Twabble: A petty squabble on Twitter on a matter of extreme inconsequence usually resulting in ill-informed accusations and pre-adolescent name calling.
This past weekend, I gained a considerable amount of pleasure engaged in a Twitter squabble (what I’d like to coin a ‘twabble’) with twitter user @stephenconroy, otherwise known as the ‘Fake Stephen Conroy’, or Leslie Nassar, according the Sydney Morning Herald.
The web prankster impersonating Communications Minister Stephen Conroy on Twitter (apparently outed as a Telstra staff member in March) uses the following bio to describe his purpose:
“I boss internets around; just the way you know you like it. You’ve been a naughty geek,. haven’t you? Very naughty indeed.”
He also has over 3,000 followers (despite his poorly punctuated bio), suggesting that he is someone not to be under-estimated.
The twabble began after @stephenconroy posted a tweet that suggested that @anthillmagazine is using direct mail technology to spam its Twitter followers. Of course, I couldn’t let such an unjust (and untrue) accusation go ignored.
But, more importantly, being the curious rabble-rouser that I am, I also couldn’t resist using the accusation as an excuse to trial some of the thoughts I’d been having on how to deal with undesirable comments on Twitter.
Why? Because occasionally we all have to deal with scurrilous, unfounded, ill-mannered comments on social networking platforms. Twitter is still in its infancy and continues to undergo many of the teething problems that blogging once did.
This post is my account of a ‘living experiment’ on how to win a Twitter squabble.
Rule #1: Defend your stance
As above, the first shot was fired by my opponent, pursuing his role as self-proclaimed internet watchdog.
@stephenconroy: Dear @AnthillMagazine, if you think DM-spamming will boost readership, you’re paying your Social Media Expert way too much.
@jamestuckerman: The only DM you’ll get from us is the welcome message. Shouldn’t you have some fake policy to be working on?
The first logical response to a negative tweet is to defend your stance and hopefully make your opponent realise the folly of his/her ways and post a second tweet clarifying his/her mistake. (Yup. I’m dreaming.)
My personal belief is that there is nothing wrong with an automated welcome. (It sure beats personally responding to the thousands of follows that a news organisation or large company is likely to receive.)
So, for my first sentence, I gave my antagonist the benefit of the doubt.
For the second, I couldn’t resist a friendly jab. (I had more rules to test!)
Rule #2: Undermine your combatant’s social media credibility.
A volley ensues:
@stephenconroy: But whatever. If @anthillmagazine wants to treat Twitter as a sales channel, go nuts. People can choose to block or not.
@jamestuckerman: “But whatever.” Cop out! That’s like dropping ‘your a fag’ bomb at the end of a post: http://tinyurl.com/688zsu
If there is one constant about social networking ‘evangalists’ it is their certainty that they are right. The second constant is that nothing insults them more than a criticism that undermines their social media credibility.
In my reply, I referred @stephenconroy to a very funny YouTube clip that lampoons a similar type of exchange in blogs – The ‘your a fag’ bomb (the most juvenile of all internet retorts), suggesting that @stephenconroy was guilty of committing a similar web crime. (Take this man to the Hague!)
Rule #3: Turn the accusation back on the accuser
I had a lot of trouble deciding whether to use this third tactic before or after questioning my accuser’s social media cred.
Disappointingly, the Fake Stephen Conroy was not easily provoked. When my second tactic was greeted by silence, I was forced to deploy rule#3 without warning. (I had a blog to write and a deadline looming!)
@jamestuckerman: Too many ‘welcome’ messages? Perhaps you’re following too many people? Sounds like the tactic of a spammer!
Okay, not so subtle.
The inference, of course, is that @stephenconroy is following people on twitter en masse in the hope that they will follow him back – a popular technique employed by spammers (and the reason to avoid following people who follow you without vetting them first).
Rule #4: Make your opponent think you’re crazy.
At last, after a lull in the action, my opponent came back firing:
@stephenconroy: Hey jackass, @anthillmagazine followed me. I reciprocated, and got spammed for my trouble.
@jamestuckerman: My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun.
This is perhaps my favourite tactic.
There is nothing more scary than a dogged zealot with an axe to grind on any social networking platform. Add a hint of insanity and your opponent becomes just plain terrifying.
I personally like to quote Shakespeare. His prose sounds ethereal and most tech heads aren’t familiar with the verse of 16th century playwrights. The passage used above also hints at a possible loneliness felt by the author (hopefully, adding to the terror).
Rule #5: Take the higher moral ground.
Unfortunately, the first four rules above appear to have proved too effective. Perhaps the not-so-faint smell of ‘cyber-stalking’ was simply too much for my opponent to tolerate. (Does this mean I win?)
For the record, I had intended something (most probably sanctimonious) about the role of ‘watch-dogs’ and how they must operate beyond reproach (yadda yadda) for my final tweet.
Yet, because my deadline is nigh and I have not, as of writing, received a reply, I simply invite @stephenconroy to visit this blog. I’m assuming that, because it’s about him, he’ll be unable to resist dropping by. (Sorry Leslie!)
And lastly, if you really want to hammer those last nails in the coffin…
Blog about it.
By re-articulating a Twitter exchange as a lesson in social networking, it is often possible to legitimise even the the most petty of ‘twabbling’ (this blogger can only hope). 😉