by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

If you’re a Linked In fan – but aren’t that sure about Twitter – the Twibes application provides a bridge between the two services, their audiences, and what each wants from a social networking site. It’s early days yet, but the signs are hopeful.

We all know the drill: Twitter attracts large, eager audiences drawn in by the hype. But once there, many users become disenchanted; stay away forever; and possibly allow their inactive accounts to be taken over by monster botnets, which foment riots in obscure republics or let 13-year-olds in Taiwan make billions from affiliate marketing schemes.

Among those Twitter Don’t-Wannabes are some of the most sought-after Linked In members – serious, senior business executives, who can’t be bothered with the pressures of “Tribal” culture and its arcane and arbitrary rules and customs.

Yes, there are several Twitter-related interest Groups at Linked In itself and social media mavens who like both services. But many Linked In members are still quite wary.

That’s because Linked In is perceived as being at the opposite end of the social media spectrum from its flashier rival. Linked In aficionados tend to use the site for professional, rather than purely social, purposes. They’re there to make lasting, rather than fleeting, connections with people who share business interests, career pursuits, research goals, or political common ground.

And the heart of Linked In is its interest group system. Linked In’s intricate and at this point quite massive Groups facility allows members to get to know their fellow Linked In-ers by posting news stories they’ve written or find interesting and posting or participating in Discussions, which tend to reveal one’s opinions, concerns, and basic character. Reading and taking part in these Discussions lets serious Linked In-ers decide whom they’d like to connect with and get to know better.

While there are some “open networkers” at Linked In, who will take anyone into their networks, often for the purpose of building a mailing list, they tend to be somewhat suspect within the more serious Linked In community. I know I suspect them!

The rest of us tend to build our networks slowly and carefully, connecting with those we find truly simpatico and would gladly have as friends or associates. In fact, numerous people have made valuable and serious business or personal connections through Linked In. They’ve found jobs, gotten funding, connected with political backers, or vetted research partners.

“Valuable and serious” is the key phrase here. Many gung ho Linked In members look at Twitter as being exactly the opposite: a time-waster and frivolous, a site where you’re bombarded by affiliate marketers trying to sell you things or where teens and slackers talk about what they ate for breakfast or exchange gossip about their favorite comic books or rock bands.

As my loyal audience of readers already knows, I had some serious – albeit amusing – problems with Twitter when I joined the service early last summer. (See “We’ve Sent You Black Roses – My Life With a Dastardly Twitter Stalker” ) But I decided to stick it out and have found Twitter at least somewhat helpful, despite the difficulty identifying those with whom one wants to connect.

Twitter guru Seth Godin and his acolytes think that Twitter users naturally form themselves into “Tribes,” large groups of like-minded members whose “Tweets” – or 140-character posts – will somehow magically be relevant and welcome to those who read them.

I happen to think the entire “Tribes” concept is incredibly elitist, anti-intellectual, and culturally retrograde. (See my now-prophetic article, “Will Boomers and the GOP Save Twitter?” )

But beyond that, in practice, the “Tribal” concept is unworkable. Twitter users do not naturally find each other and form themselves into cohesive networks. It’s hard to figure out who shares your interests, your outlook, or your purpose for being there based on occasional and sporadic posts, many of which seem to be “canned” quotations, not original thoughts – and many of which were posted by robots, not people, in the first place!

(The “bot problem” at Twitter is extremely serious and has far-reaching implications, including geopolitical ones. It will be the subject of a future article in this series.)

Many Linked In members I’ve talked with are decidedly cold – if not hostile – to the “Tribal” concept. They may be willing to give Twitter a chance. But once there, they find they miss the useful and engaging Groups which form the heart and soul of Linked In.

That’s where Adam Loving’s “Twibes” comes in.

Among the Chaos, A Safer Haven

In simplest terms, Twibes is the best attempt yet to bring a viable Groups concept to Twitter. Before its introduction about ten months ago, the only way to find like-minded individuals in the vast sea of Tweeters was via various “list” applications, such as WeFollow, which breaks out those users – and only those users – who sign up for the service into listings like Food, Fitness, Coach, or Basketball.

But all the listings give you is each user’s one sentence “biographical” description from his/her/its Twitter profile, which tells you – not much. Twitter’s own new Lists facility is even worse, since the Lists are arbitrarily created by individual users, who are allowed to list others without asking permission and can decide on categories essentially because they feel like it. Ergo, “Mary’s List of Fabulous People,” including Cousin Patty, Uncle Jim, the Jonas Brothers, and Oprah.

Perhaps it’s just my natural paranoia, but I also feel Twitter Lists have already become a Paradise for Script Kiddie hackers. To date, I’ve removed myself from 498 of them, but they just keep coming. It’s now a part of my early morning ritual on the Internet: sip coffee, check E-mail, yawn, remove self from new Lists.

So how and why is Twibes any different? Well, for one thing, it’s not in List format, and it’s a remote site, apart from Twitter proper. Developer Adam Loving, an experienced Seattle-based designer, who has been associated with Microsoft, IBM, and Ciber Solution Partners in the U.K., has set up easy-to-navigate message boards for each of the 20,000 or so Twibes which have been formed since the app’s inception. Founders of each Twibe can choose a design and colors for the board and post a detailed description of what its purpose is and whom they wish to attract as members.

If you want to see what a Twibes board looks like, click here for my BoomerNetwork Twibe – and join it, if you’d like!

When you post a Tweet on the Twibal board, it ends up in the general Twitter message stream about a nanosecond later. In that case, you’re restricted to the same 140-character limit as on Twitter. But you also have the option of checking a box which exhibits your message to the Twibe board only, which allows you to post longer statements or questions – nothing like the Discussion post essays we sometimes get at Linked In, but a start nevertheless.

As you can see from the BoomerNetwork example above, nobody much is posting on the Twibal message boards yet – except the Group founders, like me. I think that will change, though, as more Linked In people decide to try out Twitter and its accompanying applications.

One very useful new feature of Twibes – its “retweeting robots” – should encourage people, too. Although only a handful of Twibes – including mine – have requested them as yet, Loving will install a handy little robotic program for any Twibe that requests it. The robot scans all posts on the Twibal message board periodically, normally once an hour, and retweets them into the general Twitter stream. This essentially means that any acceptable post will be “tweeted” twice from Twibes – once when you type it in initially and later by the retweeting robot. (Non-acceptable posts, like those which are blatantly commercial or otherwise offensive, can be deleted by the Twibe founder.)

