• Non Sequitur: Fun Facts (Round 1)


    Recently, I spouted a series of “facts” about some of the folks I converse with on Twitter. In their original form, these all contained 140 characters or less. For ease of use today I have expanded the names of the Factees, so some individual facts may exceed the 140-character limit.

    BONUS QUEST: Savvy readers might be able to determine the impetus for this exercise in lunacy if they examine the list carefully.

    • FUN FACT: Sam Chupp has not one but two arms, each with a five-fingered hand at the end. Individually, the hands are incapable of clapping.
    • FUN FACT: Jared Axelrod can go from clean-shaven to a goatee in seven minutes flat if he concentrates.
    • FUN FACT: Chris Miller once stabbed a minor Internet celebrity in the face…WITH HIS EYES!
    • FUN FACT: J.C. Hutchins loses all his super powers if he sees the color chartreuse, but only if it is actually Pantone® 14-0445.
    • FUN FACT: Contrary to popular belief, Bob is not married to the daughter of a prominent Mafia Don…ANYMORE.
    • FUN FACT: Evo Terra would just as soon kill you as look at you, but in actuality HE DOES NOT WANT TO LOOK AT YOU.
    • FUN FACT: Kris Johnson had a triple-shot venti mocha from Starbucks after lunch, and now his BRAIN IS ON FIRE.
    • FUN FACT: Ken Newquist has never been within arm’s length of an extraterrestrial being, but only because he has RIDICULOUSLY SHORT ARMS.
    • FUN FACT: Ivan has a removable face, used to switch expressions and show emotion, but he never changes it because he is ALWAYS ANGRY.
    • FUN FACT: Mur Lafferty once wrote a romance novel under the pseudonym Karyn Van Heusen. The title: LOVE’S FORBIDDEN FILLING.
    • FUN FACT: As a master of several forms of martial arts, Jason Penney knows 114 ways to immobilize a man, seven of them using JUST HIS GILLS.

    SECRET BONUS QUEST: If you are extremely observant (and I suspect you are), you have already noticed that each of the names mentioned above is actually a hypertext link to another area of the Interwebs altogether. If I were to suggest that a CODED MESSAGE can be revealed by reading the fifth word of the most recent blog post (as of 18 January 2009) at or near each of these locations, I WOULD BE LYING. If I were to suggest that the first person to embark upon such a wild goose chase and comment here with the unscrambled message might win a prize of not-insignificant fabulosity, THAT WOULD ALSO BE A LIE. You should not do this. There is no message. There is no prize. Any effort you expend in attempting to glean such a message in order to attain such a prize would be UTTERLY WASTED. I am absolutely not kidding.

  • A Major Award


    First PrizeThere are days when you just have to put it all on the line, throw caution to the wind and go for it; you put your best out there and see whether it’s good enough. The sad fact of the matter is that no matter how hard we try, no matter how much effort we put forth, no matter how far beyond what is theoretically achievable we push ourselves, we’re going to fail. We simply can’t all be winners every day; it’s statistically impossible.

    Do you think I’m going to let some statistician tell me what I can and cannot do? Hell, no! I’m going to raise my middle finger high to their bell curves, their means, their medians, and yes, even their modes. I am a walking, talking, blogging deviation, dammit! A non-standard deviation, at that! Mine all the data you want, math boy, it’ll do you no good: I do not compute!

    Today, I did something that defied our mathematical understanding of the universe. I won the unwinnable. “Success against all odds” is my middle name. Okay, that’s not true. I mean, what kind of whack-job parents would name their kid “Kris Success against all odds Johnson”? That’s just stupid. My middle name is “Alan”, but it probably means “success against all odds” in Swahili. Either that or “crossbite”, but that’s beside the point; the point is that I won, baby. I won big time. A major award.

    Which award would that be? Why, Funniest Tweet of the Day, of course. Awarded on a whenever-he-feels-like-it basis by novelist/podcaster J.C. Hutchins to the individual on Twitter who utters the single funniest thing ever uttered (that day, on Twitter), the Funniest Tweet of the Day grants the recipient fame, adoration and respect that will last a lifetime, or until J.C.’s award tweet scrolls off everyone’s front page, which ever comes first. That’s some serious Internet cred, folks. It’s not the same as street cred, but I live on a cul-de-sac, so my chances for street cred are few and far between.

