On The Site: Atwitter About Twitter The BPP's Laura Conaway talks about what's clicking on the site, including lots of discussion about Twitter on Capitol Hill and this month's book club selection, Petropolis.

On The Site: Atwitter About Twitter

On The Site: Atwitter About Twitter

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The BPP's Laura Conaway talks about what's clicking on the site, including lots of discussion about Twitter on Capitol Hill and this month's book club selection, Petropolis.


The BPP is more than just a radio show, even a radio show that mentions the word "butt-wedge" a lot. We have this whole other side to us, made up of ones and zeros molded into the form of words and pictures. That seems to be one uninteresting picture, doesn't it? Until I tell you this. The conclusion, the amalgamation, of those ones and zeros, they reside in a glowing box sitting on your desk. You type the words npr.org/bryantpark into the Internet, and we magically appear. We even have an audio representation of this.

(Soundbite of music)

PESCA: Yes, that's right! There is music involved. The woman who wrangles all those bits and those ones and those zeros is BPP web editor, Laura Conaway. Hello, Laura.

LAURA CONAWAY: Hey. God, that's a lot of work. Ones, zeros, if they ever add twos and threes, I'm done.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: That would be cool.

CONAWAY: I'm not going any farther.

PESCA: That would be 3-D Internet.

CONAWAY: So, today...

PESCA: Those cats on the treadmills would be all around you.

CONAWAY: They would be everywhere. There would be fur flying. We're having a lot of fun today, continuing this book club discussion. We just finished reading Anya Ulinich's novel "Petropolis," and actually, I'm still in the middle of it. I have to confess to being in the last third, but I'm going to get there before we interview Ulinich tomorrow.

The thread is open on the blog. People are dropping in questions. People are wondering if there really is such a place in Siberia as Asbestos Two. I hope not. I don't want to have to live in it. One person, Julia from Denver, wrote in talking about the protagonist, Sasha, having a relationship with this guy in a wheelchair named Jake, and Julia writes, I am married to a disabled man, and I rarely see realistic relationships between able-bodied and disabled people.

PESCA: And did she think this was one?

CONAWAY: Definitely was. Yeah.

PESCA: Excellent.

CONAWAY: No question. Also, today on the show, we are looking at this story that I find really kind of amazing. It's bobbing up on Capitol Hill, and the best way I can think of it is, you know when you get a new job and the company shows you this whole policy about what you can and can't do on the computers?

PESCA: Yeah.

CONAWAY: Like no personal blogging, no looking at porn, and so on.

PESCA: Right.

CONAWAY: Well, it turns out Congress has rules like this, too, for its members.

PESCA: And when you take that new job, a lot of the time, they say, and that's why this long disclaimer has to go on the end of your email, this is the personal property of so and so firm. And you know, whenever I get those emails from my friends at my jobs, I'm like, does that do anything?


PESCA: Does that stupid disclaimer mean anything in the real world?

CONAWAY: Well, it turns out, if you work for Congress, in other words if you were elected to a position, even then, if you want to use a site like Twitter, for instance, you have to put one of those disclaimers at the end of every communication.

PESCA: Well, that - I can see where the problem would be, because the most characters you have in Twitter is 140.

CONAWAY: That's it.

PESCA: And those disclaimers take up maybe 1,000 characters long.

CONAWAY: That's like three or four paragraphs of disclaimer.

PESCA: Yeah.

CONAWAY: So, what you've got is a situation where a Republican and a Democratic congressman have each opened a Twitter account. They're just trying to talk to their constituents. But according to company rules...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAWAY: Congress' company rules...

IAN CHILLAG: Congress code!

CONAWAY: They're not allowed to. PESCA: This is, by the way, Ian Chillag, who's here with us laughing along. We were going to put a laugh track and a soundtrack, but we've got Ian.

CONAWAY: Ian said, why go with a recording? Yeah.

CHILLAG: Yeah, I do what I can.

PESCA: He is here to inform us of another story. He's not here to make friends. But first, you did talk to one of these Twitter guys, right?

CONAWAY: Well, I talked to this person who's been sort of pushing this story along, because this kind of story tends to get moved by bloggers. This guy, Aaron Brazell of technosailor.com, talked to me this morning, got up early and said, look, the situation is just kind of ridiculous.

