodically Yours,

Bob Sherron

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P010: Do What You Need To Do, Love Who You Love

As someone who is reasonably fixated on work and work/life balance, it was awesome to see a trio of links about the cult of Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do in this week’s issue of Austin Kleon’s newsletter. The key article, Miya Tokumitsu’s “In the Name of Love”, is a deep dive into the nature of labor, the unquestioning acceptance of privelege and the corruption of the American dream. Really great stuff and delightfully illustrated by Leslie A. Wood:

Illustration by Leslie A. Wood

So if Doing What You Love is a trap that leads to the exploitation of the working class, how should a person with the good fortune be able to choose a career do so?

My Boy Maslow Has Something To Say About This

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, as any freshman sociology major can tell you, is a way to prioritize human desires from the most basic requirements for life (food, shelter, sleep) up to the higher-order realm of self-actualization. Generally (although never by Maslow himself) depicted as a pyramid, the idea is that as you satisfy the basic requirements for existence, you have the luxury of worrying about more and more abstract things.

Do What You Love assumes that the doer’s most primal requirements are taken care of (trust fund?) and ignores the stark reality that people work to get money to satisfy those basic needs. Instead, focus first on satisfying the base levels of the pyramid, then worry about feeling creatively fulfilled.

Baby Don’t Hurt Me

Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought it was a problem if you love something that doesn’t love you back. Plain and simple: your job (like your favorite sports team, like your city) cannot love you. And if you “love” your work, how do you feel about your family, friends and pets? There are many words in the English language to describe levels of affinity and “love” is the most emotionally charged of them all. Work is complicated enough without introducing that kind of baggage.

But Now I Don’t Have a Trite Saying That’s Ready For a Minimalist Poster!

Yeah. Work is complicated. It doesn’t resolve to a nice and tidy sound bite. Do What You Love hides all that complexity, but not in a way that is useful or instructive.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron

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P009: Periodically vs Dave Pell

The hypothesis at the heart of Periodically is that publishing on a regular schedule to an audience that has proactively subscribed to your work yields a deeper connection than broadcast methods. And while I’m happy to stand up here on my own internet soapbox spouting my theories and stirring the pot, the world is bigger than the distance between my own ears. To that end, I’m announcing The Periodically Interview Series, a monthly feature where I pick the brains of the best and brightest in direct publishing. My first guest is the father of the modern email newsletter, Dave Pell.

NextDraft

Billed as “The Day’s Most Fascinating News,” NextDraft single-handedly revived a moribund medium, bringing wit and warmth to the daily news cycle that you can find literally nowhere else. If that sounds a little hyperbolic then you are clearly not a subscriber and you should rectify that posthaste. What’s that? You get too much email? Well, there’s an app for that.

Dave graciously gave some time this past weekend to answer my questions via email (natch). What follows is a look at the heart and mind has gone into making NextDraft what it is today.

Bob: For those who don’t know, how would you describe what you do to (a) a casual observer, and (b) someone who might be legitimately interested in the answer?

Dave: Each morning I open up about 75 browser tabs and begin my search for the most fascinating news of the day. It takes me about two hours to find it, and about two hours to summarize the top ten stories of the day. Readers of my newsletter and users of my app are guaranteed a quick and usually entertaining look at the day’s events – from serious, hard news, to longform features, to a few funny or weird items in a section I call The Bottom of the News. It’s not an exhaustive round-up. It is a look at the day’s news through personality-driven publication. To a casual observer and someone who is legitimately interested, I’d say, give it a shot. Most people like it.

Bob: How important do you feel the format of your newsletter (daily, 10 questions, typically gets increasingly light-hearted as you read) is to its success?

Dave: I don’t think the fact that it is a top ten list is critical. But I think it is very important that the newsletter has a clear structure and that people know what to expect when they open it up.

Bob: I’ve been a reader since your newsletter was in beta (Sept 13, 2011 was my first issue) and while it has definitely evolved, you can look back and see the basic structure there from essentially day one. What thinking informed this format, and how has the feedback you’ve received help refine it over time?

Dave: I actually did a version of the newsletter about a decade ago. It was much longer and I made sure to cover every major news story of the day. When I brought the newsletter back in 2011, I had a more clear structure, but I still felt a need to be exhaustive in terms of covering whatever was on the top of that day’s newspaper front pages. One day, I let this go and realized that I don’t need to include everything, I just need to include what I find particularly fascinating. That was really the breakthrough moment. And from then on, readership grew and the feedback got better.

Bob: Every day you are delivering news via email to people who have specifically requested it. How does that direct connection inform the way you communicate with your readers, if at all? And how is that connection different than the one you share with your Twitter audience, who are also opted-in?

Dave: Email is much more personal. People are letting me into their inboxes, and if they want to respond, all they need to do is hit the reply button. Because it’s email, I tend to include more of my personality, humor, and life experiences. That’s really what makes NextDraft a unique news reading experience. On Twitter, I feel like I’m talking to a large audience. In NextDraft, I feel like I’m talking to you. Also, on Twitter, I pretty much just tell jokes, and those jokes often push the envelope in terms of appropriate behavior. In other words, I use Twitter as it was intended to be used.

Bob: Despite all this talk about form and structure, when you get down to it, you need to write a newsletter every day. With so much motivational advice out there about starting a thing, do you have anything to share about maintaining the momentum necessary to publish daily?

