Getting Educated on Twitter

14 May

With the evolution of social networking websites, popularity is no longer just a status reserved for evil teenagers. Success on the Internet is weighed by how many “followers” you have online or how many “likes” your photo gets. Popular networkers need more than just social skills to win the popularity contest on a website like Twitter; they need a social networking regime.

“Everyday I post at least one picture, one tweet-worthy quote, one relevant news article, and something about what I’m doing that day,” Matthew Olive, a 25 year old photographer, says. “It’s important to be sporadic with your postings”.

While mapping out a daily recipe for social networking may seem outlandish, it’s inherently become the norm for many young adults looking to make a name for themselves in the world- online and offline. With websites like Klout.com (an Internet “influence” tracker) on the rise, social networking online is becoming a craft and many young people are sensing more benefits in spending time developing these online networking skills.

Josh Wehle, a 21 year old photographer, has been a Twitter user since 2009 and considers himself a moderate user with 260 followers. Wehle closely edits the content that makes it to his Twitter page. Recalling an incident that illustrates his Twitter upkeep, Wehle recently removed a photo he posted on Twitter only two hours after posting it because it didn’t receive any feedback from his followers. Wehle says his photos normally get at least 5 replies within the first hour of posting. “I have a reputation to maintain,” Wehle says.

Wehle scrolls through his Twitter activity page on his iPhone. He sternly searches for a Twitter post he received the most feedback for and points to a TweetPic he posted. Twelve followers retweeted the picture and he remembers gaining at least fifteen followers that week. “That was a good week,” Wehle says.

Olive and Wehle exemplify the immense amount of young adults (particularly those persuing careers in media art) who rely heavily on social networking website popularity to establish a name for themselves.  Both Olive and Wehle have decided to pursue the arts sans a college degree. Instead of building a social network the way young adults their age have traditionally done through making friends with fellow classmates, Wehle and Olive post 140 characters a few times a day to reach out to their growing number of followers.

It may be too early in their careers to tell, but the emphasis on social network website presence has given Wehle enough optimism about his financial future to stick with the Twitter program. “Twitter doesn’t directly bring in money. But having my presence on websites like Twitter has led to me meeting people who will give me work, interviews, and press which in the end has led to me making money,” Wehle says.

While Wehle recalls finding work through his social network journey online, Olive hasn’t had the same luck. “All of my photography gigs have pretty much just come from good old real human interaction and meeting people and then giving them a card with the link to my personal website and my Twitter,” Olive says. 

Twitter can work in the reverse direction and lead directly to “good old human interaction” too. Lily Pollack, 20, is a musician who has also decided to invest her time in social networking online rather than pursuing a college degree. Pollack has 200 followers on Twitter and considers herself a moderate user of the site. “I’ve become friends with people I’ve met through Twitter.”

Every day before practicing her music, Pollack usually posts one picture of herself. After working on her music, she’ll write something “witty”. “Twitter is very much a battle of the wit. People want to read funny stuff. I get a little overwhelmed by that sometimes and will go a day or two until I actually have something funny to say,” Pollack says.

Pollack says that “staying personal” is more important than posting links to her music. She feels this is the way she’s gained real contacts.

While many young Internet users are gathering followers on Twitter, some question whether online followers translate to real life followers at all.

Dan Wender, 24, works as a music producer/nightlife events coordinator and barely touches his Twitter account. Wender also chose not to follow a traditional college route but prefers to spend more time offline than on. Wender spends much of his time in an office working as an events coordinator for a nightclub. The only Twitter updating he does is under the nightclub account.

Wender scrolls through the few people he does follow in Twitter which are mostly friends or DJ’s and party promoters. Most of his favorite DJs have over 1,000 followers. “A lot of the DJ’s I follow throw parties too and they have a huge following on the Internet.” Wender recalls going to many parties at nightclubs by popular Twitter DJ’s and finding that far fewer people attended those parties compared to his own nightlife parties.

When it comes right down to business, Wender’s experience with finances differs from Wehle’s. Wender says he’s hired DJ’s for his own parties with huge online network followings of more than 1,000 followers for free. “I would never play at  a party for free and I think I play just about as many gigs as some of the DJ’s with larger followings.”

While Wender tweets once in a while, Alexandra De La Vega, a 21 year old model, truly lies on the other end of the Twitter spectrum and doesn’t even own a personal Twitter account. De La Vega, who is also not in college, has been working as a social networking intern for Marc Jacobs for six months. Her main task at Marc Jacobs is to tweet.

