Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On apologies: making peace with Neko Case part II

On Apologies: Making Peace with Neko Case, Part II

Dec. 20, 2011

Months ago I published a rather critical review of a concert I attended in my much neglected blog. My intentions for the blog are for it to be as much a journal as anything and also a forum for items about which I feel particularly strong. This may not always be the case, but for the moment, it’s true enough.

That particular post percolated for months (yes, really) before I started writing. Once I started clicking the keys, I went through several drafts and periods of letting it rest. I wanted very much to capture precisely what I felt and meant without being too harsh or too soft, which I actually thought the piece achieved at the time.
I published the animal and tagged the subject in the interest of full disclosure.

That the subject, Neko Case, took the time to actually read it was quite a compliment. That she took the time to share it with her thousands of followers was simultaneously satisfying and horrifying. The backlash was immediate and a little nasty, which I expected. I went a few short rounds with a couple of particularly nasty respondents then let it go completely. (Pro tip: engaging in the comment section of a blog with rabid fans is the ultimate Danger Zone destination. Enter at your own peril.)

Fast forward four months and low and behold I meet someone who actually knows Ms. Case. They’re not “besties” or anything, but suffice it to say they’ve hung out and worked together on more than a few occasions. So I shared the post in question with him, thankful again that he took the time to read and consider it.

His reaction was complementary of the first few paragraphs and downright scathing of assumptions I made later, followed by rather insistent advice that I apologize.

At this point it bears repeating that I considered every word of that post carefully before publishing it. It is also noteworthy that I am both a musician with more than 100 paying gigs under my belt, a bigger than average fan of Ms. Case’s work, and worked as a booking agent for a stable of touring and recording artists for six months in 2005 during which I negotiated and executed scores, if not hundreds, of contracts.

Therein lies my quandary. Do I stand behind my statements or do I owe Ms. Case an apology? I feel like I’m wading into dangerous waters of integrity and morality here.

Although my assumptions about the production and booking arrangements were informed by experience, it is entirely true that I did not see the contract between the producer, the performer (or the booking agent) and the record company (if indeed the record company had a say in the concert contract, which I doubt, but could be true). I also believe it is true that the vast majority of touring artists, especially the backing band members, subsist on the razor thin margin of what they require to live combined with whatever value they assign to the satisfaction of loving what they do to eek out a living.

Ms. Case, in a tone that was quite frankly pissed in nature, replied that there was indeed a radius clause in the contract with the promoter that prevented an Atlanta play on the next night, an item that I identified as “bullsh*t.”

Ummm, yeah, oops.

Our mutual friend further suggested that my condemnation of the absence of a keyboard was equivalent to suggesting that the artist was basically stealing from the paying audience.

Ummm, uh oh.

“Don’t you think if she could afford to have a keyboard and someone to play it on tour she would,” Bob asked? “Don’t you think she probably said to herself, ‘God damn I wish we could have it! But if we add this, everyone’s pay decreases by [X] and that’s not acceptable based on what we’re projected to make,’?”

A fair point, especially if the collective performers’ pay rates are as skinny as they could be. Counterpoint: how much does it cost the producer to provide a keyboard and couldn’t the artist play the thing on the tunes that need it most without adding another member to the band?

I suppose there won’t be clear answers to any of this without dialogue with the artist, which would also require some detail that I’d bet my monthly bar tab she wouldn’t be particularly interested in sharing.

That said, I suppose an apology is in order for the following:
  1. The front of house sound engineer: “sophomoric” was too harsh a word. I’m sorry for that. You’ve got a tough job.
  2. Ms. Case: the audience is only one of what I’m certain are dozens of entities (not to mention the individuals that rely on those entities) to whom or for whom you feel responsible. I’m sure that’s quite the burden. I’m sorry for making statements based on questionable (and in some cases erroneous) assumptions that were hurtful.
I hope the artist will accept this fan and fellow musician’s apology. And tour with the Sadies soon. And stop in Atlanta.

P.S. Ms. Case, my neighbor Bob P. says, “Hello.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Doppelganger du jour: @andishehnouraee and ...

I just couldn't keep this to myself, and maybe I'm late to the party, but wow, has this occurred to anyone else?

We love you, Andy! Mmmmhmmmm.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ultimately, additional road capacity does nothing to alleviate congestion.

Due to the absurdly parochial and arcane manner in which transportation issues are addressed and discussed in Georgia, I have stopped paying attention to the regional T-SPLOST voters in the state will decide in June. Until the final project list comes out in a few weeks, I remain solidly on the fence when it comes to my position of support, for or against.

