UPDATE, 5/11 – Thanks for the visits. Sadly, comments on this post are bollixed. I can only add them via my dashboard. Who the hell knows why, maybe Botta has hackers on payroll or something.* Please click here if you’ve got something to say – I actually AM interested!
* No, of course he doesn’t.
Twitter is a reality unto itself.
Dip into anyone’s follow list, and you’re likely to see a decent variety of folks. To take a for-instance, my follow list holds a few political bloggers, a few humorists, more than a few hockey writers, and many of my blogfriends.
Does this mean that I have a wide cross-section of cultural, political, and social thought in the timeline? That’s a entirely different kind of question, altogether.
With only sixty people on my follow list, I’m not going to get too much depth and breadth of human thought on any topic. But I don’t think it’s necessarily limited, inasmuch as I follow people for all sorts of different reasons. When the hockey folk retweet, for example, I’m likely to get links to all sorts of things I disagree with. Well, I read them, and think about them. Other people more inclined to advocacy of any kind sometimes tweet things they disagree with themselves, or a link to their own rebuttal (leading one to check what the original said). And half my follows couldn’t give a rat’s rumpus about hockey or whatnot.
In the end, I think I get a reasonable variety; no more or less than if I hung out all day at Starbucks. (But if I was on Twitter that whole time… hmmmmmmm…….)
This calculus changes when you get to those who follow you, however, and that’s the topic of this post.
I have even fewer followers than follows, being of little public import: a mere forty folks trail in my digital wake, not including the traffic here at the Hive (and that can hardly goose the numbers all that much). A good number of those are people “returning the favor” – they follow me and vice-versa. We chat n’ stuff. ‘S’fun. I’d guess that most of the difference between my follow list and my own followers are the heavy hitters, the folks who write or do other public things for a living. If they followed everyone who followed them, their digital lives would be terribly unmanageable.
One of the hitters is long-time Islanders PR exce-turned-hockey writer, Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL). He was one of my first follows, as a source of NHL and Isles news. He originated the Islanders Point Blank blog, and quickly made it a must-visit for any Isles fan. But his relationship with his former employer has degraded over the years. The team initially sponsored IPB; then Botta took it independent (I think it was a mutual decision); but about eighteen months ago the team pulled his media credentials and denied him access to the pressbox.
It was a huge plastic hassle. The local hockey sportswriters boycotted the NHL Awards voting last season in protest, which probably hurt Islanders winger Michael Grabner’s chances at the Calder Award. Botta has since been hired by the New York Times.* And ever since then, Botta has had an increasingly-contentious relationship with many Isles fans. Plenty of NHL news comes through his Twitter feed, including Isles news… and often it includes some snark about the club. Not that some of it isn’t warranted – heaven knows I snark them sometimes as well – but it got to the point where it seemed solely for the purposes of continuing a grudge. Sometimes the snark came in items that had nothing to do at all with the Islanders. Many peole who were quite sympathetic to Botta’s loss of creds began to think that the Islanders might have had a reason to doing it.
* This is an important point. At the time Botta’s creds were yanked, he worked for AOL Fanhouse (since defunct), and did podcasting for SNY. The hue and cry over how well-established he was (and how dare the “laughingstock” Isles pull his creds!) was somewhat disingenious. The truth is, he had a huge leg up from having been in an NHL front office for 20 years, and said franchise financially supported him at the outset and helped launch his second career. Obviously he wanted to be his own man, and I further get that the Isles have been quite paranoid about granting access when the journalists in question write critically. But well-established? Where, exactly?
There were a couple of times where it got bad enough that I tweeted replies or defenses. In such cases it’s usually considered proper netiquette to include the person on the critique. This gives them an opportunity to reply if they choose. It also gives them the option of blocking you, of course, and that’s what happened to me. This means that I am unable to see any tweet of Botta’s in any way shape or form. In fact, I haven’t even seen any retweets from people whom I do follow, and who follow him. I’ve had my creds pulled.
Incidentally, this isn’t new behavior. Botta policed the IPB comboxes with an iron hand, and comments critical to his position were often never published. It became a running joke among fans: “I’m in moderation!” Before Botta was banished from the Nassau Coliseum pressbox, he wrote this on IPB:
To the readers who think my post from last night was some sort of hissy fit because Garth Snow turned down an interview request, I would like to respectfully recommend that you might want to turn elsewhere for your Islanders reading. To the best of my knowledge, my column about the Islanders’ failure to improve their offensive attack only had accurate facts and statistical information.
(emphasis mine, and stick-tap to my LHH colleague Keith Quinn on this one. He wrote a good timeline of these events for LHH, if I do say so myself)
Shortly afterward, he unloaded a doozy of an accusation against the Isles regarding their dismissal of former analyst Bill Jaffe:
…for reasons I can assure you were not monumental or unforgivable but instead of paranoia, insecurity and a pathetic desire to control, the Islanders decided they didn’t want Jaffe around anymore and ripped up his agreed-to multi-year contract with MSG Network.
That last post was written one week before the Isles cut Botta out.
Now, any blog author naturally has the right to police his comment threads. We do it at LHH, of necessity. Should I start getting dozens of comments in every post, I’d have to do it here as well. Being blocked from seeing anything the man tweets is a step farther – it’s gone from being unable to reply, to being unable to have anything to even reply to. And for a reporter, whose stock in trade is passing along information, it seems strange or even self-defeating. You mean that anyone who disagrees isn’t allowed to see a link to an article he wrote? Even on the rare occasions that we ban someone from Lighthouse Hockey, they can still visit and read everything – they just aren’t allowed to post comments.
Nothing’s that clear-cut, though. There’s another annoying thing about Twitter feeds - immediate trolling. A guy with over 18,000 followers (as Botta had at one time) can be quickly snowed under by a week’s worth of variations on ”that sux you suck go die in a volcano.” Nobody should have to put up with that sort of thing. The question I’m struggling with is, where’s the happy medium?
Does simply banning ALL criticism make one into the same thing one was so mad about? Is it healthy to create an echo chamber where nothing disagreeable can be heard, and one only gets what one chooses? Some of the best things in my life happened because someone dealt sternly with me, and I forced myself to listen, and found something useful. And in doing this I learned the difference between useful critique and gratuitous insult. I also learned that critique is rarely seen in pure form outside the lab – so there are occasions to sift through the muck to find the nugget of useful material.
I’m willing to admit, I don’t meet the standard myself. Brushstrokes get awfully broad and sloppy when you’re rushing the job, and there are times when the legit criticism is an excuse to indulge in some great lines. Does it invalidate the point? And if it does, then does Botta have a beef with the Isles when he does exactly what he says they do?