Category Archives: Writing

Jonathan Fields’ Great Title Idea

This is so cool. I’m really jealous. As he finishes up his next book, Jonathan Fields turns to the web and his so-called tribe for help with the book title. In Help Me Choose The Title Of My Next Book, he put a poll onto his blog and promoted in there and in Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Why am I jealous? Because I didn’t think of something like this for any of my books. What a great idea.

Choosing a book title is hell. It’s really hard to do, critical to the content, and critical to sales and success. Could there possibly be a better way? Much as I complain about dumb polls and over-researched decisions, this is a great use of so-called crowd sourcing.

In my defense, it’s easier now than in 2008 when my most recent two were published. But Twitter had already started, and this blog was already here, and so was my other blog Up and Running, on entrepreneur.com. I could have done it. And I don’t want to sound ungrateful for how much help I got from Jere Calmes and the team at Entrepreneur Press, but still … damn!

Whatever the eventual title, I expect Jonathan’s upcoming book to be really good. When he interviewed me for it maybe a year ago, he was talking to a lot of people and asking some very important questions. He went into deep core issues about entrepreneurship and creativity, like dealing with fear, finding time for silence, and balancing needs and wants. That interview left me thinking about related issues long after.  I’m really looking forward to reading the book that comes out of that.

Twitter Didn’t Invent Hilarious One-Liners

I just read The Rise of Comedy on Twitter on Mashable. The tweets they reproduce there make me jealous. I love Twitter, but I’m not funny on Twitter, or at least not on purpose. But then I’m not particularly funny off Twitter either. And then there’s also Top 7 Hilarious Fake Tweets on Huffington Post a week or so back.

Mashable asks:

But is Twitter humor different from “traditional” humor? And what happens when the television, publishing, and performance industries are set aside in favor of direct “social” comedy? We spoke with some hilarious tweeters to get their take on these trends, and on what it means to get a laugh in the digital age.

The post generates some interesting opinions from several comedians. My favorite is where they don’t like that Twitter has no gatekeepers. Winners who’ve passed gates like gatekeepers.

Is there a different style of humor for Twitter? Hey, I think the so-called one liner has been there forever. 140 characters ought to be plenty for funny. Does it take another style? Consider the following:

I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
Borrow money from pessimists-they don’t expect it back.
Half the people you know are below average.
99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

None of those are from Twitter, but all would be great as tweets. They are all from comedian Steven Wright, from long before Twitter started. They’re on a website collection called Steven Wright quotes.

And how about these, that come (without attribution, I’m afraid) from a site called Famous One Liners:

Some drink at the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle.
Some people are only alive because it is illegal to shoot them.
Success always occurs in private and failure in full view.
Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!
Support bacteria, they’re the only culture some people have.
The Bermuda Triangle got tired of warm weather. It moved to Finland. Now Santa Claus is missing.
The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required on it.

Twitter’s a great place for funny one liners. But come on, they were there long before Twitter.

Does Twitter Matter? Can It Possibly Last?

Yes, I think it does matter. And no, although it won’t last, not like it is now, it is the beginning of something that will last, but will be changing a lot. I could say the same about personal computing, the Web, and blogging.

Twitter is all the rage because it hit fertile ground. People like it, people use it, and because what it does catches us. The key to it is something related to publishing and broadcasting. It’s why I like writing this blog, why you like writing your blog, and why both of us read each other’s.

It’s related to instincts deeply embedded in our human nature.

Image by Carla16 on Flickr

Image by Carla16 on Flickr

The first of these is expression. When nothing else was possible, people drew on cave walls. That was about expression. So is telling stories, reciting  poems, and singing songs. It’s in our nature. We crave expression.

The second is curiosity. We want to see the pictures, hear the stories, know what’s up, and what’s going on.

And then, beyond these two basic instincts, there’s how much we like gathering, and shows, entertainment, and keeping up with each other.

All of which happens on Twitter. It’s not email, it’s not blogging, it’s publishing in 140-character pieces. Do it well and you have more people reading what you publish. Do it poorly and you have nobody reading what you publish. Make it interesting, informative, or funny and it’s good to do and people will follow. Use it to sell stuff or whine or share trivial life details and people will stop following. Use it to push sales talk at people and they will stop following.

Which–the click to follow or not–is the clincher, in my opinion, that makes Twitter more significant. I’ve seen some very interesting musings on Twitter’s future, such as Jeff Sexton’s piece asking is Twitter is digging its own ditch?  He says some of the Web’s bright and shiny new things (he mentions Digg and Technorati) burst on the scene, become popular, and then got manipulated, declined. The classic pattern is email with spam now killing it. He asks whether that might happen to Twitter.

And I think not. Because of both sides of the coin: the instinctive allure of posting like this, and reading the good posts, which is one side; and the ability to click and unfollow people, which is the other.

So please, follow me on Twitter: click here.