That said, if I had the undivided attention of every voter in the state, this is the message I would deliver. Adding capacity in the form of new roads or expansions does nothing to ease traffic congestion in the mid-to-long term.

From "The Economics of Traffic Congestion," by Richard Arnott and Kenneth Small as published in American Scientist, Vol. 82, "Any reduction in congestion resulting from capacity expansion encourages others to drive during hours on routes they ordinarily would not use. So measures to relieve congestion are at least partially undone by latent demand.

"The other  reason capacity expansion alone does not work is that congestion is mispriced. Because drivers do not pay for the time loss they impose on others, they make socially-inefficient choices concerning how much to travel, when to travel, where to travel and what route to take... The combination of latent demand and mispriced congestion may be so perverse that an expansion of capacity brings about no change in congestion, or even makes it worse."

If you're a real transportation wonk, here's the link to the rather complex article. http://www.econ.ucsb.edu/~tedb/Courses/Ec1F07/traffic.pdf

There's also this little gem about "induced congestion" from researchers at UC Berkeley who found considerable empirical evidence that showed every 1% increase in new lane-miles generated a 0.9% increase in traffic in less than five years (emphasis added).


So dear reader, whenever our transportation "leaders" roll out the project list for which they will ask us to decide whether or not we want to foot the bill, please, please, please remember that ultimately building new roads or adding to existing ones doesn't do a damn thing to relieve congestion.

Pauly D

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The top attribute in a new hire: keep calm and carry on.


How do you define a crisis? How do you respond to a crisis? Do you create them or tend to make them worse?

Those were the first questions that came to mind when my compadres with Soccer in the Streets (Twitter: @soccerstreets) posed the question, “When you hire new employees, what do you look for other than experience?”

After a decade in the public relations industry, and countless disappointments in junior new hires with PR or communications degrees, I’ve about given up on the skills element. Those are learned on the job, not in the classroom. Additionally, experience seems to be worth less because a lousy supervisor will put up with a great deal that a good supervisor will not. This can reinforce and exacerbate poor performance thus significantly devaluing a candidate’s experience line on his or her resume.

So what do I really want to know? How do you respond to a perceived crisis, and are you more likely to make it worse or better? Consider this:

Is your first reaction to a potential crisis (either via breaking news, a phone call, email from a client or partner, etc.), “Oh. My. Gawd!!!” Or is it something less reactionary? “Ummmmm, uh oh. This could be a problem.”

Who wouldn’t prefer a cool, non-reactionary, thoughtful reaction?

The truth is there are very few real crises in a given day, week, month, or year for that matter. My contention is that our reactions to perceived crises are more likely to create a crisis than the original situation. And given the immediacy with which we all demand information, benign situations can often spiral out of control quickly by an excitable, reactionary response.

High volume, reactionary responses raise the level of anxiety among the entire team especially in a form of open office environment, which causes the performance of all to suffer. Of equal import are the parties the “first responder” engages. Does the person carbon copy the entire agency or team (or worse, the client) on a forward or reply email unnecessarily consuming billable hours at high hourly pay rates as the branches of the correspondence multiply exponentially? Or do they calmly engage their immediate supervisor?

Really. With which would you prefer to work?

So, dear reader, my advice to you regarding new hires is find out how your candidates define and respond to crisis, either perceived or real. In most cases the skills required to do the job especially among junior candidates and new hires will be acquired by training the employer provides and on the job experience. But a generally calm demeanor and sound judgment in response to a perceived crisis may be the most valuable attribute a new hire can bring to any organization.

In the sagacious words of my friend and RedSky PR co-founder Jess Flynn, “Keep calm and carry on.”

Photo credit: RedSky PR www.redskypr.com

Pauly D.

Friday, July 22, 2011

NFL Commish needs a vacation, or better comms people

Because it's timely and I'm an NFL fan (and season ticket holder), I'll weigh in here with something I think is important for anyone in a position of authority or happens to work in the communications realm.

If the ratified CBA the owners sent to the NFLPA yesterday was not exactly what the players union saw earlier in the week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped right in the poo less than 10 seconds into his media briefing yesterday.

Because the last thing I need is some kind of copyright gripe, the video is easy enough to find over on espn.com.

Said Goodell, "... The clubs approved an agreement that was negotiated with the players..."

Whooooaaaaa, hold on a minute cowboy. Really?

