June 03, 2010

Tricycle responds to Elephant Journal columnist

A short while ago, in an attempt to streamline the flood of information coming to us via Twitter, one of our team reduced the number of feeds we follow from something like 380 to around 60. No harm was meant (indeed, some have declared it "weird" to be followed by a magazine) and we apologize to those we offended.

There are many, many Buddhists on Twitter and we actually do read our feed. So to make it more manageable, we favored content from Buddhist organizations and publishers over individual commentary.

Shortly after we made the cuts, an Elephant Journal columnist who had been unfollowed took umbrage and began broadcasting his displeasure via Twitter, Twitter DMs, voicemail, and email, demanding comment and declaring his intention to use his column at Elephant Journal to take us to task, with the result, he assured us, that our "brand will take a beating."

It's important to point out that the Elephant Journal columnist, in his zeal, has misrepresented our communication with him. An example, via Twitter:

Excellent! @tricyclemag editor madder than a wet hen! Confirms "Tricycle isn't interested in Twitter Buddhists" wants to only push links!

The quote—along with the rest of it—is quite simply a fabrication, and one we did not want to leave unchallenged.

Surprisingly,  in the columnist's comment to his own column, he noted that he did not have our permission to publish our correspondence with him—he hadn't asked. We appreciate his respect for our privacy but we let him know that it was fine with us for him to post our correspondence with him as long as he posted it in its entirety.

Our policy isn't set in stone. Twitter is a new enough medium for us to find our way like any other publisher. Twitter lends itself best to individual voices and each of us keeps an eye on our own Twitter streams. How precisely a publication or an organization uses Twitter most effectively remains to be seen and we are open to learning as we go.

As for blocking individuals: We honestly can't say when or how this happened except to say that we do not know any of those who were blocked. We called up a list of those who were (perhaps inadvertently) blocked, and they were few in number. They have been unblocked.

As for the Elephant Journal columnist: Although he has declared us "sworn enemies," we bear him no ill will and we will choose to see more humor in all of this than genuine rancor.

We see social media as a way to build community and to air differences. While not always possible online, we'd like to keep the tone civil, too.

Thanks to all of you who have joined us and who keep us on our toes!

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CaroleT's picture

Read his posts. It's clear enough. His style of argumentation definitely gives away his lineage.

CaroleT's picture

You can know a teacher by his student.

Matt Helmick's picture


It's just sad, really. Maybe Tricycle can learn how to use social media a little more effectively, but Elephant Journal could also learn to exercise editorial discretion.

This particular Elephant Journal article is evidence that vetting articles, checking facts and sources and proofreading is just as relevant as ever. The immediacy of Twitter-like publishing isn't always a good thing. Sometimes it is better just to say "no" to a particular submission.

As a subscriber, I have to remind myself that most of the Elephant Journal articles are better than this.


Philip Ryan's picture

Thanks, Way (and everyone else who took the time to comment)! As we said, this is a learning process for all of us, and we're very happy to be a part of it.

Waylon Lewis's picture

Righto, Phil, the "10 email" thing was in fact my complaining, or reminding, Bill that this episode was taking a lot of time for me, and I don't have a lot of time, and have only a small staff--just like Tricycle, I'm sure. While we've both (Tricycle and ele) been willing to devote time to sorting this out in an uplifted manner, it does take time, is all.

I appreciate immensely the responsiveness and friendliness toward myself and most importantly elephant generally from James and Phil, both. And, I'm glad to see that Bill is feeling good, overall, about this exchange, and I'm glad to have re-tweeted @tricyclemag re-tweeting @ponlop, just this morning!

A happy ending, again, is I think for Tricycle to use social media a little more, and with enjoyment, to share the Dharma widely; and for Bill to have the satisfaction of having prompted this renewed engagement.

Chris's picture

Have we all forgotten that all we experience is based on our own karma ripening?

I followed this Bill and RT him sometimes but he never followed me back or even responded to direct @ messages so I stopped following him and didn't think about it again. Why should I create a cause only to have to deal with the effect later?

I think Tricycle's response to him was fair and accurate and he's really only hurting himself and the reader who put faith into what he says simply because he labels himself "Buddhist."

In one of his posts at EJ I also just replied to he accuses a commentor saying: "You don't get it. That's fine with me. So you don't like Tibetan Buddhists" when NOWHERE in her post does she ever mention much less hint at this kind of feeling. She simply disagrees with how he handled it.

