‘Social’ Media: What isn’t in a name

Twingly, image by permission to Porter Anderson
The glowing Twingly vision of "social" media flaring in real time around the world.



O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
Dost hold Time’s fickle glass, his sickle, hour…

Sonnet 126




The so-called “social” media, currently our lovely boy of  communication, hold in their darting packets of data, surely, unimaginable power.

  • They collapse distance across continents and seas we once showed on no maps. Ariel, himself, would weep.
  • They erase the time — days, weeks, months, even years — we once waited for letters.
  • They spin across the planet’s surface to survey, sift, locate, tag, follow, and bond us to people we’d never have met in earlier times. Our ability to convene global salons of cohorts in real time is unprecedented in human experience.
  • They pump ready reservoirs of information into deserts of ignorance and await only curiosity to be tapped.
  • They open to us possibilities of collusion and cooperation, contrivance and collaboration, calumny and camaraderie, catastrophe and compassion.

So where do we get off being so trite when we speak of these forces?


Official Twitter logo bird
When you need your political uprising led by a cartoon character. (From Twitter's official logos page.)

Cuteness is revolting

Shall we say with straight faces that the brave Tunisians – whose dogged grace inaugurated the Arab Spring — tweeted their way to freedom? I suppose they’re lucky that Twitter co-founders Jack Dorsey and “Biz” Stone didn’t consign them to quacking in glory or chirping their triumph

And does it make you love a social networking/sharing/bookmarking service better to find it spelled Tumblr instead of Tumbler? Flickr instead of Flicker? Licorize, Pinterest, YouTube?

Denmark, like many non-English-based cultures, is seeing a steady rise in English names for companies, even when little business is done in anything but Danska. Thus, my cable service in Copenhagen was provided by YouSee, you see.

A bookish rendition of the HootSuite owl. Awwwwwww.

My own tweets are lobbed at a defenseless population from a dashboard provided to me by HootSuite. Little owl for a logo. Adorable, huh? One can tweet out pictures with TwitPic. Warm and fuzzy enough for you yet?

Does it say anything about a new service when it’s named for the company launching it and a mathematical symbol? Google+ — plus what? Plus the kindergartners who must have done that graphic on its homepage? Scratchy arrows in the Google colors point to a red circle of your peers. Buy me the Crayons, I can do better than that.

I like Google+, although my interest in scrapbook/display networking is secondary to my fondness for news-ticker-ish platforms. And as for the name Google+? Well, this is the massive company that has named the Android platform for phones and tablets Ice Cream Sandwich. Hope you like it, because Google is naming all the Android operating systems after desserts. Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb.

Isn’t that cute? Just shoot me now.

The organizers of O’Reilly’s Tools of Change (ToC) have announced the companies to be presented in the Publishing Startup Showcase during the upcoming confab. The names of these lucky and promising 10 operations include Lookze, BiblioCrunch, and (hold on to your barf bag) BookieJar. Awwwww.

Don’t get me wrong. These three companies and their seven counterparts in the Startup Showcase are all potentially transformative young corporations, and I’m looking forward to seeing their demos in New York. But when did we all descend into the Valley of the Corporate-Cute?

I’ll be covering the whole TOC conference and you can follow me, February 13-15, at @Porter_Anderson on Twitter and/or via the hashtag #toccon and/or on the homepage of my own site, PorterAnderson.com — I’ll be live-tweeting. In gentler times, I think this was called whistling while you work.

Since the good founders of Writer Unboxed, Teri and Kath, have asked me to get at things related to “social” media in my posts here — and since writers are sensitive to how words are used — I want to start us out by putting forward a very writerly idea. Ready for this?

Proposition: One of the biggest impediments serious writers may face in exploring, adopting, and using the powerful potentials of “social” media lie (not lay, damn it) in the frivolity of both the phrase “social” media and in the names given to some of those media (“media” being a plural word, damn it).

Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;
She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure.

In coming posts, what I hope to do is help holdouts – writers who are intelligently put off by sophomoric palaver – draw closer to the advantages of being online. And those of us who already are avidly “leveraging eyeballs” (that was heard in a UK publishing meeting this week) might together find our way to some new means to see our “sweet selves grow,” to paraphrase the sonnet-writer.

Let’s become grown-ups on The Grid. It’s time.

Not so bad, is it? “The Grid” is a tolerable term in this context. We’ll put it on and wear it for a bit. Close to the skin. Getting onto The Grid is not unlike William Gibson’s early concept of jacking into “The Sprawl,” is it? That beats staggering around the “Twitterverse,” and do not call me a “tweep,” you twirp.

In normal parlance, the “grid” is all contemporary modern networking, inclusive of power grids, telephone circuitry, water utilities, satellite surveillance. To be “off the grid” is to reach a mythical place beyond billing range. Sounds like Heaven. If we isolate the term for our own purposes to refer to the plethora of “social” media, we may be able to duck some of the more chummy aspects of talking about this sort of interactivity as if it had to do with covered-dish suppers.

For now, I want to show you three aspects of gridding. They take us just off the Croc-beaten path.


Susan Cain's Quiet on Andrei Kashcha's Yasiv
Susan Cain's new "Quiet" is selected on Andrei Kashcha's Yasiv.com, with recommended books surrounding it.

(1) Yasiv.com. This is set, as you click on it, to show you a visual representation of books bought at Amazon by people who also bought one of my favorite novels, In a Strange Room. It’s by the Man Booker Prize shortlisted writer Damon Galgut.

