@ebrownie I’m on a train and missing the whole thing. I expect you to keep me updated for karmic extra credit.
— Michael Humphrey (@mlhumph3) March 3, 2014
The wifi-less train wound slowly through the Colorado Front Range, my 3 and 4G flickering with bits of information sporadically. By the time I got into the station (2 hours late, but that’s cool, because you don’t take a train to be on time), the show was more than halfway finished. And still, based on Twitter and (a few checks of the really nice Google update if you simply searched Oscars) it was possible — and not a little bit strange — to follow along. I have written a lot about Social TV, but I never fully experienced the Social without the TV. Here are my reflections (sans a ton of embeeded Tweets, you know where to find those) about the experience:
At some point, you have to use #Oscars.
I’m not one of those prissy light followers on Twitter. I’ve built a list of friends, follow-backs, people I admire and learn from, publications and a few other businesses, that reaches over 900 accounts. So when I looked at my own stream, there were plenty of Oscar updates.
But two problems emerged: 1) It got impressionistic at times. Suddenly a wave of commentary (“What was that!”) would crash without any context. 2) People I follow were actually tweeting about other matters than the Oscars. (I know!). The first problem usually solved itself with lagging tweets that were more descriptive. The second was like somebody talking during an Oscar party about a completely different topic, kind of like drunk people.
So I hit #Oscars and went down the Tweep Hole.
#Oscars was a hilarious, depressing, gross and self-correcting place.
This was totally my fault. Twitter tried to curate the feed through “Top Tweets,” but I instinctively clicked on “All Tweets” under #Oscars and I suddenly found myself in the strangest bar in the world. Mixing together were the most sincere with the most snarky, the uplifting and the heinous, the describers with the shouters.
So let’s talk Kim Novak. I haven’t seen any video, on purpose, to give a purely Twitter version of her appearance with Matthew McConaughey. It wasn’t pretty — and I’m don’t mean her face, but apparently many people did. The vitriol was non-stop for several minutes. But then something strange happened. All the sudden my feed was balanced with defenders — someone mentioned she just turned 81, another highlighted her notable achievements and then some just textually beat back the men, women and brands who were making fun of a legend.
Suddenly, on to the next thing. Turns out 14 million Tweets wasn’t the answer for me. I best liked my community’s tweets and retweets, so I went to “Refine Results” > “People” > “People you follow.” Done.
Brands that promote links in real-time streams are making a mistake.
I almost unfollowed you last night, notable newsweekly’s Twitter account, because you kept using #Oscars as a way to drive traffic to your website. If it didn’t add something very worthwhile, why am I am going to leave this live stream to see your page? And because you likely offer no real information, except a teaser, you were gumming up the works.
Maybe this doesn’t matter as much during actual Social TV sessions, but only because I probably already understand the reference and would still not click-through. Maybe you get millions of pageviews from it, but it’s almost analogous to trolling on daily trending hashtags and in comment sections where in the middle of a debate someone interjects, “I just learned how to make $20,000 a month without leaving my bedroom … [link].”
I had no problems with brands adding their voices to the conversation. Some were even helpful, because they tended to be more descriptive of events. But being part of the conversation, and adding value to it, is enough promotion in its own right.
Ellen Degeneres seems to have solved The Oscars’ social media problem.
It’s true The Oscars haven’t matched up with other award shows, most notably music, but the James Franco weirdness and the Seth McFarlane thing, both concocted for digital amplification, didn’t help. Ellen did.
While there was plenty of criticism on my stream, Ellen shined through as the “New Carson” (which is a mighty high compliment) and perhaps the next Billy Crystal, meaning, just get her do this thing for a long run. She did, after all, break Twitter with mother of all selfies and apparently ordered pizza with Pherrell’s hat or something. We’ll see soon if it worked, but from my seat it was a better try.
Women were the story this year, at least on my feed.
Twitter’s blog post today is all about famous people tweeting, which has always been core to its adoption strategy. But it wasn’t celebrities that made my Twitter ad hoc experiment work. It was a mix of journalists, fans and brands that stitched the experience together for me. So I will end with the student I asked to help. She may not have gone AP-newsfeed on her updates, but Erin Browne, a music and culture blogger in New York, was funny and insightful in augmenting the more descriptive commentary. She also captured a spirit of the Oscars that emerged, at least from my Twitter feed: Women are more than eye-candy for the red carpet or the silver screen. From Ellen’s lauded work to Kim Novak’s defense corps to this of Erin’s tweets, bouncing off Cate Blanchett’s speech:
The train finally arrived in the station. I got to a bar to meet a friend, who kept me company while I waited for my wife (she wouldn’t leave home until the show was over). The bar was only showing hockey and basketball on its TVs, but the bartender kindly switched one over to the final envelope openings. It was kind of anti-climactic.