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Smackdown: Twitter

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Twitter first made a splash with music insiders at the 2007 South by Southwest Festival. Two years later, the social-networking tool is being used by musicians, fans and critics in ways that make blogs look outdated. But can anything musical really be summed up in 140 characters or less? In another Soundcheck Smackdown, New Yorker pop music critic Sasha Frere-Jones and TV producer Luke Wahl debate the pros and cons of Twitter and "microblogging" in the music world.

Soundcheck blog: John Schaefer on the new "crackberry"

Tell us: Trick or "tweet?" Will Twitter have a positive or negative impact in music?

Twitter user? Chime in, and tag your tweets with #WNYC. The show's producers will follow tweets from you and from classical music critic and composer Greg Sandow (@gsandow).


Sasha Frere-Jones and Luke Wahl

Comments [40]

Jay @bagcoffee from Brooklyn, NY

Why are journalists and media people forever lamenting the demise of their craft? Do they not enjoy it? Do they not understand the evolution it has to go through to be relevant?

David Denby and Chuck Klosterman have pointed out a disheartening discourse of online media. Yet, they confuse feedback as outright criticism.

Don't take things personal.

The internet is serious business.

Twitter is source, not signifier.

Mar. 17 2009 02:57 PM
Andrea from Brooklyn

This Twitter trend is scary to me, similar to the explosion of hollow reality shows and celebrity worship.

While society can over-promote and idolize talentless celebrities and meaningless social networking.....Are we forgetting that we are severely undermining our own culture everyday by not striving to focus on REAL talent and REAL brilliance and REAL communication???

Let's strive for meaningful communication/cultural contributions instead of HIDING behind our blackberries and computers, along with the flash-in-the-pan status that brings.

Mar. 17 2009 02:56 PM
Jeffrey from Manhattan

Hey guys, take it easy on Sasha. He was right on track with his comments.

He was saying, essentially, that Twitter is like everything else, you have to use it intelligently if you want it to be intelligent. Criticizing those who don't, and making them the stereotype of all Twitter users, is just dumb. Twittering, like so many things, is what you make of it.

Mar. 17 2009 02:56 PM
paul colin from TRIBECA

What is difference between twitter and texting?

Mar. 17 2009 02:38 PM
Greg from Highland Park, NJ

As a long time hacker, I'm actually resistant to some of these latest trends -- I don't text and hate to limit my exposition. Nevertheless, I've been finding myself enjoying getting away with one line emails, increasingly, and vaguely recall Strunk & White and appreciate the ability to express oneself concisely (this comment notwithstanding).

Mar. 17 2009 02:38 PM
Jill from westchester county, ny

Consider that twitter may be another manifestation of the exhibitionist reality-tv movement. Notice me so someone knows I'm here.

Mar. 17 2009 02:38 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

... and I'm reminded of an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show, where Ted was writing an autobiography ... AS IT HAPPENED!

He sat at his desk, and Mary came into his office. He wrote: "Mary came in...."

But that was intentionally satirical and was very funny.

Mar. 17 2009 02:37 PM
Christopher Deignan from Middle Village

I've never twittered but I just don't get it. Isn't it just bad technology, 140 character limit? What can you possibly say that's interesting in 140 characters. Convince me. Let's hear some interesting tweets....bring it on.

Mar. 17 2009 02:36 PM
Anonniemuss from NYC

I don't want to generalize about all twitter users because I don't use it myself, but from my perspective the twitter users who are by far doing the most talking about it in other media are people in their 40's. I'm 32, and to me they come across as mutton dressed as lamb. I very much have the feeling that they are making so much noise about their new favorite activity because they hope that it will make them feel or look with-it. Maybe I am just very old-fashioned but no one will ever convince me that networking and social-climbing are genuinely cool. Certainly not a bunch of people who make a living talking about trends.

Mar. 17 2009 02:36 PM
Julie from Upstate NY

I love reading Sascha (his articles, not his tweets/posts). Please don't book him as a guest again so I can continue to enjoy his work. (The best I can figure is that he's taking the "smackdown" concept a tad too far.)

Mar. 17 2009 02:34 PM
Erika from NYC

I am a self-confessed nerd and I love technology and the web and most things new and techno-oriented. But I think Twitter is for twits, people who have the attention span of a gnat. This is just another element of the dumbing down of the population. Shorter bursts, don't need to think much, very shallow and irrelevant.