“After a long day of tweeting, I have no interest in doing it for myself,” De La Vega says. “I’d rather go somewhere than tweeting that I’m going somewhere.”

After De La Vega’s internship is over, she plans to pursue a communications degree this Fall at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

DeVa Dog: Death Valley’s Devoted Ultra Light Backpacker

17 Apr

While a pool vacation in Miami sounds nice to some, Wayne Packer, 59, operations manager at Innovative Display and Design, chooses to spend his vacations backpacking across Death Valley National Park. Packer has adopted the ways of ultra light backpacking on his trips due to hot weather and complicated terrain.

Packer discovered his love for Death Valley when he was 17 years old. “I was hitch hiking across the country and I’d always wanted to see what Death Valley was like so I ended up there. I was only there for a few days”, Packer says. Despite the short visit, Packer fell in love with the beauty of Death Valley’s “openness” and returned again when he was 28 with his wife, Minna Packer, and son, Soren Packer, who was five at the time.

Packer realized that Death Valley couldn’t fully be explored with his family so he returned a few years later on his own for the first time since he was 17 years old. On this trip he realized lightweight backpacking was the best way to travel in Death Valley. “Desert hiking requires food and lots of water. You need to reduce the weight of everything else to make hikes easier so I decided to look to ultra light backpacking”, Packer says.

Before enduring an adventure in Death Valley’s harsh conditions, Packer did extensive research. He began his studying on light backpacking through the Internet and reading dozens of books on the topic. “I researched all the equipment, techniques on how to pack, how much water or food, what shoes to bring, things like that”, Packer says.

The first item Packer bought when planning his lightweight backpacking trip to Death Valley was the most essential- a scale. The Pesola brand gram measuring scale is a shiny long red tubular shaped object about 8 inches long with a small hook at the end where you hang the object you’re weighing. “It’s a science where every ounce of material that you pack reduces the amount of food and water you can take- from the hat on your head to the shoes on your feet”, Packer says.

Food and water are the most essential items in the desert. Packer packs his signature recipe for “gorp”, a nutrient rich trail mix, for all his trips to Death Valley. “The food has to be dehydrated. I haven’t dehydrated my own yet. You have to have highly concentrated protein foods like like nuts. Obviously you can’t take meat with you”, he says.

Packer never trains his body for the long, exhausting trips. “In a way, I train every day. I walk four miles to and from work. And I don’t eat junk. My diet mostly consists of fruit and fish”, Packer says.

Packer doesn’t drive so an essential part of his journey is hitch hiking. He hitch hikes whenever he needs to get to one part of the valley to another. “People tend to be very friendly when they see a backpacker on the road. They stop to ask if I’m ok or if I need water. People are more concerned with others in the desert because of the lack of water” Packer says.

When arriving at the airport in Las Vegas, a longtime friend named Gary picks Packer up to drive him the 250 miles to Death Valley. “I met Gary on a Death Valley forum called Death-Valley.net. I did think it was kind of crazy at the time but we spoke on the phone and he sounded alright. He likes taking pictures of Death Valley so it gave him a reason to go out there”, Packer says.

The desert is filled with untrustworthy creatures and critters like scorpions, coyotes, and tarantulas but the only creature Packer fears when in Death Valley are humans. “I only get scared when I hear humans in Death Valley. Humans are the most dangerous animal on earth. They’re unpredictable, violent, cunning, and smart predators”, he says.

Death Valley is a popular national park so to steer clear of humans, Packer tries to take off-trail routes. As a native New Yorker, Packer most appreciates the solitude that Death Valley offers. “I find Death Valley to be a spiritual place. It’s the silence, the solitude, the darkness at night”, Packer says.

“We’re in a time where we’re living in a stressful, busy, modern world. I appreciate the way Wayne’s been studying ways in which one can live off the land in Death Valley”, Minna, his wife, says.

“When you’re out there by yourself and it’s just you and the environment, you’re forced to confront the basic nature of yourself- your emotions, your fears, your reactions- and that leads to a real inner peace” Packer says.

