September 9, 2008 by Colin
Let me begin by drawing an analogy: this will prove you and I have a common cultural frame of reference that allows me to effectively explain a contemporary but minor development in the evolution of social media in a manner that you will understand and find appealing.
This cultural frame usually revolves around one of three axes:
- 80s movies or music (of which John Hughes and New Wave are subsets)
- A citation from one of: Office Space, Glengarry Glen Ross, or the Judd Apatow oeuvre
- A reference to a similarly obscure yet momentarily popular applications from either 2005 or 2000.
Now that we have a shared understanding, I will support my argument by making a tenuous link to social theory, literary criticism, existential philosophers or post-modern artists. This will reassure you that I can move beyond simple analogy and am capable of applying cognitive frameworks to the issue under consideration.
If I’m unsure of my interpretation, I will link to a Wikipedia article or mention that I last studied the point in university.
At this point, I will need to tie my budding argument into a contemporary narrative. After all, you the reader needs right here, right now to keep on reading. This means one of two things: a link to a more prominent blog that has already staked out ground and an opinion on the issue, or a direct citation from a report in a mass media publication.
Unless I’m an economist, you will never see me link to a more considered examination of the issue in an academic journal. This is largely because academic journals are long and hard to read, but can also be explained by the firewalls that keep me from reaching subscription-only material.
Anyway – back to the contemporary narrative. If I have bounced onto this issue from an MSM report, I will take issue with the reporting. There is no value to me, my reputation as a capable strategist and thoughtful person or my employer in reaffirming the work of a more informed and professional reporter.
If I’m deriving inspiration from another blogger’s insight, I will take one of two tacks: I will be 87% in agreement, or I will cockblock their argument. In either circumstance, I will be demonstrating that I am, in no way, a dogsbody or a yes man. I am a man of ideas, a man of thought, a man to be considered a thoughtful and capable strategist.
Having established that I am well informed, educated enough to draw historic comparisons and critical enough to avoid parrotting the work of others, I will present a thesis for why the issue under consideration has arrived at this point. This thesis will draw upon three things:
- my experience, however limited, with a particular technology still in alpha
- my conversations with other strategists and gurus
- trends derived from online analytical apps
This thesis will present a forward-looking statement that is sufficiently vague that I will not get in trouble with the SEC nor anyone who decides to conduct a semi-annual retrospective evaluation of my predictions and assessments.
IT WILL, however, claim that the issue under consideration will have significant impact on the future prospects of a) the public relations industry b) publicly traded consumer goods companies c) the future of one politician in particular or d) the advertising industry.
Now, as a capable strategist, I will take a moment to point out that others have taken issue with the position I am currently arguing. I will reference a high profile blog, even if I have to dig deep into the comments to find a point contrary to my own.
I will then hurredly summarize my position, for a variety of reasons:
- it’s a wobbly house of cards, truly understandable only when read on a smart phone in traffic
- I cannnot extend the argument without revealing that it was lifted directly from Wired and the Economist
- if I stretch the logic of my main thesis much farther, it will disintegrate like a stick of chewing gum from a pack of 1983 O-Pee-Chee’s
- the Lavalife commercial just came on tv.
Having established my bona fides with my insightful and prescient thinkpiece, I will tend to the comment fields like a Chinese democracy activist who had the temerity to actually apply for a protest permit during the Olympics.
There, people of a similar mind will be in 87% agreement, or will cockblock me. Or, if they’re Amanda Chapel, they will actually make constructive comments that point out the holes in my argument and question my ability to wield a keyboard without significant instruction.