There are two big problems with that. 1. As stated above, if what you (eventually) sent to the players was not exactly what they saw earlier in the week, then no, it was not fully negotiated with the players. And 2. If it had been negotiated with the players why would you make a statement that implied ratification by the NFLPA should be a foregone conclusion? Wouldn't a joint press conference with Demaurice Smith and the player representatives have made a lot more sense?

Maybe the commissioner, who is famous for his up at 5:00 a.m., done around midnight workdays, needs a vacation.

Now I'm thinking I might be setting myself up to be Sam "Ace" Rothstein in that car talking to Andy Stone about Nicky Santoro in "Casino," but I digress.

Nevertheless, this brings me back to a recurring theme in the communications realm lately. Who is writing this stuff? Doesn't anybody pay attention to detail anymore? Doesn't anyone understand the magnitude of their words, written or spoken, in the public realm?

I don't know or care who or what's to blame for this epidemic, but all the commissioner had to say was the following and there would have been no backlash.

"The clubs have  reached an agreement among themselves that they believe is in the best interest of all parties and will allow the NFL season to begin as early as Saturday morning. There are details within this agreement that still need to be reviewed by the players' association, but we believed this is the most expeditious way forward at this moment. It is possible additional negotiation may be required. We thank the players for their efforts in bringing these negotiations to their current state and look forward to concluding these matters in very short order."

Period. End of story. No ruffled feathers. Players, your move.

How hard was that?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Making peace with Neko Case

I’ve been promising this post for too long. And now that I’m on the mend and think I have the proper (read: non-reactionary) perspective, here goes.

Back in April, I saw my sixth or seventh live Neko Case show, this time at the venerable 40 Watt Club in Athens, Ga.

That I live in Atlanta wouldn’t seem to make a trip to Athens such a chore, but in reality, it was. That’s a long haul back on a school night even when there’s not any booze involved. Fortunately the set didn’t go a minute over what I’m certain was the contracted 90.

See what I did there?

Oh yeah, by the way, why the hell wasn’t there an Atlanta play as long as the crew in the neighborhood? Some “distance/radius” clause to which the promoter made the booking agent agree?  Bullsh*t. They could’ve done double the revenue with essentially zero travel by adding an Atlanta play with no harm done to the Athens sellout.

I knew exactly what I was getting into with this show: same crew, same material. I was holding out hope of the one percent possibility she’d get into some of the Furnace Room Lullaby and Blacklisted material. And perhaps that the cool 40 Watt vibe would elicit some, well, I don’t know what. Those are long odds and one would’ve been correct to bet the chalk.

Here’s the set list: “Things that scare me,” “Maybe sparrow,” “Fever,” “People got a lot of nerve,” “Pharaohs,” “Hold on, hold on,” New tune, “Margaret vs. Pauline,” “I’m an animal,” New tune “Calling card?,” “Fox confessor,” “Red tide,” “Polar nettles,” “The tigers have spoken,” “Middle cyclone,” “That teenage feeling,” “This tornado loves you,” “Vengeance is sleeping,” New tune “Friday night girl?,” “Don’t forget me,” “Knock loud.”

I could rant until I’m blue in the face about what a travesty it  is that the crew is traveling without a keyboard with so many tunes that necessitate it, especially “Vengeance is sleeping,” “Red tide,” and “Don’t forget me.” Or about the frequency with which Case and Rauhaus change instruments that it impedes the development of any kind of groove in the show, or about the redundant set list selection. Or about the start/stop that happened somewhere mid-show. Or about the sophomoric front-of-house sound engineer. But that’s not what this is about.

Then I realized what I wanted. And I’m as much to blame for not figuring it out sooner.

While later lamenting that there aren’t enough Sadies tunes on the jukebox at my local, I realized I don’t want to see another Neko Case show. What I want is to see Neko Case with the Sadies. Awesome on their own account, stuff like “Loretta,” “I’ll be around,” “Set out running,” “Soulful shade of blue…” THAT is what I want to hear live.

So, dear Ms. Case, I’d never begrudge an artist their commercial spoils, especially after years and years of toil for meager wages. You, however, earn no more ticket sales revenue from my wallet until you tour with the Sadies. And stop in Atlanta.

Respectfully, Pauly D.

P.S. There's only one audio channel on this here Youtube video, but here's a little Neko Case with the Sadies (and Rauhaus, too).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Want to get something done in your next internal meeting? F*ck courtesy.

Two weeks ago I attended an all staff meeting of 20 or so colleagues. The meeting required a 177-mile round trip drive and consumed six hours all tolled.