Palin-ites, Kiwis, and Pounds-Off Champions

Even without the retweeter or the ability to engage in the kinds of Discussions we have at Linked In, I believe Twibes is extremely useful merely as a way for people with like interests to find one another at Twitter.

Indeed, some of the larger Twibes, mostly founded by the application’s earliest initiators, are already thriving, attracting significant numbers of Twitter users and even getting some rudimentary conversations going – although again, not the lengthy conversations we are used to at Linked In.

For example, Lisa Graas’s Palin Twibe, one of four groups centered around the former Alaska governor and probable future Presidential candidate, has 617 avid members at this writing, who exchange messages about the Governor’s personal appearances, book signings, and other events. Graas (Twitter handle @LisaGraas or @PalinTwibe), a technically-savvy political blogger, has linked her Twibe to other facilities, like the TweetDeck dashboard and her own sites on Blogger and Blogspot at Google.

Brian Moore (@Kiwiartist) founded his New Zealand Twibe, which now has 587 members, to promote his country and connect other proud Kiwis on Twitter. New Zealanders, he told Adam Loving in a recent interview, have “a lot of nationalistic pride. They love to be able to announce themselves as a world-stage presence.” The New Zealand Twibe is Moore’s way of assisting that effort.

One of the most active – and possibly most unusual – Twibes is Weight Loss Surgery, founded by Michelle Vicari (@Eggface). An anti-obesity evangelist, Vicari lost literally one-half of her body weight after a surgical procedure in 2006 and now counsels others both before and after their surgeries. Like Lisa Graas, she has linked her Twibe to her blogsite, “The World According to Eggface,” where she presents recipes for maintaining post-surgery weight and health and other helpful information.

Michelle’s Twibe now has 502 members, who often make friends with one another and correspond apart from Twitter – much like people do at Linked In. So despite its specialized nature, Weight Loss Surgery is a model for what the Twibes service could look like as it evolves further.

The two Twibes I’ve recently founded, BoomerNetwork and Centrists ( ) are still minute. In conjunction with the publication of this story, I’m initiating a brand-new Twibe, Ivy League ( ), for one peer group which is well-represented at Linked In, but surprisingly invisible at Twitter so far. (As are alumni groups in general, one demographic Twibes should probably seek out.)

It is very early days for Adam Loving and his Twibal concept. Launched late last winter, Twibes didn’t really start to take off until this past summer, when the formation of new Twibes started to pop exponentially. I understand that there are now more than 20,000 mostly fledgling groups, many with only one or two members – names that are essentially being “parked.” There also seems to be a fairly high dropout rate, although nowhere near as high as Twitter’s.

But Loving is still enthusiastic about his “baby” application and expects it will continue to grow and thrive. “It’s funny how Twitter has ended up being used for so many different things beyond what was originally envisioned,” he said in a recent interview. “We still think Twibes is one of the most promising.”

Now that Linked In and Twitter have a more formal affiliation, via the Twitter links on Linked In profiles, Loving – and I – think substantial numbers of formerly cautious Linked In users will be willing to give Twitter a try in the months ahead. Joining and tweeting via Twibes may help keep them there longer and increase their overall satisfaction.

For this Twitter user, at least, Boo! to Seth Godin’s Tribes. But Rah! Rah! for Adam Loving’s Twibes.

Tell Us What You Think

*** Have you joined or founded one or more Twibes? Why do you like the concept?

*** Do you sometimes – or often – feel lost and abandoned at Twitter, without the Group anchors you have at Linked In? How would you compare the two services?

*** Are you in sync with Seth Godin’s “Tribal” concept, or do you believe, as I do, that it represents a major step backwards in social relationships on the Internet?

*** Does Twitter badly need more real human beings and fewer PR- or advertiser-run “script bots?”

*** Besides Twibes, what other Twitter-related applications do you favor? How have they helped you?

*** How do you hope Twitter might evolve in the future to become more relevant and useful to you?

For the Introduction to the Media Revolution series, “Is Big Brother Already Here? And Is He An Algorithm?”

For Ellen’s very influential article, “Accused of Spam? It May Have Been a Political Attack?”

For “Flame, Set, Match – Trounce Those Internet Flamers”

For “Corpses, Mollusks, and Kinky Sex – How I Won the Blog-Off”

For Ellen’s signature series Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation:

For her new series for and about political Centrists, The Rest of U.S.

Comments Two

November 27, 2009

Sex, chocolate, and puppies, yes!

Corpse, yes, but Internet Guru doesn’t tell me enough.

Giant Clam not hitting it for me.

Good luck!


It pains me to say so, but I think I’m a crocodile. I lurk. I might even be a bottom dweller. I’m patient, tenacious . . .

I won’t go on! Thanks for a really fun reflection.


I think the crocodile quiz is an adjunct to the Lawyers and Bankers headline.

Art C.

My favorite is “Are You A Cheetah Or A Crocodile?”

Happy to help.


I’m very interested in not only working from home but working from my pool, so an underwater computer is exactly what I am looking for. Scuba gear not included.



I think talking about the generation gaps is going to be interesting to follow. Of course, I also look forward to the tabloid in you coming out in your blogs!


Ellen, an underwater computer is an interesting concept. I will surely visit the site.

Just arrived in NY on the red-eye from AZ. A lot cooler here, thank you. In Arizona, we just set a record for 13 consecutive days of 100+ temps. And summer’s yet to arrive.


Re a Baby Boomer versus other generations series, the possibilities are endless. I think you should focus on the disparity between thoughtless youth and elder wisdom. It will provide you with all kinds of interesting material to write about.


Looks good so far, Ellen! good luck!


Ellen, re Boomers: Writing about the past and about the future could be endless. The concerns of our generation for the future of our youth (and vice versa) given the complex problems of today . . . great subject for a series.


Will there also be crocodiles in the swimming pool? That could make focusing on the computer challenging. I will be interested in hearing more!

Loyally, Cindy

The biggest response to any blog I have written was to a blog post titiled: “What do Credit Card Rates and Guns have in Common?” The blog spoke about the recent Senate vote where the senator from Oklahoma added an amendment, which allows people to carry concealed weapons into National Parks, to a bill that was meant to restrain the bad practices of credit card companies.