Dave: Some days it’s quite difficult to get motivated. But to be totally honest, I am addicted to pressing the publish button. I need my daily fix and it absolutely never gets old for me. I was excited when I published my first blog post during the early days of the web, and I’ll be equally excited when I push publish on tomorrow’s NextDraft. I love it. That’s how I maintain the momentum. I often show my son Bruce Springsteen concerts on YouTube and tell him, it doesn’t matter what you care about, as long as you can find something you care about as much as Springsteen cares about his performance. I can’t sing. So I write a newsletter.

NextDraft

==========

And so concludes the inaugural Periodically Interview. I’d like to thank Dave Pell for his time and attention, and would encourage any human to subscribe to NextDraft and follow him on Twitter.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron

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P008: The Ups and Downs of Provocation

These go to eleven

To understand a topic as broad as communication, it occasionally helps to break it down into its component pieces: the message, the medium, the sender, the recipient and the desired reaction. By adjusting the first four inputs, you can get an infinite number of possible results. There are a lot of resources out there for people who are looking to get a positive reaction, but what if the exact opposite is your intention? Maybe there should be a playbook for dealing with the fallout when your inflammatory rhetoric is “successfully” received.

Smug smug smug

Meet John Lefevre, a man even less likable than Goldman Sachs. His Twitter account (@GSElevator) purported to be real-world utterances from the hallowed halls of the massive megabank, but (SPOILER ALERT) was just Lefevre living out his class-warfare-meets-misogynistic-bro-down fantasies from behind a keyboard in Texas. Since then he has lost his book deal, been outed as a plagarist and got trolled most epically by the actual @GoldmanSachs:

BURN

In response, Lefevre went on the offensive in Business Insider, by which I mean, he got all defensive in an “open letter to the haters”. Turns out, being outed was always part of the plan, we’re all pawns in his game, up is down and we’ve always been at war with Eastasia. Side note: when airquoting BI, is “Business” Insider, Business “Insider” or “Business” “Insider” the preferred method?

One for the Money, Yes Sir, Two for the Show

In an apparent effort to avoid spending another year as the luxury car brand preferred by the elderly and out of touch, Cadillac launched an aggressive, jingoistic commercial during the Olympics, which no one saw because DVR, so they ran it again during the Oscars. If you haven’t seen it, take a moment to see what all the fuss is about (Trigger warning: YouTube comments from #tcot types).

I’ll admit it: I like the ad. I think it’s effective in reinforcing long-held positive brand perceptions of Cadillac while challenging the less-positive ones. It’s beautifully shot and well-paced. The line about leaving the keys in the moon rover is awesome and it doesn’t trip all over itself letting you know that it’s selling an electric car. Hell, I even thought Neal McDonough made a pretty decent M. Bison. The things I don’t like about it (glorification of wealth and workaholism, mindless acceptance of the lie of meritocracy) are the same things I don’t like about myself. We’ve all got things to work on, n’est-ce pas?

So the Cadillac ad hits its intended mark and the obvious reaction takes place. How does Craig Bierley, the advertising director for Cadillac, deal with this PR opportunity? By being a defensive, sniveling semanticist in AdAge of course! Thanks for the 6-point dissertation about how the world misunderstood your commercial, you are a beacon of light and understanding unto us all.

No More Half-Measures, Walter

If you’re going to go negative, be provocative, be inflammatory, you have to own it. You think George H. W. Bush lost any sleep over Willie Horton? Going on the defensive after you accomplish your initial goal isn’t a good look for anyone, especially if you are only capable of sounding like a passive-aggressive man-child when doing so.

Periodically Yours,

Bob Sherron

–30–

P007: Big Plans This Weekend?

There’s been a great deal of discussion lately at the office around the topic of weekends. The prevailing sentiment is that inquiring about a coworker’s plans for their weekend is the ideal form of meaningless banter: a ritualistic set piece that allows for friends and acquaintances alike to share a few well-rehearsed lines and then move along once their coffee cup is refilled. At its most extreme position, this becomes “nobody cares what you are doing this weekend but hearing about it is not as bad as the otherwise awkward silence.” Personally, I prefer to see these interactions as a way to briefly acknowledge another person’s humanity and bond over the idea that we are all more than our respective job descriptions. If the substance of the conversation isn’t exactly Earth-shaking, well, that’s OK because the conversation itself is the important part.

Bradley’s Arms Are Long Enough to Wrap Around Us All

Sunday night’s four-hour Samsung commercial gave us breakout stars, half-baked montages, blah blah whatever ok fine.

The Oscar Selfie Tweet

Three million retweets later, this photograph will go down as the moment where it all came together for those who didn’t already understand the second-screen experience. What started as an obvious, manipulative ad for a giant phone became whatever the internet wanted it to be.

Not satisfied with being the butt of the joke in a typically lame Jimmy Kimmel skit, The People rose as one and spoke

Spacey

and spoke

Grumpy Cat

and spoke.

Of course

The idea that a cheesy moment in an award show full of them could become a touchstone is what makes this connected world of ours great. An individual mocking or appreciating that moment, when combined with the millions who had gone and done likewise, ended up redefining the entire evening. The objective quality of the photo matters not – the conversation itself has become the focus. Dollars to donuts, no one even remembers the stupid pizza stunt by this time next year.

So, What Selfies Are You Retweeting This Weekend?

If water cooler conversations help foster a healthy office culture, the second screen experience can do the same for live events. Simply by participating in those conversations, you are putting your stamp on the moment in a new and fascinating way.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron

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