When I think back on all the blog-able stuff I didn’t actually blog about because time was not my friend, it feels like an actual heavy weight. For instance, I wanted to write about the NBA Finals because Dirk Nowitzki won a title, which I kind of wanted, and I might have plugged my Power Forward book which has a great picture of Dirk scoring over Dwyane Wade. Of course, if the Heat had won, I probably would have talked about my forthcoming book on Dwyane Wade, and how I talk about how the Heat were now poised for multiple championship runs, barring injuries.
Of course, the finals seem so long ago, so why bother bringing it up now. So I won’t. *cough*
But while I am on ego-building mode (always important when I’m not actually actively writing a book and waiting to get contracted for another one), I want to go back in time to April of 2009. That month I was the guest keynote speaker and presenter at a young writer’s conference held at Wayne State College in Nebraska. The keynote address that I gave to the high schoolers was called “How Your Generation Will Save the English Language.” In it, I talked about how, for my generation, the onset of word processing destroyed the typewriter, but also nearly destroyed economy of language. With the ease of on-screen editing, writers were free to unleash pages and pages of schlock, which sometimes got edited down before being unleashed on the public and sometimes seemed like it didn’t. Self-publishing multiplied the cacophony.
At the time, I indicated that the trend of social networking, including texting and Facebook, had as one of its features a character limit on posts. For some texters, this wasn’t a problem (“How R U? LOL!”). But for wordier people, writers, it forced a very early edit and made one think about what what the heart of the message, or status update, would be. Nearly everyone in attendance had heard of Facebook, if they weren’t already using it. Then I asked how many people used or had heard of Twitter.
About five percent.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “You will.”
I cited Twitter as a specific example as the communication tool of the future that would force people to refine and pare down their message to the core idea. At the moment, I feel like for me, Twitter has become exactly what I wanted it to be — news, social commentary, and philosophy locked in at 140 characters and manifested not as sound bites, but as thoughtful snippets. Obviously there are advertising companies and PR people who have completely missed this point and border on SPAM factories, but that vibe is still present in Twitter, which has become the digital equivalent of my modern newspaper, a mixing of all my interests weighted and selected by me in who I choose to “follow.”
It seems the University of Iowa agrees with me.
In lieu of the droll, practiced, identical-sounding entrance essays and scholarship applications that colleges have become accustomed to, the University of Iowa is offering some big-time scholarships to students who can effectively explain why the student should have that scholarship in a single, well-constructed tweet. It will challenge their creativity as well as their communication skills and unlike some of the detractors in the article, I heartily endorse it.
Interested in seeing what people come up with? Track the MBA feed and look for entries. We’ll see if I was right all along.