That I directly contributed very little and the fuel, time and CO2 emissions wasted is not the point of this missive. The problem was the meeting was so riddled with useless anecdotes, caveats and content that had zero to do with my work, I left with a high level of frustration because I felt like we didn’t accomplish anything. But, hey, it wasn’t my meeting.

One week later, I hosted a conference call with my boss (who reports to the president) and my boss’ counterpart on the academic side (who, while I do not report to this person, outranks me by a wiiiiiiiiiiiiide margin).

“Paul, this is your call,” boss says. “Go ahead.”

Instantly I moved into a mode I didn’t realize how much I missed. This was my meeting. Absolutely fucking right, and we’re going to get this done my way, which means I’ll get you out of here by the time I promised. And if you’ll indulge me just a little bit, we’ll get everything done we need to get done. I further promise that if I seem curt or rude, I apologize, but it is only in the interest of respect for your time and accomplishment of the goal.

“Thank you gentlemen,” I started. “I want to keep this to thirty minutes and I have five agenda items,” which I then read. At times I feared I was being curt, especially when speaking to two genteel southern superior officers for whom courtesy is highly important. Nevertheless, I was confident I was doing the right thing.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” I said more than a few times. “But do I understand correctly that this is what you want? Ok. Just what I needed. Next.”

The call ended exactly thirty minutes after it began.

The feeling of satisfaction in my work at that moment was quite strong. I accomplished exactly what I set out to accomplish in the time allotted, managed to keep the conversation focused (even at the risk of offending two superiors), and left with a clear course of action agreeable and hopefully beneficial to all related parties.

My lesson for you, dear reader, is this. We have become overly courteous to the point of productivity loss and ultimately frustration. And yes, the title at the header was intended to draw attention, not to encourage you to be flat out rude.

That said, people would rather get through a meeting on time and accomplish the goals for that meeting than worry about being offended. Set your course, be direct, turn all conversation back to the topic, and move on.

Thank you and goodbye.

Pauly D.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gospel truth: the ethics of sport fishing

Having recently seen a post in my Twitter feed concerning the ethics of fishing for sport, I felt compelled to address it here. It's mostly self-serving for both posterity and clearing my own conscience. But hell, it's my blog. I'll do with it what I like.

Since it is not possible to say it better than David James Duncan does in an interview with David Thomas Sumner from Weber State University, I'm just going to paste it here. Do with it what you will. Meanwhile, I'll be back on the water at the end of  the month.

[DTS] I have a lot of friends, eco-friends, who are good people but who give me a hard time about my fishing habit, telling me I am just torturing the fish. But I argue that there is a certain ethic found through that habit. How do you see it?

[DJD] I wouldn't call it an ethic; I would call it a spiritual truth. It's sacrifice that feeds all of us. Fifty-five pounds of toxic waste generated by the construction of a television set. Something slightly lower, but near that, to build a nice computer monitor. You drive up to the PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] meeting and the grill of your car is covered with dead insects. You become a Jain where you only walk outside during the daylight so you don't crush insects, but you start to get sick and you've gotta take antibiotics and there is a holocaust that goes on inside you. You're killing these innocent organisms. I mean, there is no way to define anything as large and clumsy as a human being that doesn't involve an animal that is eating other animals the same as the rest of nature. We practice a beautiful traditional craft where you and I stand on land, and fifty feet away this creature from another realm is very quietly taking part in the food chain and through a work of deceit—a kind of low-level fiction—and through some incredible technology, we insinuate ourselves into that food chain, and we betray the sincerity of that creature. But in its struggle for life we feel its life in our hands. And that is important. Because we do hold other lives in our hands. Fly-fishing, in this sense, is an avenue to understanding gospel truth.

Amen, brother. Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Self-directed: pro tip for travelers worldwide

In an endeavor not to sound like a complete snob, I will avoid the “this or that was so beautiful,” and “check out the fish porn,” I might have placed here for posterity and instead highlight a truism that reveals itself each and every time I travel.

The sad souls on those tour buses.

A number of friends asked before I left whether this trip was “self-directed [again]?”


This is, at least in part, a meteorological necessity for me in this trip, but that is beside the point here.

The truism is this: adventures, like life, are more about the journey than they are about the destination. Those sad souls put their journey squarely in the hands of a volume tour agent and their bus driver. And the greatest destinations are often the ones a self-directed journey creates that you hadn’t expected or planned to reach and never would when tethered to another’s itinerary.

