My Three-Day "Tweet-kend"

Saturday, May 31, 2014
My first "viral" tweet began with a bang...and ended with nary a mention.

Back in September 2012, I posted an item documenting my experiences (and frustrations) with Twitter, the 140-character or less micro-blogging platform where anybody associated with journalism is supposed to readily adopt and participate on a regular basis. In that entry, I pondered if it was a "one-way street"--where everyone has something to say but no one bothers to respond (a old Current TV video describes it as a place "where you talk to no one--and everyone"). I use my account primarily for announcing when I upload new items or if I want to promote/document something I might be seeing/experiencing at the time. The "tweet" you see above happens to be the first "viral" one I can claim and I will get around to describing its origin when I detail how my recent three-day Memorial Day "tweet-kend" played out beyond the jump below.

Early last Saturday morning, I turned on the weekend MSNBC programming to accompany my online multitasking (emails, researching items for a work-related blog, my personal Facebook account) and about halfway through the two-hour Up with Steve Kornacki show, he and several guests were talking about Vice President Joe Biden's personality "schism" (i.e. how a revered six-term US senator balances out the top of the Executive Branch by playing a living, breathing "punchline" to our nation's "Vulcan-in-Chief"). Actor, television personality and comedian John Fugelsang joined Krystal Ball, one of the four co-hosts of that channel's weekday talk show The Cycle, in that discussion. The people on that set sit at a raised glass desk/table and are paired up two to a side (the host has his own centralized position facing the guests) and Ball and Fugelsang both sat on the same side for that segment. While John provided his normally humorous insights, I happened to catch Ball casting an almost fawning glance his way and I snapped a quick picture of my television with my cellphone. After some slight edits, I posted it to my Twitter feed and included progressive talker Stephanie Miller in the body of the "tweet" (@SMShow) along with Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) and the television channel (@msnbc).

This was the "tweet" from Stephanie Miller that pushed my submission to "viral" status

I included Miller because of the on-air (and in-person) banter between those two media personalities that is obvious to anyone who regularly listens to The Stephanie Miller Show (or watches the webcast on their homepage or through other outlets). As a Friday "regular", Fugelsang normally opines on matters dealing with politics and religion--two subjects that certainly attract my interest. He normally wears his hair longer than is the current style for men and although she is an openly lesbian woman, Miller frequently comments on his "sex appeal" to female fans of the show as well as the Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour that periodically travels across the country (Fugelsang recently appeared at their Chicago and Albuquerque shows and will be at the Minneapolis event on June 7th). The way Krystal was looking at him on the MSNBC show appeared to validate that his "mojo" was working on her as well and that is why I thought I should share it with Miller and her show's cast.

John Fugelsang himself got involved in the social media conversation revolving around his TV appearance and a popular meme borrowed from the movie Despicable Me.

I sent my photo out at 9:16AM and went about my other activities and it wasn't until about 11AM that I noticed that this submission was unlike any that I had shared in the 33 months that my account has existed. Between 10:35 and 10:55, I had received 14 notifications from Twitter about activities related to that "tweet". The first two indicated that Stephanie's account had "favorited" it and then retweeted it out to 54,000+ followers. Five people out of that total also sent it out to their own 1,700+ fans to put this photo on the screens of up to 56,000 screens within a 25-minute span. Seven responses to that original item were also documented by the website and since my account handle was embedded into all of them, notifications kept arriving into my in-box for most of the rest of that day. In that initial 24-hour period, I had six "retweets" and 20 "favorites" for my submission and even Fugelsang himself favorited a later one by Miller who had by then incorporated the Despicable Me "he's so fluffy" meme into the online conversation.

President Obama's "secret" trip to Afghanistan would be my second major Twitter subject of the "tweet-kend" (AFP/Getty Images photo by Saul Loeb and courtesy of the New York Daily News)

There were two major "waves" of activity surrounding my initial tweet (the initial 10:35-10:55AM period and one that started around 5:55PM and ended around 3:30AM early Sunday morning) but I had another situation on Sunday afternoon that required me using Twitter to correct something that I was seeing on television. As has become the custom, whenever the president wants to visit a war zone (at one time Iraq but now only Afghanistan), he has to do it under the cover of night and the trip must be wrapped in a "veil" of press secrecy. President Obama  made three such trips to Kabul during his first term in office and this past weekend marked the fourth. Air Force One flew him and a cadre  of press personnel out of Andrews Air Force Base at around 11PM Saturday night for the 13-hour trip to Bagram Air Base, just outside the capital city. Upon their arrival (just before 2PM EDT on Sunday afternoon), the press "embargo" on his travel was dropped and all four cable news channels were providing live broadcasts of his appearance and remarks in front of a military audience. Surprisingly, CNN was the one that I chose to watch those events and it was their glaring on-screen error that  forced me to Twitter to contact them directly in order to fix it.

