Last week Krank.ie founder Neil took over the task of manning the @Ireland Twitter account. Here is how he got on.
The Ireland project is one of many group-tweet projects around the world. Inspired by the @Sweden account, the @Ireland account is taken over by a new person each week, as the idea is to represent all the different voices and opinions that Irish people, both at home and abroad, hold. The project has been run by the website WorldIrish.com and the account currently has ten and a half thousand followers.
To get your hands on the account, you need to send an email to WorldIrish. They take a look at you and the rough idea of what you want to discuss and will follow it up with a quick chat on the phone. Blathnaid (Chief Operations Officer at WorldIrish and the main point of contact between the site and the Twitter user) is lovely to talk to and has a very easy going manner. When I describe it to people it tends to sound stuffy but it really isn’t. When the time comes (if you are chosen) you have to sign a contract that you’ll behave yourself.
By signing this you agree to:
1. Be the sole tweeter of @Ireland from 29 October to 4 November 2012.
2. Ensure that WorldIrish will have access to the account at all times during the period of this agreement.
3. Not change the password.
4. Safeguard the account from being hacked by a third party.
5. Not change the photo, biography, background or theme of the @Ireland account.
6. Give the account back to WorldIrish at the end of your curation week or, if instructed to by WorldIrish, at an earlier date.
7. Not defame any person, business, product or group.
8. Ensure all tweets sent from the account are original and are not an infringement or violation of copyright or licence and that they respect the privacy of another person.
9. Not use any obscene, abusive or blasphemous language or any other content that violates the rights of any third party.
10. Not actively promote or advertise any business or receive remuneration from a third party to do so.
11. Be mindful of the content you re-tweet.
12. Not block or unfollow any other twitter users from the account
WorldIrish, the custodians, reserve the right to delete tweets from the account.
You then have to write a bio (I found this mind numbingly difficult and bugged everyone for help) that will be placed on the WorldIrish website, explaining who you are, what you do and so on. Mine was:
Born in the savage wild-lands near the Kildare/Wicklow border, Neil is a self-described news and current events nerd. He is the founder and admin of Krank.ie. He holds a firm belief that ordinary people need to raise their voices and concerns, while he enthusiastically supports equality, fairness and getting ordinary people involved in politics and news in Ireland. He writes on a number of sites or can simply be found on Twitter discussing what’s happening in the world. He also likes cute animals, fighting politicians on the internet and a good frozen margarita.
I began my captaincy on Monday morning. You are expected to make a tweet after 8am. Usually I am up and in work by this time and already reading and tweeting about what is happening in the world. This Monday however followed the homecoming weekend of my oldest friend. A very tired Neil introduced himself to the people following the @Ireland account and after a few messages went back to sleep for two hours.
I have to admit, there is something very daunting about ten thousand people reading what you are going to say, especially when they haven’t got a clue who you are and are inherited from somewhere else. The friendly tweets I received on my first day really helped and eased much of the tension I had going into this project. I discussed Halloween and the Irish traditions we still keep today, the failing Heritage Certificate idea, Clisare’s newest video, I pointed out some fake Sandy storm pictures and discussed what was happening with people who were there and the latest foolish attention grabbing quote from Sen Healy Eames about online anonymity. After about twenty four hours I was getting into the swing of things. But after only a day, that’s when trouble struck.
Back in August, I wrote a blog piece about when Amanda Webb (who I since followed on her personal account) was the captain of the @Ireland ship. Darragh Doyle, an employee of WorldIrish, had questioned the relevance of her tweets about Female Genital Mutilation. I wrote that the whole storm that erupted from that had probably been accidental and I couldn’t imagine Darragh negatively sticking his oar in on the use of the account.
On Tuesday, I spoke again about different Halloween topics, mentioned the Web Awards and my attendance (which was one of the reasons I had been chosen for that week) and then started discussing bullying and alterphobia, which I had planned to do. It has always been something I’ve talked about be it here or on other sites. At this stage I had mentioned here, Krank.ie, only three times by name and maybe the same number of times in passing as “our website”. I mentioned, in relation to a SpunOut bullying guide that I had found it while working on “our website” and linked to their site and Twitter account. I continued talking about other similar cases, such as Phoebe Prince and Amanda Todd, while linking to other groups that dealt with these issues.
I received a bitchy message from the Point Pictures cinema account (won’t be going there anyway!) accusing me of advertising. I then received another message from a user questioning if I was promoting and making profit for my own works with those tweets. I pointed out that I had not mentioned by name or linked to this site, that we don’t make any money here as we all volunteer our time and that if you click the link it goes straight to SpunOut. This user said fair enough and near the end of the week sent a very nice message to me about my week as Ireland. The bitchy cinema didn’t tweet back and SpunOut (and the other orgs I’d mentioned) sent me messages thanking me for linking them.
It was at this stage that I received an open (as in, the @ was not at the front of the message, so all his followers could see it) tweet from Darragh Doyle to both the @Ireland and my personal account asking what I was doing with the account. I sent back a jokey response as I honestly believed his message was messing with me, as we occasionally do. Instead he asked me on Gmail chat to talk about how I was using the @Ireland account. I refused to discuss it on Gmail and said if he wanted to talk, he could to it on Twitter. I mention in my August personal blog that I couldn’t imagine any interference would happen in public, so I felt it was honest to keep it all in the open as that as how this series of messages had started.
