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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:

gorilla - EditedFortunately, Debra quickly realised her mistake and changed the reply, to clarify that when she talked about “me” she actually meant “him”. gorilla2

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:

Screenshot 2013-05-29 at 21.07.08 - Edited

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:

sockpuppetry

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:

Screenshot 2013-05-29 at 21.27.07 - Edited

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:

Screenshot 2013-05-29 at 21.18.36 - Edited

Screenshot 2013-05-29 at 21.43.44 - Edited

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):

Screenshot 2013-05-30 at 17.32.52 - Edited

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?

Screenshot 2013-05-30 at 17.32.52 - Edited (1)

“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.

Why not?

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:

Screenshot 2013-05-29 at 22.07.11 - Edited

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?

32 comments

  1. For pity’s sake! Can I think of no better way to publicise my cult of personality than to use my @oldandrewuk persona to engage in half hearted attacks on myself?


  2. Hang on. I thought I was @oldandrewuk.


  3. Just ignore it all? Scenes from the Battleground too important to take too much note of all this.


    • Take your point. Twitter is my best inspiration for blogs, but I do worry it can distract from the wider debate. I’m not going to reblog this or put it in the Guide to the Blog. But I am going to leave it here for the sake of those people on Twitter who were getting it in the neck from the gorilla.


      • “distract from the wider debate” is certainly what has taken place, as you seem to accept.

        Rising to the bait Andrew will do you no favours beyond your immediate twitter circle


        • Debra Kidd has had several media appearances where she has been presented uncritically, as “the voice of teachers”. From that point of view her behaviour towards other teachers on Twitter is of some wider significance. But my Twitter activity is meant to be an extension of this blog, not the other way around and while I thought it was worth raising awareness of what we face on Twitter, I’d quite happily draw a line under this on here. It might be more difficult on Twitter where the first response has been denial (seriously, you wouldn’t believe the excuses) and then attacks on me.


  4. Laugh out loud funny. Thanks for cheering us up on a gloomy half term.


  5. A very good morning to one and all.

    Please could I clarify that I didn’t ‘demand’ you remove the reblog. For some reason the reblog approved automatically and I asked you very politely to remove the reblog because it didn’t match your ‘criteria’. The criteria you had so carefully listed previously, such as ‘only full time teachers’. My exact phrase was ‘thanks but no thanks’ as I am not a ft teacher any more. It’s fine if you want to have criteria, that is your prerogative, but there is no compulsion for me to get involved.

    You then replied to me saying these were not criteria but simply a list to enable you to prioritise. Perhaps so, it didn’t come across like that originally, but in any case I still don’t want to be reblogged on a site that seeks only to allow some voices to be heard.

    Why is all this rudeness and aggression necessary? Is this really the kind of model we wish to set for our children? Can’t we stop being rude about each other, our colleagues and our students? What does it achieve?

    I’m just about at the point of quitting Twitter and stopping blogging about teaching, because of all the back biting within the profession on social media (which is amazing considering I’ve only been doing it for a few months). I may well stick to blogging about writing from now on, it’s a lot less heated and divisive as a profession.

    With all good wishes,
    Sue Cowley


    • I have now removed the word “demand”.

      My criteria are really my own business, although your post certainly passed enough of them to be included. Nobody was asking you to “get involved” I simply shared a link to your blog. You don’t get asked because it is assumed that no blogger objects to getting more hits. Certainly, this is the first time I have ever found any blogger to object to having a link to their work shared. And as for the idea of objecting because of disapproving of sites “that seeks only to allow some voices to be heard”, I think you’ll find every website, every facebook account and every twitter feed you have ever had a link shared on does that. If you object to sites that don’t promote everyone unquestioningly then you will object to everything. And still leave the question as to how getting your own work hidden from view will increase the number of voices.

      Finally, if you want to complain about rudeness, aggression and backbiting on social media then can I suggest the following?

      1) Don’t write blogs implying that your fellow bloggers are dishonest if they write anonymously.
      2) Don’t act like you have been violated if somebody you disagree with tries to share one of your blogposts.

      Otherwise, you just look like you can dish it out, but not take it.


