Tag Archive | "celebrity"

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Reviving the Reality Television Genre

Last night, the lovely Joan Rivers was awarded the title of “The Apprentice” on Donald Trump’s show, now in it’s…hmm, well, I don’t know what season they’re in anymore. I stopped watching years ago. Frankly, the only people I remember are Bill someone-or-other (because he won the first season and smokes cigars), Omarosa no-last-name-needed (because I met her again recently and she is fierce), and Rebecca Jarvis (who I crush on when I watch her report on CNBC).

Reality television programming is dying a very, very slow death. Who can’t see this coming? Older brands like The Apprentice, Survivor, and American Idol simply have lost their buzz, and many others are completely gone from our minds (remember Paradise Hotel?) Even a relatively good, relatively new show like The Hills is based on an older show, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, practically a distant memory now. (Trust me, I used to live in Orange County, and I loved it, but once you get past talking about blondes, the beach, and beer there’s little more material to build on.)  Sure, some of these shows still make money, but which direction are the trendlines pointing? The reality television bubble is ready to pop.

But is reality entertainment played out, as well? Not hardly. Most everyone loves people watching. Freelancers sitting in Starbucks looking at each other pretending to work on laptops practically passes for a reasonable business model. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers mine Twitter for gossip and news and jobs and the newest battle-of-the-geeks-they-don’t-know. Facebook is making it easier and easier to stalk your best friends, your worst enemies, and people you’d like to know in cities you don’t live in. Television channels like E! remain popular, Ryan Seacrest has four jobs, and magazines like People still fly off the shelves as they report on every triviality of celebrity life. No extra pound is too small, no frenemy too obscure, no vacation too remote to report on.

Let’s face it. We love reality, and the masters of the genre know it. Ashton Kutcher has a million Twitter followers, yes, but others are quickly catching on to the new interface between emerging personal media technologies and personalized public relations. None other than Paris Hilton has recently been Twittering her way through a weeklong beach paradise vacation with her boyfriend. Reporting that the paparazzi hadn’t found her yet, she herself was photographing and publishing their experience for thousands of her fans. How long before she is using a Flip cam or live streaming on Qik? (How long until her publicist has to take a pay cut?)

Less popular but still interesting people are doing the same things. Blogger and Air America Radio personality Ana Marie Cox spent her weekend reporting live from the events surrounding the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner – just using her phone. Her photos and witty comments are sent to nearly 500,000 followers – more than the average cable television news program has tuning in. Even a relatively less famous blogger like me has an amusing, snarky impersonator, who in a bizzaro fashion is really just publicizing my brand of writing to an audience of non-traditional fans.

One can only conclude from this that reality entertainment is raging, but not in the usual places. It’s hard to imagine a reality television show in its current form based around me, or Ana Marie Cox – yet we’re popular, at least in microniches. Television doesn’t yet exploit that fact.

It’s time for an infusion of new media technology into the medium formerly known as television. Here’s the current strategy: TV networks record attractive people facing hard challenges under interesting circumstances 24 hours a day for months and then air less than one hour of that a week. Whose bright idea was this for 2009?

It’s hard to believe that nothing interesting happens during the other 167.4 hours. The viewers don’t care about TV producers, directors, and editors. They don’t care about production costs and marketing deals and advertising tie-ins and intellectual property. They watch shows because they want to know what people are doing, and traditional networks are withholding that information. Viewers now want to decide what’s interesting and useful in those “extra” hours. They want that power, as unreasonable as it may seem.

Reality television shows are carefully crafted into storylines and so arguably they are not showing “true reality,” which the raw footage would then reveal. But does anyone care? Would this spoil some grand surprise? Maybe from time to time, but surely at this point most people have pulled the wool back from their eyes. Viewers know it’s altered reality – but they are willing to suspend logic in the interest of being entertained and distracted from their own reality.

Moreover, the all-important Gen Y viewership wants to reinterpret everything, mash it up with other video clips, add soundtracks of hip hop music, share their creations with friends, mine it for ideas and innuendo, and use it in amateur films. Viewers want to “democratize” the footage. Fair or not – that’s what increasingly tech-savvy audiences want – they want to participate in reality.  Although this cult of the amateur produces a lot of garbage, it’s also true that there are diamonds in the rough – and struggling entertainment companies always on the lookout for the next thing should be keen to polish those rare gems.