My initial "snarky" attempt to get CNN to fix their time display during President Obama's speech in Afghanistan last Sunday.

I apologize in advance if this gets a little too "deep into the weeds" but, as a career intelligence person, being aware of the current time has become almost second nature to me over the years (I still wear a wristwatch and have a multitude of time-telling devices spread around our home). In addition to knowing it at my location, I also need to be able to quickly convert time differences to determine the hour and minute in a place that I might be analyzing or reporting (or where a family member or friend might be at that specific instant). Ever since 9/11, people in my line of work have grown accustomed to the fact that Afghanistan is 30 minutes off of the international standard that most of the rest of the world acknowledges. For example, if the time in London, England (located along the Greenwich Meridian, the basis for the Coordinated Universal Time or UTC system) is 12 noon, people in Kandahar would see 4:30PM on their clocks (the IANA-recognized time zone database entry for "Asia/Kabul" is UTC + 4:30). As I watched CNN's coverage of Obama's speech, I noticed that they had an on-screen clock displaying the time at Bagram Air Field that was not matching up to what the actual time at that location. Armed with my newly found confidence in Twitter being a vehicle for passing along information (and for recipients to respond to it), I took a photo of the screen and "tweeted" it to the news network to see if/how they would respond (I also included a "snarky" reference to Malaysian time because of their unrelenting coverage of that nation's still unsolved airliner tragedy for nearly the past three months).

I sent CNN a screen capture of Fox News' correct time display to goad them into making the fix.

After several minutes of waiting for any indication of a correction, I switched my viewing over to Fox News where the correct time was displayed in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. I then took another picture and attached it to a second "tweet" to CNN for their review and, hopefully, corrective action.

MSNBC apparently didn't want to chance being wrong and broadcast the president's remarks without a time stamp.

To satisfy my curiosity (and to present a "fair and balanced" analysis), I next switched over to MSNBC to see how they were dealing with this temporal issue. I scanned the screen to look for any time stamp and, for whatever reason, it appears that they opted not to put one up (I guess you can't be wrong if you don't show anything). I snapped that image and sent it CNN's way in the "tweet" depicted above.

When I switched back, I noticed that CNN had taken the clock off of their feed...perhaps someone was actually monitoring their Twitter feed?

In MSNBC's defense, they weren't the only news channel not showing the time (Aljazeera America also opted out of putting a time stamp on their screen and I did take a photo of it to put into my fourth attempt at getting CNN to fix the problem). While I was preparing that "tweet", I switched back to the Cable News Network's coverage and, lo and behold, I was greeted with a blank data display (the Bagram label and the time stamp were absent). I skipped the AJAM item and offered up what I was seeing to CNN as a "little better" solution in my next submission seen above.

After 14 minutes and four "tweets", the correct time was finally displayed for CNN viewers...mission accomplished!

Shortly after sending that fourth notice, the Bagram label and the time stamp reappeared (in the upper right-hand corner this time) with the corrected time finally being displayed. I did send them the above "tweet" to acknowledge their fix as well as one apologizing for my Malaysia reference. On two separate occasions with two distinct audiences, Twitter actually helped me successfully share an experience/observation with an individual or entity in order to elicit a response (in a stark contrast to my earlier "fails" when trying such communications with people at MSNBC). In hindsight, I should've stopped there and rested upon my current "laurels" but I decided to press my luck with further attempts at holding online conversations.

My unsuccessful attempt at asking Mark Knoller a question during his round-trip to Afghanistan.

CBS News' venerable White House correspondent Mark Knoller was one of the members of the press that traveled to Afghanistan with President Obama. Since I "follow" his Twitter feed, I began to see his coverage of events on the ground to include a pool photo of the president stepping off of Air Force One at the foreign base. Feeling a little exuberant after my CNN "campaign", I decided to reply to one of Knoller's "tweets" and ask him a question concerning the then-upcoming Memorial Day commemoration ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery scheduled for the following day (a screen capture of that reply is provided above). Because of the time and distance required for their return to Washington, I wanted to find out if this unannounced trip would preempt Obama's appearance there and put Vice President Biden in the lead role (he stepped in for his boss back in 2010 when President Obama was to give his address at a veteran's cemetery in Illinois). That seemed to be a valid issue with the widening Department of Veterans Affairs scandal's prominence in the news because it would dominate the discussions surrounding his appearance at an event heavily attended by military veterans. I also sent the same inquiry to the CNN personnel (Candy Crowley, Barbara Starr) who were discussing VA-related issues after the conclusion of the president's remarks at Bagram. I gave Knoller a little slack with his response time because of his logistical conditions but I never heard back from Crowley or Starr (I did check back from time-to-time on Sunday evening without success).

