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Breathe: Reflections on the Cisco Fatty Story


And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to

Anna Nalick, Breathe (2 AM)

Earlier this week, I wrote the post How to Tweet Your Way Out of a Job. As it seems like much of the online world now knows, it told the tale of how a young woman tweeted her reaction to a Cisco job offer.  If I get a post that pops 2,000 views, I’m ecstatic. What happened with this particular post defies anything I’ve ever experienced.

But that feeling is tempered by an awareness of what @theconnor must be feeling.

Things are returning to normal here on the blog, and I wanted to record a few thoughts for posterity.

Original Incident

I don’t catch every tweet of the people I follow on Twitter. But I happened to be on the Twitter home page when Cisco’s Tim Levad responded to the following tweet by @theconnor:

Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.

Tim’s responded by calling her out for this message. She had just summarily dismissed the job, and by extension, Cisco. I’m sure Cisco employees take pride in their work, and here’s an outsider dismissing the prospect of working there. So Tim responded in kind, telling her that her hiring manager would be interested in knowing her attitude before she’d even started the job.

Right there, terrible move by @theconnor. And she was penalized for it.

If this had only been the tweet by @theconnor, I wouldn’t blog that. I don’t follow her anyway, and people can tweet what they want. It was Tim’s reaction that elevated this to newsworthy status. A parallel can be drawn with the case of the Ketchum PR guy who tweeted a disparaging remark about Memphis. That by itself wasn’t newsworthy. What made it newsworthy was the reaction of his Memphis-based client, FedEx.

It’s not the original tweet. It’s the reaction by an offended party.

Viral

As I mentioned, this post far exceeds anything I’ve even seen. It seemed to get early traction on Twitter. Then it got picked up on Reddit. Then, TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington tweeted about it, which spread on Twitter. Before you know, the post goes viral on both Reddit and Twitter. It then hit Techmeme.

As of the time I’m writing this, the post has been viewed 102,000 times. Here’s what the traffic graph of my blog for the last 30 weeks looks like:

im-not-actually-a-geek-weekly-trafficI doubt I’ll ever see a post go this viral again. It’s hard to describe your feelings as you watch this happen. Incredulous is a good word.

I learned the power of reddit.com. If you hit the front page of that site, the traffic is huge. I also ended up as the Hawt Post on wordpress.com, which also has a lot of traffic. Little things I didn’t know.

Cisco Fatty

This was really interesting. The story took on its own descriptive meme: cisco fatty. Where did that term come from?

In the post, I needed a reference to @theconnor’s tweet about the Cisco offer. But she had taken her account private, so I went to Twitter search. I figured a simple search query for cisco fatty would do the trick, and it did for a while. Her tweet was the only thing that was returned.

What happened though, is that as people clicked that search link to see her tweet for themselves, they saw a search page with the words cisco fatty. And some wags began to refer to it as the “cisco fatty” incident. Soon, that term was all over Twitter. There are also blog posts that refer to the cisco fatty.

I have to admit, I chuckled at some of the tweets where the term was used. This was one of my favorite meta tweets about the meme:

bah. “cisco fatty” is no “I KISS YOU”, Kids on the Interwebs will meme anything these days. When I was young, we used to meme uphill…

If you don’t know what I KISS YOU is, click here for info.

Opportunism

Some guy sensed the meme potential “cisco fatty”, and set up a site called ciscofatty.com, complete with Google ads. Little more than a splog initially, the dude didn’t have the courtesy to link back to my post. He then has been thoughtlessly adding details about @theconnor from her now-removed personal website.

The guy was clever enough to see the potential of the term. But then he blows it by going overboard. As one person tweeted:

The dude who put up the Cisco Fatty website, plastering personal info about the Twitterer at the center of this debacle is a total douche.

The unfortunate thing is that articles and posts have linked to his site, and folks are tweeting links to it.

False Privacy of Not Being Well-Known

I can see how one could slip into an overly comfortable feeling that Twitter is like email or IM. You tweet things and get positive reactions from those with whom you interact. Or more likely, a lot of what you tweet gets no reaction. You slowly get more comfortable with the medium, and notice the wide variety of personal information are sharing on Twitter.

I can very easily see someone developing a false sense of privacy in this realm. After all, there are millions of people tweeting, and nobody and watch all that they post.

But public tweets are not email. Twitter search and the retweet protocol make anyone’s tweet accessible everywhere. With Twitter, you have to keep your guard up. It’s unfortunate, but I look at it as a small price to pay for the self-expression, learning, interacting and connecting you can do via Twitter.

The thing is, I’m sure every few minutes someone somewhere tweets something that crosses the line of propriety. The vast majority of these are never known. But as this case shows, the potential is always there.

Thoughts on @theconnor

The young woman at the center of this is laying low, waiting for of this to pass. And it will. It’s already slowing down a lot here at the end of the week.

She has achieved something she didn’t want, a measure of Internet notoriety. I’m not expert in these matters. But I’ve seen how people handle these things, whether it’s Internet fame or incidents that occur in business, Hollywood, professional sports, etc. She can embrace or refute her notoriety.

If she wanted to, she could embrace this. Here’s how I mean. She’s part of Gen Y. This is the next generation coming into the workforce. Her tweet about “hating the work” may actually be a rallying cry for many of her peers looking at their future.

She could write a very persuasive article about the feelings of her generation. Not that she hates Cisco, or the job she was going to do there. Rather, she was expressing some of the frustration of her generation. My guess is that she could actually write her essay on a widely-read site of some type (e.g. TechCrunch, Time, etc.).