  6. The whole thing has become distasteful and unprofessional from where I sit.

    One must consider any anonymous poster as possibly being other than they suggest they are. Those who post with their true identity can be tested and probed in the real world, they really do put their monies where their mouths are.

    I believe this issue is very timely, amidst the debate over anonymity.

    I believe that if one is to consider how to behave online, one needs to go no further than Dan Willingham. We all look to Dan for advice on cognitive science issues, but Dan also sets an exemplary professional example on all of his web presences.

    Did you not consider OA, that even if you are of the opinion that it is unlikely you are wrong, even if you have a small doubt this should lead you to temper statements bearing in mind the damage that could be done.


    • I have tempered them. Compare this with the kind of thing I am replying to.


  7. Everyone remember rule number one of education: don’t let the bastards grind you down.


  8. I wasn’t sure that this was worth dignifying with a response, especially on a day when I’m trying to work, but after emails from @gorillaguru and @tessalmatthews, I think I need to.

    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.

    Thirdly, this whole affair clarifies for me the central problem with anonymity. In his emails @gorillaguru makes clear his reasons for anonymity. He has said he doesn’t mind me sharing these with you. The first is that in his previous career, he had to be careful about confidentiality and did not want to be recognisable from that past life. His second reason is that at his current school there is a policy that staff will not join social network sites. For these reasons, which I respect, I have agreed not to share his identity with you, even if that means I have to carry the weight of suspicion.

    To me, this blog is not sad because it slanders me, but because it throws all of our attentions off education and onto each other. Twitter has, in recent weeks, become a bear pit and none of us do ourselves any favours in this kind of exchange. To this end alone, I would ask that you remove your post and return to what you do well – blogging about educational matters. I may not agree with them, but at least they are on point.


  9. I don’t do the twitter/facebook thing and by the sound of things I’m wise not to.

    However, as a bystander I would say:

    1. Debra- sorry, but that is the least convincing denial I have ever seen- and I have dealt with many a fibbing kid in my time- I’m afraid you have gone to great pains to self incriminate – but meh… mountains and molehills

    2. OA- I don’t doubt you were responding to unreasonable attacks- but I think it undermines your work to respond… just my view.

    3. Sue- I agree- I would like a return to the OA blog with juicy regular essays that OA is a master of and has been a source of joy and sanity for many teachers – at least those I know that are brave enough to admit they follow him (lest they incur SLT pc wrath).


  10. Yes I agree with Rob. Debra seems very unconvincing but I fear that OA risks discrediting the important message he has and that would be a terrible shame and not worth the risk…


    • From: slaw@
      Subject: Greetings!
      Date: 1 June 2013 11:28:32 GMT+01:00
      To: “debrakidd68@gmail.com”

      Hey Debra,

      Am away this weekend, but just caught a DM. Trying to stay off twitter this weekend – been a very crazy place this week. Can’t believe the fruit cake is still banging on about this. Am thinking of unblocking and tackling him myself next week, but he’s probably not worth the effort. In any case, thought maybe you could publish this email if you blocked out anything that might clearly identify me. What do you think?

      The one on Thursday, I’d rather you didn’t share – too much personal information – you know what I mean. Anyway.

      I am Gorilla Guru. Might change my name now – it did refer to some work I did on a conservation project some time ago, but it sounds aggressive.

      To Tessa Matthews – I was out of order. I am sorry. The thing is, you keep on retweeting your blog every few hours so you get people’s attention. I didn’t like it. I could have put my point across better.

      Old Fart – you need to get a life mate. If I was Debra, I’d sue your sorry little arse off.

      Debra – sorry if I got you into this mess. You have taught me the meaning of professional.

      Followers – thanks for following me. I’ll try to stick to science issues in future.

      Surf’s up. Boys are waking. Fun to be had.

      J.


  11. Debra/Gorilla/Whoever,

    Seriously – this is getting plain embarrassing… you may wanna cut your losses… no-one really cares that much in the 1st place … ‘the lady doth protest too much’ etc etc..


