One-Way Tweet

When it comes to Twitter, I like to think that I fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t have hard and fast rules like some people do for using the popular micro-blogging service. Robert Scoble has poked fun at such rules like “Don’t follow them unless they follow you”, “Never Tweet more than five times a day” and “Never follow anyone who isn’t your real friend”. But after many months of following several so-called “celebrities” on Twitter, I’m rapidly forming a rule regarding the rich and famous. Don’t follow them unless they are willing to reply to you.

I tried following one of my all-time favorite celebrities on Twitter for several months. Wil Wheaton starred in TV shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and movies like Stand By Me. He’s become something of an icon on the internet as a well-known blogger, professional poker player and writer. I figured it would be cool to know what Wil was up to at any given moment and so I went to his Twitter page and pressed the follow button. Getting his tweets was fun for a while, but from time to time I’d send him @replies regarding things he was tweeting and he would never reply. I complimented him, I asked a couple questions but still nothing. He made me feel like a geek at a Trek convention kindly asking for his autograph all the while refusing to even acknowledge me. Finally I had enough and decided to un-follow him, and I’ve never looked back.

Now the same thing is happening with John Hodgman. John is a talented writer who everyone knows from the “Get a Mac” TV commercials. I’ve read two of Hodgman’s books because his humor and sensibilities appeal to me. I’ve tweeted him 3 times but have not received a single reply. Yet another epic fail.

I realize that neither Wheaton or Hodgman are obliged to respond to fans like myself. They are busy individuals who probably get dozens of tweets and emails every day. But they have decided to become part of the Twitter community and I think showing your followers some love every now and then is just common courtesy. I’m not asking to form a deep relationship with you Wil. I just wanted to express my congratulations on nailing that Terminator audition for Pete’s sake! Would it kill you to reply “Hey, thanks man”?

Thankfully not all celebrities on Twitter are so aloof. Head to Greg Grunberg’s (of NBC’s Heroes) Twitter page and you’ll note a whole lot of @reply messages going out to his fans. I’d like to think this is because Greg has the good sense to use an awesome tool like Twitterrific to read and post tweets. Twitterrific highlights @replies and direct messages so you can easily see them in your timeline. For all of John Hodgman’s internet savviness, sadly he still does most of his tweeting directly from the web and probably doesn’t bother to pay attention to @replies. Maybe the Iconfactory needs to write that PC version of Twitterrific after all. Get it? A PC VERSION!

Before the internet, people had to put pen to paper to write fan mail to those they admired. Many celebrities would respond with autographs, 8×10 glossies or maybe even a personal note. Twitter has done away with all that tedious fan mail business, but even though it only takes seconds to reply to a tweet, many superstars refuse to even try. So the next time you send us 140 character pitches for your new book or alert us about your upcoming TV appearances, try and remember the most important rule of all. No matter how much money you make or how famous you are, treat others as you would have them treat you. Try talking to us instead of at us. A little love goes a long way.

UPDATE: Anyone in the comment thread that thinks celebrities are too busy or too important to respond to fans should go read this. Not only is that assumption patently false it’s insulting. Some celebrities actually care about their fans. Others do not. Shaquille O’Neal, I’m pleased to report, is in the former category. The positive press and fan devotion generated from what happened in this story are perfect examples of why @replies matter.

TV’s Chicken & The Egg

Last week IO9 reported that rumors of the death of FOX’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles were greatly exaggerated. Don’t watch The Sarah Connor Chronicles? That’s okay, neither do I. I know nothing about the show, who stars in it or even what it’s about other than it has something to do with the Terminator movies and Wil Wheaton auditioned for a small part. I know that last bit because I used to follow him on Twitter. I stopped because he never, ever responded to any of the @replies I sent him (and I sent him a few). Seems to me you could at least try and answer your fans every now and then Wil. Where was I? Oh yeah, I don’t watch the SC Chronicles.

I also I didn’t watch FOX’s much-hyped “Drive”, or the X-Files rip-off Fringe, nor the lame-ass Sci-Fi Channel remake of Flash Gordon. I’m a total science fiction fan and these shows are made for geeks like me, so why didn’t I watch these shows? The answer is simple. I didn’t want to get hooked because I knew they had about as much of a chance of surviving as a Red Shirt on a routine away mission. Ratings for Fringe are nowhere near what FOX wants, Drive lasted a grand total of 2 episodes and Flash Gordon got cancelled after one season. And although IO9 reports that T:SCC has another 13 episodes coming, somehow I don’t believe it anymore than I believe Knight Rider will survive to make its first turbo jump.

So herein lies the problem. Viewers don’t want to emotionally invest in shows they don’t think will last. But if no one tunes in, then nothing ever becomes successful enough to survive and flourish. I didn’t watch the first season of Heroes partly because I thought it was all hype. Of course the hype was deserved and season one became a mega-hit. When the DVD’s were released, I plunged in and enjoyed season 1 from start to finish. Sadly, season 2 was a waste and I’m starting to get a sinking feeling about season 3 as well.

Given the fact that science fiction shows usually have life spans of Tribbles instead of Trills, how do you as the viewer, decide which series get your attention? I never watched Firefly when it aired, but fans often tell me that it was one of the best sci-fi shows on television. Despite the piss-poor treatment FOX gave it at the time, they say it was well worth the abrupt cancellation to enjoy the few episodes that aired. I find this very difficult to believe.

Often, the fatal flaw for these series are networks that disintegrate them before they have a chance to develop and grow their core audience. What TV shows have you passed on for fear of having the remote snatched away? There’s no guarantee, for example, that the historic ratings success of Battlestar Galactica will translate to the new spin-off series Caprica. But if I know the Sci-Fi Channel, viewers may not even get a chance to set a season pass for Caprica before it’s blasted out the nearest airlock. A note to trigger-happy network executives: if shows like Sarah Connor or Caprica are to earn a place on my TiVo, you have to learn to say “I’ll be back”, and not “Hasta la vista, baby.”