What’s my advice? Free the footage, I say to television networks and production companies and movie studios. Break down the barriers to participation and collaboration. Create repositories where hours of raw footage can live and be reused ad infinitum under a Creative Commons license. Even better, provide a platform like YouTube where these amateur film directors can upload the creations they’ve made with your footage. Better still, have them create user profiles and recruit the cream of the crop for an internship program within the company. Create the next generation of employees and let them have fun during an informal application process that gets their creative juices flowing. Because my wager is that they’ve got your next great idea.

This article originally appeared in my column at True/Slant.

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Trend Preadaptation and Bandwagon Warfare

Life is a series of bandwagons, especially if you’re a successful person. Environments that you operate within change constantly, and if you don’t evolve with them you’ll probably go extinct. Working as an academic scientist for about a decade, I saw such environmental shifts all the time. Most professors, especially if they wanted spending money, worked on topics that they could obtain federal grant money to support.  Sure, other topics were important and interesting, but the realities of running an expensive laboratory cannot be forgotten. 

Trends in funding different topic areas come and go. Have you heard about research in “translational medicine” lately? That’s a hot topic. What about “functional MRI”? Sure, that’s hot too. Okay, how about “anatomy and physiology”? Yeah, thought so. It’s not that there aren’t any important questions left in anatomy and physiology, it’s just that it’s not perceived as cutting-edge anymore.

Some researchers follow these trends and evolve with them, and some don’t, with consequences to either choice. People who are great at exploiting trends in science funding often band together into collaborative packs, sharing data with each other, recommending others for panels at conferences, peer-reviewing each others’ work, and generally being collegial. It’s tribal behavior. It can certainly be hard to become part of a new tribe being the right person in the right place at the right time; but when you are it allows you to do more research than you could previously.

Meanwhile, have-nots without great research funding are noble loners without a powerful tribe. They’re doing equally good work perhaps, but feel overshadowed by more trendy researchers. And so often a good dose of spite separates these two sets of tribes. But why? The first group is mainly doing good science that Congress, the National Science Foundation, and so on feel is important now, and the latter group is sticking to their traditional topic and has maintained an academic freedom to pursue it. There really is no productive reason for warfare between these bandwagons. Yet it exists.

In my experience, people who exploit a changing environment successfully are often preadapted to it in some way. In science, people may have already been reading widely on the topic, interested in it for some other reason besides funding. Perhaps one lab fortuitously collected speculative preliminary results when a grad student rotated through the lab for three months, and those results proved critical to a later grant application. Rarely do I think a professor of physical chemistry wakes up in the morning, sits in front of his computer with a cup of coffee, sees new funding for breast cancer research, and starts carpetbagging on their turf. It just doesn’t work that way – you’ve “gotta have the chops” to go up against the competition.

Of course, none of this is limited to the practice of academic science. I would postulate it is unlimited because humans have banded together in tribes based around ideas for as long as recorded history. Lately, I’ve been writing a fair amount about the now-trendy topic of Government 2.0, or how emerging Web technologies are changing how government operates. And as this writing has garnered attention it’s also been implied that I’m carpetbagging the field rather than being a practitioner of its topic matter. In an interesting bit of co-evolution, even as an increasing number of people are finding my writing and public speaking useful, a bandwagon has formed to critique the bandwagon of people who have published “pop” writing about Gov 2.0 - and there has been a tiny bit of tribal bandwagon warfare.  

I don’t remember Gov 2.0 being a trendy topic in April 2008 when I started working on it. To the contrary, in my travels to Web 2.0 events of all kinds that started over a year ago, no one from government was there, and very few attendees at events outside the DC area knew anyone from the government, never mind someone who wanted to hear about their start-up company. My partial bridging of that gap led to writing some interesting articlesand allowed me to network with other thought leaders both inside and outside government who have certainly taught me a lot. Like the scientist with fortuitous preliminary data, I was preadapted to the new-found Gov 2.0 craze facilitated by an exciting presidential election season last fall.

