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Jul 20, 2011

Happy Two Year Twitterversary to Me

Moments Later...Two years ago today, I was a fresh-faced college graduate with a dumbphone and an interview for a job as a social media marketing intern. I figured I should get to know this Twitter thing if I was going to be doing it full time, so I signed up. I followed a few of the suggested users and friends, and tweeted cryptic references to my ware-abouts.

About six months later, I was frustrated that I still didn’t have a job in my field. I loved the people I worked with as social media intern, but I didn’t go to school to market mortgages. I decided that if I could make social media work for the nicheiest niche market in the whole world, I could make it work for me.

That’s when I decided to take Twitter seriously. No more tweets about my sandwich, no siree.

I made a list of all the Christian publishing houses I could find on Twitter, and I watched their feeds, looking for any way I could make a personal connection. One day, @TyndaleHouse said something along the lines of: “I’m out for the weekend, but you can follow me at my personal account, @ChristyWong”. From that moment, I became Christy’s Twitter-stalker. (Hi Christy. I’m not sure you know this. So, um, glad we’re friends. 🙂 ) Christy gave me a list of Tyndale tweeters, and a few weeks later, I found @AdamSab, who’s also in the marketing department at Tyndale. He and I started trading Twitter strategies, and when a job opened up in his department, he suggested I apply.

That’s the story of how Twitter got me a job.

But I would have loved it anyway.

Since then, I’ve been through two smart phones (really the only way to make Twitter a major part of your life), I’ve gained a couple hundred followers, and I’ve carved out a place in the Twitterverse.

Twitter changed the way I use the Internet. It’s become how I communicate with friends, and it’s how I learn…everything. If I were to make a list of my favorite things in this world, Twitter would fall somewhere below my cat and somewhere above peanut butter cupcakes. This is serious.

So Twitter, by way of a thank you, here are a few of my favorite things about you:

1. Twitter has made me a better writer.

I delete about a half a dozen tweets a day. Why? Because these last two years on Twitter have taught me that if I write something totally inane, like what I’m eating for lunch, or about how my feet hurt, than no one cares. No one will react. I’ll get no retweets or faves or anything. Twitter’s all about positive reinforcement. I’ve found that if I make a story about of the bland occurrances  in my life, I can get a reaction. It sort of reminds me of that time in junior high when I figured out that if I told funny one-liners, I’d get attention.

Twitter’s also helped me trim the junk from my writing. You may have noticed a bunch of sos and howevers andanywayses on this blog-o-mine. There’s no room for that in a tweet. There’s no room for any excess baggage, so every word in every tweet must be important.

2. Twitter tells the best stories

I said before that Twitter made me a better writer. Now let me apply that generally: Twitter makes better writers. I follow around 500 people, and almost all of them are capable of producing 140-character-or-less gold. I am absolutely delighted by tweets every day. It’s amazing the power that these people are able to put in to such a small space. Check my list of favorites for a few recent good ones.

3. Twitter made it OK to talk to strangers

(inspired by @brokeandbookish)

I’m not the sort of person to rush out and tap a stranger on the shoulder, throwing a compliment or question their way, but on Twitter, I do that every day. In fact, only a handful of the people I talk to every day are people I’ve ever met in real life. There’s a depth and richness to my feed that I wouldn’t get if I limited it to the people I’ve actually met.

On Twitter, a professional anything is within reach at all times. The very fact that they have a public profile means that they want to talk to you. I get expert opinions on grammar, translation, ebooks, gardening, technology, nerdery, anything, and they’re always given in a spirit of good will.

4. Twitter brings out the best (and worst) in people

(inspired by @pulptone)

The people I follow in Twitter are smart, funny, and interested in everything. And, since they’re so smart and funny, they make everything interesting. In these last two years, I’ve learned more information faster than in the whole rest of my life.

I have had very few bad experiences on Twitter. Very few of those false notes in communication that make me wish I could start the day over again. (I contrast this with Facebook, where I have a false-note experience almost daily.) Now, this isn’t to say that everyone on Twitter is on their best behavior all the time. I have a strict policy of Jerk Unfollowing. If you persist in being mean or petty on Twitter, I unfollow you. This keeps my stream bright and shiny and full of useful information. I recommended it.