So mention guns, and that wiill get people’s attention. The next highest response came from a blog titled “Baby Boomers, Harleys and Lingerie.”

Provocative and/or sensational titles work best.


What’s so funny about an underwater computer? Sounds perfect.

You should hear the ring tone my daughter put in her phone for me. It’s a dweebie techno computer sound, and the photo that pops up is me sitting in the Jacuzzi with an elaborate setup to keep my laptop dry.

I’m in the Jacuzzi, connected to my office through at least two different computers at once, with an I-phone on one side, non-alcoholic beer on the other side , HD exterior TV mounted in front, and a music system giving me good sounds.

My staff has a cartoon on the refrigerator in the office kitchen of a guy in a bathtub with about the same high tech set up. The name Mike is printed on the bathtub.

And I think that’s perfectly normal.



Go, Content!

David (Another Boomer)

Only 7 out of 10 are nude? That must be because 3 out of 10 have computers with an unpredictable built-in camera.


I feel amused at this moment, but I will admit, I am not bloggin’ in the buff.

Maybe that could be a new Linked In group: the Buff Bloggers! You’d have to be very fit, of course. I don’t know about you, but I know I am aging like 100% of the population – darn!

Go forth and blog!


Content is King. You go, girl!


Go Ellen! I look forward to following your blogs. I love your writing!


From Community Marketing site, on the four-part Results series:

WOW, I love the wording, and they do get my attention. Thanks and keep up the great work!


Interesting to see what other people find interesting. If I were a member of your poll, my choices would be somewhat different.

R. B.

Sex always sells.


I loved the Thailand Swallowed by a Clam. True hook from your tabloid days!


Interesting experiment. When I first clicked on the Corpse title, it was because I wanted to find out more. I was surprised by the outcome.

Every story needs a “hook.” You have wonderfully captured the essence of a hook.

I believe the hook is what titillates the reader in order to read further. It does not surprise me that a corpse and kinky sex top your list. But I am surprised that “7 Out of 10 Blog In the Nude” was not more popular.

I believe that attitudes form the basis for people’s decisons in life. What I would find interesting is the demographics of the people who responded to your headlines.

I would suspect that attitude, age, and life experience would play a role in what headline a person chose. Also a person’s employment status (or lack thereof) may influence which headline they chose. For instance, a person laid off from the financial industry (or concerned about losing a job in that industry) would be more likely to choose the reality show. This tells me that a headline needs to consider and incorporate its market.

All in all, very well done and very interesting!


Hi Ellen.

I can’t remember enjoying anything as much as this. You’re a real gem!

Bob S.

This is a very interesting experiment. Love the idea Ellen !!! Look forward to more follow-up. That must have been one giant clam!! :)


Ellen, I wonder if other factors could have been at play here. Could it have been timing? Was “corpse” your first release? Just wondering.


I was thinking of all the things to catch people’s eyes. Thanks Ellen, this is really interesting. Great to see what others chose.


You engaged me with your blog experience, and I even ended up reading an interview with you on your vision for us Boomers. I’ll try to spread the word on Twitter and Facebook. I want to earn a slot on your executive committee!


The US has at least one transgender mayor who seems to be doing a perfectly good job, and countless trans people in all walks of life and jobs.

Why that title made it into the list of “eye-catching, funny, or downright titillating” seems uncreative at best and offensive at worst. Thank goodness other voters agreed and didn’t bother to click on it very much.


(From me)


Please read Part Two, and you’ll see why the Transvestite Mayor title was included.

It was not meant to be “funny” at all, just typical of one kind of headline tabloids perennially use.

This research project is all about readers’ clicking and viewing behavior, not about social issues.

Please read Part Two – and the upcoming Part Three – in this spirit.

Thank you.


Years ago, I remember a film called Kentucky Fried Movie that had a television station that used the little promos that were eye-catching. My favorites: “Rams plagued by fumbles as earthquate strikes Los Angeles” and “Moscow in flames, missles headed towards New York, film at 11:00.”

On a more serious note, I can’t wait for the day that the media starts pushing stories about people who do good things as opposed to pushing stories of crime, fraud and tragedy.

David G.

Me – I just like anything with someone killing off Internet Gurus. I guess many others agree.


Very interesting results, Ellen. I’ll have to keep in mind for my next writing venture that corpses trump hamsters, hands down.

David A.

I would be in the 3 out of 10 that do not blog in the nude. I find that it upsets my co-workers.


I love your sense of humor and would kill to write as well as you do. . . keep it coming!


Ellen, Thanks for another entertaining and informative blog. When I post a blog, I usually just stick any old title on it, as long as it relates somewhat to the content of the blog. I don’t put much if any thought into it. Now I know that I have to.

It’s the old adage of only having 20 seconds to capture someone’s attention, and I guess our best chance is with a creative and outstanding headline. These days, it also needs to be one that stands out in a long list of blogs to which one subscribes, or your RSS feed, or in your inbox . . . all-in-all, the new magazine rack.


Tabloid or not, your headlines are sticky, which is better than dangling a carrot. Better yet, your content keeps me intrigued!


This is really interesting: “I became a tabloid writer, with a rather strange specialty virtually nobody else shared – turning serious business articles into fodder for a tabloid audience.”

One would think that people reading tabloids wouldn’t be particularly interested in business articles. Did you gain a following?


(From me)


I would find serious articles tabloid editors wouldn’t be likely to read and look for something in them a tabloid readership might enjoy.

For instance, it was the period oil workers in Russia were first coming into the Far East of that country and raising a ruckus, with crime rates skyrocketing.

So we turned it into a story called “The Wild, wild East,” focusing on the barroom brawls, brothels, and general mayhem that even the most staid of commentators admitted made this region at that time resemble a typical cowboy movie – with a twist, because it was Russia.

That’s a good example.


Ha ha! I LOVE the Hamster headline!


I must say you are wonderfully creative!

So how do we all take the information you present and make it relevant to our daily life experiences? How is that information relevant to marketing our business ventures?

Is your thesis that presenting information with a shocking “headline” is the only effective way to grab someone’s attention? If so, how does one account for people’s differing levels or threshholds of shock?

But I think you are on to something, Ellen.


(From me)


No, I am not saying it’s the only way.

Read the Addendum. I’d like us all to share techniques we have found effective on the Internet.


