Cleanup Over on Aisle #UniteBlue

by Karoli on March 3, 2013 · 13 comments

In the past week, more has come to light on the UniteBlue issues I raised here and here. I want to correct myself as well as give my final thoughts on the model of UniteBlue as a “force” online.

About the ConnectTheLeft Twitter Account

I originally contended that @EileenLeft was the owner of the ConnectTheLeft twitter account, based on her contention that she was. Subsequent to that, Simon (@SayethSimon) supplied a screenshot of his confirmation email from Twitter dated August 30, 2011 in his rebuttal, and then followed that up with a screenshot of a confirmation email received for the same account name on August 22, 2011 which ties with the date of creation given by this website.

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 1.26.03 PM

The fine print is where you see that the account now known as @UniteBlue was created on August 22, 2011. A second account with the username ConnectTheLeft was created in August, 2012 at the time the original account name was switched to UniteBlue.

EileenLeft has been preoccupied with her son, who is having health problems and had a very difficult surgery yesterday. However, in the face of what Simon has presented, it seems clear to me that he had control over the account from its inception. I wish he had just said so from the start, but whatever the communications issues might have been, I see no reason to doubt what he provided as proof of ownership, and neither did the UniteBlue folks.

In Eileen’s defense, she was not simply “inactive,” either. She was actively maintaining a Tumblr blog with alphabetical lists of those who were part of ConnectTheLeft, and her most recent update was in what appears to be December (Tumblr doesn’t publish the date, just a sort of vague “two months ago” marker). Therefore, I think we may have a situation where both people were right about their individual contentions with one exception: Simon was always in control of the Twitter “ConnectTheLeft” brand.

If @EileenLeft has a rebuttal, I will gladly publish it here, but for now I accept Simon’s evidence on its face. You should consider my original post to be superceded by this one with regard to the issue of who controlled the twitter account. The website was never an issue for me since I didn’t even know there was a website.

Why I still think UniteBlue is not right for me

Please, haters, note the header. Not right for me does not mean I am telling anyone else what they should do. I’ve gotten an earful about how divisive I’m being by not simply going with this and jumping on the bandwagon with everyone else. Here are MY reasons for avoiding it:

  1. I’m still bothered by the name change from ConnecttheLeft to UniteBlue at the handover point.

    As recently as Wednesday of last week, people were discovering they were following UniteBlue simply because they followed ConnecttheLeft before the name change. This is Twitter’s failure in many ways, because by allowing for flexible screen name changes without notifying followers, they’ve diluted the identity stream without any notice.

    What could UniteBlue have done? Well, they could have started with a new account instead of changing one that existed as a different entity and affinity group. They could have followed all of the ConnecttheLeft followers. That’s one possibility, and one that would at least have given people the option to follow or not follow with full knowledge.

    What could Twitter have done? Dropped a notification in the stream that the account ConnectTheLeft had changed its name to UniteBlue. At least that would have raised some awareness of the issue, though I also freely admit that notifications dropped in someone’s Twitter timeline aren’t always seen, particularly if one is using a client.

    DesertCroneNM articulates my concerns better than I have. Read it here

  2. The structure runs counter to everything I know about best practices on the web for individual users. 

    Take, for example, this snippet from their page regarding best practices, where they instruct new users to follow between 50-100 people per day, and where they will assign you to a list. You can move up the list by following other members.

    Here are some people who are not members of UB: Just about all 143 members of my “writers/editors” list, which includes some of the best and top thinkers in the progressive twittersphere. Most of them do NOT follow me and that’s all right with me, because I’m interested in what they’re saying, not whether they like me or think I’m worth following.

    One’s Twitterverse rapidly becomes an echo chamber when one limits who they follow to who follows UniteBlue, and it dilutes the purpose of UniteBlue as well.

  3. Anyone who unfollows people because they don’t follow back hasn’t figured out what Twitter is.

    A direct quote from their best practices/getting started FAQ:

    I have followed 2000 and can’t follow anymore.
    Tweet you’re at the 2000 limit and ask for follows. Then unfollow folks who don’t follow you.