As it turns out, this particular trip went remarkably according to plan with zero adjustments required for weather, vehicular or bodily failure. Deano's legendary Old Trout (a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser VX 4x4 turbo diesel that I am destined to own in this life or another) performed flawlessly and the capability of getting its occupants into and out of just about anywhere provided a liberty and security that would make any adventure more enjoyable. 

Which brings me back to those sad souls in the tour buses.

Many of our fellow trekkers on a well known track in the Fiordlands National Park started their trip in uber-touristy Queenstown, arrived by tour bus and returned the same way. Fair enough. But on numerous occasions I saw scores of travelers boarding and disembarking from neo-European tour buses into neo-European hotels and restaurants like cattle beholden to a schedule certain to end back in the stockyards or worse. It makes me cringe in sadness for them believing that the vast majority had no idea just how close they were (five or 10 km in many cases) to accessible, remote pure natural beauty than they would ever be again. They would see only what millions of others have seen before with zero opportunity to direct their own adventure.

Different strokes, you say? Ok, fine. But I will proffer that those sad souls missed out on more than 90 percent of what their trip actually had to offer.

So my recommendation to you, dear reader, is this: invest in a good map, top up your fuel tanks whenever you stop for food, and self-direct your adventures even if it means getting lost. Be safe, but be brave. More often than not your travels will increase in enjoyment, memories and meaning by several orders of magnitude.

Now with my apologies, a bit of fish porn.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Career searching advice: find the droids you're looking for.

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” (Obi Wan Kenobi)

In nearly any form of professional activity, including career searching, the more intelligence one can acquire the more effective one should be, correct?

Not so fast. Timing, in all things, is crucial.

In as public a forum as this, I will not say with whom or when it happened, but twice I’ve attempted to develop a relationship with a relative stranger at Company X. The motivations were: 1. Learning more about the company and said stranger’s relationship to Company X, 2. developing a new relationship and 3. finding a career within Company X at a time when no specific opening was/is currently available.

Twice I believe I’ve initiated conversations (both via Twitter) with people who almost immediately perceived me as a threat. I cannot blame them for this. We dealt in the same realm of expertise. And how are you supposed to respond when the second question from your new contact is, “What is your profession?”

How many ways are there to say “Java engineer,” or “CPA,” or “public relations?” Any seasoned vet of any area of expertise would see through a semantic disguise or other BS. And if they didn’t, one’s endeavors might feel like subterfuge creating an element of remorse with which I would not be comfortable.

Therefore, is one better off trying to generate a relationship inside your area of expertise or outside of it? It is indisputable that the farther up the chain of command the better for situations such as these. What is less clear is how one avoids being perceived as a threat when seeking a new career with Company X.

The only advice I can offer gentle people is to dig, dig, dig … then dig some more to find the highest ranking officer within your area of expertise (i.e. that person to whom you would report) before letting on that your goal is a career with Company X. Then connect in the old fashioned way if you have to. Twitter is not the end all be all, especially if you don’t have the right person.

Comments, advice, experiences welcome!

Move along.

Friday, February 11, 2011

For all the "comedians" out there...

For as long as I can remember, I was never the funny guy. I was farthest from the class clown, complete with the Michael J. Fox wardrobe that ensured I’d be the butt of jokes. Somehow I would often to get in trouble for what that clown did, which made me simultaneously furious with and jealous of really funny people. I must admit that much of this persists more than two decades hence.

I would like to think that my sense of humor has improved, along with my ability to be humorous. Isn’t it true that we all find our friends with the best senses of humor among our favorites?

Content of humor is one thing. But timing and delivery are critically important as well. The immediacy, temporal context and tonal challenges of the Internet amplify the degree of difficulty to the successful delivery of humor by a significant amount.

Only highly deft humorists and satirists can successfully deliver humor via social networks in words only (viral videos do not apply here). Indeed, humor runs the constant risk of, and often relies upon, being offensive. The cursory way we “know” our “friends” and “followers” in our social media circles increases the odds of offending them by several orders of magnitude.

I failed at that in a most epic and embarrassing way quite recently because I didn’t know one of my friends well enough.

Therefore my advice to you is this. If you are not entirely certain that your voice will be heard in the way that you intend it, do NOT post a reply, tweet, comment or other internet black hole of permanence. File it away and save it for the rare occasions when you can intimate it the old fashioned way: in person.

Barring that, it really is ok to leave some things unsaid.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Road signs of awesomeness

An upcoming and unexpected expedition to the other side of the world has me thinking about road signs. Though quite simple items in and of themselves, they manage to impart a variety of emotions in their observers: despair, security, anticipation and deep satisfaction.