You have done a terrific job of conveying valuable information. I hope your efforts pay off, Ellen.


Ellen, you go girl! Al we Boomers are pullin’ for you.



I read all three so far and will bookmark.

Outside of thoroughly enjoying your sense of humor, my mind is spinning on how your Faux 10 discussion relates to the concept of authenticity and a customer experience. I’ll give it some though and get back to you.


The comments for the various articles are hilarious. Interesting that we’re most drawn to the baffling murder mystery, and fascinating that the underwater computer headline was the one that got the most comments. I wonder if there’s a correlation in “talky-ness” – people who are apt to click on a certain headline are more inclined to comment?

Stacy S.

Aha! So I was right to worry about those Giant Clams!!


This is very clever. I hope you continue sharing on Linked In. You are giving me some great ideas for my blog.


How about adjusting the headline depending on the place of distribution. Some examples: Thailand Swallowed by Giant Chinese Clam! or Thailand Swallowed by Giant Extraterrestial Mollusk!

Perhaps changing the country would make for an interesting headline: North Korea Swallowed by US Clam or North Korea Swallowed by Japanese Clam
or Taliban Arranges to Have Pakistan Swallowed by Clam.


I think it is so interesting what people are interested in clicking on to read, and then the comments that they make. I find it most entertaining! This is a fascinating social experiment.

I do totally agree that many people don’t want to read anything that seems to be too much like the dismal daily news. Society is bombarded with so much of real life doom-and-gloom news. So if I am choosing to click and read, it is definitely not going to be more of the same.

As a side note, I’ve been wondering what kind of fruit I would want a man to smell like? This is requiring some thought on my part . . .


I think you are right about catchy or shocking tabloid headlines. Certainly they seem to attract attention, comments, followers on Twitter.

Here’s a fun one I saw the other day: “Panda Mating Fails. Veterinarian Takes Over.”


Ellen, I have learned so much about how to prepare an attention-grabber headline! Thank you so much.


Interesting subject. In the last year on my blog, the articles that generate the best responses are always lists: “9 Ways to Enhance Your Linked In Profile” or “5 Linked In Tricks You May Not Know.”

I think the headline depends upon your audience, so I can’t say for certain that numbered lists work everywhere, but they do on Linked In.


I think it is great if you capture readers’ attention and draw them to the article. Wow. There is so much competition for people’s time, so if you can get their interest and get them there, that is a huge accomplishment. Then if you give them something of substance when they get there – even better.

I will tell you one of the greatest reasons I will read something is that someone I know tells me it is interesting and sends me the link or the article. So I wonder if the power of friends and their influence could be leveraged?

Wouldn’t it be interesting if you had one title that you think would draw the most readers, put it out there with no marketing through friends and social networking, and then one title that you think might not be the biggest draw, but leveraged the power of influencers to promote it? I think the second group would get more clicks and reads. What do you think?

G. L.

I am using these catchy lead-ins when writing to my commercial real estate buyers. If the subject line is not catchy, then they dont bother opening any of the Blast E-mails.

A recent one that I just wrote regarding a regional mall for sale in TX was: “In Texas, Size Matters!”

Wow ! I got responses right away.

Having a good lead-in helps in this busy world we all work in.


I am fairly new to this game, but it seems that as a former TV journalist, the same rules apply. Catchy headlines. If it bleeds, it leads. You have three seconds to capture your audience.

To reach the broadest audience, it makes sense to me to reach into every available pot. To target a specific audience, you narrow down that pot. Make sense? Marketing 101, right? Interesting blogs, Ellen!


To return to reader Comments One, please go to:

To return to “Corpses, Mollusks, and Kinky Sex-How I Won the Blog Off,” click:

7 Out of 10 Blog In the Nude

November 23, 2009

Hello, fellow Group Members!

This will either infuriate you or amuse you – one hopes the latter.

It’s a frivolous little experiment with ten faux headlines to see which kind of outrageous title readers might be most likely to click on.

I need every advantage I can get.

Because starting Monday, I’m the Baby Boomer entrant, versus a couple of dozen SEO-savvy young ‘uns, in the Great Blog-Off contest at Community Marketing.

Here’s the link, if you haven’t read about it yet. (Link now disabled.)

Not only am I the Veteran – or Evil Cougar, depending on your viewpoint – in this bunch, I will probably be the contestant representing CONTENT, as opposed to quantitative formulae for blog optimization, or whatever the latest incomprehensible jargon is.

In fact, the blogs I will post will be very serious ones, indeed, elaborating upon the political and economic theme of Baby Boomers as modern history’s Angriest Generation, a phrase I’ve coined and hope will become a buzz-phrase on the Internet from this day forward.

But I will mix up my serious blogs with some frivolous ones harking back to my days as a heavy-volume tabloid writer – an era in my life I look back upon with much fondness and nostalgia.

Want to help me by making suggestions about my campaign for top-of-the-heap status in the Blog-Off?

I truly welcome your advice and any assistance you can give me.

If I’m elected, you may have a Cabinet post or any Ambassadorship of your choosing.

Leave a comment here, or write to me at (E-mail address given).

Warmest regards – or to you Kappas, Loyally,

Ellen Brandt


(To return to “Corpses, Mollusks, and Kinky Sex-How I Won the Blog-Off,” go to: )

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

Join in their volley of insults, they’ll continue to play as long as they can . Ignore them completely, readers could take them to heart. In the Flame Game, a quick victory – fueled by wit – works best.

Most people don’t visit websites, blogs, or group discussion boards intent on making trouble.

Most people respect the opinions of others and debate them, if they must, in the spirit of fairness and camaraderie.

Most people don’t embark on lifelong vendettas based on a few words posted on the Internet.

But then, most people aren’t Flamers.

I sometimes think of Internet Flamers as Locusts. They descend upon a target website quickly. Under suitable conditions, they breed rapidly and form a swarm. Their noise is so overwhelming, they can drown out everything else in the vicinity. And if left unchecked, they can do great harm, sometimes devastating damage.

Like Locusts, too, Internet Flamers seem to pop up spontaneously more or less anywhere. If you write or publish anything whatsoever on the Internet, even the most harmless-sounding, out-and-out innocent site or blog – on kitchen countertops, say, or miniature poodles – chances are that somehow, someday, when you least expect it, Flamers will swarm.

