On Mount Greylock, a monument

On the highest point of Mount Greylock, a monument to those who served the Commonwealth stands and looks out.

Locals wanted stone from the Berkshires, no, no, not that Quincy granite they said. The stone from south of Boston prevailed. Curious indeed, as the mighty tower was meant to grace the Charles River basin.

Can you see it now? Head of the Charles, sweat on the brow, they look up and are are reminded that some gave all, someplace far away.

Up to the top, 3491 feet up from below it went and dignitaries came out and talked a bit about the past. Old men sat down, most did not move much.

Still it remains, eighty plus years on.

Walk around the summit, look out yourself.

More veterans are coming.

Dear Superdawg: How Do You Tweet?

                               Where all the super dawgs hang out

I’ve been an unabashed fan of Superdawg for years. Back in the last millennium I made a special trip from Hyde Park via CTA to get a couple of their fine dogs and a milkshake. So when I found out that they had an ambitious and fun Twitter account, I had to pass along my queries about their tweeting practices. Ben Ustick and his wife Laura are at the helm of their account and Ben was kind enough to take time away from the world of celery salt and such to answer my questions.

What’s the goal of your organization’s Twitter feed?

Customer service has always been the sole mission of our joining social media. We see Twitter as an extension of walking out into the dining room and asking someone how their meal was. Thirty and forty years ago, if people had an issue with their meal or just wanted to say that they enjoyed it, that interaction played out at the restaurant and it was that commitment to customer service that made Superdawg stand the test of time. Increasingly those interactions are happening online, which doesn’t make them any less legitimate or meaningful, so we want to be there to provide the same customer service that we’ve always been known for. And our secondary goal is to make people who aren’t in Chicago jealous of the great food they’re missing..

What are your other responsibilities at your organization?

Laura is the General Manager at Superdawg’s Wheeling location while I am a social media strategist for a Northcutt inbound marketing, a boutique agency in the city. But it’s a family business, Laura’s grandparents are Maurie and Flaurie, so Superdawg is a big part of both of our lives.

What’s the mix of tweets you like to send out on any given day?

The first thing is always responding to any interactions that happen throughout the day. We also like to keep people up to date with any Superdawg related news and share some of the aforementioned food pictures. On top of that, we just try to have fun with it, mixing in any hot dog related news or interesting Chicago stories. As we’re only in Chicago (and now Wheeling), it’s pretty easy for us to keep a local focus and use Twitter to stay in tune with what’s happening around the city. So we’ll definitely get involved in some things in the moment and that has led to some of our more successful posts.

How do you interact with other organizations in (or outside) of your field?

We try to interact with every Twitter account, whether it’s a business or a person, like they’re someone who eats at Superdawg. We talk about other businesses and restaurants that we’re fans of on our Twitter account and try to have a very natural dialogue that goes both ways. We’ve had a lot of fun opportunities come about as a result of social interactions with other businesses, so we definitely don’t shy from interacting with anyone.

What’s the most valuable aspect of Twitter for your organization?

Our Twitter use has been at the root of some great partnerships and brought a good deal of attention to the restaurant, but the most valuable aspect will always be that it provides a great customer service outlet. For over five years we’ve built up a level of trust that people really know that they can bring any issue to us on social media and rely that we’ll get it taken care of.

What types of social media software do you use to manage the organization’s Twitter account?

Since it’s just the Superdawg and Superdawg Wheeling accounts, we both use the Twitter app and regular desktop login almost exclusively. There’s really no software to get in between us and the customer. When you send us a tweet, it’s going to the cellphone in one of our pockets.

Have you ever had any new and compelling partnerships come together via Twitter?

We’re actually involved in one of those partnerships right now. Through Twitter, we built a relationship with a local craft brewery called Lake Effect Brewing, who are also located on the Northwest side of the city. After months of planning and testing (mostly eating Superdawgs and drinking beer), we just recently put Superbier into production. We had a release party at the Garage Bar recently and it will be in bottles around the city this summer. The friendship with Lake Effect was started by a simple follow on Twitter.

How you respond to critics/complainers on Twitter?

We respond to everyone just like we would if they came to the counter with an issue. We generally try to move the interaction into direct messages so that it’s private or preferably email, so we’re not dealing with character constraints. There’s a tendency by some businesses to deflect legitimate complaints as troll-like behavior or ranting and raving, but I think it’s important to remember that just because someone is typing in all caps or seems like they’re irrationally upset on social media doesn’t make it less valid. We try to solve every issue. Now if someone just tells us we suck, we’ll generally ignore that.

Do you ever sponsor any special events (Tweet-chats, etc) to get a bit of buzz going around?

No. For us, Twitter is more about the day-to-day interaction and connecting with customers on an ongoing basis. We find that happens best organically.

So tell us: What are your go-to-Twitter feeds in your field? For fun? For Chicago goings-on?