The last time I drove from my home town of Cincinnati to my dad’s native Colorado the first road sign for Denver on Interstate 70 westbound somewhere in Kansas read, “Denver 560 miles.” Uggggh. After logging more than 600 miles to get to that point, that particular sign almost taunts the reader as if to ask, “You sure you can handle another 560 miles of featureless road travel? At 70 miles an hour?” This is especially dispiriting at what was often 2:00 a.m. and we always made those trips non-stop.

But that sign also is the first to confirm that, yes, this is still Interstate 70, you are still tracking westbound, and yes, eventually, this road will get you to Denver.

On more than one occasion I’ve missed a key turn up in the hills of east Tennessee, and little is more reassuring than when you wind up on a backcountry dirt road and the sign for which you are looking appears. “Holly Flats 6 miles.” Ahhhhhhhh. Yes!

There are few emotions I enjoy more than anticipation. It is often in those moments of great anticipation that I feel most alive because just as often, the place or moment that I’ve hoped to achieve passes into history more quickly than anyone would prefer. The anticipation always lasts longer.

On my first trip to the south island of New Zealand, road signs and a good map were the greatest security blanket a solo traveler could ever have. “Rolleston,” “Ashburton,” “Geraldine,” “Fairlie,” “Tekapo,” “Twizel,” and “Omarama,” come to mind.

What I didn’t realize in that first trip was that I had a VERY specific destination in mind. I didn’t get there, because I didn’t know how badly I needed to.

The second trip, I made absolutely certain I got to exactly this place. Now, this isn't me in the video, but it was absolutely the clincher in the motivation I needed to take the plunge and make my first trip to New Zealand. http://www.sexyloops.com/movies/themanandhisfish.shtml (Note: select "or download" next to "Use on site" on the right side of the screen. Also note, the audio in the first 30 seconds of this video is NSFW).

Despite the copious amounts of fish porn and God’s country landscape photographs I collected on that trip, my favorite images are of road signs. They all owned each of those three best attributes a road sign can have: security, anticipation and deep satisfaction.

The road sign that reads “Te Anau,” is special for several reasons. First, it is not possible to go more than 50 km farther south before the next land mass becomes Antarctica. Second, Te Anau is tantalizingly close. Finally, THIS was exactly where I needed to be. Badly. It is in the town of Mossburn, where Highway 97 meets Highway 94. (You'll just have to trust me that yes, this is what it says)

Farther south, not possible
The next is even more specific. There is a particular river, which shall remain nameless here, that was a high priority for that same trip. For many of the same reasons as the previous sign, this is particularly awesome. What makes this sign superior, however, is the sheer variety of amazing places within close proximity to where the reader is standing.

Road sign of awesomeness

I plan on visiting these signs in early March and greeting them as dear, dear friends.

Does that make me weird? If so, fine by me.

No exit, no problem.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lowbrow for the burbs: side eye to the AJC

When news of the NFL’s fine of $50,000 for “refusal to cooperate” in the case of lewd text messages allegedly sent by future NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Brett Favre, media coverage was predictably swift and salacious.

But when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted the story to its website at first the headline read, “Favre fined for sexting.”

Wait. What? Really? “Favre fined for sexting?”

Because this was all together misleading and inaccurate I tagged the AJC in my Twitter feed suggesting they correct it. Minutes later the headline read, “Favre fined ‘over’ sexting.”

Ummm, no. That’s still not right, and borderline libelous.

One more direct message exchange with the staffer on duty for @AJC and minutes later the headline read, “NFL fines Favre in sexting probe.”

Oh good: corrected by putting “sexting” and “probe” together. Well done.

Perhaps even more egregious is the anti-City of Atlanta slant to which the AJC has turned its “news coverage” in an effort to attract more suburban readers. Creative Loafing (@cl_atlanta) rightly exposed that in some detail. http://bit.ly/gEQuMM

Hell, the AJC even vacated their city center offices on Marietta Street for suburban digs on the filthy congested north end of the Interstate 285 perimeter.

Is this really what you think your high-growth OTP target audience is after AJC? Can you not aspire to something, ummm, well… better?

In the toxic TMZ era in which we live, keeping headlines salacious is beneficial to content providers. I get that. The more click-throughs, page hits, shares, etc., the more a media outlet can charge its online advertisers; a necessary evil as newspapers in particular struggle to monetize their content in a time in which hard copy circulation remains weak at best.