In Internet terms, Flaming is defined as a hostile or insulting interaction between or among users of a discussion board, chatroom, or increasingly, the Comments section of a website or blog.

But the expression of hostility or anger per se isn’t necessarily Flaming. It’s when such expressions are aimed at others – including authors or website owners – and are neither constructive nor clarifying to the progress of a discussion that true Flaming occurs. Often, these attacks go off on a tangent so extreme, they have only the most tenuous connection to the original material that supposedly inspired them.

I wrote about a classic Flamer – I called him “Herbie” – in my story about extreme malice on the Internet. (“I Don’t Like What You Wrote. You Should Be Poisoned, Garrotted, Stabbed With Stiletto Heels, Thrown Off A Tall Building, and Have Vultures Eat Your Liver” )

Herbie, supposedly a genteel gentleman in his 70s, somehow found the Comments section of a reprinted version of my quite-popular story, “Summer Camp for Seniors,” which talks about unqualified activities directors at assisted-living sites and their disrespect for elderly residents. (See )

On his first appearance there, Herbie made a statement along the lines of “There is so much that is horrible about this article, I don’t know where to start.” Already suspecting something – having worked for both the tabloids and women’s mags, I know a potential crazy person by instinct – I asked the site’s publisher to take down the comment and ban this fellow from his site. He didn’t.

So Herbie came back. And as I suspected he would, he quickly proceeded to make comments that were totally unrelated to the story itself, but nevertheless – without any citations from the text – called it untrue and unsupported and elitist and . . . I dunno, possibly seditious and definitely fattening. After which he went on to lambaste me – someone he knew nothing whatsoever about – as an unfit writer, scholar, dancer, chef, electrician, Olympic athlete, and Mayoral candidate. (All except the first two are, of course, accurate.)

Even Without an Audience, Determined Flamers Flame Away

With the unfortunate lack of civility in our public discourse these days, silly – but often hurtful – attacks of this kind are an everyday occurrence. Until recently, though, Flamers’ targets tended to be celebrities of some kind – actors, politicians, sports figures, or Jay Leno.

Now, if you breathe – particularly if you both breathe and write – you’re potential prey. My friend Elizabeth contacted me just the other day, horrified that her simple act of posting a news story from a UK publication on a message board attracted a vicious Flaming attack. She didn’t even write the story – for Goddess’s sake! – but her Flamer ripped into her with a “People like you don’t know what you’re talking about” diatribe that had scant threads linking it to the story in question and no threads whatsoever linking it to Elizabeth.

“People Like You” is a common kind of Flamer opener, by the way, mostly because it’s so versatile. “People Like You – (Baby Boomers, Lawyers, Moroccans, Bowlers, Meat-Eaters, Satanists) – should be condemned because you – (Own Two Cars, Don’t Recycle, Have Freckles, Talk Too Fast, Remind Me of My Cousin Jimmy, Have Bodies Buried in Your Backyard) – and therefore need to be (Censored, Quarantined, Tithed, Sent to an Optometrist, Drawn-and-Quartered, Forced to Read Marketing Copy).

In nearly every instance, Flamers like to jump quickly from attacks on things – articles, movies, music, games – to attacks on people responsible for those things – authors, directors, composers, athletes. That’s because things don’t have feelings and can’t get hurt. People tend to get hurt pretty easily.

To be sure, if you’ve been the target of Flamethrowers often enough, you develop a sort of immunity. Personally, I’m not prepared to run for president yet. How candidates – or even Britney and Lindsay – take it is beyond me. But in the case of my Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation series, which has been the constant target of a group of Crazed Millennials who think I’m out to incite a rebellion of We-Won’t-Be-Bullied-Into-Retirement middle-class businesspeople – (Yes, of course, they’re right) – I now fully expect the attacks and have begun to find them rather funny.

The funniest was clearly an attack I endured when I posted one of my Angriest Generation articles – I believe it was “No Gold Watch When You Work For Pariah Corporation” ( ) on one of the News feeds at a film-related group at Linked In.

Minutes after the story was posted, a tag team of Flamers – let’s call them Manny and Moe – bit into the Comments stream with relish. Not that they even mentioned the article itself. They first began with the standard “Boomers Are To Blame For the Ills of the World” harangue, which has been permeating the Internet the past few months and which I talked about in my story on Anti-Boomer propaganda. (See “You Have Cooties – Go Play Golf” at: )

According to this so-predictable-it-has-to-be-scripted spiel, Boomers are to blame for not only our current economic malaise, but also for the Biblical Flood, the Black Plague, the Wars of the Roses, and Cholesterol. Moreover, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are Boomers, which proves . . . absolutely nothing, but they think it does.

I responded to the first barrage of Flamelets – (for my Fight-Flamers Game Plan, see below) – with a link to my Anti-Boomer propaganda story and several of my own canned answers for dealing with criticism aimed at Boomers.

Predictably, Moe and Manny went on to attack me – my integrity, my scholarship, my ancestry, my hairdo, and my taste in breakfast cereal. Actually, their main attack centered on the fact that one of these two gentlemen – I believe it was Moe – had attempted to post a couple of Flaming Anti-Boomer comments on my blogsite, and I zapped him, which is my right as a website owner.

I made one additional post specifically aimed at this Fireball, stating that not only do I moderate my own blogs, I strongly suggest that others do the same. And I pointed out that M&M’s hero, President Obama – also a Baby Boomer, by the way – now moderates all of his websites at the White House. So call me Obama-like in my decision.

Manny and Moe disregarded the analogy and went on Flaming – but I decided not to participate further, nor did any other poster. So for the next two weeks, Moe and Manny continued their Flame-throwing dialogue, talking to each other, possibly without a single outside observer, and turned their Flamefest into a hundred-comment extravaganza. Alas, it’s been removed from the site now, or I would gladly link you to it, as a sort of relic.

Bring in the Clones

An even funnier Flamefest is in motion right now, at the date of publication of this story. I don’t think I’ll tell you where – think of it as a Treasure Hunt – but the venue is a political discussion board at a social media site. The topic which started this particular Comments thread is by now lost in prehistory, but the thread has now reached the 80-plus posts point. What makes it so hilarious is that there are – as in the Manny and Moe scenario – now only two posters left in the stream, trading virulent insults with positive glee. The twist is that these two “opposing” Flamers are almost certainly the exact same real person. A Man and his Clone, together at last.