It's really sad to see the perversion of the Dharma that's taking place in these degenerate times. Just write about it and suddenly you're a Bodhisattva and innocents begin to listen.

Joel's picture

The Elephant Journal columnist's grandstanding and public pouting is a disservice only to his own brand. Phil, remember the famous quote by Anonymous: Never argue with an idiot. He brings you to his level and beats you with experience. You seem to have defied this truism by elevating yourself and Trike back up to where you habitually hang out (the third floor, right).

Philip Ryan's picture

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments! As always, we appreciate hearing from everyone. Several of you have expressed our view better than we have ourselves.

Bill, it's good to see you here and thank you for responding. We wish you good health and happiness.

Waylon, sorry not to have mentioned your participation above. Thank you for being accessible during our recent exchange of emails. Perhaps you can reiterate that you did not need to email us ten times to get our attention, but rather that we simply exchanged ten emails. This would clear up what seems to be a lingering misunderstanding on your columnist's part and reinforces the disingenuous narrative that we're inaccessible and uncaring.

We should also note that we referred so often to the "Elephant Journal columnist" in this post not to create tension between us, but to remove the discussion from the realm of the personal. And just in case there's any doubt about this, it's worth repeating that we bear no ill will toward him, you, or EJ.

There's a lesson in this for each of us. Now let's go sit with it.

Best wishes,

Nate's picture

I'm a fan of both EJ and Tricycle, I read both on a daily basis. Calling this argument an act of engagement is far from the truth. Bill's post is an outright attack because he felt he was cut out of the Twitter follow loop.

My response on EJ, cut and pasted...

I think Integral Hack's quote/ comment above sums all of this mess up.

“Don’t push your wisdom onto others; it doesn’t work.” ~ Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

In all seriousness, I feel like I just wasted countless minutes reading this whole thing, and that's not meant in a disrespectful way. I mean it this way, was it necessary to write an article about Tricycle not following you? They don't follow me, you don't follow me. I'm not going to to blog about it though just to get some page views.

Seriously, there's all sorts of other REAL DEAL events happening in the world. Elephant does a fantastic job in covering those events and things that truly concern people. I come to this site daily, if not multiple times in a day. To me this author/article was inflated by a sense of bruised ego, but maybe I'm wrong here.

John's picture

Given Bill’s vitriol presented in the comment above (”You must suck to work for?” Gimme a break!), it is completely understandable that you may want to unfollow a person who is determined to have a “conversation” (or argument) on a topic you simply don’t want to engage in.

Agree completely. Don't follow people you don't wish to follow. I get block and unfollowed all the time (and sometimes unblocked and refollowed). We have no responsibility to follow individuals just because they kick up a fuss whenever someone decides they don't wish to engage in a "conversation."



Matt Helmick's picture

As both a Tricycle and Elephant reader, I'm impressed by how well Tricycle has handled this. Talk about equanimity!

Given Bill's vitriol presented in the comment above ("You must suck to work for?" Gimme a break!), it is completely understandable that you may want to unfollow a person who is determined to have a "conversation" (or argument) on a topic you simply don't want to engage in.

When people prove intractable regarding a particular issue, sometimes the kindest thing you can do is not engage them at all.

I'm also concerned about overarching notions of "Twitter etiquette" and the willingness of some to let this tool redefine us and our conversations, but this is a larger topic.

Waylon Lewis's picture

Philip, great post. I am surprised that you didn't mention the lengths to which I, as elephant's editor, have gone to bring you all and Bill together in dialogue on this, and keep all on the up-and-up.

There's a genuine dialogue to be had here, that's more than as someone put it above he-said she-said gossip.

I'm a nearly-lifelong reader and fan of Trike, and the last thing I want to see is this become some sort of East Coast West Coast rap battle. I honor your and James' work etc.

That said, kudos to Bill for expressing his concerns gently (in the blog, at least). His frank-ness can be trying, but I and his readers value his willingness to break open bee's nests. Too often, in my experience in the Shambhala Buddhist community, dialogue is considered disloyal.

Bill Schwartz's picture


That's your excuse? Blame an employee overwhelmed by following 380 people on Twitter. You must suck to work for.

The publisher of Elephant Journal, Waylon Lewis attempts via email 10 times to get your attention

I used Twitter to get your attention. You really aren't the sharpest crayon in the box.

The important thing is that you get up to speed on Twitter. It has been around since 2006 and hardly something new.