    Here’s the best part: I’m going to let you in on how I did it. That’s right, I’m going to tell you the secret of my success, and it’s not going to cost you a penny. You don’t need to buy my upcoming bestseller, The Utter Incompetent’s Handbook to the Funniest Tweet of the Day, (available in paperback at most major booksellers or as a pay-per-play downloadable audiobook) or attend one of my sold out seminars—I’m going to tell you right here and right now, for free.

    Write this down on a sticky note and attach it to the mirror in your bathroom. Might as well write it on a dozen or so sticky notes, while you’re at it. Put one on the fridge and another on the edge of your computer monitor. Put two on the front door—one on each side—so it’s the last thing you see going out the door and the first thing you see coming in. Stick one on the center of the steering wheel in your car and another between your girlfriend’s shoulderblades. You get the idea.

    This is what you’re writing on those sticky notes—and remember, penmanship counts, so don’t just scrawl it like you’re a doctor writing a prescription for Zanaprexinol, print it in nice, friendly, legible letters so you can read it later—the secret that’s going to set you off on the road to success: bring the funny.

    That’s it. That’s all you need to know. If you keep that one thought—bring the funny—in the back of your mind every waking hour, you’ll be writing tweets that make J.C. Hutchins laugh in no time.

    Okay, that’s a lie. Thinking about bringing the funny isn’t enough, you have to make it your credo, your entire way of life. You have to walk the funny, breathe the funny, eat the funny and crap the funny if you want to get a giggle out of The Hutch. It doesn’t matter where you are, what time it is, or what the circumstances may be, you have to be ready to bring the funny at all times, and that ain’t easy.

    Take the Funniest Tweet of the Day, for example. By now, you’re probably wondering just what it was that made J.C. laugh so hard a smiley-faced JPEG shot out of his nose. Well, I’m not keeping anything close to the vest today, my friends. I’m going to tell you. That’s right, I’m not going to keep this award-winning tweet under wraps anymore.

    Okay, I’m awake. Everyone roll for initiative.

    That’s comic genius, right there, pure and simple. It just doesn’t get funnier than that. Not on Twitter. Not today.

    I’m not going to explain it to you, not because what makes it funny is a secret—we’ve gone over this, that’s not how I roll today—but because dissecting the funny is like watching Spider-Man 3: it might seem like a good idea, but by the time you’re done you’ve died a little inside.

    But I’ll tell you this: that tweet didn’t just happen. That tweet is the result of me striving every hour of every day to bring the funny. I work at it relentlessly. I could make a montage of me training like Rocky Balboa, but it would be a boring montage, because the funny isn’t like boxing. Training yourself to bring the funny doesn’t happen in a meat locker or on the stairs of a stadium, it happens in your head, and nobody wants to watch what’s going on in your head. No one is that twisted.

    I won today. I beat the odds. You can, too, if you bring the funny. And if J.C. Hutchins follows you on Twitter. And he happens to be watching at just the right moment. The guy follows twelve hundred people, so your chances of him actually seeing your tweet, no matter how funny it may be, are pretty slim—maybe one in a twelve hundred. Statistics are a bitch, which is pretty much what I’ve been saying all along.

  • Webstuff: Twitter and Jaiku


    I signed up for a Twitter account in late February after hearing about the service on the technology podcast This Week in Tech (coincidentally known as TWiT). A couple of days ago, Leo Laporte — the head TWiT and probably the most friended person on Twitter — announced on his blog that he was switching from Twitter to Jaiku in an effort to create distance and distinction between the TWiT podcast and the Twitter service, which are unrelated. The announcement resulted in “The Leo Effect“, a wave of new account signups at Jaiku.

    So what are Twitter and Jaiku? Why — apart from the name — would a discerning Internet user choose one over the other?