The “Man” in question – I’ve confirmed he does exist – is quite intelligent, a Harvard grad in his early 30’s. The “Clone” is his Avatar, in the three-dimensional, rather than graphic, sense: a distinct Internet personality created by its user to represent him/her/it in Web interactions. Avatars like this are the essence of Virtual World-type communities, like Second Life, and various multiplayer games, like World of Warcraft.

I’m sure that the Man and the Clone are one in the same, because He/They have made multiple verbal slips in their Flame-Party-A-Deux. Sometimes, the Man (let’s call him Ralph) claims credit for remarks the Clone (let’s call him Rafe) has made and vice versa. Or Rafe insults Ralph insults Rafe for characteristics of “background” or “opinion” formerly attributed to the other.

Possibly, this is all preparation for a Hollywood blockbuster – or a political coup. One can’t be sure.

The moderator of this discussion board may have declined to intercede in this split-personality Flame thread because (s)he found it entertaining and/or mind-boggling. The moderator of the Manny-Moe Flamerama inspired by my article probably should have intervened and doused – i.e. deleted – the conflagration as soon as it included malicious insults.

As I have said elsewhere, most discussion board and other group moderators don’t take this facet of their responsibilities seriously enough. They don’t consider the emotional distress Internet bullying, sometimes escalating to character assassination, can cause, even among we sane and stable adults who make up the majority of Internet participants.

And by not choosing to Just Say No to Nastiness, they may be encouraging Flamers to continue in their dubious careers of Cyber-Sadism.

But We Who Have Felt the Burn can certainly do our part to douse the flames.

The Little Man Behind the Screen

Remember the denouement of the Wizard of Oz? Toto kicks over a screen to reveal the Wizard as a shriveled up, rather pathetic-looking little man, whose manifestations of power are nothing more than magic tricks.

Flamers are just junior Wizards, whose power is illusory, based as it is on a certain facility to string hurtful words together, reinforced by what are clearly sociopathic tendencies.

Your concern as a writer or website owner isn’t with the Flamer or Flamers, anyway. It’s with your audience of readers, potential readers, or website visitors. You don’t want to have them shun you because of lies and character assassination coming from your attackers. But you don’t want to participate in a “volley” of exchanges with your Flamers, either – because if you do, it may go on for years!

On your website or blogsite itself, there’s the simplest of solutions: Insist on moderating your own Comments streams. Allow in comments which disagree with your text or ideas, if they are made honestly in the spirit of discussion and debate. But simply zap comments which are irrelevant to your text, insult entire groups of people, or insult you.

“I find a logical flaw in your argument about aardvarks with leprosy,” is OK. “Dentists are aardvarks with leprosy,” “Romanians are aardvarks with leprosy” or “You are an aardvark with leprosy” are not.

In a social media discussion thread or the Comments section of a News feed, the situation is more difficult, because you don’t moderate the site. You can try appealing to whomever does moderate it to delete posts from Flamers. Good Luck! I have found that most site moderators either don’t care, are too busy, or – quite often – believe that a Flame Exchange brings new readers to their group and is therefore positive.

Your real concern is that Flamers might be taken seriously enough by the rest of the group that they’re persuaded not to read your article or visit your website.

So I suggest you post once – sometimes twice – politely but firmly stating why you believe whatever the heck they’re saying is all wet. If you can deflate them with wit or humor, that is a definite plus:

“No, our site was not designed by a ten-year-old. Stanislaus is 43, lives in Cleveland, and won the Website of the Century award last year.”

“There are 80 million Baby Boomers in the US. Surely, you’re not suggesting all of us are cannibals?”

“My parents are not a gangster and a chorus girl. Dad is a veterinarian, and Mom owns a dress shop.”

Then, painful as it is, just walk away.

Possibly, they’ll say more cruel, nasty things about you. Possibly they’ll continue saying them for weeks, like Manny and Moe, or Ralph and His Clone.

But you won’t be there to hear them.

What Do You Think?

Have you been the victim of Internet Flamers? OK – Of course, you have! But tell us about the most interesting, horrible, or funny incidents.

Should moderators of social media groups and message boards be compelled by top site management to delete posts that insult or damage the reputations of group members?

Should web security organizations or law enforcement agencies step in and stop the activities of perpetual Flamers?

What do you think motivates the typical Flamer? Does their existence indicate greater problems on the Internet or within our society?

Should Ralph and his Clone be given a Hollywood contract?

For the Introduction to the Media Revolution series:

For our story about False Spam Accusations as Political Weapons:

For Ellen’s popular article, “Will Boomers and the GOP Save Twitter?

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

Misuse and misinterpretation of the term “spam” is now so blatant, one has to wonder if Big Media might not be behind it. But we in “Little Media” are aware of the abuse, and it can’t last much longer.

If you publish a blog, own a website, or participate in various social media sites, chances are you’ve been accused of “spamming” at one time or another. You’re probably seriously angry about it. Well, so am I.

Besides the (ongoing) campaign of pure annoyance coming from my darling Twitter Stalker Agatha-Anne and her buddies (see “Slaughtering Your Pet Hamster” ), I’ve been subjected to two accusations of “spamming” this past summer, one truly silly and inconsequential, one more serious in its implications.

First, the purely silly one. Several weeks ago, a young woman I’ll call Janette sent me an invitation to connect on Linked In, where I have a fabulous high-quality network of over 1400. Because she was a member of an organization I belong to and trust, I said Yes.

But the first time I sent one of my standard To-My-Network mailings with links to a couple of my stories, Janette wrote me what can only be called a hateful, malicious note, along the lines of “How dare you pollute my mailbox with your vile publications, You Evil Spammer You?”

Huh? You’re in my Network. You asked to be in my Network. I’m a publisher and writer. Do you expect me to send my Network pictures of bunnies or needlework instructions? Moreover, if one does not wish to click on a link in a letter, the obvious solution is not to click on a link in a letter.

And Linked In has a handy little feature called “Remove This Person from Your Network.” This handy little feature allows you to “Remove (Any) Person from Your Network,” for any reason whatsoever, quietly and efficiently, without having to write them letters and insult them.

I immediately took Janette out of my Network, after replying to her charming missive by telling her about the handy Remove-This-Person feature, thinking perhaps she honestly did not know about it.