This is a graphic interpretation of the ingenious Amazon function called “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.” Try putting in your favorite book’s title (the upper right field). And when you’re tired of your literary-ness, hit the drop-down in the left search field, change categories and put a new item into the right blank.

All of Amazon is watchable here, so now for something completely different: Music bought by customers who also bought recordings of the compositions of Nico Muhly, an American composer whose work is particularly nourishing to writers.

Yasiv is the work of Lab49 consultant Andrei Kashcha, and it’s an effect of “social” media. The ad hoc society of people who are buying things that you might like is tracked by Amazon with devastating promotional efficacy, as we know. And then it’s deftly conceptualized in a visual interface by our friend Kashcha. Not trivializing. Not cute. Useful and interesting. You’ve just gridded your preferences.


Simon Spurrier's appeal
Author Si Spurrier takes to video to do what a broken publishing infrastructure can't.

(2) Author Simon Spurrier. He’s in the UK, which is why he’s named Simon. All English guys are named Simon.

And he has had the disheartening experience of releasing a book, A Serpent Uncoiled, to what he calls “the most brain-shatteringly effusive reviews” – only to find that the usual suspects can’t sell it. News media, bookstores … we know this story, don’t we?

He writes it up for Sam Missingham at TheFutureBook:

The newspapers struggled to know what to do with it. Retailers arched eyebrows. Readers pursed lips. How can we possibly handle this book, the world wondered, if you can’t tell us what it’s similar to? Originality, it turns out, can be its own worst enemy.

And so our Si has done what might have been a normal book trailer video. Wait, wait, I hear that yawn, me too, but hang on, this one is different.  Both in execution and in what it says.

Simon Spurrier: A Serpent Uncoiled

As he writes at TheFutureBook:

It’s the personal experience of the Failure which makes the thing, I think. That unmistakable whiff of humiliation.  So I simply said so. Truth, or a version of it, is critical in these matters. I simply vented my bile the only way that felt right – with a deluge of ridiculous curses – and, yes: felt a lot better for it. 5,000 people watched the result in the first three days. I hope they felt better too. The book?  If I’ve done my job right, that part will look after itself.


(3) Twingly.com. Say it with me now: Awwwww.

I have some acquaintance with these developers, a really crack group in Linköping. That’s in Sweden. I’d have kicked their Scandinavian butts if I’d been around at the time they seized on that name.  For American eyes only: I think they meant Twinkly.

Nevertheless, Twingly is a blog search engine patronized primarily by European newspapers. What I want you to see, if you’ve never encountered it before, is this (it’s free, not “for free,” damn it):

Twingly Screensaver

The Twingly model is an evocation of the blogosphere as Earth majestically rotating on the engine of the data-drive. Huge pillars of cyber-power rise up into the air above the geographical location of each IP address that posts.


The Twingly blogosphere in action. Gorgeous.
The Twingly view of the world sparkles in bursts of blog posts, glimmers of writerly light in a dark void.


Once the Twingly world is downloaded to your computer and up on your screen, you hit “i” on your keyboard (for “interactive”) and you then have control. You can spin the world faster or slower, turn its 3D image around in any direction, resize it, inspect its activity, click on blog posts listed on the left to see more and link out to them.

Watch the times of day at which Europe is most active, the States, Asia, South America. The penguins have zero social media presence. Bless their hearts.

Some pillars turn Knossos-red, indicating especially bullish traffic. Note the parts of the world that are rarely active – they’re off The Grid. Not as global as we like to think, are we?

There’s even a counter that tells me, last I checked, that the Twingly had tracked 77,009,518 blog posts since it started scanning in 2007.

The point for us, though, isn’t the Twingly search engine’s rich success. That’s the pride of the boys in Sweden. For us, it’s the concept of a world fairly bristling with comment. Just look at all we have to say. Look at how many of us are saying it. Look how frequently someone is holding forth about one thing or another, punching out into space with this opinion, that report.

Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,
And her quietus is to render thee.

Time for me to shut up.

Your turn

It’s in the Ether-green beauty of the Twingly’s twinkle that I want to leave you this month with the idea that these “social” media may gather their strength and fearsome reach from massive crowds of us, sure. But “social?” Really?

Sometimes they’re commercial (Amazon’s offerings). Sometimes promotional (Si’s book). Sometimes aesthetic (Twingly’s radiant sphere). But they’re far beyond two agents gossiping about their author-clients over the electronic fence. That’s social.

Our Grid is much too grand for our boorish colleagues who scream BUY MY BOOK! in every tweet.

This Grid can do loads with visuals from your last family reunion but its main currency is words. These are verbal media. And if anybody on the Twingly planet can spend words to their advantage, it should be us, the unboxed writers of that luminous world.

You’ll find me here next on February 25, and Thursdays on the Ether at the site of Jane Friedman, a fellow Writer Unboxed contributor and my courageous host.

For now, tell me what you think.  Is your own experience really social on these media? Originally, did you engage in them originally for that? Or were you looking for a market from the outset, your platform’s community, to sell your work? Today, are you hunting colleagues, tricks, and tricksters of the trade online? Are you in search of readers, buyers, and advocates for your cause? Are you seeking buddies, best whatevers forever, Vespoli rowers, bowling teams? Tell me (a) how long you’ve engaged in “social” media, (b) which ones you find most useful, and (c) and whether their usefulness is truly social.

And can you name for me an anti-social medium?

See ya. I gotta grid.


