Twitter lovers: watch out for baseball bats!

I was in the mainstream media here in Edmonton twice today for Twitter-related stories. Basically, the local media’s love affair with Twitter continues! First up, Metro Edmonton (@metroedmonton). They asked me about politicians on Twitter, and specifically about Councillor Don Iveson, who I encouraged to join the service. Here’s my quote:

“It shows that governments are in the know, connected and paying attention to what people are passionate about,” said Edmonton tech guru Mack Male (@mastermaq). “Right now, young people seem to be big on Twitter.”

I was responding to the possibility that Councillor Iveson and others may use Twitter as a way to connect with a younger demographic. I think that’s totally possible, and I expect we’ll hear more about that at ChangeCamp. I think it’s great that Don has joined, and that it’s actually him tweeting.

Secondly today, I was a guest on CBC’s Wildrose Country phone-in program (@WRoseCBC). They were interested in my recent live tweeting of an Edmonton Symphony Orchestra event. One of the people who called in was ‘Bob’. He thought my tweeting was entirely disrespectful and said:

“mastermaq should be hit in the head with a baseball bat!”

I’m not sure why he felt the need to be so violent, but his reaction isn’t entirely surprising. Many people are afraid of social media because they don’t understand it, and they react accordingly. On air, I advised Bob and others like him not to focus on the individual, potentially meaningless tweets in isolation, but to recognize that once aggregated together, there’s incredible value in the noise that Twitter facilitates. It’s going to happen (helping you make sense of the clutter), whether Bob likes it or not. In the meantime, tweet away!

I also feel that the “disrespectful” feeling about tweeting is largely a generational thing that will change over time. I could be wrong about that, but I don’t think so. If everyone is used to others texting in a variety of situations, it’s no longer odd or abnormal. Perceptions will then fall in line.

I’m guessing that CBC will post the segment online, but I’m not sure – check the website for details. I’ll update this post with a link if they do.

Thanks to everyone who listened and sent me encouraging comments this afternoon during the CBC segment. I have to admit that having Bob on the show made the discussion a bit more interesting, and if that’s what it takes to get Twitter more accepted and into the mainstream, I say bring it on.

Just watch out for crazy people with baseball bats!

  • I do agree with you that in aggregate twitter is an interesting study!

    I must admit though, I do enjoy your blogs a thousand times more than your tweets. Your blogs are well-organized, nicely written and thought provoking. I have followed both your blog & twitter for many months now & I’ve found that all the stuff you say that interests me, you filter yourself & put in your blog later.

    I understand that one starts out tweeting with their friends & family & so things like your present location, what you ate & when you go to bed are relevant. However to the mostly distant follower, the self-importance factor & too-much-information overload gets a little high. Remember that not everyone is using categorization tools like tweet-deck etc.

    I have friends that have solved this as they grew in followers by having a business twitter & a personal twitter. Maybe that would be an option for you?

    Or you could just duck baseball bats.

  • Listening to the show and to Bob was interesting to say the least. I believe the Bob ‘baseball bat’ remark was also a comment on the disregard/disrespect people are having as they communicate on their mobile devices in public places. As an active mobile tweeter, texter and emailer, I am always aware of how my activities might be disrespectful in certain public situations – that’s me.
    I work downtown and I’m sure I bump into or have to get around someone every week in the halls of Edmonton Center that is busy doing ‘something’ on their mobile device instead of looking where they are going – please grab a bench or lean on a wall. I’ve also been at theaters and events where people are checking, texting or actually taking a call during the movie/event right next to me, in my line of sight or within earshot. At most of these events it’s clear the person has no regard for the people around them – this theme is growing.
    While I agree that the ‘disrespectful’ feeling out there is largely a generational gap with technology in general – the new generation of users of this technology are not getting educated on etiquette – which encourages self-awareness. After all, who would teach them the right ways to #twitter, they invented the technology.

    Thanks and keep up the gr8 w0rk!

    @markverhagen

  • Margaret – thanks for your kind comments. I’ve always found that trying to do more than one account, whether it’s multiple blogs or multiple Twitter accounts, just doesn’t work for me. One inevitably suffers. So I don’t think I’d ever go down that route again.

    It’s true that I tend to post things on my blog after exploring them on Twitter or elsewhere. It just feels natural to me…a blog is more permanent. It’s much easier to find something I blogged about last year, then it is to find something I tweeted about last year.