As the teens say, As If . . . Over the next few days, I got five or six additional charming little notes from Janette, escalating in venom, going on about “You sent me Spam. Your stories are Spam. I hate your stories. My father hates your stories. My third cousin hates your stories. My goldfish hates your stories. My goldfish will not eat Spam. Spam, spam, spam, spam, and spam.”

OK, Janette. You’re just another Flamer, playing Kiddie games and trying to make people unhappy, because making people unhappy is “fun.” We’ll treat the general subject of Flaming in the next article in the series. But in the context of this story, you are silly and inconsequential, and I am now going to ignore you.

Except to say that as someone with a large Linked In network and a growing one on Twitter, every day I receive maybe a hundred mailings of various kinds from people with whom I’m connected. I like some of these mailings. I don’t like some others. Several fall into the category of articles and other publications. Some are newsletters. Others are new product or service announcements or out-and-out advertisements.

I click on the ones I want to read. I archive the ones I don’t want to read. I send a return message of Thanks, if it looks like I am expected to do so. I am never annoyed or upset receiving these mailings, because I allowed these connections to come into my Network, meaning they are cordial on-line acquaintances, and I want to hear about what they’re up to.

If at some point I find a connection annoying or upsetting, not to mention downright rude – remember Palance? – I remove him/her/it from my connections list, and that is that. This is what nice people do. This is what sane people do.

You’re Not Foie Gras, But You Sure Squawk Like Geese

Which brings us to the second incident this summer, a far more serious one, which goes to the very heart of the misuse of the term “spam” and demonstrates why we should all be concerned about it.

I honestly don’t know – nor particularly care – what Mz. Janette’s political leanings are. But I do know, from several people who are acquainted with him, that a young man I’ll call Chaz is a committed Leftist Democrat. He’s also the appointed manager of a large group for computer professionals at Linked In. I joined this Group because I’m an Internet publisher, but also because I’ve been seeking some interesting Boomer IT people as interviewees for my Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation series. (See )

As you undoubtedly know by now, Angriest Generation is already popular among Boomers, Centrists, and Republicans, but decidedly unpopular among a vocal cadre of mostly young people on the Far Left. Primarily, they dislike this series because I’m among the few to have called them out for spewing anti-Boomer propaganda.

Chaz refused to allow stories from Angriest Generation to make it into his Group’s News feed, even though this particular Group’s feed is generally a dozen pages long and includes many utterly hideous stories from the likes of shady SEO purveyors in Bangladesh and Taiwan.

The first time he deleted one of my stories from his feed, I complained to the Group’s owner and Customer Service. It was reinstated. The second time he did it, I complained again. Reinstated again.

But the third time he did it, Chaz decided to escalate the quarrel and reported me for “spamming” his News feed. I cannot tell you how shocked I was that he would stoop so low. I could have escalated this little tiff in turn and transformed it into a first-class vendetta. But I decided I was tired of Chaz’s shenanigans and simply left the Group.

I want you to ponder this incident for a couple of reasons. First of all, as in the case of a Network of connections above, a bona fide member of a social networking Group should always – that is always – have the right to post blogs or other publications of which he/she is the author or publisher without any restrictions whatsoever – except, perhaps, if they’re pornographic or in some other way universally offensive.

If you don’t want someone in your Group in the first place, by all means, you have the right to refuse them membership. But once they’re in the Group, a manager can’t arbitrarily refuse their right to post articles they’ve written, just because he doesn’t happen to like their subject matter or agree with their political bent.

Chaz’s behavior is offensive to other Group members, too. Is his Membership a gaggle of geese, who have to be protected from being force-fed material they might not like to read, turning their livers into a certain French delicacy? Most adults are capable of deciding for themselves what they want to read and clicking on it. Or deciding they don’t want to read it and not clicking on it. Personally, I have no interest in reading anything from the shady Bengali and Taiwanese SEO purveyors. Or for that matter the New York Times.

Hookers and Con Artists – Good! Bloggers – Evil!

But far worse than Chaz’s battle to shelter his Membership from exposure to us dread Republicans and others he considers politically incorrect is his daring to label our articles as “spam.”

This takes us to the heart of the matter: Publications are not “spam.” Never ever, ever, and ever.

In fact, nobody really thought of labeling any publication as “spam” up to a few months ago, as it became more and more apparent that Big Media was being forced to relinquish its absolute domination of the Internet to hordes of upstart bloggers and websites keen on garnering their own “eyeballs” and audiences, taking them away from the Official – in their own minds – Gatekeepers of the US Media.

The term “spam” was originally – and quite clearly – meant to apply to annoying, repetitive, and unsolicited Internet-based advertising – solicitations that want to persuade you to part with your money. “Here’s a Hot Stock Tip” is usually spam, as are “Buy Foreclosed Houses,” “Get 10,000 Twitter Followers,” and even “Eat at Joe’s Diner,” although I have nothing in particular against Joe.

But someone posting a link to their article, blog, free newsletter, or website, without desiring that you pay them any money to do so, is in no way “spamming.” They are offering information and attempting to build an audience, the same way the Wall Street Journal or CNN or is, when they post and disseminate their latest articles.

Oh, but those are “professionals,” you argue, while bloggers are in a different category. If you think that, I suggest you are reading the wrong blogs. There are many thousands of former or current high-volume print journalists who have their own blogs now. If you’re unfamiliar with my background, I have over 3,000 print articles to my credit over the past 30-odd years. Now I’m in the so-called Blogosphere, working to develop and increase an audience of my own. I like it, and so do many others.

But I also strongly defend the right of newer and less experienced writers and website owners to try to build a readership of their own through the exact same means more established media outlets, including a handful of now-institutionalized Big Blogs, do.

If the New York Times can aggressively post its stories on numerous Linked In Group News feeds, so can Carolyn’s style blog or Arthur’s blog on economics. If the Huffington Post can get staffers and friends to retweet pieces repeatedly on Twitter, so can Charlie’s senior care publication or Nancy’s small business-oriented website.

And if Mashable can strive for blogroll and pingback links from other blogs, John the orthopedist, Patty the homeschooling expert, and Lou who writes about horses can use these tactics, too.

Without fear of being called “spammers.”

Proof positive that the abuse and misuse of the term “spam” applied to Little Media has been calculated is the fact that the mostly young, mostly Far Left-leaning Twitterers and others who’ve been doing the complaining have completely neglected to make complaints about all the real no-doubt-about-it spammers in our midst.