About Porter Anderson

@Porter_Anderson, BA, MA, MFA, is a journalist, speaker, and consultant specializing in publishing. Anderson is The Bookseller's Associate Editor for The FutureBook in London, a sister site focused on developments in digital publishing. He is also a featured writer with Thought Catalog in New York, writing on publishing and on #MusicForWriters in association with Q2 Music. In 2015, Anderson has programmed the IDPF Digital Book Conference that opened BookExpo America (BEA) and is programming the First Word event at the Novelists Inc. (NINC) conference later in the year. And he is working with the Frankfurt Book Fair on special programming for its new Business Club suite of events and facilities, now in its second year, 13-16 October, in the 2015 Buchmesse. More on his consultancy, which includes Library Journal's and BiblioBoard's SELF-e among its clients in 2015: PorterAndersonMedia.com | Google+


  1. says

    “All English guys are named Simon.”

    On.The.Floor. LOOOOOLLLLL.

    My experience with social media at this moment is that I’m overwhelmed by it and starting to resent it. There. I said it.

    I resent the fact that if I want to favorite a video on Vevo, I’m forced to log into my Facebook page. Do I really want the world to know I added a Selena Gomez video to my playlist? Or if I tweet something, my feed is spammed by bots and I’m suddenly followed by tire manufacturers and Pfizer.

    Back off, corporate entities trying to infiltrate my life to make a buck, you’re pushing me right off the grid.

    I was an early adopter of social media, after all, Writer Unboxed was founded as a way to connect writers together, but now it seems like we are at a tipping point. I’m so glad you’re here to take on the beast for us, Porter, and give us some cues how to negotiate the deepening swamp.

    • Porter Anderson says

      You added a Selena Gomez video to your playlist? LMAO



      It’s insane, isn’t it? In the “real” world (you remember the real world, don’t you?), would you allow hundreds of people you’ve never met to walk into your den at any time and inspect your video collection … and call it SOCIAL? I’d call that something out of Dante.

      And as long as you mentioned, um, “Vevo” (if not the inevitable growth subsidiary “Vevolve”) I’m considering establishing the Writer Unboxed Corporate-Cute Wall of Shame as part of our series here on these “social” media that afflict us. Be thinking of your favorite nominees.

      Glad to be here, Kath, at a place for writers founded before we drove the funnybus right on over the cliff. We’ll drag the swamp monthly. Wear your waders. :)

  2. says

    Honestly, I need some “Socialization” because I’m pretty reclusive otherwise. I live in a small mountain town and I don’t ‘get out much.’ -Family and friends are at a minimum 11 hours away and at tops 40 hours away. If not for “social media” I suppose I’d be even more self-indulgent than I alread am. :-D

    However, I know that if not for SM my novels wouldn’t be selling to places all over the world. That’s pretty great stuff.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Great comment, Kathryn, and thanks for both reading the post and dropping a line. One of the things I want to get at in this series of posts is the “socialization” factor that many of us need as writers. It’s the Emily Dickenson question. What might have been, you know?

      I’m really glad to know of the connectivity these platforms can give you AND that #socmed (we should use this as our hashtap on Twitter, so much shorter) is an aid in selling your novels. THAT is the proof in the deepest pudding, at the end of the day, and I congratulate you on making it work for you so well.

      Keep it up, check back in with us if you will (next post in this series is February 25) and thanks again, you’re doing a lot of things right!

  3. says

    You’ve delivered again, Porter! Thanks for the info. on what’s going on in the world of the internet. I wouldn’t know a lot of things without your posts (and tweets!) You always summarize it all in a way that I (a techno-phobe) can understand.

    You asked questions – I have been blogging a year and a half, Facebooking about as long, and tweeting since August. Amazingly, I like Twitter the best, possibly because it’s instant gratification. I have to admit it has been letting me down, lately.

    Blogging is more social, and it has grown much more slowly than Twitter. I think it is precisely because you have to enter into a longer-term commitment (as compared to Twitter). The up side is I do feel like I have some honest-to-God social contacts. I do on Twitter, but since it’s 140 charac. at a time, they’re usually reduced. Plus, those contacts are usually started by blogging. Facebook is pretty much personal.

    For me, blogging is the most useful. I don’t necessarily believe that the contacts I have made through blogging would translate into additional sales if I ever get a book published (however that might happen), but the support I have now is very much appreciated.

    I don’t know anti-social media. I never thought of search-engines (whatever form the come in) as social media. But I don’t think that’s what you meant :)

    I love the term “corporate-cute”!

    • Porter Anderson says

      Hi there, Lara, what an interesting comment! Thank you for reading the post and for chiming in.

      For my part, I’d never have said that blogging is very social. While I enjoy the kind of interaction you and I are having right now (I wrote, you wrote, I’m writing), this is “social” to me in the way that a bulletin board is social. I pin up a note and wait for you to see it. You pin up a note and wait for me to see it. And so on.

      For me, the interaction on Twitter is more “social” because it flows like conversation — I say something, you say something, I say something back, somebody else who can see both our accounts interrupts … how lifelike, lol.

      These variants on how we all see and experience these media are fascinating and I hope we can mine them well in these columns together. (Next in this series is February 25.)

      I do think we can turn up some anti-social media, too, if we define our terms, and maybe in surprising places.

      Thanks again for coming along, hope to hear from you again as we go forward. Bests in your work,

  4. says

    Like Kath, the concept that everything I do online has to be linked back to Facebook bothers me – my Facebook friends are different from my Twitter followers who are different from my Google+ circles. I use them for different reasons and don’t always want to connect anything I say on one platform with every other one.

