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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Still A Trifle At The Track

The role of Twitter in facilitating communication in Iran has been widely reported. As Matthew Shaer notes on the Christian Science Monitor's Horizons Blog: "These are heady days for Twitter, a social network once derided as trifling, banal, inconsequential."

You can count me amongst those who still think of Twitter just that way (while acknowledging its increasing prominence and occasional usefulness). I've felt that way ever since I first heard of it (which I'm pretty sure was from Jessica Chapel, who has been tweeting about racing as long as anyone @raceday360). Nonetheless, even though a backlash of sorts has arisen to claim that the service's importance in Iran is overrated, there seems little doubt that Twitter has served to mobilize and energize the protesters; enough so that the State Department saw fit to directly request that a maintenance shutdown be delayed.

But while acknowledging its profound role (and not only in Iran), I loved the quote in the The New York Times by Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain, who, noting the ease with which tweets spread worldwide, said “The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what make it so powerful.”

OK, I won't go so far as to echo the inane part - I think that trifling, banal, inconsequential is more in line with how I feel about it, and more respectful towards those of you who dig it. It's just not my thing; I have no real need nor desire to experience the world, racing or otherwise, in real time. I don't think I've ever seen any racing-related tweets that couldn't wait (if not be done without altogether).

I also don't understand the idea, which I've seen suggested, that people could tweet from the paddock if they see something worthwhile. And now there's a Twitter group devoted to reporting bridgejumping pools. Now, us horseplayers are usually more than happy to freely share ideas and general strategies. But let's face it, as the minutes count down to post time, we're all involved in a cutthroat competition with each other for the money on the table. So, if I'm playing some obscure harness track and see the show money pouring in on a two-year old trotter with a penchant for going off-stride, why would I want to spread the word? As one poster on the bridgejumping forum wrote: If Barack Obama can twitter a stadium full of voters during an election campaign, this group can easily twitter a minus pool into just another bad show bet. I mean, I might call a couple of friends on an old-fashioned cellphone, but that's about it. And as much as I truly do love you guys, if I'm standing at the paddock and a 10-1 shot personally gives me the hi sign, I'm sure as fuck not going out of my way to clue the rest of the world in. No offense!


Anonymous said...

Bridgejump tweets probably have some relationship to racetracks or ADW's, the one's taking the risk with the jumpers. I never knew until recently that the establishment that takes the bet must make up the difference in a negative pool, not the host facility. Encouraging us to bet into the negative pool can only help some of the imbalance.

onecalicocat said...

The person who I consider the most interesting and insightful of all of my friends and associates does not own a computer and has never been on the Internet.
What he does is spend a lot of time (and his considerable intelligence) reading and thinking.
If he were to suggest a horse to me I would bet it without question.
Personally, I have to use the computer and Internet a great deal in my job. Much of what's available online is very valuable (including this blog) but I find a lot of the commentary somewhat equivalent to the sub-prime mortgage market.
People with no qualifications, no accountability and no documentation are disseminating a lot of opinions that range from informed to absurd. Everyone has a voice -- very democratic but also leading us to the lowest common denominator.
If I am fortunate enough to leave the work-a-day world, I will be happy to give up all the "toys" of modern society and just have good conversations with intelligent people.
And I hate the names they give to some horses these days -- "Uphill Paper Route." Not a name for a living being.

o_crunk said...

You're starting to sound like someone who continues to rationalize why you're not jumping on the twitter bandwagon all the while sounding like someone who secretly wants to give it a shot based on the simple fact you continue deride something you haven't even tried.

The funniest thing about those drinking the twitter hatorade is that they have no idea what they're hating because there's no website to go to that shows them what they're missing if they signed up and followed some people/groups that interest them.

And maybe you can engage in some of the hatorade that's been directed at your blog recently? Or maybe not?

I throw a tweet from the paddock now and then myself actually. Mostly just pictures of horses and beer and the occasional play if the spirit moves me. While I agree with you generally about sharing bridgejump or paddock dope, the number of people following in real time is probably going to be small. For instance if I post a bridgejump alert, it's likely my 150+ followers aren't all eagerly waiting for my word and even if they do see it in real time, they're not all eagerly waiting to play.

Alan Mann said...

crunk: Fair enough, but I can assure you that I have no desire whatsoever to jump on the bandwagon; if I did, I would have already done so. I'd be a fool however to pretend it doesn't exist, and to deny its growing influence (even if I think that 98% of it is banal). And I'm on the TBA page often enough to check out the Twitter tab from time to time and I've yet to find anything that keeps me coming back (no offense to you personally).

I'm also of the belief that people are depriving themselves of fully experiencing the moment because they're too busy obsessing over tweeting. And I feel kinda bad for them; they'll regret that in years to come.