This week, the hot topic around my office is pandemic flu. Why? Because it turns out that my research center distributed wildly successful pandemic flu preparedness posters in 2005 and a planning guide to operating a large organization during a pandemic in 2006.  A few months ago, I designed and printed a new poster that summarized the best of what we knew and made it more graphically palatable. Now, in the middle of a seemingly global swine flu outbreak, a lot of people suddenly want it. Am I again carpetbagging for personal gain, strategically moving from exploiting Gov 2.0 to exploiting pandemic flu? This hypothesis would be amusing if it weren’t so ridiculous.

The problem with bandwagon warfare is that it doesn’t help anyone. It annoys the trendy without affecting them, it satisfies the criticizers while effectively wasting their time, and it doesn’t do anything for the greater good; in the case of this article, that greater good involves citizens who want scientists conducting medical research, a military that puts an end to insurgencies, and a government that communicates better with them on health issues. Not unlike old arguments about the logic behind nuclear warfare, tribal bandwagon warfare is a useless stalemate that shouldn’t escalate. But when it is so easy to write something harmful online, what is the deterrent?

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Twitter Adds ‘Poking’ Feature to Spite Facebook

San Fransisco, CA – Twitter CEO Evan Williams announced today that Twitter will add a ‘poking’ feature to its popular micromessaging service, enabling people to communicate using even less effort than before.

Williams, or ev as he is AKA’d on Twitter, broke the news via a 140-character ‘tweet’ to his more than 500,000 followers around the world. He then gave the inaugural Twitter-poke to dating columnist and New York-based social climber Julia Allison, who immediately gushed on her lifecasting blog NonSociety, “That’s hot.”

“People have been complaining for some time now that 140 characters is just too long to convey some thoughts,” William said in a later interview with Sarah Lacy of BusinessWeek (AKA saracuda). “People’s tweet streams have long been clogged with brief quips like ‘Thanks!’ and ‘OMG ROFL’ – we decided to offer our users the opportunity to replace words of questionable value with a poke. We strongly believe that this new feature will grow to be loved.”

For social media mavens, poking has been a controversial feature of social network Facebook for quite some time. There, people can see friends’ profiles that often include contact information, photos, events, and other personal information. But people also had the ability to electronically ‘poke’ people they weren’t friends with, expanding their networks in unanticipated directions.

A source inside Facebook who spoke with us on condition of anonymity shared internal research showing that 14,478 relationships – of varying length and girth – and as many as 125 marriages have resulted from pokes.  Nevertheless, ‘poking overload’ has resulted in many extremely attractive people blocking people from poking them, continuing the co-evolutionary battle of the sexes.

A discussion about poking quickly took place on Twitter, although influencer Robert Scoble (AKA the scobleizer) chose to debate complete strangers on FriendFeed (which doesn’t allow poking, incidentally). In one highly retweeted tweet, lethally generous industry analyst Jememiah Owyang commented, “because poking is free, Twitter users are likely to abuse the new feature.” In response, Williams tweeted, “We’re all about loving our users and giving them a platform to love each other, not about making money. Oh, and I heart Zappos.”

In a 5,352-word article posted today on his website, NYU professor and new media guru Clay Shirky commented that, “The problem isn’t poking overload, it’s filter failure.”

Not unlike Blair and Serena scheming for optimal prom dates, Twitter and Facebook have been mindfucking for quite some time. Facebook, holding a beautiful bouquet of red roses, politely asked to buy Twitter, but gold-digger Evan totally dissed Mark. Mark, feeling hurt, then did what any fresh-faced, innocent young man would do in this situation – visit Oprah. And then my friend Jenny told me that she overheard Mark totally say to Oprah that he’s copying Twitter, so he doesn’t need it anymore.

In the drama of adding poking to his site, and indeed, visiting Oprah himself last week, Evan could now be turning the tables on Mark. But what if the new Twitter feature backfires with massive overpoking? And what if Mark and Evan have adjoining VIP tables at Mighty??

Celebrities have differing viewpoints on poking. Ashton Kutcher (AKA aplusk – get it?), a major adopter of Twitter and yet another Oprah BFF, had no immediate comment – but his fans did. “I’m going to poke the shit out of him,” shrieked a tweenager wearing a Gossip Girl t-shirt. “He’s so hot and I want to let him know it.”

