Saturday, January 29, 2011

Twitter Twerps Drama: The VegasTripping Whine

I know I should let this go. I know it. And maybe I'll wise up and not post this once I write it. But I can't help it.

Chuck from VegasTripping is a terrific guy, a wonderfully talented writer and an important figure on the Vegas web world. But this week he also showed himself to be quite petulant and blinded by frustration.

You see, Chuck rightfully notes that he began picking on Twitter Twerps Bill Cody and Chris Rauschnot ages ago. Now that it required my Las Vegas Weekly column to really take the big tug on the string that is unraveling the Twitter Twerps' outrageous scam, Chuck is so pissed off that he can't help but to lash out at me and accuse me of all sorts of inane, ridiculous and nefarious motives. And, in the process, he's dredged up conspiracy theories about the press that I thought were beneath his sophistication.

First, here's an excerpt about me that Chuck wrote in his commentary this week on the Twerps:

And finally, there is the 'slightly less direct than before' approach:

24k: It's @VegasBill's birthday next week. Any #Vegas hotels/venues want to help us celebrate?

Upon seeing the above tweet, local journalist Steve Friess, who played a huge part in legitimizing the Twitter Twins via a supremely nauseating puff piece profile penned for the Las Vegas Weekly last year - suddenly joined the chorus of naysayers and started taking @24k and @VegasBill to task for their antics. So moved was Friess, that he unleashed his Kracken all over @24k's ballsy birthday request right onto THEfacebook where embers of discussion steamed, followed by selective deletions by Rauschnot. This proved to be the last straw for previously supportive Friess, who fired a cannonball across the bow of the S.S.#hashtag wrapped in a mea culpa for his endorsement of The Twitter Twins (née Twerps.)

But before we let Mr. Friess swim away from the T(w)itanic unscathed, pointing fingers at outlines slowly sinking on the poop deck, he needs to bear the weight of his baggage. Steve's talents lie in areas beyond technology, he fastidiously panned Twitter as waste of time until he saw how it affected change during the Iranian protests of June 2009, roughly at about the same time VT called bullshit on the Twitter Twins and their Tweets for Eats scam. I felt then and I still do now that his initial Las Vegas Weekly puff piece was the journalistic equivalent of a comped dinner, show tickets or event access. He opted to not do his homework on their profile piece and instead give them shred of legitimate press credibility which the Twitter Twins pedaled as a USDA stamp of approval. This resulted in a Las Vegas Weekly getting decent amount of traffic to the article (a metric a publisher uses to decides if the author is worth keeping on staff) as well Tweet pimping the authors Twitter handle and his blog. Did Steve pull this punch on purpose? Only he knows.

OK. So. I've no problem whatsoever taking guff for my mistakes, and publicly at that. What drives folks like Chuck nuts, though, is that I -- unlike almost any media figure in Vegas -- often take myself to task before others get to go at it. It defuses the power of their attacks and leaves them sputtering -- see above excerpt -- but that's not why I do it. I do it because I expect the same accountability from myself that I demand from other media folks. If I cannot openly state when I've failed, how can I ever hope that Sherm Frederick, Steve Sebelius, Jon Ralston or any number of other self-righteous and thin-skinned buffoons will do the same? (They never do, of course, but oh well.)

It so happens that Chuck was on the Vegas Gang podcast earlier this month telegraphing to the world that he had an expose planned for the Twitter Twerps. I don't deny this played a role in the timing of my column after I heard the show last week. I had been thinking quite a lot about this problem, that I had laid a rancid doody out there a few months ago and I needed to clean up after myself sooner or later. But I hadn't really been paying attention to Cody or Rauschnot since August because I was a little busy covering a major national election and a resort opening.

I don't keep as careful tabs on what everyone is saying on the Vegas Twitterverse as I should. I acknowledge that, but there's just so much going on there and elsewhere and it's easy to overlook things that flow by. So it was fortunate when I did spot early in January a @VegasBill tweet that crassly bullied @StationCasinos over unfollowing them, and my sniffer went up again. That, by the by, was long before I had any idea that Chuck was building his case against the Twerps. It just raised a flag to me.

Then, last week, Chris tweeted his solicitation for birthday goodies for Bill and, combined with hearing later that day about Chuck's forthcoming treatise, it seemed I needed to own up to my mistake sooner than later.

What was my mistake? In short, the original column was a lazy job. Period. I've often argued that the most likely reason for media incompetence is not ideology, greed or malice but laziness. And in this case, I'm guilty. Sometimes we journalists fall in love with a narrative, and as a columnist I get to pick and choose my narratives whimsically. The Twerps' back story was fascinating to me, I liked the idea of New Media figures popping up out of nowhere and gaining credibility and I was aware neither that Twitter numbers can, literally, be bought, nor that there were gauges for Twitter engagement that could disprove their claims of influence.

