At least we can rely on Twitter for honest debate…May 29, 2013
This is a revised version of a post I published a couple of days ago. I have modified it to take account of feedback.
Since I set up The Echo Chamber to promote high quality education blogging I’ve been struggling with a little problem. I keep forgetting to check whether I’m logged into Twitter as @oldandrewuk or as @theechochamber2. I keep replying as one to tweets aimed at the other, or getting into arguments as the latter, when I really should be saving that for the former. However, I see that it is not just @theechochamber2 and @oldandrewuk who swap places mid discussion. Earlier, two other Tweeters, @gorillaguru and @debrakidd swapped places with the latter apparently answering for the former:
Now in the original version of this post I assumed that the only way one person could replace another mid-discussion and refer to the other peson as “me” would be if they were, in fact, the same person posting under two names. Of course, if I’d thought it through then I would have to consider other possibilities, like two people who have shared access to their accounts, or two people using the same computer who haven’t checked who is logged in. What I didn’t actually expect, and what actually happened, was that Debra would construct a story to explain how she apparently typed as if she was somebody else. I’ll return to this a little later. But first, let’s look at why, at least for those of us who want credible debate in the world of Twitter, it would matter if Debra is also posting under a secret simian identity.
Firstly, we have the fact that Debra has made clear her views on those of us who use anonymous identities:
So if Debra is posting as the gorilla she is the kind of person who would condemn anonymity one moment and then use it herself the next. Also there would be the question of why she has conversations with herself:
But most importantly, while Debra tries to be polite and conciliatory, the gorilla is aggressive and accusatory, as in the example I started with, or in this:
Indeed, the gorilla fits most of the criteria I would use to identify somebody as a troll. By contrast Debra is the first to protest at any kind of challenge to somebody’s views:
If she were to be the gorilla, she would have accused me of being a bully and making personal attacks (presumably the Star Wars gag) while protecting myself and simultaneously used another identity to make far stronger attacks on other people. Fortunately, in case we were in any doubt, Debra did (after about 11 hours) come up with an explanation of why she accidentally tweeted as if she was somebody else. You can find the full text in the comments below, but here is the key excuse given.
Firstly, I can absolutely see why it was that this made sense to you. It might help if I explain that I wasn’t simply writing me instead of him. But that the initial tweet had been much longer – like ‘Ah well, that’ll be the alpha male monkey in him if you ask me!’ but I decided it sounded a bit rude and was editing down. The ‘accident’ was not the me instead of him, it was pressing ‘tweet’ mid edit. I completely accept, however, that it seems dodgy and that decision will, of course be entirely down to the reader.
Secondly, the tenor of my tweet was to defend Tessa from a series of comments which, although I did agree with their central point, did seem a little aggressive. I have always tried to maintain a level of professionalism in my tweets as you know. You may not know, that Tessa and I have been emailing over the past week as I’ve been helping her with some of her reading and frankly, I felt sorry for her.
Well I’m sure we have all accidentally deleted the middle of a tweet, then tweeted it, and then found that the accident implies that we are in fact the person who, by complete coincidence, we have just taken over from in an ongoing discussion. Perfectly, plausible. And who could doubt Debra’s motives? She has stepped in to protect Tessa from a malicious troll who was being quite rude. The tweet that offended Debra to the point where she had to step in to defend Tessa was this one (in which the gorilla accused Tessa of using a child she blogged about as a pawn):
If you read the blogpost that sparked this debate you’ll see how unfair this attack is. Well done Debra for objecting to this attack, no matter how it turned out. I… hang on a second, did I miss something here? Let me have a closer look at that comment from the gorilla, what’s that at the bottom?
“Retweeted by Debra Kidd”? So, Debra was so concerned at this insulting tweet that she just had to jump in to protect Tessa, but only after she had retweeted it to her 1400 followers? Well, of course, I think we have all reacted to something objectionable and insulting by sharing it really widely; saying nothing to directly condemn it, and in the process accidentally implying that we are the author. I’m sure that’s a much more likely explanation than, say, that the author of the insulting tweet changed accounts in order to retweet what they had written, then when they returned to the discussion forgot to change accounts back. After all, while the first story makes no sense at all and relies on a ridiculous coincidence, it does at least make Debra out to be a good person. While the second version of events, while an everyday happening for inexperienced internet sockpuppets, suggests that Debra is not completely honest. It would only be charitable to assume that the former must be the case as I have been repeatedly assured that she is honest and trustworthy. And who would doubt the complete integrity of the person who was responsible for this exchange?
I wouldn’t, perhaps, be so keen to chase this up if I hadn’t been getting a little irritated about some of the attacks on my fellow Echo Chamber bloggers. As well as being pursued by an angry gorilla troll, there have been various people talking in quite a snarky way about “gangs” and about which bloggers and tweeters do, or do not, like children. I have also seen it implied (in this blogpost) that this is my attitude to other bloggers:
Look. There’s no way you will be accepted into the inner circle anyway.
You are over the age of thirty; I only like young bloggers really. I accept a few older ones so I don’t get done for discrimination.Why young teachers?They tend to look up to me.
Then (after I mentioned that the blogger above was difficult to reblog) there was this:
I’ve also had Sue Cowley ask that I remove a reblog of one of her posts from The Echo Chamber. In case you are not aware, a reblog is little different to sharing a link on facebook or Twitter, making this the one case I have ever encountered of a blogger wanting to avoid having their work advertised to a wider audience.
As much as I like to take the mickey, and be as partisan as possible, I am left wondering if things have gone a bit too far here. Can’t we all just be more like Barney the Dinosaur?
Or failing that, can’t we all just agree to pick on David Didau?