  • Thanks for the comments Mark. I guess my only response is that I think it’s difficult to educate about Twitter etiquette when it’s all so new and constantly changing. I think we’ll need a shakeout at some point before we figure out what exactly is accepted and what is not. Perhaps we never will completely!

  • anon

    that’s a pretty convenient excuse- if someone doesn’t appreciate your interpretation of etiquette (and there is a particularly rigid set of expectations at a symphony), then you get to chalk it up to them being out of touch and a technophobe? i understand that you were live-blogging the symphony, but seriously. disrespect isn’t necessarily a generational thing. if someone was texting next to me at a concert in the winspear to the point of distraction, i would be pretty annoyed too, and i would like to think that i’m not out of the loop when it comes to social media.

    texting is lame when there are real people sitting in front of you wanting to interact!

  • @musicians_soul

    I’m intrigued by this blog post from both angles.

    Texting/tweeting is ubiquitous. I’m certainly a frequent offender of inappropriate texting/tweeting. I understand, especially since you were invited by the ESO, how live-tweeting from the symphony is a great opportunity to get people excited about both the symphony and Twitter/general new media.

    As a musician/frequent concert-goer, however, I can see the disrespect argument. It drives me insane when I’ve paid $x for a ticket to a performance and the person next to me pulls out their phone and starts texting/tweeting, or worse yet talking, on their phone while I’m trying to enjoy the performance. Screen brightness, key clacking, and constant movement are a huge distraction and annoyance to the people around you.

    Understanding the argument from both sides makes me more interested to see how the problem can be solved, though. If the ESO is inviting people to blog/tweet from performances, and also fielding the complaint calls, then I’m sure they’ll figure out something that will keep *them* from having so many complaints and keep *you* from having to worry about baseball bat wielding concert-goers. 🙂

  • @anon – I don’t mean to suggest that anyone is out of touch or a technophobe, only that expectations are constantly changing thanks to technology. I agree that disrespect isn’t necessarily a generational issue. I don’t think I was texting to the point of distraction, but I can see how doing so would cause tension. There’s a balance that needs to be struck.

    @musicians_soul – You’re absolutely correct, there are multiple ways to look at this issue. I think my tweeting for the ESO was an experiment, one that hopefully we’ll all learn from, as you suggest. You’ve got to try, and I thank the ESO for taking a chance. Part of the issue may just be setting expectations – I don’t think anyone was told in advance that anyone would be tweeting the show!

    Thanks both for the comments – very interesting!

  • The amusing part about Bob’s comments on the radio call in show was very etiquette related. Before he was going to hit you over the head with a baseball bat, he pointed out there were 2 unique (can’t remember how he referred to the brand) grand piano’s on stage – his reaction was not to take your attention off those piano’s as that was the show and why everyone was there… he just has a violent way of getting you to stay focused 🙂 Funny show and interested stuff!

  • About Iveson, it’s exciting that politicians can now be so connected to their constituents through technologies like Twitter. One of the biggest symptoms of our broken political system is its voters’ apathy. And it’s not hard to see why. We are completely cut off from the political process, limited to voting once every couple of years and, if things are particularly bad, writing a strongly worded letter. The population now has the ability to flood our politicians with outrage, praise, guidance – anything to get our voice heard, with ease. I think we’re going to see a huge change in our system’s effectiveness and efficiency… if these changes are allowed to happen.

    Regarding the ESO, I think it’s VERY unfortunate that “Bob” was the one to get through the phone lines onto the show. His “baseball bat” comment, while likely well-intentioned, shows a lack of tact that our community has come to expect. That said, if I had been sitting next to you Mack (and I don’t know exactly how your situation played out), and you were tweeting constantly during the performance, I would have asked you to stop, and failing that, would have asked the front of house manager to see you out.

    As a long time music student, hearing a well-performed piece is immersive by nature, and the glow of a phone being typed on next to me would certainly keep from becoming immersed.

    As mentioned above, there is some pretty strong etiquette in public performances like this, and the equivalent is sitting in front of you at an Oilers game, and only EVER sitting down during the commercial breaks.

    Now, if you had only tweeted during applause or song breaks (and maybe you did! I don’t know.), that would have been fine. Or, if the ESO had provided you with a private box (which they should have, since they invited you), again, there would have been no problem.

