Last week, I shared the story of a guy who convinced the Internet that Abe Lincoln invented Facebook  – pretty impressive linkbait, but not exactly heart-warming. But those of you with cold hearts need not fear – I’ve got a doozy for you this week. (As Woody Allen would say, there’s nothing like hot cockles .)
This story starts with poetry. Several years ago I became acquainted with a poet named Patricia Lockwood, affectionately known as Tricia. Tricia had a blog, but she was less likely to post about poetry per se than the strange things her mother says ("There were very bad storms here all week, you know. Later on, maybe tomorrow, I'll take you out and we can go see all the devastation") or the disturbing illustrations on the covers of young adult books.
What becomes clear, once you’ve read a few of her blog posts, is that Tricia is a crazy person – not the kind of person you would necessarily assume has been published in The New Yorker, and about a hundred other high-profile/high-prestige poetry venues. (Not that I’m jealous, nope, not even a little bit.)
Very close to a year ago, Tricia realized her brand of wit would be an excellent fit for Twitter, and lo, she started tweeting . As she put it in an interview with Matthew Simmons, “Twitter is the perfect way to disseminate the kind of writing that comes most naturally to me … 140 characters is just about the right length to get inside your head.” Her blog banner has long proclaimed “Poems are jokes” – and tweets are jokes, too.
And it was a particular genre of tweet-joke, which she appears to have invented, that put her on the Twitter map: the faux-sext. With a bizarre and very unsexy series of tweets beginning with the word “Sext,” she got notice from places like Rhizome , The Huffington Post , and, again, The New Yorker  (though it must be said, she was called a “Twitter genius” in Slate months earlier). Here are some examples of her sexts (NSFW? I don’t even know):
Sext: I am a mushroom in a forest. There are drops of dew all over my tip. Nabokov reaches down a hand to pick me
Sext: A leprechaun sits in a pot o gold. He removes gold pieces 1 by 1 to reveal his nudity. At the end he tears off his beard. It's a woman
Sext: I am a living male turtleneck. You are an art teacher in winter. You put your whole head through me
She also got the attention of comedian Rob Delaney , who has over 400,000 Twitter followers and seems to beg his fans to pay more attention to Tricia  on a near-weekly basis. The upshot is, she now has over 10,000 followers. (Not that I’m jealous, nope, not even a little bit.)
This large and devoted fan base came in handy earlier this week – and this is where it starts to get weepy – when Tricia’s husband was diagnosed with a rare eye condition that required elaborate, expensive, and near-immediate surgery – a procedure that wouldn’t be covered by their insurance. As described by her husband, who she charmingly refers to on her blog as “Elegant Choice”:
I began to notice significant deterioration in my vision in both eyes a couple weeks back, so I scheduled an appointment with an ophthalmologist. By the time I went to see him, my right eye registered little more than the shape and color of my surroundings, while my left eye was still functional for basic tasks like driving and reading, though increasingly blurry…
The ophthalmologist found posterior subcapsular cataracts in both eyes … These cataracts can develop in a matter of weeks or months, and they're famous for quickly getting worse, which is why I need surgery as soon as possible.
The good news: My DESCENT INTO BLINDNESS is reversible through a series of four surgeries, two per eye, starting with the right. The surgeon opens the eye, then slips in a little tool to shatter the existing lens and cataract. The shattered lens is sucked out and replaced with an implant called an intraocular lens … If all goes well, I'll see like a 50-year-old with bifocals for the rest of my life …
The bad news …The procedures cost about $5,000 per eye, for a total of $10,000.
I posted about it on Twitter because I was basically losing my mind with worry and the outpouring of support was astonishing; people suggested that I do this so I am doing this because they wanted to help, which made me cry.
The “this” she refers to is starting a Kickstarter to raise funds for the surgery. Amazingly, thanks to her extensive network and the power of retweets, she raised the money in about 12 hours.
How awesome is that? The moral of the story is, I guess, BE A CRAZY WEIRDO and people just might love you for it. And people are generous toward the weirdos they love – even if they only know them from the Internet.
More Web Marketing Highlights
Another week, another big-deal Google announcement. This time it’s the Google Knowledge Graph , which will (supposedly) go a big step beyond personalization to deliver exactly what searchers want when they look up ambiguous terms like “Apple.” Lance Ulanoff at Mashable says this will make Google “1,000 times smarter.” Danny Sullivan says it will “massively increase the number of direct answers shown” in the SERPs – which is sure to worry publishers.
Michael Martinez has a lot of complaints about Bing and its marketing plan.
Patrick Altoft notes that in a post-Penguin world, SEOmoz and Majestic link data are no longer 100% reliable for link cleanup purposes.
42 Content Writing and SEO Ranking Tips for Small Business Owners, via the great Tom Demers.
A report from RJ Metrics shows that user engagement on Google+ is pretty piss-poor – for example, “30% of users who make a public post never make a second one.”
Have a good weekend, kiddos.