We follow thousands of people and feel like our Twitter feed would be empty if any one of them was missing. We try to follow everyone we can in the hot dog industry mostly so we remember where we should be going to eat when we travel out of town. Obviously we follow all the big local news sources (ABC, NBC, CBS, DNAInfo, WGN, the Tribune, the Sun Times, Eater Chicago, Chicagoist, Huffington Post Chicago, yada, yada, yada), so we always know what’s going on in Chicago and the local food community. Since Superdawg is 66 years old, we’re fans of some of the other old-school Chicago places that are our kindred spirits on Twitter, like Eli’s Cheesecake, Lou Malnati’s, and Garrett Popcorn.

How does your company cover your feed? 24 hours a day? Weekends? Holidays?

Pretty much 24/7.

Any “aha” moments in your Twitter usage? Great revelations? “Uh oh” moments?

The “aha” moment would definitely have to be seeing the coverage of the hot dog emoji petition on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Long story short, encouraged by a Twitter conversation Superdawg had with some fellow Chicagoans (Jenny Pfafflin and Jonathan Surrat) Laura and I started a petition for a hot dog emoji to be added to the emoji language pack.” This was an almost entirely Twitter based campaign which gained local and then national attention and really just showed us that by doing things the right way and having fun with it, we’ve really created a captive community. No uh-ohs. Twitter has been an incredibly positive experience since the first day we joined. I even remember people welcoming us to Twitter on day one and thinking, “Awww, isn’t this nice.”

If you have more than one person responsible for your Twitter account, how do you keep the voice & tone consistent?

In over five years, every single tweet has been sent by my wife or me, so that’s allowed us not to have to worry about voice or tone consistency.

Who would you like to see interviewed next for this feature?

A local brewery. I’m into craft beer and would love to hear how one of the many local breweries is using Twitter to reach a growing and passionate customer base.

How does your organization promote your Twitter feed throughout your industry?

Twitter isn’t really about promotion to us. We have an incredibly active group of followers and by having real and honest interactions with them, we’re creating relationships that will hopefully last longer than Twitter.



Oh, you have twins?

Must be a lot of work.

How are things at Microsoft?

Glad to hear it.

Does your dad still work for Boeing?

Early retirement, sure.

Terse in their construction, any number of one liners dominate the patter of the event space, banquet hall, lounge, family-style restaurant or VFW hall where high school reunions take place. Doesn’t matter if it’s Sausalito or St. Petersburg, I can guarantee you the interactions will be mostly mundane.

By their very nature, they are placeholders, a type of simple cipher that stands in for questions that are much more baroque, weighty, and perhaps just too damn much to talk about over crudites and cocktails.

At my own twenty year high school reunion this past week in Seattle, I came for the good times, a bit of pleasantry, and the promise of “heavy hors d’oeuvres”. (Yes, hors d’oeuvres can be heavy. Wait, you didn’t know?)

Count me as among those who fell back on lazy inquiries (see above) and just mumbled out a few casual, noncommittal responses. In our own time, everyone can keep score in the Game of Life via Facebook (Divorced? Yup, showed up in the feed last week) and a host of other social media venues.

But, but, but: there’s something to just Being There. I mean, for god’s sake: we grew up in Seattle, right? I mean the early 1990s were the beginning of the boom, the Starbucks explosion, the grunge invasion, and so much more that stands in for broad generalizations about what the Emerald City is about to that broad swath of the Outside World.

I was there and it was just as I suspected. The cool girls showed up briefly and left, the laid back friendly folks chatted hard, fans of herbal essences took frequent breaks outside, and the people no one thought would show up did not in fact show up.

At the end of the night, we went to a club in the tres yuppified Belltown neighborhood called Cellars. Ludacris was in the (re)mix courtesy of the DJ, a large aquarium was a prominent decor element, and a fine time was had by all.

My mom called me the next morning to see how things went. After a brief discussion of the venue, the heavy hors d’oeuvres and the refined playlist (MTV Party to Go compilations, naturally), she asked “How is everyone?”

I felt my eyes close for a moment, then replied :”Twenty years have passed, but not much has changed”.

Dear Universal Hub: How Do You Tweet?


                                 Up above, the Universal Hub

Adam Gaffin is the solo soul behind Universal Hub, a whirling and wonderful website that is “all Boston, all the time”. A quick perusal of his work reveals an interest in the timely, the torrid, and the terrifying. It’s a remarkable place to visit and his Twitter feed is the perfect amuse bouche before diving into the complete site.

What’s the goal/mission of your organization’s Twitter feed?

To try to cover a large city with a newsroom of just one person.

What are your other responsibilities at your organization?

Running the Web site that goes with the feed, figuring out how to make money, etc.

What’s the mix of tweets you like to send out on any given day?

Everything from the silly to the cute to the deathly serious: Just like life in Boston itself.