It scares me to think that a generation is going to grow up twittering like a fools.

Mar. 17 2009 02:34 PM
SteverR from Manhattan

I'm 47 years old and I have no idea what this is. Is this email? Is this text messaging? What makes this different than those things?

Mar. 17 2009 02:34 PM
Ted Shred from Atlanta

Samantha (post 18) love it; if you are on twiddler or if you twit, I doubt the world will end as a result of this action. Although I do value the longer more descriptive syntax I know I am obsolete; I know that when I hear someone say "uh-huh, yea-uh" as the "lyrics" to a "music" bed to open a legitimate music show, as if it was musical in some way? But if you have a friend or heaven help you friends who have kids at the same time, it is said you will soon be cured of the habit of accepting twiddles. We just don't need to know these inane things, mommies! Bagels, traffic, etc.

Mar. 17 2009 02:33 PM
Michael from Rockville Centre New York

Why is WNYC so enamored with all the latest electronic gizmos."Who has the most toys wins" I guess.

Mar. 17 2009 02:33 PM
eric henderson from bedford-stuyvesant, nyc

@andy from bklyn. they're trying to figure out a way to make money - the "day one" problem of most of these businesses - advertising's a tough model. yammer (sort of a private-network twitter for business)is trying to make money from the git, though...

Mar. 17 2009 02:33 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

From today's NYTimes about how jurors are violating judicial orders and contacting outside sources with Blacckberries and the like:

"It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges.

Last week, a building products company asked an Arkansas court to overturn a $12.6 million judgment against it after a juror used Twitter to send updates during the civil trial"

Mar. 17 2009 02:31 PM
Jodi from New York City

Oops, not Gothamist, it was newyorkology, I think. (

Mar. 17 2009 02:30 PM
kbinps from park slope

So it's not just me-Sasha is one of the most smug twits I have ever had the misfortune to hear. Mr Sasha has proven that boring talk is not exclusive to Twitter. Didn't I see him in Hi Fidelity. Rock critics have always seemed to me to be nerds who had a veneer of "cool" or at least thought they did when in fact they weren't any different thn those sad characters at Star Wars conventions. THey spend their time trying to find the most esoteric acts they can find- like that boring trance music- what was it ? Electro Doodle? Boring! But exclusive.

Mar. 17 2009 02:29 PM
Andrea from Brooklyn

Twitter is terrible!
Our media and interpersonal communications are losing depth, meaning and value.
Why should we be hooked on "new, fast, relentless" communication methods that basically give people a false sense self-importance!

Mar. 17 2009 02:29 PM
Jodi from New York City

I don't follow people who don't post a lot of news. It's a great way to stay up to date on news related to my specific interests and to connect with people who I can relate to who I wouldn't otherwise have met (I only know personally a few people I'm connected to on Twitter). In fact it saves time in that way as I'm not constantly surfing the internet for interesting news.

While I do agree that twitter changes the way I relate to information, but I wouldn't say that it shortens my attention span so much that I am incapable of enjoying, say, a theater production that lasts more than an hour. In fact, twitter makes the availability of such events more available to me. Because of a "tweet" I saw yesterday from The Gothamist's twitter feed (, I will attend an opera this weekend at the Met that I wouldn't have otherwise known about. By the way, I am 26 and am one of those who have grown up online.

Mar. 17 2009 02:28 PM
andy from bkln

out of curiosity, how does twitter make money?

Mar. 17 2009 02:28 PM
buster from brooklyn, nyc

gotta appreciate j. schaefer for always keeping it human and real no matter how much he knows. b.lehrer and l. lopate manage it too, while being straight up encyclopedic in knowledge and pretty deft at droppin it.

Mar. 17 2009 02:28 PM
Gayle Madeira from LES, NYC

All those people who tweet about bagels or other mundane things would be doing it whether or not they did it on twitter. At least they are just writing it instead of talking about it on their cellphone in public where we all have to listen to their drivel.

Mar. 17 2009 02:28 PM
Samantha from West Village, Manhattan

Twitter's worst crime is simply contributing to the current culture of allowing everybody to believe they are a celebrity as long as they can broadcast the boring minutiae of their lives on oversaturated social networking platforms.

As for journalists, celebrities, politicians, et al, it's one more way to communicate with the public, albeit briefly and with regrettable sentence structure. Is that really so bad? It's just another one of those things that we luddites should quit crying about and appreciate for the interesting little thing it is.