Other celebrities such as Juliet Landau, perhaps most famous for playing Drusilla on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer from 1997-2003, are reportedly expecting a poke-driven positive surge of renewed interest.

Williams for his part says there are no immediate plans for poking safety features like blocking, either, because the poke was made available as a ‘beta’ product.

“Perpetual beta is common in the Web 2.0 world,” commented Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, one of the most popular sites for news on social networking technology. Personally, he enjoys poking a lot: “Poking helps me connect with a whole new group of people who have nothing whatsoever to say to me, but still want to get in touch. And developing and nurturing these kinds of relationships is the cornerstone of social platforms like Twitter.”

Williams hopes to monetize just these relationships. Cashmore: “Any small edge that a company like Twitter can get could make a difference in this competitive market. Poking is a feature of necessity for Twitter to create economies of scale for global gossip networks.”  A skeptical viewpoint was expressed by Pulitzer Prize-winning “long form” writer Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, however. “Why did they reinvent a poke with a poke? Just more evidence that all the really creative people on Earth live in Manhattan between Grand Street and 23rd.”

An employee of Twitter familiar with the company’s financial situation told us that Twitter had a good chance of being profitable by 2014. When asked if poking was part of a move towards a more concrete business model for the company, he looked right into our eyes and answered with complete seriousness, “Absolutely.”

Yammer and Present.ly, competitors in the Enterprise 2.0 microsharing niche, did not immediately respond to questions about whether they would provide poking to their corporate clients.

This satire was originally published at the emerging news and opinion site True/SlantSubscribe to my True/Slant RSS feed here!

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People I Wish I Could Hate – But Can’t

There are just some people that you wish you could hate, but can’t. Objectively, you just know they’re great. Admit it, deep down inside, you know you love them. Here are my five; Who are yours?

Contessa Brewer – This MSNBC newsbunnie, I mean, morning anchor comes across as someone barely smarter than a puppy. Really, it’s the ‘walking upright’ thing that puts her ahead, and not much more. But do you know someone more perfect looking? Maybe, back in her heyday, Angelina Jolie. But let’s get real – Contessa is flawless. She dresses classy, she’s a dark, sexy vixen, and her face would make statues jealous. And she’s probably not that dumb. I mean, she does find her way to work every day. I’d marry her. Oh, she’s taken? Hey Contessa, put in a good word for me with Alex Witt, would ya?

Lawrence O’Donnell – Man, this creator of West Wing is more smug than the characters in the show. His confrontational elitism, European socialism, and intellectual snobbery is enough to turn anyone reasonable completely off. But damn, he really is kinda smart, and had a very respectable career as a Senate staff member. And West Wing, as eutopian as the cast appeared, indeed was a good show; I watched every episode. And he acts on the edgy HBO show Big Love. Shit, he and I even both grew up in Massachusetts. Red Sox Nation, how can I hate a fellow member?

Jon Stewart – Unbelievable, really, this “fake news” anchor of The Daily Show. Sure, Jon, fake news when you like it to be fake, but you use your platform to ream hard working people like Jim Cramer when it pleases your personal preferences. Your snark smells up the whole country. But who can deny, seriously, that Stewart has spawned a new form of television and humor that has influenced millions and launched characters like Mo Rocca, Lewis Black, Steve Carell, and especially Stephen Colbert? He’s just awesome.

Ashton Kutcher – This guy is such an asshole. A model, an actor, a producer, a cougar hunter, and a Twitter master? Are you kidding?? It’s SO unfair to everyone else. Even guys like Rob Thomas and Billy Zane must shake their heads at “A plus K”. But dude, where’s my head? Ashton Kutcher is just a winner through and through. His head is in the right place, and so seems to be his heart. This guy works his butt off, is an experimenter, a risk taker, and loves to have fun ‘punking’ people among many other things. I practically want to steal him from Demi, make him fall in love with me, and then use his Twitter account to retweet all my stuff. But I have too much respect for him, and I’m still really into Alex Witt.

Tony Tsieh – Who? Here’s this Silicon Valley dork who made some stupid company, sold it for a zillion dollars, and now sells womens’ shoes. At a store named Zappos. Sort of like naming a book store “Amazon” but much, much more idiotic. I know that Sex in the City taught men that shoes are where it’s at, but can you still think of a more dumb thing to do with his life? Oh – and get this – he “cares” about his customers. But you’ve gotta love this guy. Hsieh has built the ultimate Web 2.0 company – everybody loves him, he sells something simple, barely makes a profit, and tours the lecture circuit teaching others how to be just like him. Tony, wait up, teach me everything!

