Careless whispers on Twitter

A few weeks ago, BBC journalist Rory Cellan-Jones blogged about the Scrabulous vs Scrabble hoopla on Facebook, in a light-hearted way, as he describes it. Not long after he had published the post he got a message from a follower on Twitter asking him “Why did you not mention Wordscraper?”, referring to another game. Cellan-Jones writes:

“I was a little irritated by this, as my piece was intended as a bit of fun rather than an exhaustive inquiry into the Scrabulous affair – which, after all, is hardly Watergate. So I Tweeted back: “cos I couldn’t be bothered”, and thought no more about it.”

The remark didn’t sit well with the Twitter ‘friend’ who wrote a lenghty blog post saying things like “Years from now, when British journalism has finally breathed its last, this phrase will be engraved on its tombstone.”

A few days later Cellan-Jones tweeted about a press release and described it as the “new leader in rubbish PR stunt of 08”. Apparently the PR person behind the release noticed the tweet and emailed Cellan-Jones with the comment “Got your feedback via Twitter. You cut me deep!!!”.

Social media services allow us to have more personal conversations with friends, or ‘friends’, but the personal nature doesn’t mean that conversations are private. The majority of our actions are in fact out in the public, open to anyone to view and respond to, and it might be wise to keep that in mind.

Better Business Blogging has a tongue-in-cheek post about how to avoid negative reactions in the blogosphere:

Avoid expressing an opinion – there is nothing worse than opinions to get people’s backs up and there’s also a high risk that someone, somewhere will disagree with them. You may find that sharing information carries these same risks as it opens the door for dialogue and discussion.
Make your posts as bland as possible – by reporting little of relevance or interest in your blog, you will successfully be reducing the number of people reading it. An added bonus is that nobody is likely to make the effort to engage in conversation by posting comments, positive or negative. Longer-term strategy but still very effective.
Hide your blog – let’s face it, if people can’t find your blog then they are unlikely to react negatively to anything in it. This can either be done actively or passively: actively should involve regularly changing permalinks to break those unwanted inbound links, while passively you can simply sit back and steadfastly refuse to admit that the blog exists.


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