Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tweets…

If you have not been following the latest Twitter drama, I thought I’d share it briefly here on this blog.

Meet Connor Riley.  She seems like a nice enough young woman, going to UC Berkeley.  Her personal student website is online, including her resume.  After all, she is looking for a job.

Good news!  She landed an offer from Cisco, one of the few big tech companies hiring these days.

Unfortunately, she sent out a message on Twitter that was captured as follows:


She apparently didn’t understand that by default, everyone can see  you tweet.  Needless to say, someone at Cisco saw this tweet (likely from a saved search or TweetDeck stream for “Cisco”) and responded as follows:


Thus, the “Cisco Fatty” incident was born.   Amazing stream – you can see the Twitter search here.  The drama.  The intrigue.  A couple articles:

Connor actually posted a response on her personal site.  It’s not much, but here’s a sample:

Sometimes in the course of applying for a job, it becomes apparent that it’s a job you don’t want to do. I declined one such job early on Tuesday, and then, because I live at some distance from many of my close friends, I decided to use Twitter to tell them about what I had been thinking.

Let me tell you about how I use Twitter: I have 45 friends. I know all of them. They know me. 95% of them have lived in a dorm or a house with me. I practically can’t offend them, although sometimes I try.

So one checkbox stood between my using Twitter correctly to suit my needs and my using Twitter in a way that would make @timmylevad start baying for my head.

It’s not really that compelling.  Still, I found myself thinking about a few things:

  1. Get used to “Bad Tweet” stories. We’ve heard a few “bad tweet” stories before (remember the “Memphis” incident?).  And we’ll hear more.  It’s the new, hot social medium, and these stories will take on a life of their own.
  2. The bad economy affects reactions. This would be one of those classic schadenfreude stories, except that with the economy where it is, people are particularly indignant at anyone who would flaunt and dismiss a great job at a great company like Cisco.  It’s overstating the case, but in some ways, this taps into anger the same way the AIG bonuses do.  This is just a Gen Y, techie version.
  3. Twitter seems private, but is public. There are least two very clever aspects to Twitter that have helped its member and usage growth.  The first is being designed, from the ground up, to separate “following” from “follower”.  Who you see is kept separate from who sees you.  The second, however, is a play on privacy.  Twitter feels private, and the interface leads you to believe that only the people following you can see your tweets.  However, in reality, everyone can see everyone else’s tweets by default.  The advent of realtime search streams has only made this more obvious.

People use Twitter like its a new, better form of group chat… but it isn’t.  These messages don’t just go to friends and family on your buddy list.  These updates don’t go only to your connections. And until the interface changes to suggest to people that their tweets are public, we’re going to see more and more people make the same mistake that Connor did.