    Central to both services is the ability to post short, 140-character updates, either from an SMS-enabled cell phone or from a web interfaceTwitter also allows posting of tweets via some instant messaging protocols; Jaiku does not presently offer this functionality. Both Twitter and Jaiku have made their API public, which allows developers to create applications like Twitter Tools, which allows users to display their latest tweets in the WordPress sidebar as well as post tweets from within their WordPress blog. I suspect that “The Leo Effect” will result in a host of new plugins and widgets for Jaiku.. On Twitter, these updates are referred to as “tweets”, while on Jaiku they are known simply as “jaikus”. The 140-character limit is anything but arbitrary; the services are both designed to be used by on-the-go types from their cell phones. SMS, the text-messaging service available on most cell phones today, has a built-in 140 byte limit on individual messages. This translates to one hundred and forty 8-bit characters or — for languages like Chinese, Russian and Arabic whose characters are more complex — seventy 16-bit characters.

    The ability to [post a short message on a web page] is insignificant compared to the power of The Force.
    — Darth Vader

    So you can send a message to a website with your cell phone. What’s the point? The real key is building a list of contacts whose updates you want to see and (presumably) who want to see your updates as well. On Twitter, updates from your contacts can be delivered directly to your cell phone or to an instant messaging client (I use Jabber via Gaim Pidgin IM). Thus, you can keep in constant contact with your contacts (or “friends”, if you must). It’s up to you to decide whether or not this is a good thing.

    Jaiku takes the basic functionality of Twitter and expands upon it, adding a sprinkle of Tumblr, giving users the ability to add pretty much any RSS or Atom feed — be they photos from Flickr, posts from a blog or even a feed from Twitter — to their “stream of presence”. Anything in this stream can be commented upon via the Jaiku website, whether it is an SMS message, a blog entry, or a photo from Flickr. My own Jaiku includes the following:

    • The RSS feed for blog entries from This post will appear on my Jaiku stream shortly after I publish it.
    • The photostream from my Flickr account. As I add new photos to Flickr, they will appear in my Jaiku stream.
    • My Twitter RSS feed. My “tweets” already appear on thanks to the Twitter Tools plugin. They will also appear in my Jaiku stream. This allows me to keep using Twitter and still take advantage of Jaiku’s expanded feature set. The main drawback to this is the delay between the time I tweet and when that tweet appears in my Jaiku stream.
    • My Squirl feed. When I add new items to my Squirl collections, they’ll appear in my Jaiku stream.

    Of course, everything in my Jaiku stream is already available at, so why would I want to collect it all at Jaiku, too? It’s a fair question, and one to which I don’t have a good answer. One of the benefits of creating a single stream of presence at Jaiku is also something of a drawback. Every item in a Jaiku stream — whether it’s an SMS message, a photo retrieved from a Flickr photostream or a blog post from an RSS feed — can be commented upon at the Jaiku site. This is nice in that it allows for a lot of interaction, but not so nice because (as far as I can tell) those comments won’t automatically be transferred to the original source of the jaiku.

    For example, if someone comments on this blog post from the Jaiku website, it will be seen by anyone who reads my Jaiku page or has added me as a contact there; unfortunately, the same comment will not be seen on This allows for increased interaction, but also segregates that interaction based on where a reader sees the content.

    Unlike Jaiku, Twitter seems to have no aspirations to become (as Evo Terra has called it) “a portal for all things me”; there are no options to import RSS feeds from other sources, there’s no secondary commenting system, and there isn’t a library of icons to associate with individual tweets. Instead, Twitter focuses on their bread and butter: the aforementioned tweets.

    That’s why I’m keeping my Twitter account and will continue to use it. Jaiku will doubtless introduce a post-via-IM feature in the near future, but Twitter already has it and I’m interested to see what their development team will do next. I also want to see what other developers do with the Twitter API. Already there is the ridiculously addictive Twitter/Google Maps mashup, Twittervision (which seems to be somewhat broken at the moment) and a host of tools for integrating Twitter into blogs; I have no idea what people more technically-minded than I will create.

    My final reason for sticking with Twitter is simple: it’s where my friends are. There’s a small but active group of authors, bloggers and podcasters in my circle of friends who use Twitter, and the only reason I would drop the service completely is if they all decided to switch.