Social media for the media social club: the slightly bizarre, happy story of #goldsbiephone
Anyone who’s paid attention to Toronto politics on Twitter for more than five minutes knows Jonathan Goldsbie. He’s a contributor to Spacing, OpenFile and the National Post. On any given day he can be found tweeting about council documents, agendas or attending meetings and providing colour commentary (Giorgio Mammoliti was recently forced to apologize for calling him “Comrade Twitter”). Amazingly, one of the pillars of Toronto’s Twittersphere manages his prolific stream of tweets with a phone that one wit compared to “a Flintstonian pterodactyl.”
“Can’t we each pitch in a buck and get him a proper phone?” asked Chris Tindal on Twitter Wednesday night. By 10 p.m., his friends had started an intervention on Twitter with the hashtag #goldsbiephone.
Tindal got the ball rolling, and the pledges started rolling in. “Within minutes of my initial tweet, Michal Hay was suggesting ways to move it forward, Mark Kuznicki was researching platforms, and David Demchuk started setting up the page,” says Tindal.
Michal Hay suggested they aim for $2,000 to cover the phone and a year’s worth of data—and raise that much by the next council meeting in April. This “huddle,” as Demchuk calls it, all took place within the first hour of Tindal’s tweet. The site went up quickly and the money started coming in.
By Thursday morning, the twitterers had over $800. By Thursday night, they had $1,500. By this morning they had raised 78 per cent of their target figure.
“His phone is ridiculous, the kind of thing you’d let a baby play with six years ago,” says Demchuk “His phone is so bad he had no idea this was happening. He can’t even read incoming tweets about him, so this was all happening in broad daylight, but behind his back.” Goldsbie was eventually tipped off by a reporter at city council.
Before writing off this story as a journalistic geekfest with a ChipIn account, consider that Councillor Shelley Carroll can be counted among Goldsbie’s fans. When we spoke with her, she said she wasn’t sure if she was legally allowed to contribute to the phone fund, “but I’m certainly gonna be promoting it!” Carroll says that in an age where daily newspapers are re-inventing themselves all the time (hint, hint), Goldsbie has a real purpose: “You read him and he may not reflect your politics, but he’s not going to shift on you. You’re not going to open Jon’s Twitter page one day and find the editor’s changed [things].”
Now, getting a young man in Toronto a smartphone isn’t curing cancer, and it’s not buying anti-malarial nets for Africa, but there’s still something important happening here. Carroll suggests that Rob Ford’s election helped explode Toronto’s politically engaged community: “I always tell people that I owe my political career to Mike Harris … and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that after the events of the last few months, someone with a reliable voice like [Goldsbie] has become a phenomenon.”
What’s clear from the #goldsbiephone saga is that Toronto is fortunate enough to have an engaged public sphere on-line. Photographer and urban cycling consultant Yvonne Bambrick, one of #goldsbiephone’s early pledges, says “these mediums have helped—access to Twitter, blogs, all these sharing mechanisms have helped. They’ve allowed the dialogue the happen outside the halls of power.” The combination of technology, activism, membership and yes, disposable income that get combined in Toronto’s political nerdosphere allows for this little example of self-started and self-funded distributed gifting.
“It’s working because we know him, it’s real, it’s in the moment, it’s concrete—it’s not a large, abstract, unsolvable problem,” says Demchuk. “In the face of poverty, community housing, the issues at TCHC, people almost craved an issue they could resolve in a humorous, uplifting way.” Demchuk and others describe this less as a charity and more as “subscribing to Goldsbie.”
Goldsbie, for his part, is more than a little mortified. Reached by The Informer, he said “I don’t think there’s a correct or proper response to something of this nature. So I’ve felt everything. (Including gratitude, of course. In addition to being astonishing, it’s all profoundly touching.)” He says he has his sights on the HTC Desire Z, if he can find a way around giving Bell Canada any money.