    For me, a lot of both FB and Twitter is social. I started using Twitter to follow cast/crew of my favorite TV show and ended up finding a lot of fellow fans who are now friends. I do use it for promotion, though unless there’s a particular event going on, I try to keep that to a minimum. Usually, in fact, I’m warning the writer/reader folks that my NCIS McMayhem is a one-day insanity that will be gone the next, rather than the other way around. (Tuesday is the 200th episode – insanity will probably be an understatement.) I like it because it’s easy to share information, find information (if you follow the right people) and jump in and out of conversations. I’ve met a lot of writers that way, and been able to meet some of them in person because of our Twitter conversations.

    FB is mostly friends, family, former coworkers and classmates. There’s that network effect at work, though. I posted on FB because I was excited at how well my book was doing during the IBC event this week, and some people asked for a link. A guy I went to high school with reposted the link on his page and a friend of his from France then went to Amazon’s FR site and bought a copy. Social? Or promotion? :)

    Actually, the pervasiveness of FB makes Twitter more appealing. I can list, follow and click on links to people on Twitter without shouting that on my Timeline the way FB does. That’s helpful in a lot of ways, particularly because my FT job has an ethics policy attached that (essentially) requires neutrality on political/controversial issues. And yet I often tackle topics in my fiction that touch on some of those issues, especially in the LGBT realm, so I have an interest in information and news in those areas. I’m still restricted; there often are tweets on many topics I want to share and don’t because of the policy. And I’m going to stop rambling before this becomes Ethereal in length — not enough content here to merit that. :)

    • Porter Anderson says

      GREAT comment, Jennie, and thanks so much for reading the post, too!

      Yes, I’m with you on the control of info-dissemination that Twitter gives me. I actually am quite active “backchannel” via DMs, too, because there are simply many things you say to colleagues — just as you would in a newsroom, leaning over from your desk to theirs — sotto voce. Quietly. Why do Marky Zuckerberg’s teammates think we want everything we think, do, and say to be out there flapping in the breezes of his IPO-noisy platform?

      I worry at times that, in fact, we could end up in an unfortunately divided estate, the FB people vs. the others, a bit as the Cult of Mac redefines the world now. I’m hoping things don’t go that way, we shall see. Surely, at the moment, the more professional option is Twitter … not for nothing are our guys “Biz” Stone & Jack associated with that one. My first delighted discovery about Twitter was that millions of teens in shopping malls can tell each other what they just had for lunch on Twitter — that would be pizza, as surely as every guy in England is Simon — and I don’t have to see a single of their tweets. Eureka.

      So I’m glad you’re along. And “protecting” various elements of your work as you’re talking about in being careful of your topics? Great stuff, let’s be sure to actually touch on that one pretty soundly as we go forward, it’s a point we all need to consider and create our own “personal privacy policy” about.


  5. says

    First, let me say I love this post and everything I read that you write. You have a strong voice and a particular talent for meshing heady literary passages with contemporary, web-based language.

    Now, to attack that pesky “social” word:

    I started on Facebook several years ago for purely social reasons, and ended up creating an author page (last year) for book related posts so I didn’t annoy my friends and family. The line between the two worlds has blurred, but I still try to keep promo separate from personal interaction.

    I joined Twitter about two years ago because an agent I was querying at the time told me it was important for building author platform. I’ve since become very active on Twitter for both “social” and professional reasons. Where I began with the intention of building and audience of readers, in actuality, I found a network of writers, mentors, and friends.

    Through Twitter friends (I say friends because many of my “tweeps” I’ve met in person as a result of our interactions on Twitter) I’ve learned about writing scholarships and conferences, links to articles on craft, book recommendations, business of writing articles, support for writer doldrums, tools for inspiration, procrastination, frustration, and everything in between.

    For me, Twitter has the feel of an office water cooler or work happy hour. We mostly talk about writing, but there’s also a fair amount of chit chat. I have real affection for my Twitter friends.

    When newcomers try to elbow their way into my little water cooler discussions with links to buy their books, however, I’m quick to unfollow. I’m not interested in any of that, in the least.

    I dipped my toe into Google + for a little while, but quite honestly, there were a lot of creepy people following me who clearly had nothing to do with writing. I just joined Pinterest and I’m having great fun with that. At some point, however, I have to step away from the grid and just write.

    I apologize for my dissertation on how I use social media, but to summarize, I find it very social and beneficial to me as a writer.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Hey, Erika! I will, yes, allow you to shower me with kind words about my work, loudly and frequently, please do. :)

      Honestly, thank you, you’re too generous (but don’t stop) and I always appreciate your support, very genuinely.

      NO apologies for your dissertation! I think, in fact, that your comment lays some good groundwork for many of us, as I’ve tried to do in my own, um, dissertation in kicking off this series about “social” media.

      I’m particularly keen on your experience of getting onto Twitter for “business,” basically, and finding it developing into a place of collegial relationships, your water cooler. I have experienced this, too, and I’m very glad for it, really (having fought off all tweeteurs for a long time before even venturing out on a branch of my own).

      In these posts, Twitter will be my main focus because it’s on this platform that I find the most useful configuration of elements, especially for the writing industry, which has a very big water cooler on Twitter. I’d say publishing, in fact, maintains a water TOWER on Twitter. And for many good reasons that we’ll parse as we go along.

      Pinterest is the little rage right now, yes. I confess, I’m never happy with ventures that talk about “inspiring” me. I’m sure I’ll get off on my inspiration-motivation rant soon enough, so I’ll spare you that headache now.

      But yes. Stepping away from the grid. Finally, what I think we’ll all agree on is that we need our “social” media to send us back, unhand us, get out of our faces and return us to the lives and careers we meant to live and ply, not suck us into the Borg of corporate-cute advertising ambition.