Fate of Kony 2012 on the Rocks After Jason Russel Breakdown

20 Mar

Jason Russel, director of the viral video and movement “Kony 2012”, had a public nervous breakdown three days ago where he was seen banging on the street with his fists and masturbating. The Kony 2012 video lost steam last week after hitting over 80 million views in just two weeks, making it “the most viral video of all time”.

Detractors are now using the public breakdown to heap criticism on the viral video. “Russel is just getting money from idiot freshman college kids because these young people aren’t questioning where the money is actually going. Where is it going?”, Michael Patti, a cinematographer, said.

Since “Kony 2012” went viral, it has attracted both good and bad attention. The good attention, as Patti points out, is mainly from young audiences. Melanie La Rosa, a Film Studies professor at Hunter College, told her students during one of her documentary classes that “Kony 2012” is directed at even younger audiences, perhaps even younger than high school aged kids.

“It just shows you how much society looks for viral videos and celebrities instead of the real issue at hand. It’s slacktivism. Anyone can click a button and feel like they’re getting this guy” Beto Cravioto, a music producer, said. But the supposed goal provided by the “Kony 2012” movement is not just to click a button. The video asks that the viewer become involved in “making Joseph Kony famous” by commencing on April 20, 2012.

On April 20, Russel suggests that “Kony 2012” supporters hit the streets and stick posters with the “Kony 2012” logo around their neighborhood in order to spread the word. With Russel’s well publicized breakdown, it’s unclear with whether supporters of the video will still be participating in the April 20 event.

Despite the groundbreaking number of hits the video has received, many people still have not seen or even heard of “Kony 2012”. “I was deterred from the video for the sole reason that it was widespread. The media has given so many mixed messages about the legitimacy of the video that I just decided to stay away”, Jewelery designer, Sofia Ramsay, said.

Only time will tell whether Russel’s recent outbreak will effect the April 20 event but as long as the video continues to circulate, there is a chance that Russel’s proposal will be granted.

“I care, I just have gotten around to seeing it yet”, Casey Sincic, a writer, said.

Kickstarter: The Future of Fundraising

12 Mar

Just as smart phones have replaced the pen and paper or Facebook has replaced face to face conversation, the game changing website Kickstarter.com has replaced the old school fundraiser one would attend at a neighbors home.

Last Thursday, the Art Program Director and Manager of Curated Pages for Kickstarter, Stephanie Pereira, lead an event discussing what Kickstarter is and why startup companies seriously need to use it.

The event was held at a multi-disciplinary workspace/arts education center called 3rd Ward in Brooklyn, NY. The event met it’s audience capacity well before it began and eager audience members opted to stand at the back of the room for the entirety of the two hour event when there were no more seats. Thirty minutes after the event was supposed to begin, Stephanie Pereira, a young woman who matched the mostly 20-something demographic of the audience, walked on to the stage and gave a short presentation about what Kickstarter is.

A panelist discussion between Pereira and three successful Kickstarter project owners followed. The three projects were Loomi (Josh Hartung; David Sosnow), The Present (Scott Thrift), and Brooklyn Tailors (Brenna Lewis).

Loomi is a “crafty little light”, inspired by an original 1970’s swedish light design. Loomi’s pledged goal was $9,000 and it met it’s goal at $34,123. “90 percent of projects succeed in reaching their goal after they reach the 30 percent mark” Pereira said. She also said that a huge element of projects meeting more than their pledged goal is when projects include a well executed video of their project. Projects with videos also have a chance to be featured on Kickstarter’s home page. “Projects become featured by not only having a great project idea, but also having a great video”, Pereira said. Brooklyn Tailors didn’t have a video and Lewis said she “definitely would have made a video if given the chance [to do Kickstarter again]”.

The Present, an annual clock that tells time in seasons, met its goal and made an extra $73,567 on top of the $24,000 that was pledged. When asked what Thrift of The Present did with the extra money he made on Kickstarter, he said there is no extra money. “Even with the ‘extra money’ on my Kickstarter, I’m still paying far more for The Present out of my own pocket than you could imagine. There is never extra. It all goes to your project”, Thrift said.

Brooklyn Tailors, a clothing company and tailor duo run by Lewis and her husband, realized their marketing potential in Kickstarter to market their product when they realized that they were approaching their deadline and weren’t funded yet. Brooklyn Tailors goal was to create their first collection of clothing and their pledged goal was $8,500. After making their Kickstarter, they told their friends about it and hoped for the best. “We didn’t want to sound desperate”, Lewis said. When there were just two weeks left and Brooklyn Tailors was no where near meeting their pledged goal, they forgot about sounding desperate and emailed friends, clients, friends of friends, and more. Even if some people didn’t invest in the project, they found out about it through Lewis’ Kickstarter website and became potential clients, giving Brooklyn Tailors its first dose of .

