Thursday, February 17, 2005

'They're Cheering for You, Tucker' You, Too, Bill

So much to catch up on, and so little time, at least today. So I'll have to save for another day accounts of two fascinating, catalytic events I've taken part in within the last week. One was my friend Anton Zuiker's phenomenally successful, even mind-blowing blog conference in North Carolina last weekend. The other was a Tuesday afternoon encounter at John Carroll between nearly a dozen Russian journalists from Siberia, in town for a couple of weeks on an international exchange program, and five of us U.S. scribes. We spent nearly two hours helping each other understand the different challenges and opportunities of our respective systems, in the process challenging the lone interpreter's best efforts to keep up with the fast-paced group conversation and help both sides undertand all the language nuances. Let's just say that each of these events was an intellectual delight, and each stretched my understanding in important and complimentary ways. And to have them occur back to back felt like a special blessing.

Even Seth Godin Gets It Wrong. Most people I know who know anything about viral marketing guru Seth Godin, or have read any of his stuff, come away impressed. It's hard not to: he's smart as a whip and on top of so much of what's new and changing in the web-enabled world, while always managing to resist being swept away by the silly and superficial. But even he can occasionally get it wrong in a big way. In mid-January he wrote in defense of an unnamed friend who was being savaged by what he called the "mob justice" of the blogging community (sorry, but I'll keep intact my disfavor for that silly word blogosphere). So far, so good. But then he erred, I think, with this small bit: " will blow over. Blogging is about speed, and no news is bad news if you're in the hunt for the easy score..." Sorry, Seth, but blogging is only about speed if you choose to make it about speed. Blogs and blogging are mere mediums, tools or, as Anton Zuiker likes to say, pencils. They're used differently by different people. Can't we ever get off this childish reductionism of attributing all kinds of group descriptions to a simple communications medium that's as customized as one cares to be? Blogs are whatever their authors choose to make them. End of story.

Kukral Elicits an Interesting Nugget. For many, the newest guru to follow in the footsteps of Godin is a New York p.r. guy (of all things) named Steve Rubel, who writes brilliantly about the new media landscape on his similarly brilliantly named site, Micropersuasion. At the end of January, my Cleveland-based pal Jim Kukral, himself a budding micropersuader, posed a question to Steve on his blog, about his apparent policy against accepting advertising. It prompted Rubel to give this unexpected answer:

Jim, when I started this blog back in April of last year I vowed never to accept advertising. I am not in this to make a buck, but to engage in a discussion about the democratization of media and evangelize its possibilities. However, in recent months a few companies have approached me about placing ads on my blog. I am weighing if I will run these campaigns. If I elect to go forward, I will donate all proceeds to a charity to-be-determined that supports medical research for children with brain tumors. Believe it or not, I am a brain tumor survivor going on 22 years now and I would like to give back. If others have thoughts here, I would be eager to hear them. I promise, however, that if I do run ads I will keep the advertising simple, relevant and clean.

Which proves once more (as I like to tell my sons, ad nauseum): you only learn by asking. Hats off to Jimmy K.

And finally, we bring you the heartwarming story of Bill Belichick. When last we Clevelanders left him, Bill was the almost comically sullen, monosyllabic Browns coach. An obvious creep with borderline psychosis issues. What the hell is this guy's problem? we all asked. He has since, of course, morphed into a genius who's rightly being compared to Vince Lombardi, causing any honest person to reconsider their original assumptions about the guy. But this tender little story in the NYTimes just before the Super Bowl, by the dependable beat writer George Vecsey, made me root even more for Bill and his Patriots:

Way beyond the Doctor Doom stereotype, Belichick is a family man, anchored by his wife Debby, and three children. He makes friends, and keeps them. From his days with the Giants, he got to know Ingraham, a sports businessman and fellow graduate of Wesleyan U....when Belichick was settling on Long Island in 1997, he stayed with (the family) , becoming part of the family. Now 9, Tucker Ingraham keeps in touch with his pal Bill via email, and receives almost instant replies saying that he is turning over Tucker's critiques to his coordinators. Last year, Tucker got to play catch on the field before the Super Bowl and, after the Patriots won in te closing seconds, Bill whispered to him, 'they're cheering for you, Tucker.' Think of that when you think of Doctor Doom."

Call me a softie if you will, but that one brought a lump to my throat.


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