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This tweet appeared amidst a Tweetdeck sea of grief and eulogies, prompted by the death of Steve Jobs.

I caught my breath a little. And I was caught in two minds.

On the one hand it was classic, no-holds-barred Mash satire. Funny, frankly.

On the other the Mash tweet “broke” at the same time as news of Jobs’ death was breaking for many people. It wasn’t just topical satire. It was real time. I wish I had grabbed an image of my Tweetdeck screen at the time to show the context in which the tweet appeared. Too early? Too disrespectful?

I thought about it but decided not to retweet.

And I thought nothing more about it until I saw this xkcd cartoon, entitled ETERNAL FLAME. I have included both the animated gif version and a static image showing the rollover text.

On reflection this is all about context.

The context in which the Mash tweet appeared was created by me.

Twitter is primarily a professional tool. It is a highly efficient means of accessing and disseminating relevant information. And its efficiency in this role is a direct result of the people whom I’ve chosen to follow.

Given the industry in which I work this highly efficient information transfer network contains more than its fair share of evangelical, earlier-than-early adopters of just about any object that Apple decides to produce. It’s not surprising therefore that, on the morning of Thursday 6th October, Tweetdeck resembled a 140 character wake.

The Daily Mash doesn’t share this context. Its church is much broader than mine. As you can see from the image above, more than 100 people took a different path to me and did retweet it.

It is also the nature of Twitter that you see Daily Mash headlines out of the context provided by the full content of each article. If you read the Mash article in full you’ll see that there is no disrespect for the man. Indeed, Paul Stokes, founder of the Mash was kind enough to confirm this for me.

We don’t make fun of tragedy on the Mash. Yes the headline might bring some people up sharp, but the piece is probably as close to an affectionate tribute that you’ll ever get from the Mash.

The Mash piece was written by site editor Neil Rafferty and is modestly described by Stokes as…

…a brilliantly constructed and perfectly judged piece that summed up in a few hundred very funny words what other commentators struggled to get to in thousands.

A sentiment echoed by at least one Mash reader…

Which begs the question what exactly was the Mash article satirising?

Looking at it again I think the Mash anticipated and highlighted the ridiculous over-reaction of a small but vocal group of Apple devotees. It’s one thing to admire the man. I personally think it was a little over the top for people who had never met him to gush publicly and uncontrollably to the extent that they did about the extent to which he had changed their lives. Maybe it wasn’t actually that far fetched for some commentators to compare the reaction to the death of Jobs to that of Princess Diana.

This (over?) reaction, not the man, was the subject of their satire. A point I missed because of the insular context I had created for myself.

Satire is about providing much needed balance. Indeed, it often fills a vacuum left by the serious coverage of an issue in this respect.

When it came to balanced serious coverage of Jobs’ death, one article stood out from all others for me.

Unlike so many of the tweeters who provided my initial context, Stephen Fry had actually met Steve Jobs. And, unlike said tweeters, his measured assessment of the man and his contribution was both heartfelt and objective. It is a dignified and insightful piece of writing.

The Mash, xkcd and Stephen Fry all read the context better than I did.

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We ended the week with a nice kind of riot.

We took the kids to see Potted Potter at the Edinburgh Fringe.

CBBC’s Dan and Jeff summarised and parodied all seven Harry Potter books in seventy riotous minutes of clever humour, slapstick and audience participation.

For example the game of quidditch in which the audience took part off stage…

… and onstage. Dan can barely contain himself as the most precocious kid you have ever seen plays the part of the Gryffindor seeker in pursuit of the snitch (played by Jeff).

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It turned out to be a social occasion as much as a piece of theatre.

And there are a couple of lessons that some brands could learn from the way that Messrs D & J instantly created and “managed” their audience community.

1) They were genuinely enjoying themselves. You could see that they were having a laugh. From where I was sitting what they were doing didn’t look like work. How many brands are operating in social channels because they feel they ought to rather than because they really want to?

2) They were brilliant improvisors. They seamlessly incorporated (sometimes precocious) audience responses into a fluid, off piste rendition of the script. We (the audience) weren’t “moderated” or “controlled”. We were encouraged, appreciated, and embraced. We were genuinely influential. A lot of brands could learn a thing or too from this optimistic, glass half full, reward-centric attitude to audience participation. There is a perhaps understandable tendency for brands to focus on risk management rather than the rewarding aspects of engaging with real people. To me that is social with the handbrake on.

Go see the show if you can.

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