I’ve mentioned it a few times in this weblog, and obviously other people have made the connection over time, but I’m the guy who does stuff with Sockington, the most popular cat on Twitter. His little daily concerns with tuna, windows, toys, and more tuna have been a part of my life for a couple years now.
It might be confusing to people to think of me having both Sockington and Computer History in my life, but it’s really not that big a deal. Unfortunately, narrative structure tends to favor one-note or specific-sided individuals, negating other sides because it would confuse the story. So when you know a guy is into bulletin board systems and documentaries and data heritage and all that, it confuses things to think he also in somehow wrapped up with an online cat.
But wrapped up with this cat I am, both his online persona, and the actual cat. Both have variant days of pride and sorrow, of joy and delight and scratching.
The thing which some people may or may not totally grasp is that through a combination of dependable appearances on Twitter and something called the Featured Users list, Sockington has over 1,300,000 accounts on Twitter following him. This makes him one of the top 100 accounts out of a space of many millions. In some ways, that’s been big fun. In other ways, it’s given me way too much insight into the realm of celebrity and media and whackjobs and drive-by opinion tourism. I wouldn’t say anything has made me so unhappy that I wish this had never happened, so far. There have been a lot of things that make me happy it happened, and it will be a tough effort for the negative aspects to ever overtake the positive ones.
But as Sockington reached greater and greater “success”, defined here as “number of followers”, a steady refrain has come from all quarters: How do you intend to make money from this?
Not do I or if I intend, or even when I might want to – it’s more that the next logical step is to turn this fun little endeavor into a job. Or, more ideally, a fountain of coins raining into my cup.
Also, to a smaller amount, are people touched by the updates of Sockington and his little adventures, and the fun he brings into their twitter feeds daily, not unlike a comic strip without those bothersome drawings and arriving a few times a day, like the post used to. These people are actually pleading with me to not ruin “it”, where “it” is whatever situation Sockington is in. And the easiest way to do this is to “sell out”.
Now, “selling out” is a hot button topic with anything, but most often it’s used to label unexpected change. If someone does something a certain way, and suddenly they change, the first forces to look out for are outside ones. Did the person get approached by a food or drink company? Did the person acquire an expensive new home? Did the person find themselves kicked out of a group and need income from somewhere else?
And really, “Selling Out” is one of those things that you could stretch to mean anything you want it to. A band that has always had two members but now has four is “selling out” to being a plain old band. A writer who writes incomprehensible books makes one that’s a straight noir mystery, and he’s “selling out” to be “more commercial”. And so on.
For me, “Selling Out” for something like Socks comes when the cat or myself are doing things we would never do on our own, and people give us money to convince us to do this. Oh, they may couch it as “paying for your time and effort” or “to help with your maintenance costs”, but it’s taking cash to do something otherwise never happening.
In May of 2009, there was a conference called the Social Media Marketplace, sponsored by the IAB, and at which I surely would have begun drinking terrible things so I could throw up on as many suits as possible. And somehow, during one of the talks, Sockington came up. On the panel were John Battelle of Federated Media and Ian Schafer of a marketing company called Deep Focus. During this discussion, it was suggested that a cat food company, any of them, should immediately license or hire Sockington. (I know this because of twittering during the panel.) And this was the exchange that went by:
Battelle: Anyone know who’s behind Sockington?
Schafer: Just a guy.
Battelle: “Just a guy” has a price.
I can’t quite enunciate how angry I was, and how clearly it brought into clarity how I feel about this, this way of looking at things. The Battelles of the would would as soon grind Socks into hamburger and sell him on street corners as give him a toy to play with. A way of looking at the world where everything has a tag on it. An outlook where bright people work together to make the world worse while packaging it so they think they’re making it better. I don’t ever want to be a part of that.
So here we go.
I am not going to sell Socks out. Period. Drag your “proposal” or ‘touching base” or “big idea” or “possibility” to your trash icon, or I’ll kindly take the time to do it for you. The store is closed. It was never open.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled cat.
Categorised as: jason his own self
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