      And, as in all things to do with publishing these days, that responsibility falls to … the writer unboxed. :)

      May we figure it out together, and thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      • says

        Thank you, Porter. I look forward to the follow up posts in this series.

        And I apologize for a spelling error or two. I “tabbed” and “submitted” accidentally before proofreading and it’s driving me crazy.

        • Porter Anderson says

          Doesn’t it drive you wild when you see an error in some comment or column you can’t change anymore, Erika? I’m the same way, and it happens to all of us, God knows. No worries, I hadn’t noticed a thing in your good comment. Thanks again for checking out the write today and joining in!

  6. says

    When I see too much blatant selling on social media, I tune out. Admittedly, I joined Twitter and Facebook on the advice of others who insisted I must be present to draw attention to my work. It became something else. I’ve made true social connections via social media. I make this claim because I can point to people who’ve become friends — who I’ll call on the phone to (gasp!) talk with on occasion, or even (double gasp!) meet in person for lunch, drinks, at conferences, even for writing retreats. It’s working for me.

    Thanks for a post that made me think and laugh, and introduced me to Simon Spurrier’s video. That was the right way to start a Saturday.

    Welcome to WU, Porter!

    • Porter Anderson says

      Thanks, Teri, and thanks for having me here at Writer Unbuttoned, it’s great to be in the company of so many strong bloggeurs and bloggeuses.

      So true on the blatant selling. The same weird distance that makes some people warp out and say hateful stuff online they’d never say in person, I think, is sometimes behind that BUY MY BOOK! jerk treatment you see in them. At some point in our fabled series on #socmed, I hope to deal with the apparent anger that seems to surface in so many as the industry’s frustrations (did I say that diplomatically enough?) and pressures get to them. Save any cyber-meltdowns you spot for me, I’m a collector. :)

      But this phoning business. #ohdear. You’re, like, hearing their voices and they’re hearing yours, right? Now THAT is social you medium, you. :)

  7. says

    Awesome discoveries, Porter – thank you for a most entertaining voyage. There’s no danger that you’ll ever bother us with trivia.

    I love social media. When I started I didn’t expect to like it much. I had a blog and people dragged me to Twitter, then Facebook. I like both, and share Jennie’s reservations over G+ (aka ‘Circles’). I get a lot of creepy people finding me there.

    In the old days the only networking a writer could do was at meetings or publishing parties – invitation only, and not always very many opportunities. With social media, everyone’s invited and you can find the people who really gel with you.

    Are these relationships merely trivial? We should get past asking that question. There are many ways we meet colleagues, fans, friends. Writers already know that you don’t have to meet someone face to face to have a meaningful exchange with them. We do it on the page all the time.

    Gotta go and put a girdle about the earth. Back in 40 minutes.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Glad you’re creeping into no acorn cups, Roz, and thanks for commenting.

      I’m happy for people to enjoy Facebook all they want, glad it works for you. I do think that it and Google+ are very different from Twitter (or it is different from them). I”m surprised only when I hear people lump FB and G+ together with Twitter as if all three operate and exist as the same mechanisms.

      Google+ and Facebook, of course, are so similar as to be cousins. We all understand that Google is trying to build a better mousetrap on the strength of its penetration into so many other aspects of our online lives. One reason I like Google+ over Facebook is that I can create a circle called People I Don’t Know, and when they’re kind enough to ask to be … encircled … I can put them there. They feel served, because one doesn’t know into which circles one is placed by others, just that, like all the wagons, one is in some circle. (I shudder to think of the circles in which I reside in some accounts, lol.) And I’m able to decide when to include the circle of People I Don’t Know in whatever I’m doing online. With that and other circles, G+ gives me a level of control that I don’t feel I have at Facebook. There, I feel that our Mr. Zuckerberg’s armies of timeliners are somehow watching my wagoneering roll by all day and night.

      “Meddlesome monkeys,” in Earth-girdling terms, you know the ones.

      Not that “control” is what any of us wants in this age of “sharing” and “reaching out” and other such churchly verbs, of course. :) But propriety? Still has a place. It hasn’t gone out of use or even prominence for right-headed folks. It’s just out of fashion. This will change. As fashion always does, Mr. Klein.

      I couldn’t agree with you more on the fine formats for networking that we’re developing today, and I think we contribute just as much to this or more than the platforms that enable it, especially in the writing and publishing world. You’re right that the sheer level of access we have thanks to these media is bracing. As you know, I love following TheFutureBook, TheBookSeller, IfBookThen and other outfits with you there in Europe from my palmy perch in the States, it’s fantastic and — you’re right — far beyond questions about trivia.

      If anything, I’d like to see the “social” media redefined for the very fact that they’re NOT trivial. They’re too often named as such, used as such, and thus accused of such. All wrong. Not trivial, neither in these relationships nor in what can be accomplished. And you put your finger on it when you describe the writerly camp’s fluency here because we, of all people, do know what to do on pages. :)

      Good job, thanks for reading and writing and getting to it ere the leviathan can swim a league.

  8. says

    Now you mention it Social Media is rather ‘cutsie’ isn’t it?

    Let’s start a new platform (come on, you know we need another one) and call it ‘Hard as Nailz’ or Brute.com

    The new logos can be made be iron like, dripping with sweat and feature animals like dragons and wolfs and maybe even an angry badger!!

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    aka, the only english guy not called Simon :)

    • Porter Anderson says

      Wait. Not even your middle name? You’re a demographic anomaly on expensive legs, ‘dog.