I told you this would damage your brand, that you need to stop not following back, unfollowing, and blocking people.

I'm sure Waylon told you the same. We will keep the pressure up on Elephant Journal and Twitter until you address this problem.

When you are done blaming people for your decision as web editor I'm sure Waylon can help you with Twitter.

He follows 16, 163 people on Twitter and publishes more content online in a day than you do in a year.

You just don't believe in Twitter, like my grandmother didn't believe in air conditioning.

She would rather sweat than turn on the air conditioner. You would rather throw a fit than learn from your mistake.

I told Waylon to leave it to me. I guaranteed both him, and people on Twitter I could get a response out of you.

Everyone said it was impossible. I believe in Twitter. If you have a Twitter account you can do the impossible.

A week later the web editor of Tricycle Magazine is defending himself on his own magazine's web site.

Just five years ago, this would be impossible. Welcome to the 21st century. Admit your mistake and move on.


Zendette's picture

I think it's great that this has been a non-dogmatic discussion, albeit sometimes a bit personal, that has been resolved. The beauty of new media is the ability to gage your readership's feelings, and engage as necessary. I personally enjoy reading the columnist in question, just as I enjoy reading Tricycle. We are all just muddling through as best we can, whether it's social media or any other aspect of our lives.

Anoki's picture

I read that Elephant article. All I can say is that we added Tricycle to the new http://www.dharmadots.com and thusly followed Tricycle on Twitter. We mentioned that the Editor's Blog was featured on the site and we got a friendly "Thanks!" back. Like right away. Someone's paying attention! Thanks Tricycle!

Nathan's picture

Padma -

I asked a similar question to the unnamed EJ columnist in a post of his. The explanation to me was that one way to view twitter is, as John notes above, a back and forth exchange. You can't have a full exchange without follow-backs. For instance, private messages or (DMs) are impossible without it. And much of the chatter on twitter is made possible by RTs and mentions. It is my personal view that Tricylce would be well served to follow those who follow them (I'm followed by several magazines, it's not weird) and to regularly check mentions and hashtags relevant to Tricycle content. This is the true power of Twitter - it's a real-time monitor of chatter surrounding you, your interests, and your content. So, Tricycle is missing the boat by trying to "streamline" their feed. (BTW, Tricycle, there are tools to set up lists or columns that categorize your feed w/o unfollowing.)

It's a shame that there's this he-said-she-said bit about the content of the private emails, who was upset, who was unprofessional, etc. I don't know the ins and outs, but it seems like a fair question about what's the best way to use twitter and to engage with readers of your mag.

Nathan (another EJ columnist)

Padma's picture

This is an odd story!

The way I use Twitter is that I follow people whose tweets I am interested in reading, and assume that people who follow me are interested in reading what I say. Of course lots of people follow me these days who just want to sell me their wares, and I'm assuming they disappear again soon after introducing themselves. So I'm a little surprised to read this post. Is there some Twitter etiquette that I know nothing about? If so, I plan to ignore it!

John's picture

Hey Trike.

Personally, I hope you use Twitter in a way that fits into what you as a publication and as a gaggle of Buddhists needs it to be. I think it is up to you whether or not you block/unfollow/follow those out there.

I enjoy Twitter much but I understand that those I communicate with will sometimes block or unfollow me for reasons of their own and don't take much offense by it. I expect that those that follow or unfollow me have a better Twitter experience for it.

That being said, I think that Twitter is primarily an opportunity for engagement so it is usually a good idea to balance conversation, informational RT and content promotion in a way that provides followers with more than just what Trike says and more about what Trike reads/listens to and thinks is important.

Great job BTW with your 5th Precept post. I enjoyed the opportunity to engage and say my piece.


"another Elephant Columnist"

Rob's picture

I have been a Twitter user for some time, and have seen many followers appear and disappear. This isn't something to take personally; it's simply part of the game. Even Twitter followers should be considered part of the temporary nature of all things.

I enjoy the Tricycle "tweets." I do not expect Tricycle to follow me and am not offended by Tricycle or others that do not do so, nor by those who do and later decide to "un-follow" me. Some of my friends have never visited my house. Those that do leave the house; it is OK that they go. I hope they enjoyed their visit and that we learned from one another.

To be fair I have heard nothing of this Tricycle / Elephant Journal issue you speak of other than what is written here. Perhaps this issue is not as widely known as either party perceives.

Gwen Bell's picture

Beautifully handled, Philip & team.