Week 2 Guest Speaker Roundup – by Andy Shrader

A Conversation with Serena Ehrlich, Executive Director, Attention

By UCLA X425 Student Andy Shrader


Your instructor, Erik Deutsch, says that hearing Serena Ehrlich speak about social media is “like skydiving… you are the skydiver; she is the wind in your face.”

At the beginning of Serena’s talk, the rush of her website recommendations come at you slowly, ephemeral as clouds rushing by: klout, socialmention, alltop

If your company blocks employees from social media, Serena tells you, they are doing you (and themselves) a grave disservice and you are falling behind.

That much is already clear, to you if not to everyone else in class. You are falling behind.

Far below, you see the ground. Impact seems distant; a dream. But the threat is implicit.

She goes on. Companies must engage with customers. Stock prices move at a whiff of a rumor. You need to smell that whiff. Adjust. Or lose millions instantly.

You gasp. Realizing how hard it is to breathe at this speed. For you. For companies. For the world.

Automatic sentiment readers aren’t always correct, Serena says. You must analyze what is being said to make sense of it, to enable you to react in time.

Instinctive, you reach for your rip cord. But, in this moment, Erik is the skydiving instructor tied to your back. He whispers, you don’t have time to pull the chute. You’re already so far behind. That someone who knows as much about social media as Serena even exists confirms this.

The websites come at you faster: twellow, compete, hootsuite, swix

“The philosophy of social media,” Serena says, philosophically, “is share the knowledge.”

Objects on the ground come into focus. A town. Blowing fields of corn stalks. Probably all genetically-modified. Nothing seems real from here. What the ground represents is not clear at this point in the Spring quarter. An uncertain, chaotic future of unemployment? Perhaps you will learn it all in time. Perhaps you, too, will become a social media maven, so generously willing to spill your knowledge all over the landscape…

But the corn… what about the corn? Perhaps you should aim for a lake.

Serena goes on. A study in breathlessness. A case study about Pauly Shore. That they got him to be a trending topic.

Surely, the end is nigh. Surely, the fourth horseman rides. Pauly Shore? Trending? Surely Oppenheimer’s bomb (nothing compared to any of Pauly’s) has slipped to the #2 most powerful weapon ever invented. You want to start a blog poll.

But time is short. You think not of Pauly, but of James Dickey, of Emily Dickinson. Extinction slumbers in corn tassels. Hope is the thing without feathers.

Alexa, KeywordSpy, hashtag

The barn roof. The haystack. The three-layer cake the farmer’s daughter just made for 4-H…

Serena has much more to say (so very much more… you can just tell these things), but it is 10 pm, she is out of words… and, in this metaphor anyway… out of space, and, oh shit, here’s the fucking


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2 Responses to Week 2 Guest Speaker Roundup – by Andy Shrader

  1. Cathy Flynn says:

    Your skydiving analogy is hysterical! Great article!

  2. Alexis Wiley says:

    Great writing! Really puts in the experience that is Serena!