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Personally and Professionally: Are You Accessible?

One of the most interesting things about social media is that it makes people who previously seemed inaccessible less so. That applies to not only celebrities like Shaq and Ashton Kutcher, but also to people who are celebrities in your field of work; niche celebrities.

I’ve had a number of great experiences in which I’ve made connections with people within the government, in the media, and in other walks of life. It would have taken much more effort to do this in the past – being personally introduced, cornering them at an event I knew they’d attend, and so forth. But the method in which I approached them made the connection no less important – and when a new relationship benefits both parties, everyone is happy. Soon, no one will care if they initially received a letter typed on stationary or a Facebook message.

If you’re really new to social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, this is a profound shift in relationship- and network-building. But don’t worry – even the veterans are new to it. So read about how others are using new technology to build social networks and dive in.

Now, those who are already in positions of power and influence (let’s imagine Henry Kissinger, for the sake of discussion) may not think that being accessible is in their best interests. I know people who are at the height of their profession who think just like this. And maybe our thought-experiment Kissinger can get away with it.

But at some point, so many people will be commonly accessible through virtual universal ‘phone books’ like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (and their successors) that there may be some backlash against those who aren’t. And who can predict how quickly that might happen? While these senior folks are content with their trusted coterie of friends and colleagues, other opportunities are passing them by.

So no matter what your age or experience, whether you are settled into a career path or changing the road you’re on, make sure you’re accessible. It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.

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Do You Take Twitter Personally?

Ocassionally, I get notes from people I know only from Twitter. They’re along the lines of: Why are you following me now after so long? Why did you stop following me? Why don’t you follow everyone? And so on.

But my question for them is: Why do you take Twitter so personally?

People can do whatever they please with Twitter. Some people like to follow everyone to form a ‘Twitter mutuality’ and use the system as a multiplex instant message platform. Others like to follow only a few people that really influence them, regardless of how many followers they themselves have. Still others conduct experiments with Twitter, following new people in batches, seeing who may be interesting over the course of a week, and then unfollowing the rest.

Some people are also trying to balance their work and personal lives with their Twitter accounts, whether you know it or not. There may be constraints on who they can follow, or how often they can tweet. Who are you to judge? It’s as silly as looking at someone else’s cell phone minutes.

You can’t possibly keep track of what everyone on Twitter is doing! So don’t try. Focus on yourself and what you want to get out of it. Spending too much time thinking about why someone unfollowed you distracts from what should be much more important – saying interesting things.

Moreover, even if someone isn’t following you on Twitter, direct messaging isn’t your only option. People can be found on LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo, by email, and at real events. And if you can’t get ahold of them at any of those places, they probably don’t want to be found!

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Expand Your Twitter Base

If you use the popular microsharing site Twitter, you’re probably familiar with the idea that people are communicating in different ways than ever before. Twitter is purposely not well-defined, but it can be viewed as a massively multichannel instant messenger, a text talk radio channel, and a modern mobile CB radio.

Have you assessed your last 40 tweets lately? There’s no right nor wrong way to use Twitter per se, but many people would like more followers. However, if you use Twitter primarily as a broadcast IM tool that no one else is listening to, you may as well just use Yahoo Messenger, or text messaging, or talk on the phone. You’re not doing it ‘wrong’ but you’re also not maximizing the power of the microsharing platform – and to some extent you’re also wasting your effort.

Why pretend to broadcast when you’re really narrowcasting?

If you want to expand your base, provide value to people you’re not personally familiar with. This might mean linking to interesting material, using hashtags to create metadata within your tweets, or simply being funny or interesting enough for people to re-tweet you. Provide useful material that can be discovered by strangers.

Gaming the Twitter system to accumulate new followers is generally just a short-term strategy. What you really want to do is be true to yourself, and execute against your core set of beliefs, values, and interests. Then, you’ll be happy about what you’re writing about, and attract a group of followers in microniches of interest to you over the longer term.