There’s nary a mention of the various get-rich-quick marketing schemes touted constantly by the Trump Network and others. No complaints about barkers for tooth whiteners, gourmet coffee, organic pet food, or Cars Seized from Drug Dealers. Nor even the offensive-to-many pleas to buy male enhancement products or patronize Ladies of the Night.

But Jim or Jane may be harried and harassed by a battalion of “concerned youth,” if they dare to try to publicize their Right-of-Center political articles. “Spam, spam, spam,” some Kiddies now wail – but I don’t think they can get away with it much longer.

For one thing, the social media sites are becoming very wary of Kiddies with chips on their shoulders, since they’ve now been implicated in the Twitter and Facebook Denial-of-Service attacks and the Word Press worm scare in Europe and Asia.

For another, if social sites were persuaded to adopt the “Spam-means-non-Left-Little-Media” theories of MoveOn.Org and their ilk, it’s only a (short) matter of time before they’d start getting hit with some serious and costly lawsuits.

More intriguing, though, is whether any part of Big Media – maybe rogue PR outfits who believe they’re working on media clients’ behalf – are encouraging these youthful legions of “You’re Spamming” accusers or otherwise conspiring to get Little Media’s audience-building efforts unjustly labeled as “spam.”

Surely, we hope not. But one wonders.

What Do You Think?

Have you ever been accused of “spamming” while trying to publicize your blog or website?

If so, what was the outcome? How did you rebuff this accusation?

Do you believe there are sometimes political motivations and biases behind accusations of spam?

Is Big Media using the S-word in its efforts to hold onto Web dominance against the onslaught of Little Media sites?

How should the social networking sites, like Linked In and Twitter, change their spam policies to protect and promote their Little Media members?

For the Introduction to the Media Revolution series, see:

For “Flame, Set Match-Trounce Those Internet Flamers”

Media Revolution!

November 7, 2009

Thought-Provoking Articles on What’s Happening Now – And What’s About to Occur

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

The old rules no longer apply. The new rules haven’t been written. But out of chaos comes opportunity. Those of us with decades of experience should be leading, not following, in a media sector undergoing profound transformation.

I used the paragraph above to describe Media Revolution, the new Group I “own” and manage at Linked In, welcoming experienced journalists “to theorize, debate, and collaborate on how to navigate a sector in flux.”

I’ve decided to crystallize some of my ideas about what’s happening now – and what may happen as we go forward – in a series of articles exploring various aspects of the media sector’s transformation, specifically on the Internet.

For now, I’m publishing these stories as a subseries on my EllenInteractive blogsite. As the series develops, they may be relocated to their own site or become part of another media blog.

Much of what I write may be controversial, particularly to those with a stake in the status quo or to anyone who believes a change in current media sector “Gatekeepers” may decrease the influence of certain political groups or other elites which they support.

Others, I hope, will find my ideas helpful – and hopeful – in illustrating what seems to be amiss right now; what needs to be changed; and how the greater public of Internet users generally and those of us in “Little Media” specifically might work together to effect profound change in how information reaches our audiences and which information is “permitted” to reach them.

Because make no mistake, what’s happening right now is a major battle between so-called “Big Media” and its political and financial allies and all of us upstart publishers and entrepreneurs who have broken away from Big Media the past few years.

It is nothing less than an attempt to oust the Official Gatekeepers of this country’s media establishment from the extreme domination of viewership and influence they’ve enjoyed for the past two or three decades – an abnormal concentration of power, in American terms, which many think has paralleled a similar unhealthy maldistribution of wealth and influence in other sectors.

Interestingly enough, those with the clearest sense of such inequalities in Internet access and influence are two large groups you’d think would have plenty of both: Baby Boomers and the political Right (and Center-Right). I say this, because despite their size and collective financial clout, both of these groups have had to fight tooth and nail for Web viewership against the institutionalized biases of the major search engines and social media sites towards today’s Big Media, which tends overwhelmingly to skew to the Left of the political spectrum.

This is changing, though – perhaps rapidly changing. (Please see my hard-hitting story on these changes, Will Boomers – and the GOP – Save Twitter?

Is Big Brother Here? And Is He An Algorithm?

Both Boomer bloggers and website owners and those representing the political Right-of-Center have also reported widespread malware attacks on their ability to keep functioning on-line, putting them in the forefront of another media battleground – Internet safety.

Safety issues are now on everyone’s mind, however, after widely-publicized malware attacks on such major sites as Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, breeding widespread disgust for the costly and sometimes devastating damage wreaked by “Script Kiddie” hackers.

Although there is clearly some disagreement about whether or not organized groups of hackers have tacit – or even formal – ties to political entities, particularly those on the Far Left, there is no disagreement on one important point: Everyone concerned about political freedoms, especially Freedom of Speech, needs to support Internet safety and equal Internet access for everyone, even those with views considered other than “politically correct” by some.

Because even more than financial clout, the ability to control the media equals political power. And more and more, the source of such media control resides in the Internet.

One aspect of such control that many find particularly disturbing is that recent technological “advances” in autonomic computing and so-called botnets now allow for the establishment of Cyber-Gatekeepers which control the flow of Internet access and information.

These Cyber-Gatekeepers are often linked to Big Media or its affiliates, which implies some overt conflict-of-interest from the outset. But one wonders if even Big Media is prone to lose control of these Cyber-Gatekeepers at some point. Think of Dr. Frankenstein and his Monster.

It’s bad enough, say many, if the New York Times or Google or CNN or Fox News or Disney has excessive influence over what we hear, read, and discuss. But it’s worse if people are taken out of the equation and programs – maybe mathematical formulas – are allowed to take control of the public conversation on issues crucial to our economy, country – and world – going forward.

We’ll expand on this topic in future entries. But this series will begin with what seems a straightforward topic on which everyone can agree, controlling Internet “spam.”

Not so! I hope you will see that the topic of “spam” – what it actually is and who should have the power to control it – is anything but simple and straightforward. Indeed, it is actually quite complicated and quite controversial.

As are many other topics this series will highlight.

Please keep tuned. Because the Media Revolution has already begun.

For the first article in this series, “Accused of Spam? It May Well Have Been a Political Attack,” go to:

For “Flame, Set, Match-Trounce Those Internet Flamers”