Mr. AARON BRAZELL (Founder and Lead Editor, Technosailor.com): Well, frankly, I mean, we're in 2008, and we have, supposedly, a government for the people and by the people. And right now, all the evidence shows that most people are getting their news on Internet. People are increasingly engaging with each other online, and that's where Congress should be.

CONAWAY: As the person who runs technosailor.com, this blog, what do you think your job here is?

Mr. BRAZELL: I'm just trying to be as neutral as possible. This is a nonpartisan fight. So, I'm not trying to get into politics. And I'm just trying to bring as much information to bear as possible, because I think when people see that, then they will naturally want to see change and use the tools they have available to push that change themselves.

CONAWAY: So, that's Aaron Brazell of technosailor.com. He lives in Baltimore. He's been following the story for all of two days, and what he's seeing, what I think we're going to see, is an emerging campaign on places like Twitter and Facebook and blogs basically to let Congress Twitter.

PESCA: Grab them by the collar. Yank them into modernity. Yank them onto places like YouTube.

CONAWAY: Free Congress!

PESCA: And it is there on YouTube that you will find a social comment - I didn't find it, Ian Chillag found it. Tell us about this really excellent video, that says a lot about us.

CHILLAG: This is a - what's called a supercut (ph), where just a person will...

PESCA: Not a really bad haircut for 11 dollars?

CHILLAG: No, not the place where I get my haircut.

CONAWAY: I get mine for $8.50, I don't know about you...

CHILLAG: Do you ever go to Fantastic Sam's? Sorry, tangent, tangent.



CONAWAY: Supercuts.

PESCA: It's, like, the more laudatory words in the title, the worse the haircut.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: Super duper cut. Supercuts are when people take kind of every instance they can find of a single thing happening. So, like, you might every time Paris Hilton said, that's hot. Make them into a video montage and the sum is hilarious.


CHILLAG: And this supercut is people on reality competition shows, like "Survivor," saying, I'm not here to make friends...

PESCA: It is...

CHILLAG: Or I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to win.

CONAWAY: But I'm not here to make friends.

CHILLAG: I'm not here to make friends.

CONAWAY: No, I'm not here to make friends.

CHILLAG: I'm here to win.

PESCA: This is the number one reality show cliche.

CHILLAG: Yeah. No, I think it is. I think it is.

CONAWAY: Ian, are you here to make friends?

CHILLAG: Me? I'm not here to make friends. I'm here to win on the site.

CONAWAY: Yeah. I think you won.

PESCA: On the reality show, "Make Friends with Tila Tequila," I think it's unfortunate that people go on and say they are not there to make friends.

CHILLAG: Actually, I'm paraphrasing, but there is one, I'm not here to make friends with anyone but Tila.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: From the Tila Tequila show.

PESCA: OK, now, here's the question. Do you think this is reality shows imprinting themselves on future reality contestants, that they saw that, you know, season one in "Survivor," half the people were saying that and they thought that was the thing to say?

CHILLAG: Well, yeah...

PESCA: Do you think that the editors can just throw anything in there and make the contestants say what they want?

CHILLAG: Yeah, I think there's a little bit of that. You see in some of these people saying, I know it's a cliche, but I'm not here to make friends. But then you think about "Survivor," the first one, and kind of everybody was there to make friends, and then Richard Hatch was like, I'm not here to make friends. I'm going to walk around nude. I'm going to win.

PESCA: And he became the nude superstar and we remember his name, and who is the person who won? Oh, he won. So, yeah, great.


CONAWAY: Ian, quick question, where did you pick this thing up? Because I got tweeted at the same morning you found it and posted it by Kristasphere.

CHILLAG: Hm, ah, that's tough. I read a lot of blogs with...

PESCA: With really serious content.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAWAY: Yeah. Work hard, Ian.

PESCA: Did one of your friends send it to you? Or are you, in fact...

CHILLAG: No, I'm not here to make friends.


CHILLAG: I don't take things from my friends.

PESCA: So, it's a good supercut, or what we used to call, like, eight years ago, a montage. It's a nice comment on ridiculousness on reality shows. And Laura Conaway edits our website and blog, and Ian Chillag trolls the Internet for us. Swing by. See everything going on at npr.org/bryantpark, including the Book Club. Thanks, guys.


PESCA: Later. The one-woman band named St. Vincent is in to perform on the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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