You might be happy to use Twitter to chat with your friends, and that’s fine. But if you hope to expand your base for personal or professional reasons, and your last 40 tweets are 80% or more personal chatter, no one else is listening to you. So why would they ever be tempted to follow?

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Twinfluence is About Community

Two days ago, Patrick Gavin wrote an article for Politico titled, “The 10 most influential D.C. Twitterers,” but in fact what he wrote was an article about the 10 most influential people who happen to use Twitter. People on the list like David Gregory and Ana Marie Cox are not “bad” at Twitter (though one could argue that Barack Obama and Al Gore are), but the list simply does not live up to the title of the article. Fortunately for Gavin, in response Mark Milian from the LA Times issued an even worse list, based strictly on the number of followers for each account.

What Gavin and Milian share is a lack of understanding about what Twitter really is, and how that makes one influential. Twitter is not a messaging service for blasting out text-sized press releases. Twitter is a giant, deconstructed conversation where people share information with each other.

These two journalists (and many others) lack this understanding because, frankly, they don’t really understand Twitter that well. For example, Gavin suffers from the fact that only about 5% of his tweets are conversational – and interestingly, many of the ones that are happen to be with people who made his list. What is more damning than them not being Twitter mavens themselves, however, is the fact that they seem to not have interviewed any, either.

People who are truly influential – “twinfluential” if you will – have one important thing in common: they’re part of a community. Stemming from this participation, their tweets are copied and talked about regularly, their knowledge of social media enables full time consulting work, and their connections can get hundreds and even thousands of people to network with other social media mavens.

Based on my own experiences and some private polling of the Twitter community, here is my informal list of the 10 most influential D.C. Twitterers – what you were promised by Politico and the LA Times.

David Almacy is currently Senior Vice President for Digital Public Affairs at Edelman, and he blogs about many aspects of social media, including its use in healthcare. But in a previous incarnation as George W. Bush’s White House Internet Director he networked communities of government employees.

Andy Carvin is best known as the social media maven making things happen at NPR, and became particularly well-known during presidential election season. But perhaps more importantly, he used social technology to selflessly mash up information for relevant communities about hurricane season.

Peter Corbett is CEO of iStrategyLabs, which creates interactive web experiences for clients as diverse as Rockstar energy drink and the DC government. But his influence in the community widens as founder of the Twin Tech event series, which networks thousands of people in the country’s largest technology community (yes, DC).

Chris Dorobek is anchor of The Daily Debrief on Federal News Radio 1500AM, where he concentrates on the intersection between government and technology. Formerly of the influential publication Federal Computer Week, Dorobek is an influencer in both old and new media communities.

Jill Foster is the editor of WomenGrowBusiness.com and a fixture in the DC social media scene. As co-founder of DC Media Makers, she throws giant events that bring together the communities of old and new media in a classy and exciting way.

Bob Gourley is a former chief technology officer of a US intelligence agency, and currently blogs at CTOvision.com and is a private consultant. His high-level connections in the tech community combined with his low-profile approach make big things happen under the radar.

Frank Gruber wears a number of hats, working for AOL among them. But he is also an influencer as co-founder of the national Tech Cocktail events series, which develops community socials, conferences, and opportunities for tech startups to present their products.

Geoff Livingston is the principal at Livingston Communications, where he consults corporate and non-profit clients on how to utilize social technologies to communicate with communities of customers. He is also the author of Now is Gone and runs the excellent event BlogPotomac.

Jim Long is the ultimate example of modesty. While his motto may be “I’m just a cameraman,” working with some of the biggest names at NBC he has an all-access pass – making him influential in the community. Meet the Press anchor David Gregory, among others, has learned about social media from Jim.

Nick O’Neill runs Social Times, which includes among other things the AllFacebook blog. Whereas most people think of Silicon Valley and New York City as the centers of technology news, Nick is breaking news from the social technology community right here in DC.

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The Post-Geekdominant Twitterverse

Twitter has changed so much since late 2008, when most of its most popular users were geeks, and before most celebrities had started embracing social media. This post was originally published on ChrisBrogan.com on December 5, 2008. It’s still one of my favorites. Thanks Chris.

