Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Twittering the Drupallers

I spent all day Saturday at BADCamp ... the bay Area Drupallers periodic big meeting of code. I am not actually a techie, I just play one on TV. They held an all-day introduction to Drupal about half of which I already knew, half of which was indeed new, and half of which was seemingly pointless credentialing. That's three halves, but then again it was a long day. Enjoyable, but long.

When techies get together, the two biggest issues are power outlets and wifi. My colleague Eric arrived with a backload of video and audio recording equipment which he proceeded to set up very professionally ... I should know because I was married for a decade to my sainted ex who is a lighting and video pro. More importantly, Eric arrived with a massive power bar which made him instantly popular. I will never go to a conference again without a power bar. I want to be popular too.

As for the wifi ... well, the SFSU MBA program where the event was held had a very efficient wifi situation, and all was peaceful in the kingdom of geeks.

Good thing there was wifi because four long sessions had their slow moments. The first session was a little unorganized, and that led to peppered questions from those in the audience impatient for the truth. Any good presenter knows that every audience is littered with those whose greatest enjoyment is hearing themselves interrupt the good flow of information. The second and third sessions were excellent and informative, but the fourth and final session concerned matters not relevant to my own need to master this medium.

So I slid into Twitter world. When you are in a room full of geeks, replete with power bars and wifi, you are never more than a micro-second from the new universe of social media. And I have begun to Twitter.

On one hand, Twitter is a wonderful and rather enigmatic aggregator of links to information. I have three accounts, one associated roughly with this blog, another associated with work, and a third rather more unfocused one that follows feeds as my fancy strikes. I don't really look at the third one very often, but the other two are constant friends. You have to garden and prune your Twitter feed both actively and passively if you want to get the most out of it. On the professional level, I am looking for resources, contacts, and perspectives. So I am pretty brutal about who I follow.

But my personal Twitter feed, arodsf, is for the more expansive purpose of being involved in the galaxy of social media, so I can be free and fanciful. In the fourth Drupal session, I started checking out the #FollowFriday tweets. FollowFriday is a convention whereby people advertise Twitter feeds that they like or find useful. You can click on the feeds and find people you want to follow. I read the bio and check the most recent tweets. Two much mindless nonsense about shoes or where you are having lunch, and I ignore it. But some pith and some references get me to follow.

And so I found @arjunbasu. And he changed my whole approach to Twitter. He writes Twisters, 140 character short stories. And he does it really well.

The water tasted bad. He was thirsty but not desperate. So he opened the drawer and found his emergency flask and began the day with bourbon

And the car came straight at them, pulled in by their gravity, and in the moment before it hit, he thought of all the porn on his computer..

I couldn't wait to get home and start writing a few myself. It is harder than you think, but I just relaxed and let it come.

Tweeting on the front steps when the neighbor walked by and glanced. A little smile. They still ignore each other at the bus stop.

That was the first one. I stick to 130 characters so that anyone can retweet them and not cut off the end. The following was the first one I really like:

Two men at the intersection, one facing west, the other south. They see the flash and start. One reaches the far side, looks back.

I think these Twisters are essentially syllogisms, and occasionally enthymemes. There are two premises, though one can be unspoken, and then there is a conclusion. The success is in invoking an unexpressed emotion, or a doubt as to meaning or import and consequence. They can express an unformed bitterness ...

He lay awake night after night trying to figure it out. His lover slept through it all. They kissed in the morning, left for work.

... or the banality of everyday life ...

The soup was cold on delivery. The waiter said they do not have a microwave. He left a short tip but returned a week later anyway.

... or a vague and unexplored sexiness ...

Toto's Africa plays as he coffees, watches the waiter. Later, they cross paths at the opening, agree that they like ephemera best.

ArjunBasu gets downright sexual from time to time. I may go there sooner or later. But what I really want to do is play with history. So this one I have not yet tweeted, but I am actually proud of it:

Antoinette mounted the scaffold with scorn. My head in a basket is finer than all of you. She sighed at the basket's coarse weave.

After the final session at BADCamp, I went down to the food court with the other attendees on the promise of free booze from Sun Microsystems. But I had to wait too long and grew impatient. I wanted to get home and start writing my Twisters. I think I have found a new hobby.

Is that the waiter? Heads turned without a moment's pause in the conversation. No, not the waiter. What are we still doing here?

Photo by Arod, from a storefront on Haight Street. Twisters by @arodsf except for the first two by @arjunbasu.