I can see why she might not want to do this. She may not want any more limelight, and have concern about what employers will think if she did write such a piece. There will be plenty of people that will be critical of her if she did write anything.

But she does have the opportunity to channel the interest in the story and her own notoriety into something she didn’t have at the start of this week. My sense is that she has a platform right now.

Regardless, I wish her the best.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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About Hutch Carpenter
Senior Consultant for HYPE Innovation (hypeinnovation.com)

47 Responses to Breathe: Reflections on the Cisco Fatty Story

  1. Incredible, once in a year type of opportunity. I’ve had it happen to me twice (BTW, a Google Analytics consultant who was here yesterday said that those type of graphs with the huge growth spike are called by them “Traffic Viagra”).

    One question I had, did you get the same type of increase in subscribers?

    Congrats on this amazing experience!

  2. zarchasmpgmr says:

    I started following Mr. Carpenter on Twitter because of this.

    • art predator says:

      Me too. That might be his next post–the relationship between page views and new twitter followers, not subscribers!

  3. art predator says:

    Congrats on the spike! And thanks telling us about what happened! I saw it as a WordPress Hawt Post but found it first as a retweet. It really did find its way around the world!

    I also agree that there is an important essay to be written here about how many people feel about work –conflict between “fatty paychecks” and loss of freedoms. I know many Gen Xers who feel the same way; women of my mothers generation didn’t even have the chance to complain about work opportunities. The difference here as you point out is social media’s impact on how we share our experiences in the world.

    I was a newbie to blogging when I hit the jackpot with a post last February on the lunar eclipse. At first, I thought something was wrong with my stats! I learned a lot from analyzing where the traffic came from and what it did one my site once it got there.

  4. Terry says:

    Excellent follow-up. I read several of the other blogs and comments. The span of emotions in the comments is amazing. I am not sure why this has struck a note with so many people, but it has. At a networking session last night, at least 50% of the people were talking about this event. By the end of the session everyone (so it seems) had a comment. Depending on your point of view as to who is the bad guy in this event, there is a lesson to be learned. Maybe more than one.

  5. Dave says:

    I hope you are making a lot of money off of this from advertisers like I am!

  6. You’re my hero Hutch. I really liked your comments about her tweet being more an expression of Gen Y. Although most would agree that her actions were less than responsible, think about the value of such a conversation is to Cisco. Do you think Cisco wants to be the boring place to work where people commute 1 hour to every day just because they pay more? Moreover, after Connor got called out by the Cisco guy, I believe she should have gone on the offensive. Either she didn’t want to work at Cisco and this situation helped solidify that position… or …she did want to work there but had some concerns. Obviously, she couldn’t express those concerns to her hiring manager so she turned to the web hoping that a friend or colleague would help her with her decision. The fact that she was admonished for reaching out via an open channel such as Twitter is understandable. However, I know of many Cisco employees who love the company and the culture. Wouldn’t it have been more constructive for Cisco employees to respond with positive things about Cisco rather than threatening to contact the hiring manager? If Cisco wanted to hire Connor, she obviously had the talent and personality that Cisco was looking for in the position. Isn’t it in Cisco’s best interests to hire and retain the best talent available? One might think Cisco lucked out by not hiring Connor, but I think they might be more concerned about the people they already hired that are just working there for the fatty paycheck.

  7. Bob says:

    The only thing about this story you missed was the Youtube Hitler Cisco/Fatty video. It’s actually REALLY funny:

    The guy that wrote this is pretty damn funny.

  8. Truly a remarkable event and phenomenon that we have witnessed here.

    And it’s ALWAYS about the reaction to whatever we choose to say, not what we say itself.

    So, who’s taking bets on whether she makes it to Leno?

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  12. CJ says:

    Cisco could have turned this around .. responded that they were going to hire her and make her their official voice to talk about how great they are – once she REALLY learned about the company ..

  13. pararebooks says:

    I’m SO out of it. This whole thing is so last week, and I’m only just now finding out about it. A pox on my tardiness!

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  15. I live in a cave…just ran into this yesterday. I don’t write anything webbish that I wouldn’t shout out in public, which explains my shunning by The Plain Folk. I like my job, but then I am luggage that comes with handles for other to carry. I like your take on things and may read you in the future. Or I may continue to spread disinformation on Yahoo Answers. Have a nice decade!

  16. Fatty Arbuckle says:

    Yawn.

  17. VlogHog says:

    This will lead to more companies making employees and future employees sign confidentiallly agreements.

  18. VlogHog says:

    I’ve stumbled this page up.

  19. Robin says:

    What if somebody is out to frame you and ruin your career? What is to prevent someone from entering your name to make you look bad to employers?

  20. suade says:

    thanks for the info;))

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  26. barnett says:

    I am all but disinterested in this bit of news. I’ve not heard anything about it from anyone I know. It was the topic that caught my eye, and reminded me of a very old saying:

    “Words are like an arrow – once you let them go, you can never take them back.”

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  31. promote says:

    thank you for sharing

  32. barnett says:

    you’re welcome

  33. I’ve digged this page up.

  34. Me too. That might be his next post–the relationship between page views and new twitter followers, not subscribers!

  35. Totally agree

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  37. thank you for sharing

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  40. Joe Wilson says:

    Wow cool spike… how many stuck around the days following… was it just a surge or did some residual traffic stay?

    Thanks for the insights!

  41. kosana says:

    Thanks for sharing,very interesting article

  42. Cisco could have turned this around .. responded that they were going to hire her and make her their official voice to talk about how great they are – once she REALLY learned about the company ..

  43. This will lead to more companies making employees and future employees sign confidentiallly agreements.

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  46. Insightful read.

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