      And you’re so right that we need another platform, all hard surfaces, none of this cushy-cutesy-recipe-exchanging upholstered blather, as long as you pay for it, I’m in, even with the badger. (Aren’t they always angry? I’ve never met a happy badger, are there some in Greater Britain and/or the Commonwealth?) Of course, maybe you’re just pimping for that other Matt at Mattable, I mean Mashable, with his 10 #socmeds we might not have heard about.

      Nothing cutesy about “Inked-In,” is there?

      Spurrier tells me he wishes his mother had named him Turndog. Bathe in that envy, man.

  9. says

    Dear Port A,

    What’s wrong with some corporate cute? I think it’s mean of you trash your buddies at Tingly.com. That is such a brilliant, suggestive name conjuring up feelings of…oh. Sorry. Twingly. Well, look at all those pretty points of light, (gaping holes of unmet needs, please-pay-me-attention) prayers straight to the heavens.

    Puff (Danish) PAstry, once I stopped abusing social media (yesterday) I have been enjoying it much more. No, it does not help sell books, but being able to spy on the rest of the world kind of makes up for it.

    I just Yasived myself, P-Andy, and it was very cool. As always, I am impressed with your “I Blog, Therefore You Are” essays–and they are the only ones I read alllllllll the way to the end while waiting for my bangs to grow out. How in the world are you able to self-edit on Twitter?



    • Porter Anderson says

      Tingle, Tingle, Little Starry-eyed Dee, and don’t worry, my trashery won’t stop a single please-pay-me from reaching for the heavens and your wallet, don’t puff that Deetermined pastry in my faculties, but glad you got with Andrei’s artful Amazonia, order me a present, and yes, you are because I blogged, no extra charge, but cut those bangs back because the next Ether will keep you in the salon for weeks, Twitter is the only limit I recognize, thank God it’s not Bingly, bye.

  10. says

    Welcome to WU (the bulletin board that brought me out of my literary closet), Porter! (Or is it P-Andy–Gotta love D-D-T!)

    I’m still not quite a Twitter fan yet. Maybe I’m not so down on fb because I came to the party wearing my writer hat. I only friended writers. This isn’t even my real name (shocking, I know). A bit of my ‘real world’ has slid in there (friends and family outside of the writing world), but they all understand that I use the platform for all things writing. And the WU group there is my water cooler. I can pop in and check facebook periodically whilst doing my oh-so-unboxed scribbling, hit a few ‘likes,’ make a few comments, and I’m back to work. As far as DM, I have fb messaging threads ongoing almost daily with not just the other WU moderators, but with about a half-dozen others. Works just fine, and without a limit on the number of characters.

    I sure I’m missing the boat on Twitter, with all the agents and cool publishing pros I could be getting to know. I’m sure the industry’s water tower there is much more of a fountainhead to a publishing nirvana than my reviled preference. Almost every online friend (like Therese, I feel like they are just that, friends) I have, I made on facebook (you are an exception, but we met at Reader Unboxed).

    I’m sure Twitter is much more attuned to business, but, after twenty years of being totally focused on business, maybe some distance from it is what I was looking for, and found, in facebook.

    Loving the concept of The Grid, and the fact that you are now a regular contributor, bro. I’m looking forward to your future posts here, on my favorite bulletin board. Also looking forward to being ‘turned around’ to face the brilliance of the Twitter sun, and fall into the proper orbit. :-)

    • Porter Anderson says


      Who are you really?

      What have you done with Vaughn Roycroft? (And how DID you come to make up that name?)

      Oh, the deception of these infernal “social” media, you see, YouSee? You’re doing the British “whilst,” I notice. Another infiltrating Brit, aren’t you? I’ve seen MI5 on BBC America, you can’t fool me.

      By all means, rest easy in your post-closeted stage, whoever you are, I’m fully content for you to like Facebook and not like Twitter as much. You’re hardly alone, with the kind of IPO that invisible empire is rolling into. Last I heard, the Emperor Zuckerberg will own all of Bulgaria and a large portion of Hungary once the deal is done. I’ve offered him Atlanta, too, no answer yet.

      I think it’s very important for each of us to match whatever passes for the diversity of our natures to the media of our labors. MY point is that they ARE the media of our labors. If you are the British spy I believe you are, that’s labours. And if friends are met and made on these media, good. If colleagues are supported and promoted, even better. But I think we are, all of us, working from benign but important agendas that go beyond the breeze-shooting jam sessions suggested by the phrase “social media.” Otherwise, we’d never have left the backyard to reach the keyboard. We’d still be out there barbecuing with the bubbas. I’m saying that we get up off the lawn furniture and come to these media because they hover above the grill and get us past the curb appeal of home — we are widened, deepened, and occasionally maddened by them. They get us “out there,” though we have yet to learn where “out there” is.

      Nothing about this says that friendship online is bad. Nor that good collegial moments to meet in corporeal reality aren’t great. In fact, #JaneFriedman, hashtag unto herself, recently did a post about this that I loved. It’s called “How Social Media Can Change Your Life” ( http://janefriedman.com/2011/12/13/social-media-change-life/ ) and certainly Jane is easily one of the greatest colleagues I’ve had at any point in my 460-year career. We met through these media.

      And what I’m asking is whether we all might not do well to consider that the ORIGINAL idea of these media was that they were “social” in nature but that the reality on the ground now is that they’re something broader and better.

      Glad you like “The Grid.” It’s likely not the best we can do, but I’d love to know what would happen if for three months everybody substituted “The Grid” for “social media.” I THINK we’d come out with a different regard, both within and without, these media, for what they do and can accomplish for us.