How do you interact with other organizations in (or outside) of your field?

Friendly with some reporters, sworn enemy to others, I guess.

What’s the most valuable aspect of Twitter for your organization?

The ability to cover the daily happenings in a large and complex city. Everybody has a camera these days, everybody records what’s going on around them - and everybody wants to know why those things around them are happening. Twitter turns journalism into a two-way conversation - where you can report on what’s happening and also find out why it’s happening.

What types of social media software do you use to manage the
organization’s Twitter account?

Tweetdeck when I’m at my laptop, Echofon when I’m on my phone (it’s sort of a mobile version of Tweetdeck).

Have you ever had any new and compelling partnerships come together via Twitter?


How you respond to critics/complainers on Twitter?

Either I answer back or ignore them if they’re of the racist/sexist/moronic variety.

Do you ever sponsor any special events (Tweet-chats, etc) to get a bit of a buzz going around?

No. Probably closest I get is collecting answers to people’s questions on Twitter into a series of Web-based Q&As (http://www.universalhub.com/answers), the URLs for which I then post back to Twitter (Twitter’s is not designed as a threaded-discussion area; lots of answers get unwieldy quickly).

So tell us: What are your go-to-Twitter feeds in your field? For
fun? For Boston goings-on?

Hmm, I don’t actually tend to use Twitter to keep up with what’s going on in journalism in general or hyperlocal stuff in particular; I’m one of those dwindling few who still use RSS to follow sources such as Nieman and Dan Kennedy. I’m also a member of a group of hyperlocal publishers whose main forum is actually on Facebook.

How does your company cover your feed? 24 hours a day? Weekends? Holidays?

I hate waking up in the morning and seeing some big story broke when I’m asleep :-). So not 24 hours yet. But, yes, I bring my phone on weekend outings, my laptop on vacations/weekend trips.

Any “aha” moments in your Twitter usage? Great revelations? “Uh oh” moments?

Probably my first big realization of how important Twitter could be was a few years ago when Boston lost most of its water supply when an aquaduct connection burst - at first almost nobody knew what was going on. Twitter became this amazing way to collect and disseminate information - everything from the need to boil water to which stores still had supplies of Poland Spring.

The first uh-oh moment was when I started tweeting about a bizarre armed holdup at Copley Square that I was hearing over the police scanner - turned out to be a drill, not an actual holdup by a woman in a designer dress. You need to be careful what you tweet!

Who would you like to see interviewed next for this feature?

Stanley Staco (@stacos)

How does your organization promote your Twitter feed throughout your industry?

Well, I know other reporters/editors get my feed; otherwise, though, I don’t do much promotion.

June 20th, Section 224

Top of the 1st, Cutch at the plate
     dreads swing around
moving to the flow of the pitch, only a second passes

Buc are out and they leave the field
Nearby a bronzed woman puts her hand
lazily around her companion, tiny tattoo
revealed, a smiling dolphin looks out

Cubs up, a triple in the stand up fashion to start
A play at the plate is next, but we pause as umpires
begin to gather, time to review, time slows.

A breather for the Bucs, decisions in the dugout
New man to the mound, a direction much needed
Siren from Addison breaks up the public address
A tragedy that passes by, walk out music starts again

Heavy set man pokes my shoulder says “Where’s the Old Style?”
Thought it was gone for good, but no, I’ll go downstairs
Captain Morgan club probably has it, always the right place
on a day like this

We are back in play, top of the third inning, breeze along the
breezeway fails to cut through the humidity
can’t do it, late June is here and the solstice cometh

Mercer steps up to the plate but wait bachelorettes come over
block my view, not unwelcome, but hey no, I can’t buy 14 beers
for the entire confab just too much money perhaps outside the park?

Yes, I can take a selfie with you but is it a selfie of me and us if I’m
in it? Sure, she says, haha,  you’re funny let’s take one with us and
a plastic toy, you’ve seen this before right?

Photo done, they move on

Back sitting on the green rail, watching and listening when
guest ambassador comes up and asks me “Don’t you have a seat?”
Yes, folks are in it, and she says “Tell them to leave and leave this rail!”
Nod of agreement, think I’ll stay put as I like the flow of folks

Cubs at it, back in the bottom of the inning as the sunlight
spreads around and moves back and forth, clouds overhead doing
their thing, don’t care, just moving around, hanging out

Schierholtz steps up, one away, after Castro and Rizzo go around
Deep, deep bending ball moves to the right from his bat and wait
yes, he’s out, the inning is over, and the Cubs got two

Scurry of vendors with the regular stuff, peanuts, popcorn, lemon ice
One special plate held high, going to a suite, and I can smell the grapes
watermelon pineapple and melons and boy does that seem like living

Time for me to move on, see what’s up and what’s down
Section 224 you’ve treated me well and given me a taste of the good the bad the other and some that was all three and I didn’t know it