So I was uninformed and working too fast and went at it from a less skeptical perspective than I should have. And I heard about it from folks who were baffled by my atypical lack of cynicism, but I was obstinate and decided they were just jealous of the Twerps' success.

I doubled down on a bad bet for a while. Then the Station unfollow tweet reasserted the matter in my mind, and Chris lying to me that he wasn't fishing for comps with the birthday tweet really, personally offended me. Did this asshole truly believe I'm that stupid? Yikes. I'd been had. Chuck calls all this "sudden." That's kind of how I roll; I speak up as quickly as I can. I don't hang out for months nursing my grievance and then cry about it when someone cuts me in line.

That's how we came to this week, when the whole thing erupted in spectacular fashion after my column posted.

Chuck's response genuinely confuses me because he, of all people, has commented repeatedly and admiringly over the years about my willingness to take on powerful, influential people and companies. Quite a lot of the stupidity that has fallen from the mouths of Vegas moguls and celebrities that becomes fodder for Chuck's blog emerges from my reporting. In fact, interestingly, Chuck's own commenters seemed willing to give me the benefit of the doubt that Chuck denied me even as they regaled him for the rest of his excellent post.

I thought I'd earned a little more credibility with him than to have it suggested that I wrote the initial column to, uh, spike web traffic and hang onto my column gig. Seriously, that's what he's alleging. Read this part again:

This resulted in a Las Vegas Weekly [sic] getting decent amount of traffic to the article (a metric a publisher uses to decides if the author is worth keeping on staff) as well Tweet pimping the authors Twitter handle and his blog.

It is true, the initial column could have been better researched, better considered. I've admitted that. But to run directly for the Palinesque conclusion that I sold out for some nebulous notion of getting Twitter followers or blog readers or media attention of whatever sort shows that as much as Chuck has developed as a writer and, yes, a journalist, he remains quite a bit out of touch with how actual media operates. Also, it ignores the fact that all it takes for @24k or @VegasBill to pimp your Twitter handle is to re-tweet something they say. Duh.

This part is shockingly ignorant: My August column on Bill and Chris was a gambit to persuade my editor to keep me on? When the hell was I at risk of losing my gig? Doesn't he know that happy puff pieces don't accomplish that anyway, that controversy and drama are what the public finds compelling and gets people talking/reading/commenting? Does he know that in all the years I've been a journalist, no editor has ever even told me what my web traffic was on any single article? I don't have a clue. Fuck, I hardly ever even look at my own blog stats or download data for the podcasts! If I had to guess, the Weekly likes my column because it (usually) gives the publication some gravitas, not because it drives traffic. Weeks like this are just a bonus!

No, Chuck is peeved because he wanted to be the dragon slayer here -- and still fancies he is -- but I snuck in before his long-planned assault could be launched. Didn't anyone wonder how it was possible he could have such a well-considered rant, complete with screen shots and excerpts, up so quickly? He got scooped on his own story which, incidentally, I have been as well on the Vegas Gang, the Stiffs & Georges blog and elsewhere. It's no fun. But if I'm dumb enough to tell the world and/or competitors what big thing I've got coming up, then I guess I'll have to accept the only logical outcome for my stupidity. Them's the breaks.

Here's another thing, big guy. You don't get credit for feeling something. We've seen each other a few times since August and God knows how many blog posts you've written, although not a one about the lameness of my Aug. 18 column. You could've asked me privately -- and I would've told you of my regret if I was up to that point in my process -- or blasted me in public. You didn't. Tough.

Oh, and how do you know what sort of traffic the Las Vegas Weekly got? You chastise me for not doing my digital homework, but did you even look? I'm pretty sure that Aug. 18 piece never cracked the Top 10 for the site and to date has garnered just 5 "recommends" on Facebook and one or two comments. Yet here you state this as fact, as part of the premise for your simplistic media conspiracy argument, and you've got no proof.

Fact is, it required someone who dwells comfortably in both the online and mainstream media worlds to expose the Twerps in full. Chuck may not know this, but I've been called or emailed by publicists for years asking who is real and who isn't in the confusing Web world. That -- and Chuck seems to acknowledge this -- is why my initial column was so harmful, because I put my own considerable credibility behind the Twerps. It's also why this round is so damaging, because I'm pulling the plug and watching these cretins flail as the drain sucks them in.

I admire Chuck immensely. I think it's silly that he modestly suggests he's not much of a journalist or writer. He's outstanding at both, usually. That's why this whine is beneath him. He knows me better than this and he ought to know how journalism works better than this, too. Perhaps he went on this rant specifically knowing I'd react and drive traffic to or awareness of his site? I don't believe that, but it's the logical extension of Chuck's accusations towards me.

Hmmm. So should I post this? Let's see...Oops!

Friday, January 28, 2011

This week's OTHER LVW Piece

Proving to Miles that I can even come up with stories sitting on the couch watching TV reruns, I've also got a fun feature in the Las Vegas Weekly right now about Shae Wilhite, a stand-up comic and bakery owner whose appearance on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" in 2001 was reaired on GSN last month. Shae now makes delicious goodies via Glitter City Sweets and recently starred in this cute indy flick "You People."