5. Twitter makes me feel like part of a community

I’ve always had semi-obscure interests. Ok, maybe they’re not that obscure, but for a kid in the suburbs in the midwest in the 90s, there wasn’t much talk of any kind of literature that wasn’t PowerRanger-related. I just got used to it.

It got a little better in high school, and a little better still in college, but for the first time in my life, I can throw out a tweet saying “Betsy Tacy?” and get three or four responses of “Don’t forget Tib!” There is always someone to talk to, and they’re ready to talk about whatever subject you can think of. These funny little conversations turn into friendships, and all of a sudden, you have a cozy little corner of the Internet to call home.

6. Twitter makes me feel omniscient

This happens every twenty minutes or so:

“Hey, Jess, did you hear…”

“About the thing? Yeah. Like, yesterday. It was on Twitter.”

Nothing happens without the Internet knowing about it, and nothing happens on the Internet without Twitter knowing about it. As long as you choose carefully who you follow, you’ll never miss a headline. I’ve followed natural disasters, concerts, conferences, cooking, tech announcements, and even sporting events. (Ok, I don’t follow sporting events so much as I can’t avoid them, but I’m really glad that the women’s soccer team had fun on Sunday. Or whatever.)

But really, I meant it when Twitter changed the way  I use the Internet. I used to spend a certain amount of time every day visiting the same websites. I had a little ritual that I’d follow: get a cup of coffee, scroll down my favorites, check for new content, read, refresh, close laptop. It was nice, but it was very closed. Twitter opened up a whole world of information. I get a much more balanced view because I’m not just reading one news site for opinions. I’m reading opinions curated by people I respect, so I’m not just getting more information, I’m getting better information.



So there’s my little love letter to Twitter. I’ve tried to keep it short. I tend to gush when Twitter comes up.

Happy Twitterversary to me. I do accept gifts.

What’s your favorite thing about Twitter?






Jul 5, 2011

An Open Letter about SEO and Hungry Bears

Taken from Selva's Flickr stream.

Search engines are wonderful things. They’ve practically made the Internet usable. But, sometimes, they hiccup. Sometimes you search something perfectly reasonable, and instead of finding a helpful result, you’re directed to a page that has nothing at all to do with your query.

Sometimes you search “did anyone in the bible get eaten by a bear” and you’re directed to a review of Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos.

And that’s exactly what happened to you, Mr. Did Anyone In The Bible Get Eaten By A Bear Man.

I say “Mr.” because that’s how I imagine you, Mr. DAIBGEBAB Man. I see you as a guy with a wide range of interests. You enjoy a little light theology. You’re a zoology hobbiest. I bet you watch the History Channel. And you’re persistent, if a little pig-headed.

How do I know this last bit? Because you’ve searched “did anyone in the bible get eaten by a bear” eleven times in the last month, Mr. DAIBGEBAB man. Eleven times.  And every time, it brings you to the same review of Imaginary Jesus. I know this because Google Analytics told me so, and Google Analytics doesn’t lie. This review only mentions bears once, and doesn’t really have anything to do with bears in the Bible. Now, it’s possible that you just really enjoy that review and find this to be a convenient way to reread it. But you know you could just bookmark that post, right?

Of course you do. You’re an intelligent person, Mr. DAIBGBAB Man. You watch informed cable television.

No, I choose to believe that you’re still searching for answers. I choose to believe that you have a need to know about the dieting habits of ancient bears, and you refuse to change your search term, and darn it, Mr. DAITBGEBAB Man, I’m going to help you.

The answer you’ve been waiting for, Mr. DAITBGEBAB Man, the answer is…Yes. Forty-two anyones. It happens in 2 Kings 2:24.

Because I know you’re something of a naturalist, you’ll be interested to hear that the bear in question was probably a Syrian brown bear. And because you’re a theology guy, you’ll want to know that it was the result of a curse from the prophet Elisha. And because maybe, just maybe, you’re starting to thin a little up top, and you’ll be gratified to know that, well, Elisha was too.