  12. Debra, I seriously question your sanity: inventing emails from @GorillaGuru? The email is such a cliche of how a young man may write it is just funny. You would have at least retrieved some of your integrity and dignity if you had just admitted what happened at the first opportunity. Instead you have just become a complete embarrassment…do you really think anyone is convinced by your account?


  13. For me it is not an issue of being convinced by Debra’s account, it is an issue of professional conduct.

    I have not seen unequivocal evidence that “debra kidd” is also “gorilla guru”. I have not seen evidence that the 2 are used by the same person to tweet.

    It is debra kidd who has had her professionalism called into question.

    I am also sure that OA has acted with the best of intentions in pointing out what he feels is hypocrisy. I believe that if OA was concerned about this issue, he should have contacted debra kidd about it privately, especially as there is no obvious unequivocal evidence. As OA has put it the evidence is circumstantial.

    I believe debra kidd has acted in a professional and honourable way throughout the debacle.

    If it does become clear that debra kidd has in fact acted inappropriately, I will be the first to acknowledge the fact,but I see no evidence of that quite yet. I am happy to accept her word.

    I just hope that if it transpires that anyone has accused her falsely, they will apologise in public and be held to account.


  14. ‘Debra – You have taught me the meaning of professional’? – oh the irony!


  15. “held to account”?

    Good grief – are we talking The Hague? Spanish Inquisition? Twitter Police?

    Some perspective?- someone got caught in a wee fib (probably), in a twitter exchange, and then had it pointed out.

    I suspect all parties will eventually recover from this harrowing and traumatic ordeal. Time is a tremendous healer.

    (And if anyone dare suggest sarcasm on my part they had better bring a lawyer :)..)


  16. Let’s get this right. An anonymous blogger accuses another anonymous blogger of attacking another anonymous blogger. The person accused of being one of the anonymous bloggers tries to explain and is ignored. She provides an email and is derided. It would be good if the monkey grew some balls and admitted who he was, but if he hasn’t by now, he probably won’t. There’s only one person who stinks in this and it’s you Andrew Old. What a ridiculous waste of everyone’s time and one which smacks of a petty and personal vendetta.


    • By a strange coincidence Andy, your message has come from the exact same IP address as the two comments from Debra Kidd above.

      Another accident?


  17. Not really since I’m writing from her computer. I’m sick of the way you’ve been treating her. She’s beyond upset about this and if someone who cares about her has to weigh in, then so be it. I’m sure I’m not the only one. And the fact that I know her has nothing to do with this. This has been petty and vindictive all along. I wish she’d shown me all this before.


  18. Well I have to ask, did Debra *accidentally* let you on to her computer to do this? Seems a bit odd for somebody to opt out of explaining her actions in public, but then have somebody else attack me from her computer.


  19. I feel that I need to defend Debra as Andy’s post is partly my fault. Andy doesn’t do Twitter or read blogs & I had insisted that Debra showed him what you’d written about her. He is very protective, but an idiot and shouldn’t have waded in. A lesson in logging off as well tbh. As a technophobe it wouldn’t have dawned on him that it could be traced back to Debra’s computer.


    • I had a feeling it would be another of Debra’s unfortunate accidents. How many’s that?


      • We’re not all as tech savvy as you. Mistakes happen.


        • Good grief, you now appear to be talking as if the mistake here was getting caught.

          Do you no longer believe in Debra’s run of “accidents”?


  20. Oh dear, I think someone’s pants are about to catch fire.
    As a former teacher, I know a cr*p excuse when I see one…. can’t be long now before the dog gets implicated.
    I assume dogs are capable of pressing “send” buttons these days, rather than simply eating homework, the way they used to in the good old days?


  21. I must say I’m finding this all rather amusing… but in a rubber necking kinda way…

    Its occurred to me that its odd Gorrilla man wrote to OA via an email to Miss Kidd (1st june), rather than simply post here….

    I wonder what the IP address would have been then?

    So Louise/Andy/Gorrilla/Debra, I for one await the next instalment with intrigue…

    ps I wonder if there is name for this dynamic- “to do a Huhne?”


  22. […] that isn’t true is treated as a personal attack. When I write posts like this, this or this, it gets treated as a personal attack on whoever is saying something not true (even in the cases […]



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