      And how gridly we all are on this one, great of you to jump in and thanks for the bro’s welcome, great to be here, and looking forward to having Vaughn back when you release him.

      • says

        Just for the record, Vaughn is my real name. The last I veil to keep Zuckerberg from offering it up to every classmate, teammate, denmate (Cubscouts) I ever had. Honestly, I think the pseudonym is a part of my success on fb. Btw, Roycroft is a tribute to Elbert Hubbard, whose life I admire (perhaps with the exception of going down with the Lusitania).

        I loved Jane’s post. The Grid has changed my life, too. And for the better. As another aside, my father’s family was in PA prior to the Revolutionary War, and fought on the winning side. Also fought on both sides during the Civil War, and there is a well-documented case of two branches of the family facing off at Gettysberg. So don’t worry, I shall be cheering on the proper colours in the big match today… Er, I mean I’ll be rooting for the Patriots. Yeah, that kind of football, with the egg-shaped ball and the well-padded players. ;-)

        I am serious about wanting to orient myself to Twitter. I know it just takes some getting used to. I have Tweetdeck now, but have been told to switch to HootSuite. Then I just need to lean over the backyard fence and join the conversation, I suppose. Thanks for being a friend over there. It really helps to know a savvy player.

        • Porter Anderson says

          You know, Mark just called (Zuckerberg), wanting to know if I’d slip him your true last name so he could call out the troops of your former life. I told him you’re Vaughn McGillicutty. He’s all over it like a cheap T-shirt.

          Yeah, the Grid is changing things for so many of us.

          You may root for who ye may on the big XLVI, I care not — I love this Sunday because it’s the one on which you can get so much done while everybody else melts down over ads and football. Turn to ATP tennis, and I’m far more melty, myself.

          Re: Twitter. I agree with those suggesting HootSuite over TweetDeck. Both are real good, it comes down to personal taste. It’s important, however, to use a client dashboard to understand the sort of parsing you can do with the platform. Once you have it subdivided into streams that work for you, it’s a lot more productive.

          And Stacy has reminded me that I need to suggest to you that the endlessly bemoaned 140-character limit is actually a writer’s best friend. You learn a lot about editing, concision, and What Really Didn’t Have To Be in That Tweet (usually the snark) this way.

          In closing, I have to share these two great tweets with you. The first by our great friend and successful suspense author James Scott Bell (a kind tweet about the post here) and the second by someone following up on his, LOL:

          jamesscottbell: “The powerful potentials of “social” media lie (not lay, damn it) in…” via the ever readable @Porter_Anderson http://t.co/uFE6FLwB 12:48pm, Feb 05 from TweetDeck

          JanetBoyer: @jamesscottbell You think @Porter_Anderson is readable? Link you posted boring as hell. Sounds like he’s in love w/ his own voice. #uncute

          As we say in the theater, everybody’s a critic. I’m off to kiss my own voice. :)

  11. says

    I read part of this post this morning. I went down the rabit hole of watching the Simon Spurier video. Hours later, Vaughn posted on FB and said, “Tell him I sent you.” So, I returned. It’s a circle. I joined Twitter way before I joined FB — after my mother. I felt a bit isolated in a tiny border town and Twitter allowed me to connect with writers, etc. I continue to use it as my personal newsfeed and sometimes for something random. Twitter makes me think of ways to be concise and I like that.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Hey, Stacy, thanks for actually coming BACK to the column after going down that Spurrier rabbit hole, lol. Great of you to deliver Vaughn’s message. :) Your point about Twitter giving you a way to connect from an isolated spot (which is the place we all need for our writing, metaphorically speaking, and a truly tangible issue when you live in a remote area). I love how you’re talking about the concision of Twitter, too. Remind me to say “good way to learn editing” to Mr. not-Roycroft. :) Thanks for commenting. -p.

  12. says

    Porter, You’ve done it again, presented a hackneyed term and brought it to life in a light and lively way. It’s a whole new language for sure( I mean twingly?) I so love the “corporate cute.” Now for your questions. I started my blog and joined Facebook against my will and only because the experts told me I had to 3 years ago. I slowly began realizing the importance of platform so took Dan Blank’s course last year. Soon after I joined Twitter,LinkedIn,Google+ and Goodreads. it’s all good but it is overwhelming and I am still trying to figure out the best way to tame the beast. Sometimes I think it is a blessing for all the contacts you can make and a curse for the distractions it can create.it boils down to working it all so it works for you. My favorite is Twitter for meaningful professional and social connections. Let’s face it, dinner at Stecchino’s was all arranged via Twitter :-) I’m very happy you’ll be guiding us through the social media “swampland” as only you can do, with insight,humor and wit. Gotta’ get back to the “grid”. Thanks, Porter!

    • Porter Anderson says

      Hey, Kathy, you’re so right about the challenge The Grid presents to the work. And how ironic this is, considering the fact that we’re all encouraged to platform ourselves on these media, only to be all but run over by them in terms of the time and attention they demand.

      I think this is one of the reasons I’m coming to believe that we all need to choose one or two of these media, and focus as much as possible on them, rather than feeling we have to handle the whole buffet.

      “The balance” we all think we’re supposed to discover and deploy between platforming and PERforming just isn’t even a possibility on most days. Needless to say, we have a wealth of such issues and their effects to explore on this subject.

      I’ll be leading less than simply running the fastest from the alligators in the swamp.

