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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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