samedi, octobre 12, 2013

@Kairyssdal and the twittertocracy: the sound of some hands clapping

First: a caveat.

I love Kai Ryssdal.  He's the host of NPR's "Marketplace," the show tailored for those of us who hate those little scrolling numbers in CNBC. 

I like listening to him so much that when I told a pal that he has the same casual, clever, quirky persona going on when he preaches, it was a compliment of a very high order.

I like his interview style, slightly goofy without being at all unprofessional.

Even though I roll my eyes a bit when he says: " Good, as always, to have you with us" and I know it's partly a shtick, I still believe he means it. Wherever I am, whether it's in the car, hiking the hills around my exurban community, or occasionally listening at home,  he draws me in.

And also, he's a Yankees fan. Hated by the rest of the country, even when we are out of the playoffs and other teams get all the glory,  we have to stick together. It's a persecution thang. 

But when I saw this tweet from Ryssdal's online persona,  @KaiRyssdal,  I did a little brood.

For those of you who don't need or want to be part of the Twitter pecking order, Ryssdal is responding to a tweet from @TheStalwart: 

"Good q tho. What's the response/follower threshold? “: I almost responded to an inane tweet from someone with no followers.” "

Really? I thought. Really? I can understand not answering someone spouting nonsense -- but does it matter that much if he or she has followers?

I watch some of the people I respect to see how they treat their followers.

Do folk with famous names only respond to other famous names? Do they only retweet or respond to the witticisms of their media buddies? 

Is Twitter becoming a larger, bi-coastal version of "This Town" with a little West Coast street cred?

I'm a small fish in a tiny pond.

I write about religion. That usually only draws notice from the rest of the media when something goes really awry or kinky.  

I'm not even a famous religion writer, someone with a presence in a large media outlet.

I'm not young and well-known, drawing thousands of followers.

I'm not even OLD and famous. Just another middle-aged writer, with a penchant for the bon mot and the wrong mot.

I'll admit straight up that I only have 300 followers and change. For a long time, I didn't bother to cultivate my Twitter connections. I don't have much interest in rituals like Follow Friday, and I don't always follow someone who follows me.  

 Some happen to be pretty well-known.
Many are colleagues, some are friends, others are media contacts in other fields. Then there is a sizable group of clergy and laypeople interested in spirituality and in religions.

I don't know most of them -- but I often (though not always) profit by paying attention to what they tweet.

Oh yes, there are morons and trolls out there. But the vast majority of my followers, and certainly the people I choose to follow, have something to add to the threads, the memes, and the more-than-occasional frivolity of the Twitterverse.

I hope that Kai Ryssdal, and others of his media class, choose to respond to tweets because they make a relevant point, or are logical, or clever: (even better, of course is the "holy grail tweet" : logical, topical and clever, all at the same time).

After all, he works in public radio: if it's not quite vox populi, you can tell that many of those who work there are making a good-faith, whole-hearted attempt to present other points of view.

There's no obligation on the part of well-known media figures to pay any attention to the hoi polloi. Most of us will continue to observe their behavior whether they reciprocate, or not. But I'd like to think that a civil society is based, at least in part, on mutual respect -- and attention.

Some Twitter personalities seem consistently gracious and engaged.

I'm always impressed, for example,  by how much Jim Roberts, late of the New York Times and now of Reuters, engages with his Twitter readers. Of  course, he is, in many ways, a digital media pioneer. Frankly, that's part of his work.

As I said at the start of this post, I'm not slamming Kai Ryssdal -- after all, he didn't pose an answer to his own question.  So I really have no idea if he thinks there is a threshold below which someone is not worthy of a response.

Of course, many of these media folk work under grinding pressure, and don't have much time to be Twitter personalities.  

 More important:  Ryssdal is a darned good journalist/anchor, with a keen nose for the funny and sometimes seamy underbelly of business news and American culture.

But I'd hate to see Twitter become like, well, high school. 

Remember how awful it could be if you weren't the jock, the cheerleader or the AP student? 

When we graduated, we promised that we

So don't. 

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