It wasn't until I saw President Obama standing in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns that I was sure he would be back for the ceremony.

As I awaited any replies, I started to answer my own question. With only a 13-hour trip required between Kabul and Washington, President Obama could be back at the White House very early Monday morning. No one appeared to be discussing substituting Biden (he had his own early morning events on Monday prior to accompanying Obama and the First Lady to the Arlington location) so it appeared that either a) none of them read their Twitter feeds or b) my inquires did not warrant responses. I was not completely certain of the president's appearing at the commemoration until I saw him standing in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns alongside the commander of the Military District of Washington and I snapped it and forwarded it to those earlier recipients to denote my erroneous assertion.

Tangible evidence of my short-term success arrived late Tuesday night via Twitter's notification system.

The rest of my Twitter activity through Monday seemed to go the same way. As usual, none of my submissions sent to Fox News Sunday were considered and the Monday morning/afternoon observations/inquiries about the "best of" shows being re-run for Miller and the platform-transitioning Ed Schultz on the holiday also fell upon "deaf" screens. Late on Tuesday night, I received a email from Twitter telling me that I had, in their words, a "great week". It said that my original Fugelsang/Ball submission had been viewed 1,862 times with 24 link visits, 17 "favorites" and the six "retweets". Two other items I sent out also garnered some interest (the Knoller "tweet" had 20 views and one I sent out the previous Tuesday about Ronan Farrow got 12 views). While those are very impressive statistics for someone who only has (as of this posting) 36 followers, those totals are just mere fractions of the potential audiences I might've reached. Despite all of this exposure, I did not gain any new followers because of that "viral" item and while Miller and several of her followers enjoyed what I submitted, it was only a short-term experience with no long-term commitments.

With the holiday "tweet-kend" now behind me, I listened to Miller's show on Tuesday to get her reaction to my submission but, unfortunately, that program took on a somber tone in the wake of Friday night's killing spree near the UC Santa Barbara campus. I had other commitments that prevented me listening beyond 10:30AM on Tuesday and the entire Wednesday program so I cannot say for certain that this "tweet" was not brought up during those shows. I didn't hear any mentions of it on Thursday and it was only on Fugelsang's regularly scheduled Friday booking that Twitter was brought up during his first-hour appearance. Miller dove right into the subject by mentioning items that she posted to her feed in the introductory banter between the host and her guest before going into the "stacks of stories" she reserves specifically for his visits. Whether it was the sheer length of time since my "tweet", a compressed holiday work week, recent bad news in her personal life or her level of inebriation while using Twitter early on a Saturday morning (she routinely makes "drunk tweeting" claims--I have no first-hand knowledge about her actual drinking habits), I was merely disappointed by its exclusion in their on-air conversation. 
Progressive radio host Stephanie Miller holds up a photo of a woman holding a poster with a phrase not properly attributed to John Fugelsang on her Friday show (screen capture courtesy of Free Speech TV).

One thing that I did take exception to originated through a quick mention by Miller of her seeing someone using some of Fugelsang's stand-up material on a poster that she displayed to her televised audience (here is an example of that same statement properly attributed to the actor/personality/comedian). She humorously referred to it as "either an homage or stealing". When I saw that he was aware of the Twitter activity (with the notification I posted earlier), I browsed through his Twitter feed and his Facebook page and I came across an update that appears to be violating his own rules about reuse and attribution. While the original photo was cropped along both sides, you can still clearly see the brand of our television set (Sharp) along the bottom border so I can readily identify it as my picture. I didn't "brand" it like I do others that I post to this blog so I am not in any position to take action against him for "borrowing" my intellectual property to promote himself--I simply want him to be aware of the "error of his ways" (just like he wanted the woman in that poster to be "chastised"). Conversely, Miller and others correctly attributed my item and included me (@Journorbust) and others involved in the conversations based upon his MSNBC appearance.

After seeing my modified--and unattributed--photo show up on John Fugelsang's Facebook page, it appears that he doesn't abide by the same rules that he expects others to comply with. 

All in all, I got to ride a three-day long emotional "roller coaster", experiencing both the highs and lows--the latter being my normal status--that Twitter has to offer to non-professional users like me. I did see a pick-up on visits to some of my previously posted items (especially the one detailing Randi Rhodes' final show) but it would've been nice to pick up a few more followers along my social media odyssey. I deliberately held off posting this item until today in order not to influence how things actually played out (and to discourage others making me the focus of the story instead of my experiences). Despite the let-down, I won't let it discourage me from using more of the tools Twitter gives its members to "talk to no one--and everyone" on a more frequent basis.

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