    More on that follows in the question “Who should I unfollow?” Answer:

    Only unfollow folks who didn’t follow you back after a couple of days. Wait at least 72 hours for a follow-back. Try not to unfollow folks who have hit the 2000 limit and need followers to keep following.

    It’s the old “team followback” technique! Anyone who has ever been followed by one of those spambots knows the routine. They follow and wait, and then make a “grand statement” that they are unfollowing YOU because you didn’t follow them. Their stream is filled with crap like “thanks for the follow” or echoing links to algorithm-ready blog posts.

    This is Twitter 101, folks. Repeat after me: Twitter was made for asymmetrical following. It does not require the Facebook friending scheme.

  4. No protection against Block/Spam-Block techniques, despite the hype.

    From the same “Best practices” FAQ:

    UniteBlue believes Twitter is a great place to discuss politics, current events, and common interests. As a member of UniteBlue, you have allied yourself with like-minded liberals who want to not only share their opinions, but afford themselves with a measure of protection against being targeted by others who use the Block and SpamBlock feature inappropriately. We endeavor to rise above such practices and bring a modicum of respect back to political engagement on Twitter.

    Noble motives. Method questionable, and no one needs protection against spam-blocking if they’re engaging with “like-minded people.” Those who play the spamblock game don’t do it randomly. They’re engaging with someone they don’t like. Easy protection? Don’t engage with them, and if you choose to do so anyway, do it without ever using the “reply all” feature, because that is where they get the spamblock traction. It’s the unwanted serial mentions in a “reply all” strand, combined with the block/report feature being used that earns suspensions. Easiest way to avoid that is to engage with those “like-minded” people and build a little community before rushing out to slay right wing dragons.

    No one needs to do that by reciprocal follows and listbuilding. List-building is a technique for marketing, not community. They are different things.

Those factors, taken in the aggregate, run so counter to my idea of online community and how I use Twitter and other social media that UniteBlue does not interest me in the least, even if their motives are purer than the driven snow.

What marketing on Twitter does to community

Over the past three weeks, I’ve seen a pattern not only with UniteBlue but with other marketing efforts, and it’s one that probably makes Twitter a ton of money but does very little to enhance my user experience. My timeline becomes a rolling echo chamber of hashtags promoting products, services, websites and links, each one jumping past the next until I simply begin to ignore the timeline altogether and stick with lists.

I don’t see that as particularly good for anyone, since there’s no guarantee my lists are comprehensive or inclusive enough to pick up on what someone might say that’s worth talking about. But here’s the other part: Weekdays are when this happens. On the weekends, the conversation reverts to a much more organic and interesting level, where people are actually engaging, and tweeting interesting things, even when it’s just the game they’re watching or the TV show they’re tweeting.

During the week it’s just a river of marketing meh. Is that what we’re building here? Progressive marketing meh?

Count me out. And count me as one who admits an error when she made one, so to that end, I have now corrected what I said about Simon and the original account. I am also convinced UniteBlue is not some vast right wing conspiracy. They are not that. But they are marketing meh.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 lloyd March 3, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I’ve had to go to list only lately. It took forever to complete but it did enhance my twitter experience. I’ve also considered opening a new account and closing my current account.

2 Karoli March 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I have too…and starting over from scratch. I do actually have a private “follow-only” account that I use when things are just insane to make sure I don’t miss tweets from people I want to hear from.

3 Sam Harris March 3, 2013 at 3:50 pm

“I originally contended that @EileenLeft was the owner of the
ConnectTheLeft twitter account, based on her contention that she was.”

Bloggerism is not journalism, folks. I suppose if Eileen told you she was the 6th member of the Jackson Five you would have believed that also?

What is your relationship to Eileen? If you have no relationship, what is Eileen’s relationship to the bully you “enable” on twitter? The big black cat guy with “supposed” cancer.

You need to come correct and explain to folks how you got this so totally wrong. And now you are trying to “clean up” the mess YOU helped to create.