Kickstarter is a platform for aspiring projects to get fundraising through setting a deadline and spreading the word, much like a traditional fundraiser sans the open bar. But instead of giving money to a project that may or may not become successful- you invest your money and receive an award from the project owner if the project meets it’s pledged amount. For example, Brooklyn Tailors gave a Brooklyn Tailors shirt to those who pledged $130. “I think people feel highly involved in your project when they invest a little money”, said Sosnow of Loomi.

Despite the ease of raising money online, Kickstarter certainly doesn’t take the work out of fundraising. “There’s nothing more exciting than opening an email saying someone has invested money in something you’re passionate about”, Thrift said.

Hoboken Debates St. Patrick’s Day

21 Feb

On February 15, the City Council of Hoboken assembled for it’s bi-weekly Wednesday meeting where the resolution regarding the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day garnered most attention from the public.

These days, the city of Hoboken is known for trivial media such as the TV Show, Cake Boss, or the rejection of Jersey Shore’s Snooki and Jwoww. Despite the recent reputation, Hobokenites pride themselves on calling Sinatra’s birthplace home and On the Waterfront, a classic film which takes place in Hoboken. It’s difficult to remember these notable events when one day seems to haunt the city every year and discredit Hoboken’s reputation- St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day has always featured a raucous parade that forced children and seniors to stay at home due to extreme levels of intoxication among the yuppie parade goers. The bars were full by 8am and the street party would go until well past 8pm. Last year, mayor of Hoboken Dawn Zimmer, decided to officially end the parade tradition by placing the parade on a weekday in an attempt to change the parade goers attitudes. Despite the absence of the parade, St. Patrick’s Day still caused a major mess among Hoboken streets last year. The city council members searched for another solution to the ongoing problem during the February 15 city council meeting with official bar opening times leading the topic of discussion.

Two possible hours, 6AM or 11AM, were debated among the public and council members regarding the official opening time of bars in Hoboken this year for St. Patrick’s Day. Closing remarks from Roman Brice, local blogger for The Mile Square View, when he spoke at the mic ended with an applause from the public. “6am on that Saturday March 3rd? No way!” Like Roman Brice, many believe bars opening at 11AM instead of 6AM is a possible solution to escape the mess that Hoboken faces on St. Patrick’s Day.

Eugene Flinn, owner of Hoboken restaurant, Elysian Cafe, made an honest speech in an attempt to represent the enormous restaurant and bar industry at the meeting. He explained that the bars in Hoboken were willing to open at 11AM to resolve the mischief that occurs on St. Patrick’s Day without a need for the proposed opening time to become an ordinance. “We go through a tremendous amount of work to protect Hoboken… We don’t want a crazy day”. The public applauded after his closing statement, “We are willing to work with the city and open at 11AM. The public has listened to the council bicker about whether or not this should be a resolution [for over an hour]. I recommend we do not vote on this resolution. This doesn’t need to be a resolution!” The council members were in approval of this notion but some still believe the problem lays not within the opening time of bars but in the smaller scale issues.

Tim Occhipinti, another city council member, introduced a new idea, “A real question is whether or not we are getting Porta-Johns on every street. That’s something that needs to be addressed. We know it’s not the parade and we know it’s not the bars. I don’t think the bars should have to open later. It’s the households. I think we could bring back the parade”. While Occhipinti’s suggestion that the parade be revived next year did not become topic worthy, he geared the debate in a new direction- house parties need to be controlled.

Elizabeth Mason, a city council member who also ran against Dawn Zimmer in the last mayoral election, backed Occhipinti’s general idea. “The house parties, which actually start on Friday night, start long before 11am. They’re coming off the path trains carrying beer cases and they’re sleeping on the streets… The real issues are clearly the house parties”, Mason said. Although Mason further established that house parties are the real issue, she gave no suggestion on how to approach the solution.

Michael Russo, city council member, ended the debate in the March 3rd resolution with an inquiry that sums up the new task at hand- “6am or 11am- whenever the bars open, I’d like to know what we’re doing to curtail the house parties”.