Mar. 17 2009 02:25 PM

good lord, for such a trivial topic, Sasha is pretty much the most self-serious and insufferable guest you've had on. did you let him know that the "smackdown" part of this segment is supposed to be ironic?

Mar. 17 2009 02:24 PM
Kim Colonna from Long Island

I find it interesting that Luke Wahl sent his "kiss off" to Twitter via Facebook and then goes on to cricize Twitter as a giant time suck. There is no greater time suck than Facebook, and I should know - I'm on it all the time. What makes FB a more acceptable forum than Twitter, or is it just a matter of your guest substituting a new addiction for an old one?

Mar. 17 2009 02:24 PM
Jennifer from NYC

david lynch posts the weather

Mar. 17 2009 02:24 PM
Ash in Manhattan from Manhattan

I have never heard of this Sasha Whatever-His-Name is, but, gawd, what an annoying snotty tone he has. Ugh!!!!

Mar. 17 2009 02:23 PM

I have never used twitter...I barely want to deal with facebook, (but it is handy)... If you think twitter is a big waste of time: THEN DON'T TALK ABOUT IT. AS the old saying goes: "If you can't say something nice about a thing...." By spending all this time on the air talking about twitter you are lending it credibility...If you really want it to die: don't say anything and let it languish in obscurity..the best negative critisism is to not say anything at all (see Oscar Wilde...).

Mar. 17 2009 02:23 PM
eric henderson from bedford-stuyvesant, nyc

Sasha's right. My only beef, if you can call it that is that the whole naming system can sometimes belie the utility of this thing. Powerful enough for you to build or abuse your brand significantly especially when you consider the implicit personality you construct over a pattern of posts. (man, i just can't say "tweets")

Mar. 17 2009 02:22 PM
james from caroll gardens

I don't get Twitter--seems like a big waste of time--and now that I've listened to your smug guest defending it (and discounting the other guest's opinion), I really don't want to use it.

Mar. 17 2009 02:22 PM
Jeffrey from Manhattan

what was the name of that electro doodle clip?
sounded great, can't find it.

Mar. 17 2009 02:21 PM
Pung from NY

twitter is so stupid, unless your a 16 Y.O. girl. Then I can see hows it's can be acceptible.


Mar. 17 2009 02:20 PM
Ben from Clinton Hill

Ar far as the long form versus short form argument is concerned, there have always been short form communications like haikus or maybe telegrams. Now there is just a popular place for self-distribution, like youtube for video.

Mar. 17 2009 02:19 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Goodness does the supporter of Twittering (Sasha?) sound soooo self-important.

Mar. 17 2009 02:19 PM
Marlon Ziello from brooklyn

What about the congressmen twittering during president Obamas state of the union speech certainly that type of behavior shouldnt be aloud.

Mar. 17 2009 02:18 PM
Andy from brooklyn

I was wondering if Sasha Frere-Jones could sound smugger or has he reached a smugness-limit?

Mar. 17 2009 02:18 PM
Sarah from NYC

If you have something to promote or a suggestion for something to do/go see then twitter is fine. We just have to detach ourselves from the narcissistic need to blab about anything and everything. Let's try to actually live our lives and experience things. Seeing shows in NYC can be a total bum out because no one can shut up and pay attention. Get off the phone, stop waving to your friend in the 3rd balcony and enjoy the music.

Mar. 17 2009 02:18 PM
Bongo Man from UES

New York concertgoers are noisy enough, I don't need another distraction. Have you been to the new Alice Tully yet? It's a constant barrage of coughing, candy wrappers, muttering, shushing. At times you wish people could just sit still instead of sharing their thoughts on the music.

Mar. 17 2009 02:13 PM
Lilym from NJ

It's not just twitter that ruins live concerts, it's talking, opening the bags hundreds of times, leafing through the program endlesly, talking, and theaters selling and allowing food! (all in super-noisy packaging).
My last visit to the concert hall was unnerving as usual, and the least noise was made by people sendind messages. Actually, usher that run up and down telling people to turn down their cell phones was making more noise than all of them together.But he was not shushing those who talked and smacked and crunched.
Why is nothing sacred anymore? It seems like people can't sit still and quiet for an hour or two. It is so disrespectful to performers and to all of us who pay to listen to the music, and music only.

Mar. 17 2009 11:19 AM

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