In the wake of the really ill-conceived Titstare app presentation at Techcrunch, which in my humble opinion sullied Techcrunch's brand more than anything else, emotions were running high in the small twittersphere-bubble that is made up of prominent bloggers, journalists and high-profile women in tech. In a bubble like this it was only a matter of time before somebody was going to get hurt.
The interesting thing about the geography of the internet are the bubbles. These allow our brands to be thought leaders in niche bubbles. No matter how obscure your interest, you will always find the likeminded. There are two things wrong with bubbles. The first is that often you find yourself speaking in an echo chamber. The second, is that there is no overlap. When someone from outside your bubble takes a peek, not privy to the injokes and language of your kin, they often don't like what they see. So much so, that sometimes they get downright vicious about it.
I don't want to dwell on the dumb that is the Titstare app, but watching the TC presentation showed me that it was nothing more than an Instagram-selfie app meets hot-or-not. I suspect most people who wrote about it, never did watch that presentation. The apps idea is this: men could post photos of themselves posing next to and staring at some ladies chest. It was not some clever creeper hack that would allow men to be staring at tits undetected. This difference is important, as presumably the faceless women with cleavages depicted in the apps photo feed would all be in on the "joke", posing with the men for the photo. Dumb, oh yes. Ominous? Not so much.
As I predicted in my post, it was written about for days, and soon the topic became radioactive. This is why there's so few women in tech, all of twitter nodded in agreement. Or did they?
Tech managers spend as much time worrying about how to hire talented female developers as they do worrying about how to hire a unicorn.
— Pax Dickinson (@paxdickinson) May 14, 2012
Still reeling from the TCdisrupt sexism, tech-twitter was on edge. On Pax Dickinson's twitter he tweeted 'feminism in tech remains the champion topic for my block list'. A tweet from 2010 mimicking Mel Gibson's racist rants was retweeted and picked up by several media, and soon Vallywag declared: Business Insider's CTO Is Your New Tech Bro Nightmare. His commenter history was combed through, and by the next day he was forced to resign. The Washingtonpost concluded that Pax Dickinson is the tech industry's woman problem. Salon sneered at Pax Dickinson's new chapter as a free speech martyr.
But it will not end there. Popehat added his 2000 words, Mathew Ingram did as well with: Public shaming and free speech: Why the rush to attack Pax Dickinson makes me nervous . Anil Dash had that coffee with him and wrote about it: "If you're a venture capitalist, and you invest in Pax's startup without a profound, meaningful and years-long demonstration of responsibility from Pax beforehand, you're complicit in extending the tech industry's awful track record of exclusion, and it's unacceptable." And then... CNN Money wrote a story "Be careful who you recommend on Linkedin", pointing out that a former DraftFCB, now JWT man, has given props to Pax on Linkedin. Back in 2010. The horrors.
Pax is not a fool, despite what his tweets may have you believe, and he's following the "When life gives you lemons, lob them right back" dictomy. He's given an interview to NY mag, he's scheduled for a Reddit AMA, and every chance he gets he tells people about Glimpse. Glimpse? Yes, his startup the ephemeral photo sharing app with state-of-the-art cryptography 'Because Sometimes You Wish You Hadn't Said That Online'. Oh, snap!
In other words, he's turning the mob & rubbernecking internet into his little PR channel. Well played, Pax.
.@reddit hasn't added me to the AMA calendar yet but there will be an AMA happening Monday at 3PM EST.
— Pax Dickinson (@paxdickinson) September 14, 2013
The social media gurus who have insisted that we are all brands have been proven correct. You are no longer Your Name™, a faceted human being with political opinions, preferences in food, and moodswings from happy to sad. You are your brand™, and as such you must - like Cheerios and Snickers - try not to offend while selling yourself. Unless that's your brand essence, of course. Lawson Clarke the copywriter who famously posed nude on fur like Burt Reynolds, jokes all day long at @malecopywriter, sometimes cussing and often balancing on the edge of good taste. Neither sexually assaulted maids nor shaving tips for strippers are off-limits in his jokes, oh and he also offers breast exams. There's also a ECD out there who happened to retweet the image of a gay pornstars hardcore threesome, from his official feed branded with the worldwide ad agency logo and creative legends. How delightful.
But here's a reality pill for you - you're not he untouchable ECD yet: The advice that you should "get your name out there" on social media, for this will give you that coveted job in the creative department, instead of your painstakingly crafted portfolio, is wrong. You should get a version of you out there. The clean, never hungover, always interested in news about your job version of you. Set one up with a twitter-bot-app, program it to randomly retweet Adfreak and our twitter, while you kick back in your own shielded twitter, sharing actual gossip, jokes, and maybe a raunchy party-pic with your friends.
You are not Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt), and you probably don't belong to weird twitter either.
If you do enjoy cracking strange jokes, or sharing polarizing news, or if you wish to discuss your gun hobby, your religion, your love for Zappa or anything else not utterly-vanilla™ - play under another name. Some jokes are hard for some people to spot. Some jokes are seriously inappropriate, like the aforementioned Titstare "joke". Anything risqué is a serious risk. And there's also the fact that the Easily Offended™ are easier to assemble and get people fired when all it takes is a retweet. Heather Armstrong may have pioneered being dooced for her words online, but clearly the pink slip is coming to a tweet-feed near you soon if it hasn't already.
Words that don't hurt you, or anyone in your bubble, may be seriously offensive in another. 'Gabe' of Penny Arcade learned when he tweeted a 'cis' joke in June: "Heads up if you use the word 'cis', save yourself some time and don't bother tweeting at me." "The internet has given a voice to “mass minorities”, and it’s changing the way we converse."
Meanwhile, on weird twitter;
I self-identify as an irresistibly hot piece of ass, so please respect my wish to be treated that way.
— Jocelyn Plums (@FilthyRichmond) September 13, 2013