A tempest in a blogspot

For nearly a month now, there’s been an uneasy truce with Israel. I’m talking Shel Israel and his feud with Loren Feldman over the sock puppet incident.

And now that the dust has settled, I think this is a good time to offer my (Canadian) two cents. To be transparent, I briefly met and corresponded with Shel Israel and quite like him, find him kind, smart and thoroughly enjoyed Naked Conversations. I have never met Loren Feldman, but I was entertained by him during one of the panel sessions at Mesh 2007 in Toronto.

First off I have a question: as with the current political situation, why is it always about Israel?

Second, a comment. It’s just a joke, folks. A tempest in a blogspot. I’ve watched the videos and have read some of Shel’s posts, as well as posts from people lining up on both sides and, quite frankly, I don’t understand what the fuss is all about.

There are certainly a lot more pressing issues in the world (one would hope).

(Though not for me, I guess.)

The thing is, the puppet is funny, albeit in a sick, edgy way. But isn’t that what satire is all about? Isn’t lampooning one of comedy’s great traditions? National Lampoon, Spy Magazine, Mad Magazine, Celebrity Roasts, Saturday Night Live and even Ed the Sock (a distant cousin to this joke perhaps?) are classic examples.

And isn’t imitation a form of flattery?

It didn’t take politicians long to learn that if they’re able to laugh at themselves, people will gain a bit more respect (tolerance?) for them. Look back (waaay back) to Richard Nixon’s Sockitome on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In or, more recently, Amy Poehler doing Hilary Clinton next to Hilary on SNL. (Sorry, I couldn’t find the videos, but if someone can, please let me know.)

So, what would I have done if the sock were on another foot and this happened to me?

I would both laugh at and embrace the joke. I’d ask the puppet for an interview (publicly; on my blog). I’d have a bit of fun with the situation (maybe make my own sock and issue a challenge for a sock hop or something like that). Become part of the routine.

But there’s certainly no point in getting all self-righteous about it. That only works to your detriment and portrays you as a sore loser. It also prolongs the agony. As communicators, we should know that.

Well, as the peace continues, I wonder if the sock may be looking for a new target.

If so, I’d like to say: I’m ready for my close-up, Loren.

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Wiki watch-out

I recently read about the Talk is Cheap social media ‘unconference’ for PR/communications practitioners, planned by Gary Schlee. It’s sounds like a great event, with the potential for lots of engaging face-to-face conversations. I’m looking forward to it.

The only thing is you need to sign up by Wiki.

Now in theory, I’m a fan of this application. I like the interactivity. I frequently refer to Wikipedia when I’m doing research. I wanted to learn more so I attended a Wiki session at the last Mesh conference. Unfortunately, as someone who has a limited knowledge of HTML, I found the presentation virtually incomprehensible.

I’m also a little perturbed that virtually anyone can rewrite a Wiki, sometimes making it better, though often making it worse.

Then there’s the matter of the way a Wiki records any changes that are made. So, for example, if you (or I) do go in there to add your (or my) deep thoughts to an entry and say, make a typo (or worse, a fairly substantial error) well, anyone who visits can find out it’s you.

That seems like an undue amount of pressure to be placed on an individual who just wants to sign up for an event. Who with no harm intended happens to screw up the registration list, realizes what he’s done, goes back to fix it, puts his name on the list, doesn’t realize it’s been removed, gets a couple of emails highlighting his innocent shenanigans for all and sundry who happened to sign up for updates, calls the organizer to apologize for the mess, explains that he did not intentionally take his name off the list and finally manages to get himself registered without disturbing the delicate balance.

OK, I admit it: that was me!

My point is, I think Wikis should have an administrator/editor (this can be a team) who vets any changes to said Wiki before making them public. To minimize dumb mistakes but keep the ideas flowing. I realize this will slow down the process. But hey, a little reflection never hurt anyone.

Anyway, I’m planning to attend Talk is Cheap. And if you see me there, I’d be happy to continue this conversation.

More Mesh

In today’s morning session at Mesh, Richard Edelman, of the eponymous agency, was intelligent, articulate and insightful.

And he offered a wonderful description of the PR practitioner’s role: advisor, conscience, connector to influencers, source of creative ideas.

By contrast, I was somewhat taken aback by Mike Arrington’s assertion yesterday (and I’m paraphrasing) that while he strives for credibility, sometimes he’ll write outrageous things to drive traffic to his site.

Sounds less like a trusted source and more like supermarket-tabloid journalism to me (with apologies to publications that make no bones about what they are).