Full disclosure: this blogger donated to the Smartphone for Goldsbie fund.
• Goldsbie needs a Smartphone (thingie)! [Goldsbie’s Smartphone]
• Jonathan Goldsbie [Twitter]
11 thoughts on “Social media for the media social club: the slightly bizarre, happy story of #goldsbiephone”
Who. The. Fuck. Cares.
Let him buy his own goddamn phone.
He’s not saving lives.
If you haven’t read him, you have seen it before: arrogant, doctrinare quips from a writer who has concluded, in his early 20s, that the world has nothing to teach him.
No doubt that the gadfly life – calling gotcha on elected officials whose professional accomplishments, however minor, have been won through hard work – is preferable to getting a job. Despite the breathless account offered above, the real story here is mundane: his fellow-travellers appreciate his ability to spread the approved “progressive” message now that they have lost the mayor’s chair and are outnumbered on Council.
This includes the altogether mediocre Shelley Carroll, whose nascent mayoral campaign will need the support of his audience, and has already benefited from his promotion.
Insider indeed: I think these comments are a pretty good reflection of the attitudes in power at City Hall right now. People who fall in line are “hard-working taxpayers,” and people who don’t are dirty hippies of some variety. Welcome to Rob Ford’s Toronto.
If Goldsbie was doing what he does with a right-leaning slant, I have no doubt that progressives would be grumbling amongst themselves, and right-wingers would be lining up to sing his praises.
But the “get a job” business is pure bunkum. Whether or not you like what he writes, the guy is an entrepreneur: He’s struck out on his own, putting untold hours of work in to attend meetings, research, write, and generally be everywhere. His success is entirely his own. And here I thought that entrepreneurialism and independence were right-wing ideals!
I fear, however, that ideals have very little to do with the folks on the inside right now.
Um. Can someone rebut insider please? Ouch!
Wow, a lot of anger in the comments. Not surprising. I’m sure “JIm” and “Insider” are doing some pretty amazing and life-saving work too, in between comment posts. Such a relief they have it all figured out for me, so I don’t need to think for myself.
Oh! thank you outsider!
To clarify c_9,
the fact that today, when hundreds of people have died in Japan, a handful of social media individuals who enjoy reading Goldsbie’s tweets, have decided to promote, and all day, encourage people to donate to this ’cause’.
It’s kind of insulting. His insight is occasionally helpful, and I follow him as well, but come on. Help us buy a guy a phone? And set the goal at $2,000?
And my own actions are irrelevant – I support and will continue to support, a number of causes I deem to be worthy of my donations.
Helping to buy (and seeing it from a number of twitter account)a ‘journalist’ a smartphone is beyond ridiculous.
It makes me doubt what it is these individuals value, and why can’t these efforts be put forth towards a number of other social causes, where $2,000 would make a difference to more than one individual.
But by all means, help buy someone else a phone. That’s important.
$2000 to purchase a phone for one, yes one, amongst many commentators who follow City Hall. Is this really a priority? Didn’t Tindal run for Council himself? Is this how he’d spend our money?
Given that 1/2 million Torontonians live below the poverty line I’d have preferred the blogosphere use its power for good, rather than such useless narcissistic drivel.
Oh, but I could use a new Blackberry.
It’s posts like these that confirm why the online version of Toronto Life will never be taken seriously. Goldsbie’s great, but writing about this is proves what most readers already suspected: Toronto Life (and, really, John Michael McGrath) have no novel ideas to pursue.
Sorry guys, this is why blogTO and Torontoist kick your ass everyday of the week.
Blog TO or Torontoist?! Maybe i’d go to those sites if I were a college kid, desperate for reports crippled with self-importance, but like so many others, I like getting the TL view. Cuts through the treacle.
Well, Observer, there must be a lot of college kids out there, because both of those sites pull in way more readers than TOLife. And if you want self-importance, just have a read through of McGrath’s archive. Based on your comment, I don’t think you read any of these sites.
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