Darragh warned me to be careful of how I tweeted as @Ireland as there are “sensitivities” with the account being used to plug things. He continued by stating he wasn’t saying I was using the account for my own gain, but that it looked like I was. He also said that himself and Una (another employee of WorldIrish, it was lovely to chat to her while I was @Ireland) had to deal with complaints people made about the account. I pointed out that two people reacted negatively to my series of tweets and one had already been ok afterwards. He then said it was three, including him and that people say things to him they wouldn’t say to whoever is on the @Ireland account. At this point I was a little annoyed and a little surprised. Here I was getting these messages from an employee of WorldIrish (one who as far as I can tell A) isn’t the boss and B) isn’t in charge of the account I was using) as someone who is an employee and then being told that he was also personally complaining about it. I pointed out that people had given former curator Mike a hard time for being a pastor and accused him of preaching from the account (he wasn’t) and then the next week accused Nay of pushing an atheist agenda (she didn’t). I said that I wasn’t worried that 3 people were annoyed vs ten thousand and given some of the past storms on the account this wasn’t even comparable. We left it there. It’s still being left there. Going back to my bio, which was featured on the WorldIrish page about me, it states that I founded this website, that I write and that I discuss news and current affairs based issues. A number of past (and now present) curators on that account have actively talked about their orgs, projects and blogs because it is a part of who they are. Looking back on their tweets and looking at tweets this week, there is more discussion of their lives, hobbies and sites in a day than I got to talk about in a week. After only the second day, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth and never even mentioned or discussed that I wrote, let alone that I had a site that others used to write and spread news and ideas, openly for the rest of that week. I tweeted very little that evening as I pondered what had happened earlier on.
[Darragh has accused this piece of being "one-sided". I have pointed out that this entire piece is presented as my own personal opinion of the last week, which is also why it is filed in this section. I am however more than happy to present with readers the conversation we had which I've gathered together into one thread which can be viewed here.]
On Wednesday I had planned to chat about my interests, hobbies and what it is I do, including writing and running a website alongside my friends. Instead, I briefly discussed some articles, such as Jen O’Connell’s piece in the Irish Times on “There’s little special about being Irish” and the similarities between the Irish X-Case and what happened in Poland with a fourteen year old girl recently. I mentioned I was then getting a bus and was bored and got a lot of responses from people chatting to me and asking me questions (some about this website! Oh dear!) while I travelled. I felt a little bit recharged after that fun experience and tweeted a little bit more about alterphobia and some issues Nay had covered the week before. I also noted that Irish television had made a pathetic non-effort for Halloween this year. The rest of the night I took off.
On Thursday, I had a really interesting discussion with the followers about Sean Quinn and his supporters. It was very interesting and there was some great back and forth discussion resulting from it. Myself and my other half got ourselves dressed up, checked into our hotel and went on to the Web Awards, where I live tweeted much of the event. I felt a few pangs of worry so held off a little bit on what I actually thought of some of the sites who won or lost. A drink or two cured that though and it was a fun night.
On Friday morning I pissed off a load of nutters on Twitter when I voiced my opinion on one of the tweeters I was lumped into a Follow Friday post with. The guy has said some truly disgusting things about women who have had abortions in the past and his pals on the whingey right took umbrage with my slightly tired dressing down of him and them. After a number of us laughed at the ridiculous reactions I received by that small group, we went on to discuss music, which I had planned to devote Friday to. We were heading out to see two of my favourite bands and I had a great time talking to people about acts I had seen and that they had liked.
For Saturday we talked about websites like Ask.FM and how sites are tools and the users are usually the problem when there is a negative effect. Journalism was also mentioned and we looked at the new design for the Irish Times while discussing the difficulties the traditional media has had coming online. Sunday featured a brunchtime discussion of The Children’s Referendum and John Waters’ representation of the No side. We discussed voting, the need to look up info on the referendum ourselves instead of taking sound-bites as our only guide and the kindness of strangers during harsh times in Ireland.
I stopped tweeting from the account on Sunday night. The last messages people sent to me were lovely and reassuring about the week I had just spent with someone else’s friends. Some of the kind messages also reached my personal account and I really appreciate that.
I was asked afterwards by Blathnaid if I had any advice for future users of the @Ireland account. I don’t know if I do, but certainly if I could have given myself some advice it would have been not to let the offenderati (as one follower labelled them) get you down. I’d also tell myself not to let Tuesday disrupt the flow of my captaincy and not let it mute what I had wanted to say. For the people running the Ireland project I would respectfully and politely advise them to maybe have WorldIrish step back a little, at least as employees. Una was great to chat to and seemed to have a great handle on interaction, but the mixture of business and personal opinion on Tuesday did put a dampener on proceedings. Looking back, I’d like to have tweeted more. Hopefully some good came from the messages I passed on and I hope people find my experience of some use. It’s a colossal account and gives the user great power to do/spread some positivity, so in the future I would like to see even the most jokey of captains wield it for good causes. I would definitely recommend you follow the account though, it does give an interesting insight into peoples lives and minds, something we don’t always get on a site where you choose what voices to hear.
You can apply to take over the account or nominate someone else by sending a message to Ireland@worldirish.com.
You can read over my tweets from the week here.