ShellyBlog Shelly Brisbin's life consists of several long tails. She writes about them here.

May 18, 2009

Healthy and Doing Fine

Filed under: Access and Disability,Random Personal Nonsense — Shelly Brisbin @ 12:32 PM

Birth announcements almost always end the same way. Baby is healthy and doing fine. That’s what we all hope for, right? And mostly, it’s what parents in the United States can expect to get. But seeing those words once again on a birth announcement made me wonder. What’s the best ending line for the announcement of the birth of a disabled child? Should parents be less giddy and thankful when they learn their new son or daughter can’t see, won’t be able to walk, etc? Should they equate disability with unhealthfulness? I don’t think so. No parent wants their child to be disabled, but let’s not begin separating our disabled kids from everyone else right away. My mom certainly didn’t.

The Delicate Art of Crowd-Sourcing Publicity

Filed under: New Media and Tech — Shelly Brisbin @ 10:15 AM

I’m acquainted with a lot of podcasters and writers. Some of my friends are both, and some have used the spoken medium to gain wider distribution for their written work. I love these people. I love that what they are selling is creative work.

They are, in a very real sense, also selling themselves. Tools like podcasting, Twitter, Facebook, fan art and the like are the grassiest of grass roots, and the most personal of mass media. There can be no cooler use for what has come to be called social media. Aside from posting links to words, audio, video an illustration, or engaging in conversation about their work, authors have come up with clever ways to promote wheat they’re doing to wider audiences. From cross-promotion with other content-makers to character naming rights, a lot of these methods are both free and engaging to their fan communities. And because book promotion is so often self-promotion, many authors bring the audience along when they have success; announcing book deals, reprints of past works, and even movie options. These events are not merely a press release for the author, but a cause for celebration in their fandoms and communities of social media followers. In this way, the reader’s early faith in an author is vindicated, and fans are more likely to spread the word far beyond their own social media networks that they know someone who as written a great book. And it’s available at a bookstore, web site or multiplex near you!

In the past few months, though, I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by these homegrown publicity machines. If you’re already a part of a community where authors “work the room” a lot, you will have read or heard their messages and their success stories many times over. You’ll know not only that book x has been added to Amazon’s catalog, but that it’s improved in sales rank by 500 places in the past day. And the author’s success will be amplified again and a gain by friends sending “congrats” via Twitter and Facebook. Great stuff for the author, but grounds for me to say “enough already” even if I’m a supportive fan.

The challenge is for the author: how much is too much, and how can you make that determination in a world where the milestones you achieve are magnified many times over by your community of friends and fans? I’ve written a lot of books myself, and I don’t mind telling you that I would have LOVED to have access to social media tools when I published them between 1997 and 2005. But the point at which you begin overloading your fans, tempting them to unfollow you, and making it hard for them to feel like hitting that Retweet button, is a place you don’t want to be.

May 11, 2009

No Twittering on the Police Beat

Filed under: New Media and Tech — Shelly Brisbin @ 3:51 PM

I’ve been following a local story about police shooting a couple of suspects when they surprised them in a car suspected of involvement in some robberies. Neighbors were angry at the cops, and broke out windows in several police cars. Big story, still under investigation. Too early to know exactly what happened. Many details yet to be made clear.

I tracked the story on Twitter, where I follow a local TV station and two newspapers. But I wasn’t able to put the timeline together until late in the day when I read a full account, posted on the TV station’s Web site. Aside from the fact that 140 character bursts aren’t much good when you’re trying to take a comprehensive view of multi-dimensional stories, it was also striking that this story, a crime story that took place in a rough neighborhood, and that featured the kind of violence that might affect people’s real lives, was not chronicled by on-site observers. No hashtags popped up. No grainy cell phone video appeared on uStream or In short, the Twitterati, so capable when it comes to covering movie openings, tech conferences and even the occasional airline delay, was utterly silent.

The next time you’re tempted to dance on the graves of newspapers, or even television stations with local news operations, ask yourself whether the work of your police department and those with whom they interact is newsworthy. And if it is, which iPhone-toting Twitterers will turn covering the police beat into a volunteer project or a business model.

Oh, and just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that social media geeks need to cover the police beat. That might not be the highest and best use of their skills. Rather, I’m saying that the police beat, along with a whole lot of other unsexy but essential beats, are best covered by professional journalists who don’t use words like “long tail” and “niche marketing”. We need them.

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