When Worlds Collide

Welcome back, everyone.

Last time, I made the case for Twitter, which turned out not to be as tough a sell as it could have been, as much of the community has embraced that site as a good medium for sharing ideas and making connections. I promised last time that I would talk about what happens when worlds collide and you start to see a merger between your electronic and your physical network.

Unless they are George Constanza, most people don’t have a problem with worlds colliding. It’s hard to construe making a new friend or finally committing a face to a name as inherently bad, and people really shouldn’t. However, a lot of players see the inevitable intersection of their electronic network and their physical one as mere happenstance—the natural consequence of interacting with people with similar interests. While it certainly defies statistics to run in the same circles as someone else with similar interests and not interact with that person eventually, it’s a helpful exercise to think about these chance encounters in a different way. By doing so, I think you can begin to optimize both your online and in-person experiences.

Accidentally on Purpose

It’s certainly possible to luck into encounters. A great example of this is Grand Prix events where there are artists doing appearances. Inevitably, at the tables close to the table where the artists for that event are set up, you will find players poring over their trade binders, Commander decks, Type 4 piles, and their collections at large, really, looking for cards that artist illustrated so they can have them signed. Randomly, they will pull out the famous RK Post “Flame Jab Swamp” and get him to sign one of those or find a Tumble Magnet for Drew Baker. Whether they’ll find their favorite cards by that artist or have a full play set to have signed depends largely on luck. Occasionally, they will have all of the cards they want to have signed with them, and that’s a good feeling, like finding money in the pocket of an old pair of pants.

Except it doesn’t have to be an accident. If you want Ray Swanland to sign your foil Wurmcoil Engines, you can totally show up with them on you. If you want to buy a print or even an original piece of art, you know to bring money. If you are planning on doing some trading, why not bring copies of some of the more popular cards illustrated by an artist who will be at that event? There are guaranteed to be people looking for those cards.

At Gen Con one year, I bought a customized print of Ancestral Vision, matted, printed landscape—instead of vertically like his other prints—and with a signed artist proof inside the matte. It was exactly what I wanted. How could I possibly have been that lucky?

I wasn’t. I e-mailed him two weeks before and asked him to make it for me and bring it.

How to Accidentally Success

In a lot of ways, being prepared for a major event is more than just getting your deck or trade binder ready. Just like the savvy player who looks online and sees which artist(s) will be at the GP, a savvy player will start by making a group of his players from his local store or group interested in going. Gas split five ways is a lot better than gas split one way, and ditto for the hotel. Rolling with big coterie of other players assures you have people to split costs with, borrow cards from, test with, and bounce ideas off, and so on.

Having a big physical network has advantages. A person with a small physical network sometimes has to resort to going to the local game store to find a group of randoms with room in their car, and those randoms might not be ideal people for riding in a car and sharing a room with. The more people you know, the more easily you can customize your experience. Having more people to choose from means you’re less likely to room with someone who snores or ride in a car with someone who needs to head home at noon on Sunday to make it in to work. Having a hotel room full of value traders means everyone can sleep in until 11:00 A.M. on Sunday if they want because there aren’t any players who need a ride at 8:00 A.M.

Do you know which restaurants are open until 3:00 A.M. in Phoenix? Do you know which karaoke bars don’t charge cover in New York City? Where’s the best place to find a burger in Minneapolis, tenderloin in Indianapolis, or pizza in Chicago? Someone who lives in those cities knows, and they’d be glad to tell you. But if you don’t know anyone who lives in those cities, you’re going to end up eating a lot of Waffle House or Mickey Ds. Maybe that’s okay, but next time you need to find a twenty-four hour drugstore within walking distance of your hotel in a city you’ve never been to, you may be glad you had someone you could text and ask.

Expanding your network is easier than you may think. The more events you go to, the more people you interact with. Those people all know people you don’t know, and it’s as easy as asking for an introduction or being invited to go to dinner with the same group they are. An introduction to someone from a person he or she trusts is a tacit endorsement of you as a person, and for the most part, Magic players are a community welcoming to new people.

Beguiler of Wills
You don’t need to be Dale Carnegie (author of How To Win Friends and Influence People, which is a book everyone should read) to know what to do next. If you remember people’s names, you will make a good impression when you remember both that and something about that person next time you meet. Even easier than that is adding the person on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever medium you’re using to construct your electronic network. Even if you made a lukewarm impression or only had a minute to chat, you are still likely to be welcomed into the person’s electronic network if you met him or her in person and didn’t actively insult or offend the person. Just like that, you have digital access to a new connection and an easier avenue to the people to whom he or she is connected; all of this possible because you went out for a beer or some sushi.

In the same manner that you used your physical network (in that case, an introduction from a friend) to expand your physical and electronic network, you can do the same starting with your electronic network. Twitter is a great place for people to talk about events they are excited about attending, sometimes for days (or weeks in the case of Gen Con) beforehand. By making plans to meet people in your electronic network, you can forge stronger bonds of friendship (being Twitter pen pals is no substitute for hanging out in person) and be introduced to their friends. People use electronic media in preparation for events to discuss tech, talk about the wheres and the whens of meet-ups, and to discuss cards they are looking for. Being privy to those conversations, or even better, a part of them, can help optimize your experience at the event.

The DM Test

Tandem Lookout
Twitter is a system with hidden tiers. On Facebook, you can simply refuse a friend request, but on Twitter, for the most part, people will allow people they don’t know to follow them, but they’ll only reciprocally follow people they know. In this way, tiers are established.

  1. Just another person on Twitter whose tweets you see if someone you follow re-tweets
  2. Someone you are following
  3. Someone who follows you

If someone is following you and you are following that person, you can send him or her private messages in the form of a direct message (DM). If someone is talking about the deck he or she is playing, occasionally you will see someone tweet to that person the word “list” or “ship”. What that person is doing is asking to be sent the deck list in a DM. I think the real test of an electronic connection is whether the person in question is inclined to ship you a decklist—or a party invite or what have you—and whether he or she is able to communicate with you via a DM. If the answer to these questions is “no,” and you’d like it to be “yes,” it’s a simple matter of doing what you can to expand your networks enough that you can start passing the DM test with more and more people. If your network is large and robust, good things will happen for you, as every connection is a greater chance for opportunities.

Some Final Food for Thought

Whether you are into the financial aspects of Magic, into the competitive-playing aspects, into the casual-play aspect, or looking to get into podcasting or streaming or event coverage, networking is vital to your continued success. By using your electronic network to strengthen your physical one, and vice versa, you can optimize your experience and increase the degree of success you have at whatever you do. Before you go on to the next article, take a minute to take stock of your electronic network. Is there anything you can do right now to strengthen it a bit? I’m sure the answer is “yes.” Do a little bit of work each day. When next we meet, I will be offering some tips on how best to do that.

Thanks for joining me, and I’ll see you next time.