See Shae win $64,000 and chat up Vegas in this clip:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The #London Meet-Up Is On!

If you're in London and want to partake in a listener/reader/Twitter-follower meet-up, please come to the lobby bar at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. We look forward to visiting there! We'll assume you know what we look like, but add about 15% body weight to what ever photos you have seen.

Banned!!! By The Twitter Twerps!

Some developments in the drama behind my LVW column on the Twitter Twerps, brothers Chris Rauschnot and Bill Cody. First of all, I've been banned by them!

Awesome! I had gone to see if they'd remarked on the column and found I was no longer following them. So I tried -- knowing full well what would happen -- to follow them again and voila! Blocked!

I guess they don't care for or appreciate all that I do for the city, venues, etc. (Inside joke, read the column to understand.)

Meanwhile, there's more proof that they are utterly ineffective as social media influencers. I went back to see something about my original Aug. 18 column on them only to see that just five Facebook people recommended that piece. Bill and Chris had flogged the hell out of that piece, so you would think that maybe more than a measly five of their apparent 50,000 followers on Twitter would have done so, no? (Let's just assume for argument's sake that they don't account for 2 of the 5, or 40%).

Meanwhile, the current column has only been up for a day and already there's 59 Facebook "recommends." They clearly DO get a social media response, but it's not the sort anyone would actually want, is it?

More to come, folks. I've just found a new, meaty bone to gnaw at and I'm getting information from all over the place about these guys.

P.S. Look who else I'm honored to be blocked from following:

This week's LVW Col: Defrocking The Twitter Twerps

I erred several months ago in bestowing praise upon a pair of brothers who wield their alleged Twitter influence as a sledgehammer cracking open the Vegas safe for goodies. Recent events have altered my original admiration, so I followed up. Now, not surprisingly, the Twitterverse is buzzing like mad and even old enemies have paused in their enmity to praise me. Fun. Read on. -sf

Setting the record straight about Vegas’ Twitter twerps

I’m known for taking on sacred cows, and that has earned me many foes. But I also have support from a sizable population that relies on me to be real in a city famed for artifice.

The latter, however, were disappointed and baffled by my August 18 column heralding brothers Bill Cody (@VegasBill) and Chris Rauschnot (@24k) as new media pioneers. The duo have parlayed an apparently huge Twitter following into coveted spaces on red carpets and seats at press conferences, and that pleased me because I’ve long advocated for respect for podcasters, bloggers and the like. Yet I was too eager to bestow such credit on these guys. At first I thought critics of that column were just jealous of the brothers, but now the scales have fallen from my eyes.

Cody and Rauschnot, you see, aren’t tilling new soil.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Monday, January 24, 2011

UK Meet-Up?

Miles and I are London-bound this week and several folks have already asked if we'd like to have a drink. Our time will be short, of course, so we're going to try to organize a time and place for a meet-up. If you're near and interested, e-mail me at TheStripPodcast (at) and we'll keep you in the loop.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Show is UP (Really!): Top 10 Moments of 2010

OK, folks. We did it. The LVRocks studio is history, sadly, and we had to learn to podcast the old-fashioned way, at home with cheap equipment. So, seriously, we'd like some feedback on how this sounds. But, any which way, we got it 'er done and we're back in action. Enjoy! Also, there's a new poll and trivia question, too, and the clips from all of 10 top picks (as voted on by you) are available as stand-alone MP3s on TheStripPodcast.Com. As always, you can subscribe to The Strip (it's free!) in iTunes or Zune to get the latest show and various specials. -sf

Jan. 22: The Top 10 Moments of 2010

We know we’ve been gone too long and we’re sorry. But we’re back to count down the 10 best moments of 2010 as voted on by you. And here’s a hint: there’s a dash of Oscar, a dollop of the Wynns and a whole bowl of me beating up on Steve for being an ill-spoken weirdo.
In Banter: Our staycation with PETS at Cosmo, Alex's closure, our newest dog, Aces, our recording troubles, Aria's wrap woes, losing the Trippies, MGM Resorts' M Life and more.

Links to stuff discussed:

The blog post about our show woes
VegasHappensHere.Com on adopting Aces
The show with Sierra Boggess and Sierra’s bio
Our staycation at Cosmo – and what it was like to bring the pets
Yelp on Scarpetta, Holstein’s, and Jaleo
Eric Gladstone and John Curtas think Wynn is downgrading the culinary scene there
Sinatra Dance With Me extended into April
The R-J on the possible 40,000-seat arena from the Silverton owner and UNLV
The Sun on the $20 million Stratosphere renovation and our Jan.3 Tweet on that
Stories about M Life from MGM Resorts from VegasTripping.Com and the Las Vegas Sun
Possible mayoral candidates in Vegas get ready