Shaquille O’Neal’s embrace of Twitter as a way to connect with his fans got me thinking – what would the Twitterverse be like if it were not dominated by geeks? People who aren’t geeks, geek wannabes, or geek fans more than likely haven’t heard of Twitter. But at some point that will change. The conversational technology and vision of Twitter has created a simple, logical, and useful way for people and their ideas to connect. Whether it is Twitter per se, or a competing or successor service, at some point the Twitterverse will be dominated by non-geeks.

Perusing the most followed individual people on Twitter, however, it is obvious that most of them are gearheads – the list includes everyone from cewebrities like Leo Laporte, startup whiz kids like Kevin Rose, personalities like Justine Ezarik, reporters like Veronica Belmont, and analysts like Jeremiah Owyang. This pattern holds true well down into the bottom of the Top 100 list, with names like Fred Wilson, Brian Solis, and Jeff Pulver appearing. Many initial Twitter users knew who these people were. But now, the average new Twitter user has probably never heard of any of these “most popular people on Twitter.”

The fact that geeks dominate the most followed list is not so much because they add tremendous value and engage in great conversations (though some do), but rather a consequence of people in the tech community being aware of Twitter before most anyone else, self-organizing a hierarchy, and talking amongst themselves. But I suspect that this “geekdominance” will not last too much longer frankly, many people in the Twitterholic Top 100 are not that interesting to the average person. So who will be the LEDs to their light bulbs?

Mainstream journalists and other media personalities are certainly beginning to understand the power of social technologies like Twitter. Rick Sanchez of CNN has nearly 34,000 followers. Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC also hold respectable positions among the most followed people. Average people can relate to mainstream media personalities, and these personalities tend to add value through their reporting or opinions. To be sure, mainstream media will begin to use Twitter more and more effectively; Clayton Morris from FNC’s Fox & Friends Weekend is a great example, posing questions to the home audience during the show and genuinely engaging in conversations about topics. Locally in Washington DC, Fox 5 anchor Brian Bolter uses Twitter frequently and even during his broadcasts (see this and this two minutes later in order to get ideas for stories, advertise upcoming coverage, and just to chat with people.

Who else? I think that the big, mainstream trend among Twitter users in 2009 will be interacting with “real celebrities” using this and other tools to directly connect with fans and exhibit their personalities and daily lives. Shaq is the perfect person to bring the advantages of social technology to a more mainstream audience. As his popularity on Twitter is perhaps unprescedented he accumulated over 14,000 followers in well less than a month. But also notable among the most followed Twitter users are Shaq’s precursors MC Hammer and Dave Matthews. Using social technologies will not work for all celebrities, to be sure – celebrities who are very shy, or stalker-prone, or boring, and so forth are not naturals for this medium. Some notables have crashed and burned. But I can think of many interesting, well-known people whom I would like to become more ambiently aware of – let’s just start with Tom Green, Conan O’Brian, Ben Folds, Rivers Cuomo, Keith Richards, Jim Gaffigan, Dolph Lundgren, Christopher Hitchens, Paris Hilton, Prince William, Dave Chappelle, Victoria Zdrok, Eminem, Brad Pitt, Bam Margera, Natalie Portman, James Woods, Kristin Wiig, Megan Fox, Kevin Smith, Kevin Bacon, Quentin Tarantino, Mark Wahlberg, Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, Anthony Bourdain, Madonna, Leo DiCaprio, Tom Wolfe, Hugh Hefner, Winona Rider, and Flight of the Conchords.

But ultimately, I think that the real winner is you. If your words are compelling, if you add value to conversations, people will listen to you, talk with you, and chat about you. Whether you plan it or not, you will build a personal brand – and I think personal brands are great for entrepreneurial personalities. Jim Long, a Washington DC-based cameraman for NBC, is also on the most-followed list. Why? Not because he’s a celebrity. Because he is a nice person with a cool job that takes him to interesting locations, and he has embraced Twitter as a great way to interact with people. Gary Vaynerchuk, a wine expert, uses the force of his personality and intellect to evangelize about his wine business and other topics he is passionate about. These two people, and many more less well known, use Twitter to execute against their resume, to enhance what they already do using new social technologies. And if you have interesting things to say, you can do it too.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is a biological scientist, government consultant, and writer for Mashable.com and other venues. These views are entirely his own and do not represent the official views of any organization.

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