    Like you said, it was an experiment. I just hope the results are conclusively: don’t ever do it like that again.

  • I like Twitter, but I think it’s pretty lame to be live-tweeting a concert. Although it definitely doesn’t warrant being hit with a baseball bat 🙂

    I think it *is* slightly disrespectful to be tweeting / texting at an event like that, regardless of generation or perception, to both the musicians and other audience members.

    Would you live-tweet somebody’s funeral? IMO, There are some situations where not giving a subject your full attention is blatantly disrespectful.

  • Thanks Paul…I tried to keep my tweeting to breaks and applause, but I admit that I did post a few things during the performances themselves. I really was at the very back off to one side, so I don’t think I was disruptive.

    Kyle – There have been funerals live-tweeted already, believe it or not! I agree some situations are off limits, but that won’t stop people from trying.

  • Rob

    I think people are not really seeing the situation properly (or not appreciating it) – Mack was asked to live blog/tweet it. Would he have done that had he not been asked? Perhaps not because it probably wouldn’t have been appropriate to do so considering the surroundings. The ESO should have given you (and your fellow live’ers) somewhere to do it where there was no chance of disturbing other patrons however – but that was ESO’s mistake, not yours or the technologies

  • I’ll jump in, as the person who invited Mack to tweet and blog.

    Caller Bob, and many others, are obviously very passionate about music and the arts, and what the ESO offers – and that in itself is great! If everyone had that same level of passion for the arts, my job would be a whole lot easier. How Bob expressed that passion in this case, however, was inappropriate. Obviously advocating violence, tongue-in-cheek or not, is indefensible.

    As for the appropriateness and value of live-tweeting an orchestral performance, and the broader issues and implications of twitter’s place in society, yes, it’s an experiment, and I’m open to the discussion. It’s a discussion that I have both at work and with my friends. Twitter is, in the grand scheme, such a new form of communication that there are bound to be controversies over its use – and I’m ok with wading into that controversy. Some of the music we perform is controversial and provokes strong responses from patrons, both positive and negative, and it seems this is no different. It’s interesting to me that at Symphony Under the Sky there is a completely different tolerance and expectation within the audience than a concert at the Winspear, and yet, is what the orchestra doing fundamentally different at Hawrelak Park than at the Winspear? Is tweeting at Hawrelak less disrespectful to the musicians? Perhaps it is – but it’s an interesting thought, and it’s just one example of the many grey areas in which we find ourselves in regards to technology and its relation to the arts.

    The weekend that Mack tweeted, we had two full houses for our performances of Carmina Burana. We heard from many patrons who felt that the performance was the best of the year, and we heard from many more who felt it was the best concert they’d been to, period. I can’t remember the last time a Sunday afternoon ESO performance was full – and what kind of traditional media coverage did we get about all that? None… so the only post-performance coverage we can access are Mack’s tweets and blog, and the other two participant’s blog posts. So to me, they’re incredibly valuable resources that are reaching to entirely new audiences that the Edmonton Journal or CBC may not be reaching. And the best part – it’s patron-generated, not some marketing dreck that you’re probably going to ignore.

    In the end, twitter is a communication tool that we’re not going to ignore. It remains to be seen how it evolves and finds its place within cultural events, and we’re trying to discover that. I wasn’t sitting beside Mack during the concert, but he was in a location that should not have been disruptive to others (and we did not receive complaints about it from other patrons), and I would guess that he was discreet and respectful as well. Concert etiquette is certainly on our minds, but even that is an ever-changing beast, and has been for hundreds of years. I believe there’s a balance to be found – we may just not hit it right away. Your comments are valuable – all part of the discussion.

  • Great to hear Phil’s take on this.

    To tell you the truth; I’m a bit surprised people are so passionately against tweeting at cultural events. There are also sorts of distractions that can occur during a performance (people coughing, people smelling of smoke or strong perfume, etc…).

    I think if done discreetly, there’s nothing wrong with a little micro-blogging.

  • Paul Ney

    Thanks for joining the conversation, Phil.

    Please don’t st me wrong, I appreciate what the ESO is doing. It’s nice to see forward thinking in cultural establishments.

    That said, my complaint is not at all with the use of Twitter, as a new technology. Texting is NOT a new technology, and yet if someone sat next to my girlfriend texting throughout the Notebook, even about, how good it is, that man may not have survived the movie.