Here’s how it happened:

23 Elisha left Jericho and went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, a group of boys from the town began mocking and making fun of him. “Go away, baldy!” they chanted. “Go away, baldy!” 24 Elisha turned around and looked at them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of them. 25From there Elisha went to Mount Carmel and finally returned to Samaria. (2 Kings 2:23-25, NLT)

Never mess with a prophet of the Lord, Mr. DAITBGEBAB Man. No, no.

So there you go, Mr. DAITBGEBAB Man. I suppose I’m reading into the text a little bit to say that these kids were actually eaten by bears, since the word is mauled, but I’m sure you could find someone to help you really get into the original intent of the passage. Just google “Hebrew exegesis” and don’t stop until you get the right result, Mr. DAITBGEBAB Man. Don’t stop.

Feb 15, 2011

I! Can! Haz! Internet!

Are you the sweet invention of a bloggers dream, or are you really as wonderful as you seem? Yes, that’s right. After five months of technopurgatory, I have been gathered to my people.

Didja miss me?

Soon I will return to sensical posts, and I might even post regularly now that I won’t need to write everything on my lunch break.

Now, in celebration of my return, please enjoy this video of cats playing patty-cake.

Dec 8, 2010


In honor of this morning’s #whyIread hashtag, I wanted to share a bit of Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa’s acceptance speech, “In Praise of Reading and Fiction“. It was excerpted in this morning’s Shelf Awareness, and it’s one of the best arguments for the importance of literature that I’ve ever read. I don’t agree with every point he makes, but I love the idea that literature can be the grain of irritation that brings freedom from tyranny. My favorite bits are in bold:

I learned to read at the age of five, in Brother Justiniano’s class at the De la Salle Academy in Cochabamba, Bolivia. It is the most important thing that has ever happened to me. Almost seventy years later I remember clearly how the magic of translating the words in books into images enriched my life, breaking the barriers of time and space and allowing me to travel with Captain Nemo twenty thousand leagues under the sea, fight with d’Artagnan, Athos, Portos, and Aramis against the intrigues threatening the Queen in the days of the secretive Richelieu, or stumble through the sewers of Paris, transformed into Jean Valjean carrying Marius’s inert body on my back.

Reading changed dreams into life and life into dreams and placed the universe of literature within reach of the boy I once was. My mother told me the first things I wrote were continuations of the stories I read because it made me sad when they concluded or because I wanted to change their endings. And perhaps this is what I have spent my life doing without realizing it: prolonging in time, as I grew, matured, and aged, the stories that filled my childhood with exaltation and adventures.


Without fictions we would be less aware of the importance of freedom for life to be livable, the hell it turns into when it is trampled underfoot by a tyrant, an ideology, or a religion. Let those who doubt that literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression, ask themselves why all regimes determined to control the behavior of citizens from cradle to grave fear it so much they establish systems of censorship to repress it and keep so wary an eye on independent writers. They do this because they know the risk of allowing the imagination to wander free in books, know how seditious fictions become when the reader compares the freedom that makes them possible and is exercised in them with the obscurantism and fear lying in wait in the real world. Whether they want it or not, know it or not, when they invent stories the writers of tales propagate dissatisfaction, demonstrating that the world is badly made and the life of fantasy richer than the life of our daily routine. This fact, if it takes root in their sensibility and consciousness, makes citizens more difficult to manipulate, less willing to accept the lies of the interrogators and jailers who would like to make them believe that behind bars they lead more secure and better lives.


From the cave to the skyscraper, from the club to weapons of mass destruction, from the tautological life of the tribe to the era of globalization, the fictions of literature have multiplied human experiences, preventing us from succumbing to lethargy, self-absorption, resignation. Nothing has sown so much disquiet, so disturbed our imagination and our desires as the life of lies we add, thanks to literature, to the one we have, so we can be protagonists in the great adventures, the great passions real life will never give us. The lies of literature become truths through us, the readers transformed, infected with longings and, through the fault of fiction, permanently questioning a mediocre reality.