Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fail-Whale Snacks

Sharon Wildwind

My husband and I try to keep up. Honest we do. We hang around his college-age cousin, and have several college-age and 30-something friends. We even occasionally ask for simultaneous translations of 20-speak. But once in a while we end up in a conversation or on a web address at which we stare helplessly, knowing that what we’re hearing or reading is in our first language and that, individually, the words make a kind of sense, but strung together in this particular DNA-word-sequence, simple speech has mutated into something else.

Twitter Fail-Whale Snacks on User Avatars
Oprah gets pwned by Shaq on Twitter
Reblogging without Curation
Don’t crush the bunny

Through dint of effort and good Internet search techniques, we have managed to figure out three of the above four statements. Don’t crush the bunny still has us stumped, though we suspect it may be something like jumping the shark—let me tell you how long it took us to figure that one out.

I did a head count this past weekend. In my lifetime, I have learned more ways to do CPR than I care to remember, and at least 5 different methods—which my dental hygienist swore each time—was the absolutely final word on the correct way to brush my teeth. I can now be comfortable in spelling the possessive-singular of words ending with a “s” as Johnsons’s, instead of the Johnsons’ I learned in grammar school.

I mastered the Gestetner mimeograph machine, the Electrofax, and every generation of photocopier since 1960. Yes, photocopy toner is hazardous to your health, and if you get any on your skin, you should scrub it off right away.

I can barely remember, in my grandmother’s town, calling central to be connected to another party of the phone line. Our family’s first phone number was 5 digits. My mother made me memorize it when I was three years old—in case I got lost and needed to tell the police how to reach my parents—and I still remember that phone number. I’ve coped with 7-digit numbers, area codes, country calling codes, direct dialing, punch-1-for-sales/punch-2-for-service electronic call routing systems, and the intricacies of five different models of cell phones that we use at work.

I can program a coffee-maker, dual-alarm clock, coded locked box, door alarm system, digital pedometer, programmable sewing machine, CD and DVD players, and big-screen TV, but somehow lack the gene for the video-tape player, with which I have never, ever been able to successfully do anything other than turn on and off and find play or rewind. We will ignore the fact that, three years after I purchased my first CD player, I discovered by accident that I could ask it to play a CD multiple times, and could actually instruct it to skip cuts on the CD that I didn’t care to hear. For three years I'd been getting up and racing across the room to manually advance the CD to the next cut when a tune came on that I didn't like.

Now I am going to conquer Facebook and Twitter. In the words of country music singer, writer, and gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, “How hard could it be?”

Why am I putting myself through this? Because I have to do a marketing campaign for a new book that comes out in the fall, and if I don’t do this, I’m going to be behind the curve.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Plan your marketing campaign, then figure out how social sites can be part of that campaign. They are one tool, not the whole campaign.

There are sites that will explain to you how to get started. Some are good, some aren’t. I’m smart enough to figure out which ones are which.

If you’re interested in Twitter, you might have a boo at the Twitter site. Watch the video in the upper right hand corner of the home screen. It’s one of the most inventive use of simple graphics that I’ve seen in a video. Makes me almost want to try a book trailer, using similar techniques.

You might also try some of the material by John Kremer. No, I’m sorry, I can’t tell you what all those strange words Kremer uses mean. I’m still treading water here myself.

Contrary to what I originally thought, I’m not at the mercy of every other user out there if I create a social site. There are ways to limit who I interact with. There are also ways to keep the time spent per day on the social sites to a manageable limit. There are ways to reduce the identity theft potential.

Who knows, I might even eventually find the answer to that bunny thing. See you on the Net.

Quote for the week:
Words are harder than buttons.
~John Gruber, techi guy, at the South by Southwest Conference, April 2009


Susan D said...

Brave woman!

I'm not bothering with Twitter, since I figure by the time I'm published, in the vague and misty future, it will be Something Else. Perhaps several generations of Something Elses.

And as for Newspeak... I hear you. The main one that eludes me is "Pimp my ride." Sorry if that's obscene; I truly don't know. And I have no wish to Google it, beause I'm bound to end up at a plethora really ugly sites, and probably on some pretty dodgy mailing lists.

It's probably so last week anyway.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Bawhahahaha, I'm sooo there with you. VCRs have never been a problem BUT fax machines have always cowed me. Twitter? Haven't even tried it. But I am on several of the other sites. So is every other author in the world. Sigh.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Susan, I did it for all of us. From Wikipedia: In the first years of the 21st century, a new meaning of the word has emerged in the form of a transitive verb which means "to decorate" or "to gussy." This new definition was made popular by Pimp My Ride, an MTV television show.[11] ...it has now entered common, even mainstream commercial, use.[12] In medical context, the verb also means "To ask (a student) a question for the purpose of testing his knowledge."

Shades of Lewis Carroll! Remember when Humpty Dumpty defines "glory" as "a nice knock-down argument" and insists that a word means what he wants it to mean?

pattinase (abbott) said...

If I could just learn how to program my MP3 player.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

This just cracked me up. All this new "language," and I'm still using "groovy." Pfftt! "Don't crush the bunny??!!" whaaat??

I'm not a Twitterer, but I LOVE Facebook. I'll look for you there, Sharon!

Know what I loved best about your post?? " . . . a new book that comes out in the fall," Oh Boy!!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad all of us are on the same page (how old is that?) about technology and new language. Thanks, Liz, for the dictionary detective work.

Sandra Parshall said...

Lonnie, not "every other author in the world" is on social sites. I'm not on any except CrimeSpace, and I'm not a regular participant there. Can't bear the thought of Twitter!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Good ideas here. Don't worry--Facebook and Twitter can be mastered in only a few days.

Twitter is one of those things that I thought was soooo pointless...until I found out how useful it was!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Debbi said...

I so feel your pain. Nonetheless, I'm on Facebook, Crimespace, LinkedIn and, yes, Twitter. (That's @debbimack, in case you're interested.)

I've been just feeling my way around these places like someone feeling their way through an unfamiliar house in the dark.

I actually signed up for a seminar on social media use. I'm learning so much (too much, actually!). It seems so time consuming, it makes you wonder when you're supposed to find time to write.

But like any other type of marketing and promotion, I guess it can be done.

And this from a woman who can actually program her VCR. :) So don't feel bad.

PS--Never heard that one about the bunny, either.