But you’re taking the easy way out, dear AJC. Side eye in your direction. Correction: this is a downright nasty glare.

In an effort to give credit where it’s due there are several hard-working, and almost certainly underpaid, reporters at the AJC that provide valuable content I happily consume: SOME breaking news, Falcons, Braves and more. The team of staffers charged with maintenance of the AJC’s Twitter feed (@ajc) is quite responsive, a characteristic that matches perfectly with the high value of audience engagement and online community building.

I suppose then what I’m asking the AJC for is this. As our region’s flagship print and online news provider with a long and noble history, could you please bump it up a notch or two in the class department? Because if you’re going to insist on shoehorning “sexting” into headlines no matter what, and if you’re going to extricate your headquarters from the city that bears your banner’s name, I’ve never been prouder to be a part of the audience that is trying to find other sources for local news.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Twitter Primer For Newbies: (Hat Tip to Karin Frost)

Because my friend Karin (@karinfrost) is new to Twitter, I thought it would be appropriate to publish a lightly refreshed edition of my Twitter primer. Have at it! Hope it's helpful!

Ask yourself why would you do this? – I started using Twitter primarily to expand my media reach and relationships with reporters and editors on behalf of my clients and my own professional development. It has since become a powerful business and social networking platform that I use actively. The beauty of Twitter is its ultimate level of customization. Many younger users Twitter just to keep up with their friends in a broader way than text messaging would allow. NOTE – it is important to be patient and persistent in building your network of followers in order to use this tool effectively.

Pick a user name and password. Picking a user name is VERY important and varies based on your purpose for that user.

Some users use either their real names or something very close to it – as I do, @pdsnyder. These users are prepared for EVERYONE to know what they’re saying because Twitter is part of the viral, social media beast from which we benefit, but can also get VERY quickly burned. For business users, this requires a high level of caution in what/how you Tweet.

Some users pick fictional names or nicknames as their "handles" to remain relatively anonymous (except to their close friends). This gives them a freedom of expression that identifying their real names would eliminate.

Go find some friends that have Twitter feeds and see who they’re following. You can search Twitter by last name or user name. Since many last names are common, you will often have to sift through many users before you find your friend. www.search.twitter.com is also effective for finding friends and other users that share your areas of interest and expertise.

Review a few user feeds and start following some people.

Start Tweeting

Tweeting consists of answering the question, "What’s happening?" in 140 characters (characters, not words) or less. Any links count too, which is why websites that compress like http://bit.ly are popular.

Four habits of effective Tweeps (people who use Twitter, particularly those people that follow you, or that you follow)

They provide news and data on their area of expertise
They re-tweet (RT) news and data from other Tweeps that they believe is valuable
They keep their posts to Twitter to 120 characters or less to encourage re-tweets
They tend not to suffer from Twitterhea (Tweeting too often or irrelevantly)
They give a sprinkling of Tweets about their personal lives (I do this about sports, playing poker, and travelling)
Effective Tweeps enjoy larger numbers (and higher quality) of followers

How to increase your following
Re-tweet other Tweeps’ tweets
Engage directly with your followers via “@” replies or direct messages
Request re-tweets on news that you believe is very important or relevant
Refrain from Twitterhea
Respond or reply to requests for information to Tweeps you’re following (there is a reply function at the end of each tweet that comes into your feed)
Ask friends or colleagues in other correspondence if they tweet, and if so, what their Twitter handle is
Include your Twitter "handle" in e-mail signatures if you use it for business purposes

Good luck!
Pauly D

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Falcons pre-playoff 2010/2011 assessment: my two strongest impressions of a 13 - 3 team linger in one of three losses

Brent Grimes

Given that the 2010 NFC South Champion Atlanta Falcons just clinched the top seed in the NFC this past Sunday, I had it in mind to write something anyway, but an e-mail seeking fan comments from AtlantaFalcons.com contributing writer J. Daniel Cox clinched it. So here goes, what I’ve liked, disliked and loved most about the Falcons 2010/2011 campaign.

LIKE: Any NFL fan would love to have the Falcons GM and head coach lead their team. Can you identify a bona-fide bust or string of poor decisions, either on the field or off, either of those team leaders has made? Other than perhaps Chevis Jackson, I don’t think you can. Offensively it’s obvious: Ryan, Gonzalez, White, Turner, Mughelli, Snelling, with strong contributions from a cohesive offensive line and enough quality threats elsewhere (Jenkins, Finneran, Douglas, Peelle, and even Weems when necessary). Dimitroff put them in place and Coach Smith’s leadership has the entire team focused and hungry. But the real difference in this team has been on defense.