Its everyone’s fault except yours, right?

4 Karoli March 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm

You wrote:

“What is your relationship to Eileen? If you have no relationship, what is Eileen’s relationship to the bully you “enable” on twitter? The big black cat guy with “supposed” cancer.”

What is your point, Sam? I have no relationship to Eileen, other than a long-standing friendship with her.

Oh, I see. You’re one of the cancer truthers with a hard-on for smearing Matt who also coincidentally happens to originate deep in the heart of Jason Wade Taylor land. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Consider this your first and last warning. You’ll be locked out from comments here if you bring this agenda into my comments again. One of these things has nothing to do with the other. Don’t meow about your free speech being squelched either, you douchebag.

Good day.

5 jezebel March 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Thanks for the fair & honest reporting :)

6 @pixiesherry March 3, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I wrote the Best Practices. At the time, I was guided by the understanding that having a given number of follows afforded some protection from those using spamblock en masse (TeamBlocks or BlockParties) to force suspensions on those who were of differing POV. I regret my uninformed & unwitting participation, as I have since come to understand Twitter Rules, Spam, item 7 to have no breakpoint on follows to provide that protection. I have asked Zach Green to remove the Best Practices along with my name from anywhere on the site. At this time I have no idea whether he’s done so since I revoked my membership with a statement that I was not going to participate in any false or misleading unsubstantiated claim so that I maintain my personal integrity. My requests have all been ignored.

7 Karoli March 3, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Gotcha. And I understand where that came from. On its face, it seems to make sense. Now that you’ve found out differently, let’s pretend for a minute that a certain number of followers did somehow afford protection.

I wrote about the danger that technique poses to people like me on my next blog post here.

I think this is exactly why Twitter does not use follower numbers to “protect” users from spamblocking. Because those who would lose the most in a scheme like UB are those who built up solid identities before any of this.

I’ve been plagued for over a year by accounts that are used to swap names around routinely. One has about 300 people followed and 200 following and another has exactly 1986 people followed with 2300 following. Whoever controls these accounts swaps usernames routinely, asks politely to be followed, and then morphs into a troll after I do.

In the end, what will protect legit users is a solid identity scheme, something twitter currently sees as a big joke. Sobeit.

8 Aureliano Buendia March 4, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Spamblocking does not just happen to people who engage trolls. There are many examples of #stoprush volunteers having accounts suspended without first engaging any “enemies”. These suspensions are sometimes preceded by prescient trolls in the #stoprush stream tweeting “wink wink nudge nudge” messages like “Enjoy your time in Twitmo–I’ll be sure to send you some smokes.” For Twitter users involved in this type of activism having a relatively high follower count is very useful.

9 La Trotsky March 4, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Wasn’t ConnectTheLeft basically the same thing as UniteBlue? Matter of fact, it IS the same thing except with a different name correct?

Why wasn’t CTL considered a scheme by you and others?
Where were all the questions posed to CTL?
Why does shoq create one twitter crisis after another and you enable his narcissism?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to google “karoi, eileenleft and shoq” to reveal a long FRIENDSHIP between you three. And so you bash uniteblue based on a LIE THAT EILEEN TOLD YOU? You are pathetic, Karoli. Admit what you did so we can move on and get ready for 2014.

PS…what exactly is the difference between your DONATE button and UniteBlue’s DONATE button?

10 Ron Paul Rules March 5, 2013 at 4:30 am

For anyone who is still trying to figure out what is the driving force behind efforts to malign Unite Blue, here it is in a nutshell: “…risks marginalizing people who have long-standing accounts on Twitter, who built their communities by hand”

The real sin of UniteBlue was in not kissing the Godfather’s ring before launching their effort.

11 Guest March 5, 2013 at 4:35 am

The real reason for the failed attempts to smear UniteBlue over the past week or so is here: “risks marginalizing people who have long-standing accounts on Twitter, who built their communities by hand”

UniteBlue’s sin was in not kissing the ring of the Godfathers before launching their successful attempt to unite liberals on Twitter.

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