    My complaint is with using an illuminated device in a dark environment. People are there to appreciate the hard work of the musicians and conductor, and I would be dissapointed if something distracted me from doing that.

    Again, if there’s a private place for it to happen, or if it was only done during applause breaks (which assumed correctly, that Mack tried to do), I don’t think anyone could rightfully complain.

  • Scott

    I thought I’d toss my two cents in here as someone with a slightly different viewpoint because…I’m a twenty something who really dislikes Twitter (cue spooky music).

    I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Mack, however briefly, at Canux ’08, and that he struck me as a very respectful guy. So I’ll assume that any live-tweeting he did was done in the most understated way possible.

    I can also say that I was one of the performers (tenor in the chorus) at the ESO’s concerts of Carmina Burana.

    I’m a long time fan and practitioner of classical music, and I’ve had my gripes with people using cell phones and PDAs in concerts. Normally, I’d say that typing away on an electronic device during a symphony show is a big, huge no-no. However, I have to ask myself: would I be offended if an arts reporter had been there taking notes with a pen? No, absolutely not. And that leaves me wondering why I should change that expectation just because Mack and his twittering companions are using a keyboard instead.

    As much as I fail to appreciate the wonderful world of Twitter (sorry Mack!), I have to respect that it is one of the growing communications media of our time, and that fundamentally, the act of live-tweeting an event is a form of citizen journalism that should be encouraged and even celebrated. I’m also intrigued by Phil’s comment that the ESO had no mainstream media attention on this concert and so the only public record is the one that was captured by the invited bloggers. Good on the ESO for having the foresight to engage alternative media!

    And Mack, I can say from the perspective of someone who was on stage – I didn’t notice your twittering at all. 🙂

    p.s. I sincerely hope Bob doesn’t find you. If he does, remember to duck!

  • Scott – Thanks for the comment, really interesting to hear from someone who was on stage! I think the comparison to a reporter with a pen and pad of paper is a good one.

  • It is very timely that this particular subject should come up at this particular time. I am finding that the comments, criticisms and compliments are very significant. I will of course be adding my twenty-five cents to the discussion on my upcoming blogs.
    When I was invited to attend the various concerts, I was given the choice of situations for executing my blogs. I had the choices of blogging (or twittering) in the concert hall, working from a glassed in area or writing my blogs at home, following the concert(s). I chose the latter. Why? I am a very dedicated music-lover and have high regard for first of all, the musicians (ESO) and not the least, for the audience surrounding me. When at a concert, I am a very sensitive listener with a very highly emotional appreciation for the music being performed. I am very easily disturbed by any minute noise or other distraction. I do have a hand-held cell phone and Blackberry but, I have chosen not to learn how to twitter with it. That is I guess, why I have chosen the nick “Jimthe Twit in Twitter. I am not going to impose my ideals onto anyone that is using the other methods. My career has been time spent in the broadcasting media and I am now realizing that we have to accept the fact that a new medium is necessary to achieve publicity and presence with prospective concert patrons. I am not sure whether the Live-Twitting is the real answer, nor is the extreme use of sporting instruments is appropriate either. My only critical question is “are comments made Twitting during the even a significantly useful elements in the future promotion of upcoming concerts and participation”? I know that I have chosen to use a small notepad and pen to occasionally jot down key words so that I can compose my blog later. I certainly applaud the ESO for this Very Ingenious experiment. I certainly hope that the direction I take in my blogs are useful as they are hoped to be.

  • If I had been sitting beside you, I’d have pulled out my pocket sized baseball bat and hit you with it. Or, better yet, I’d have hit whoever invited you.

    I understand the ESO’s attempt to bring things a little more into the mainstream, and I even understand (sort of) live-tweeting a concert. But if I had been in charge of things, you’d have been behind the sound board, or in the room where the ‘sick’ people go so that they can cough without disrupting the performance, at least for the first shot at this kind of thing.

    I do think it’s horrendously rude when someone pulls out a phone or mp3 player in a setting where those should be turned off.

    Also? The ESO program explicitly says to turn off cell phones, pagers and watch alarms, and then they turn around and “let” you pull your CrackBerry out at any time during the night? Not cool.

    I’m not saying you did something wrong, but if the ESO had invited me to live-tweet, I’d have said no. There’s a time and a place, and a live symphony performance, or an opera or a theatrical roduction, or a movie or whatever….is neither.