      But glad you’re along, thanks again so much for taking the time to comment and read. See you on The Grid. :)

  13. says

    Seriously, Porter, I’m not stalking you. But it’s Saturday, I finally have some time to read, and you’ve got the most intriguing stuff on The Grid at the moment. I’m probably one of three archaeologists among your readership who perked up when you wrote, “Some pillars turn Knossos-red, indicating especially bullish traffic,” and wondered how you came up with that metaphor. Kudos.

    To answer your question, I was social media phobic until about 18 months ago. At the time, I found it all about media and couldn’t find my place within. Plus the general cutesy factor was annoying. Lately, however, as I find more like-minded people, it’s become truly social and I enjoy it. I find myself adopting the cutesy factor. :)

    • Porter Anderson says

      Hi, Debra, and do stalk me all you want with such nice words about the work. :)

      The Knossos metaphor is from Knossos, outside Heraklion on Crete, one of my favorite archeological “show digs” — as in awfully showy, thanks to Sir Arthur Evans’ “creativity,” but but one fascinating ancient Minoan spot, do you know it?

      And I’m glad you’re finding yourself more comfortable on The Grid. I don’t think 18 months is actually a long time for the adjustment to a lot of aspects of this way of communicating and working, either. Just watch that business of “adopting the cutesy factor,” lol. Early adoption, yes. Cutesy adoption, no. :)

  14. says


    Another provocative post and raising great issues around what is, and isn’t, social online.

    Of the platforms developed – so far – I’ve found Twitter and Google+ to be the most “social” in terms of ways in which to “converse” or exchange ideas and share information.

    I did join Twitter for its social aspects and less so it’s “self-marketing” aspects. Though, as a writer I found that eventually you build up a brand or identity based on the value people find in how you provoke, curate and manage a conversation. Just like in real life, maintaining and shepherding a conversation can be work and take up a lot of time.

    I too often find people want the “social” part of social media to be as immediate as the technology we use.

    Facebook is, well, not really social in the same way, though it can be if you use it as a way to ask questions and seek out people’s opinions; it’s less conversational and more about identity and standing up in a crowded room and saying “Hey, look at me!”

    Now that I’ve returned to book publishing from journalism – I’m the communications director at Chelsea Green – we find that Facebook is a far better way to get people to click back to our online bookstore, author pages or website than Twitter. Which, makes sense. Twitter is not a traffic driver, it’s where you go to have a conversation with your readers / audience and help to stir the pot.

    I also use Tumblr, though again that’s more like Twitter, as it’s a way to curate and aggregate my own thoughts and observations.

    I’ve been on Twitter and Facebook now for more than four years (or thereabouts) and am also a semi-active user of Qora, LinkedIn and Google+.

    As for an anti-social medium, I would say that in a large part traditional blogging is no longer a social medium, unless you include older platforms like LiveJournal where you could build a community of readers and friends, and share information privately (if you so chose).

    I do find that tracking conversations on Twitter via the #hashtag is a simple way to find colleagues, cohorts, and others in the industry who are stimulating some good conversation – like you Porter! Glad to have found you.

    One thing we’re keeping an eye on is how crowd funding platforms develop for both publishers and authors. Here is another way to ensure some kind of social connection – an engaged supporter (funder) — to a book project. Leveraging that kind of support online could become a powerful way to build capacity online.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Hi, Shay, thanks for the good, detailed comment!

      Crowd-funding is an interesting topic, all the more so for John Mitchinson’s Unbound program under way in London. (One distinction from Kickstarter, an author who wants to try being funded at Unbound for a project must be submitted by an agent.) Of course, the basic principle here has been applied for years in micro-loan settings — Kiva.org being one of the largest of the international humanitarian players in that space.

      I’m not yet entirely sure how much future there is for reader-funded author projects. At a time when so many readers seem to feel that one’s life’s work is worth no more than $2.99, there may be fewer investor-readers out there than we’d like to think. Time will tell.

      All the best and thanks again, see you on The Grid.

  15. says

    “Isn’t that cute? Just shoot me now.”

    First it’s the lace, then it’s the birds. What will next inspire your derision, Porter? Oranges? *reaches for the smelling salts*

    Ah, social media, the two-horned beast. I’ve derived the most benefit from message boards, where I’ve gone for information and found facts as well as enduring friendships with like-minded people.

    Blogging is similar in that it tends to attract a stable group and more thoughtful discussion. I started mine so I could post work for critique and it kind of snowballed from there. I wouldn’t be involved with WU without that leap, nor have any sense of my voice, so I’ll always be eternally grateful that I let the mission evolve.

    I joined Facebook to keep up with a group from a writing message board when we were kicked off. (Kidding. Sort of.) Basically, our thread didn’t fit the forums, so we migrated. I’m surprised at how much I enjoy it, and its pace is quite suited to my brain.

    I decided to try Twitter because everyone said that was the place to be and I like to try new things before I dismiss them. Also, some of my friends are really only reachable there. But I get tired of being constantly pitched, even by people who are good people in other contexts, but who seem to lose it when it comes to 140 characters. (What’s up with that? I think we should do a scientific study of post length: selling ratios.)

    So…I love social media. I’m not doing it to sell anything but because I love the companionship, the connections, and the opportunities to learn and grow.

    Finally, great to see you here, even if you are a bird-hater. ;)

  16. says

    “The penguins have zero social media presence. Bless their hearts.”


    Very interesting post. (Took me like 3 days to read it all, lol.) I can honestly say that I’m on social media for the social aspect. Even my authorly Facebook page is for social activity, though it’s focused around my writing and relevant topics. (Cooing over my friends’ babies is for private FB.) While I sometimes worry about the amount of time I spend on the Grid, I wouldn’t want to disconnect completely, because I value the information and the personal connections there.