Home, Tweet Home: Jeff Moriarty Is Trying to Create a Cultural Identity for Phoenix, 140 Characters at a Time

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But he owes much of his social-media prowess to his days at Intel in Chandler, where he worked from 1999 to June 2009 designing social-media solutions for both internal communications and Intel's online presence.

The Chandler plant employs 9,700 people, making it the second largest Intel site in the world. The company's huge but progressive: It gives employees a two-month sabbatical every seven years. And it invites them to communicate with their 82,000 fellow employees via an internal blogging network.

"Even though Intel was big, they had a culture of: If you're creative, if you're innovative and you want to go out and do something, they'll let you do it," Moriarty says. For him, it meant his first foray into social media and a legendary (at Intel, at least) series of blog posts inspired by literary giant J.R.R. Tolkien.

It happened a few years back. Moriarty was on a business trip. At that time, Intel was going through a major reorganization and a lot of employees were unhappy about the way things were going, Moriarty says.

In 2006, Intel's corporate culture changed. Instead of focusing primarily on microprocessor production, employees were asked to tackle wireless communications, consumer electronics, and even healthcare.

"In particular, many high-level engineers working on PC products feel they've been stripped of their star status," a 2006 news report said.

Moriarty felt it, too. And he created an outlet for employee frustrations in the company's internal blogging network. Taking a bit of inspiration from the recently released Lord of the Rings: Return of the King movie, Moriarty posted "The Lord of the Re-Org," a parody in which Intel executives were cast as Middle Earth villains Sauron, Soromon, and even Golum, and the employees cast as Hobbits trying desperately to avoid the impending doom of corporate restructuring.

"It was in a quiet corner of Middle-Intel that the peaceful Cubeitts toiled, working hard, playing harder, and enjoying an occasional puff of stock options," he wrote. "The Cubeitts were small in stature, barely coming up to the height of a badge reader, but solid of heart and mind. They lived and worked peacefully in the OfficeShire."

Moriarty published part one of "Re-Org" on an internal Intel blog between stops on a business trip. At one stop, he found his in-box bursting with comments from those who had read it. Part one of what was to become five blog posts drew more hits than the internal blog had seen in the past two months. By the time part five was posted, "Lord of the Re-Org" had amassed 22,000 hits.

"That was when I had my epiphany," Moriarty said. "Holy shit! Look at the power in my hands."

Colleen Minniuk-Sperry is a Phoenix-based professional photographer now, but when "The Lord of the Re-Org" was published on Intel's internal blogging network, she was working there as a program manager for internal software development. She was friends with Moriarty and had worked on various projects with him but had no idea he was blogging.

Minniuk-Sperry agrees that Intel is a progressive place to work, where employees' opinions are valued and are not weighed down by political correctness, but "Re-Org," she recalls, blew the doors wide open.

"Jeff said what we all were thinking but weren't willing to say at that time," she says. "I can't speak on behalf of upper management, but I really don't honestly know if they knew what to do with it."

Moriarty gave 22,000 people something to chuckle about on their coffee breaks, but he also initiated a corporate-wide discussion about the reorganization. As is the case now, blogging software and other social-media tools outside the confines of Intel's firewalls were plentiful. Blogger. Wordpress. Livejournal — each allows anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to publish a blog about anything they wish for everyone else on the Internet to see.

"I found, outside of Intel, that people have more power than they realize and they don't take it," Moriarty says.

But some of them do.

In January 2009, Jeff Moriarty was riding the light rail with his pants around his ankles.

Improv AZ did not yet exist, but Improv Everywhere, a New York City-based organization that Improv AZ would use as a model, did — and it had organized a nationwide public-transit pants-drop.

"It was, like, two weeks after our light rail had started and I was, like, 'Oh, my god, for the first time we're going to have a train that we could actually do that with,'" Moriarty says. "Somebody had a need, a patriotic need to drop their damn pants on it and represent Phoenix and show that they weren't ass-backwards and didn't have our heads up our asses as much as everyone thought. If I had to step up and unbuckle, I would."

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Jonathan McNamara