And as far as the "hatorade" directed at me, thanks for pointing that out. That actually illustrates one of the criticisms being directed at the mainstream press for relying on Twitter for their news from Iran - the fact that the sources are unverified, and the veracity of the information unknown and, in some cases, unchallenged. What I wrote was (with respect to Dunkirk running in the Belmont): Given the concern I expressed for Rachel Alexandra and the way I questioned the motives of her connections and accused them of being reckless, maybe I should have [done the same regarding Dunkirk's connections].

Now, how does that translate to: Left At Gate Blog Still Questions Rachel Alexandra's Motives For Running In The Preakness Stakes...Accuses Jess Jackson Of Being Reckless If anything, I was being contrite and accusing myself of having a double standard. But any moron like this guy can twist my words, put it out on a tweet, and people take it as a fact.

Unknown said...

All this Twitter backlash (here and elsewhere) reminds me of the music industry in the late 1990s.

"Who would want to listen to music on an iPod?!! People want CDs"

"Why would people want to download music instead of going to a store."


If it's not for you, that's cool. I don't do Facebook but understand the power of it and have helped my employer utilize it for business.

Do you really not understand why racetracks would not want someone in the paddock sharing insights and giving out possible wagering situations?

I'll give you a hint: tracks make money when people bet on their races.

Alan Mann said...

>>"Who would want to listen to music on an iPod?!! People want CDs"

Hell, I was still holding out for vinyl at that point! :)

I think you misread....not questioning why a racetrack would want someone twittering from the paddock. Just wondering why a private citizen such as yourself would want to let the betting public in on something that you might pick up on that makes you want to race to the windows.

malcer said...

Good points both by Alan and o_crunk about this topic.

Personally, I'm leaning in Alan's direction. I see the benefit of passing along short bits of fact (such as "RA to Mother Goose next"), but I could have waited another two hours to see that info with a bit of context. Otherwise, it's funny that those three-second distractions often strike me as a worse waste of time than a long article.

As to the example: factual errors and misrepresentations can be found in every single form of media (just so happens that people are more aware of it in amateur-written content), but the really bad thing is that this tweet is a small, thoroughly useless piece of badmouthing that doesn't even bother to link to the article in question. No context, no actual argument, no point, no such considerations as notifying the person you attack.

Even if Alan would have followed twitter and read this, what worthwhile response could he have written for his "followers". "Read again, idiot"? Hardly worth the time, not even the three seconds it would cost his readership.

dana said...

Sounds to me like everyone has valid points here and it's just a matter of preference. For example, I'm willing to scan multiple tweets of banal crap for the "breaking news"-ish items and/or what I'll refer to as "local color". For example, when Jessica was at Saratoga last year & would tweet from the backstretch in the morning, I thoroughly enjoyed the little tidbits as escapism from the day job.

Could this stuff wait? Sure, but I can also follow-up on "breaking news" later... I welcome this change and for the most part find it useful and enjoyable.

My usage is much different when I play from home vs at the track. At home, I'm sitting in front of my workstation with a bunch of windows open, twitter being one of them, so it's somewhat seamlessly integrated into what I'm already doing.

Admittedly I'm somewhat judicious about what I tweet but am not foolish enough to think that I'm finding excellent angles that I wouldn't want to share with my 150+ followers (i.e., not a lot). Conversely, sometimes it's bragging rights to have called it before the race goes off. I think of it as hanging out with like minded players and not that much different than being with pals at the track.

On the other hand, at the track I tend to ignore my phone all together whether it's an incoming call, txt or twitter. I don't think it has to be one or other.

Jessica said...

Thanks for the links. It's true, I'm a Twitter fan, but -- I hope -- not a thoughtless one. I think of tweeting as another way to share info and quick observations and interesting conversation, a supplement to blogging or broadcasting elsewhere. It has its uses and limitations, like any other medium.

The_Knight_Sky said...

Interesting viewpoints from both sides. Tweeting or not depends on who you really are in the racing industry (or better yet, who you want to become).

I've refrained from this newfangled idea, quite simply because it does not make sense for me an individual. I'm not a reporter nor do I have any pretense of being one. I also value the peace and quiet away from technological gadgetry society has immersed itself in.
Serious handicapping and wagering requires it.

I know what I do and why I do it.
And none of that involves being "social" with fellow horse racing fans. For that I have accounts on horse racing forums, an e-mail address plastered on my page as well as a cell-phone for track news emergencies. And I've yet to come across "emergencies" in my 20+ years at the track.

All in all some good angles in this post, but in the end we must do what works for us as individuals and not burden ourselves with yet another new technical gadgetry.