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These Are a Few of My Favorite Tweets: From Web Phenom to Bookstore Shelf

Attention bookstores:

We know it seems like an oxymoron, but you need to get yourselves a new media section stocked with books by Chris Brogan and Jeff Jarvis that explain the upside-down economics of Internet media. Your featured title, though, should be Twitter Wit -- a compilation of clever, corny and cruel Twitter status updates by former Gawker contributer Nick Douglas.

The book, published on HarperCollins' hip new It imprint, demonstrates how people are cramming the creativity (that in years past would have gone into their screenplay) into 140-character tweets. Why are they doing it? Because on Twitter, everyone gets published, and nearly everyone gets read by someone.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Tweets: From Web Phenom to Bookstore Shelf

For Twitter Wit Douglas, an aspiring humor writer, steps aside and adopts the new media role of curator rather than author. He didn't write any of the book himself. Rather, he mined Twitter for the funniest one-liners.

New York Times gadget guru David Pogue rushed out his own collection-of-tweets book to beat Douglas to bookstore shelves, but Pogue's The World According to Twitter stays far, far away from the dark, dirty humor that punctuates Twitter Wit every few pages. For example:

"Ladies here's the deal. I have stars you have tweets. You show your tweets, you get a star okay? So if you want to get back at Daddy..." - @ayeshamus

And...

"Wit, n: the delicate art of subtly steering a conversation in the direction of the hilarious pun you came up with three weeks ago" --@dwineman

Douglas is an obsessive collector of Tweets that make him laugh. "Hit the damn star," he told L.A. Weekly, by which he means you should reflexively click the star button on Twitter that adds a really good tweet to your list of Favorites. Then you can go back and find it later and other Twitter users can peruse your list.

Twitter user and CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger heralds the future at Twitter HQ.
Twitter user and CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger heralds the future at Twitter HQ.
Photo via toomuchnick.com

"It's a great way to make people feel good and save a list of tweets you can show a friend when you're trying to convince them Twitter is fun," he said via email. "You can always get to your list of starred favorites from the link on your Twitter home page. And for those who want to read all the funniest or most salient tweets, there's http://favotter.matope.com/en/ or http://favrd.com. I prefer the latter because of the cleaner interface and the filter that blocks Web-cocks [i.e. spammers]."

But can a one-trick Web pony publication translate to mainstream appeal for Twitter updates? Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, is predictably optimistic. "It's easy to dismiss the new format upon first introduction," he wrote in Twitter Wit's intro, "But tune into the right frequency and you'll enter a world this book's curator wanders as a curious explorer."

Another curious explorer, Patrick Mulligan, Senior Editor at Gotham Books, has turned his fascination with goofy Internet writing into the popular titles I Can Has Cheezburger? and Barack Obama is Your New Bicycle. When asked about the perceived uselessness of Internet lit, Mulligan said, "I don't think we'll get there until the publishing of RICK ROLL: THE BOOK. Every time an internet book gets published, people groan. I don't hear people freaking out over every novel about the ennui-filled experiences of 20-somethings who live in a big city, and a lot more of those get published than blog-to-books."

RICK-ROLL: THE BOOK aside, Douglas has a much more reliable source of material for future sequels. It's not hard to imagine Twitter Wit becoming a quarterly. The book isn't just the latest wacky Internet fad. Douglas has collected 158 pages of proof that some of the millions of typists on Twitter are laugh-out-loud funny. A few are masters of compression, able to illuminate our common humanity in a couple of lines of text. String enough of them together in the right order, as Douglas has done, and you've got a crowdsourced replacement for David Foster Wallace, without the too-long-didn't-read factor.

"Every time I turn a thousand pages to the back of "Infinite Jest," I half expect the footnote to read, simply, "Sorry.' -- @lianamaeby

For more new media musings, follow us on Twitter at @alexiatsotsis and @laweekly.