My pre-season prediction was that the defense would start about average, but improve every week. This has indeed happened. The Falcons finished the regular season fifth in the NFL in points allowed. Somewhat surprisingly, the best defensive effort of the year came in a losing effort against New Orleans at home in late December for which the defense was solely responsible for keeping the team in the game. They held Drew Brees to a passer rating of 77.2 and generated two picks, returning one for a touchdown. It was hopeful and inspiring, even in defeat. Here are some individual player thoughts.

Jesus H., Brent Grimes, HAVE A YEAR!

Sean Weatherspoon, stay healthy and you’ve got many a Pro-Bowl appearance in your future. Same to the rest of the linebackers.

Proper comeback year, John Abraham. Fantastic.

Big Play Bill Moore, keep earning your nickname.

Thomas DeCoud, run tackling is great, just watch out for the headshots.

Kroy Biermann, your drive and QB disruption have not gone unnoticed.

Dunta Robinson, you’re not getting the side eye from me. Yet.

Special teams note: Thank you Eric Weems. Keep protecting my football. Matt Bryant and Michael Koenen, please just keep doing what you do.

Speaking of the December 27th Monday Night game, I still don’t know if New Orleans’ defense played particularly well, if the Falcons offense played particularly poorly, or a combination of the two, which brings me to my biggest criticism: one which hasn’t changed in three years.

DO. NOT. LIKE. As my poor fan friends in section 304 and my home pub know all too well, much of offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey’s personnel packages and play calling drive me absolutely bat-shit-crazy. Why would you run an aging and slowing Michael Turner off tackle out of a single set backfield so often? If you’re committed to running the ball (a Matt Ryan audible notwithstanding), Turner needs to see his carries cut by about one-third, with 75 percent of the remaining two-thirds with either Ovie Mughelli lead blocking from an offset eye, or with Tony Gonzalez or Roddy White motioned in the intended direction of the run to lead block.

And coach, can we please see a LITTLE misdirection or quick hit running? Are you saving a reverse as a surprise for the post season? Ovie Mughelli and Jason Snelling need their snaps on the field increase 10 percent.  Between the two of them, they have made many big plays on third down and pass protected well when asked to do so. An inside handoff to Mughelli at LEAST once a game or a counter to Snelling would suffice. And have you noticed that swing passes to Jason Snelling (third on the team in receptions in 2010) pickup around eight yards per attempt?

Also, why the insistence on avoiding the long pass attempt, coach? When Ryan is committed to throwing the deep out he’s one of the best in the league throwing it, and it’s almost always to Roddy White. Smart.

Maybe it’s by design that we hardly ever see a straight “go” route or deep post. Those are dangerous routes. But if you’re going to insist on a vanilla off tackle run game, you need to free up some space and keep the linebackers and safeties honest. One or two more deep shots per game would help. I don’t think we saw that until week eight.

To balance my criticism of Coach Mularkey, it bears repeating that this team has 13 wins. Not 10, not 11, not 12, but 13. My personal feeling is that number has more to do with the defensive improvements and overall talent in offensive personnel. But still, he’s the offensive coordinator for a team that has 13 regular season wins.

I will give him mad props for the masterful game he called against Baltimore. Normally a 50+ pass attempt game for Ryan would guarantee a loss. No matter how good you think the Falcons offensive line and running games are this team was not going to run off tackle or up the middle against that defensive front seven. I should have, but did not, understand before the game that the best way for the Falcons to put enough points on the board and control the clock to win was throwing: a lot. Game balls to Mularkey and Ryan. It is entirely possible the Falcons have to go back to that formula to pull out a win in at least one playoff game.

LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. One more note on December 27th, and perhaps my favorite attribute of the Falcons 2010/2011 campaign: The Georgia Dome crowd. In seven years of attending home games this year’s crowd has seemed both markedly louder and more consistently loud than any other year, especially on defense. There are an extra dozen or so fans in section 304 alone that are bringing more noise. It’s tough to tell because I’m busy screaming my own head off when the defense is on the field, but I KNOW it’s making a difference to the team and the outcomes of the games.

At the beginning of this year I thought success for this team would be earning the right to host a home playoff game. Well, we have it: in round two. I will try to remind myself of that. And while some part of me thinks this team is still a year away from reaching its true potential, there is a growing part of me thinking, hey, why not us?