Annabel Port, radio sidekick to Geoff Lloyd, a household name in England, is a technophobe and has had a number of run-ins with the Internet over the course of her career. In January 2007, a controversy sparked literally a complaint when her entry on Wikipedia was threatened with deletion after she was not deemed a notable person. After much online diplomacy she was allowed to keep the entry and has been claiming victory ever since.
While Geoff believes in his heart of hearts that Annabel is "slowly turning Amish", he set her a challenge live on last Monday evening's show. The challenge was to get a number of people "following" her using what is essentially an offline version of Twitter, without the aid of the Internet or the online digital tools available.
To give you some background, here is a snippet of last Monday (20th) and Tuesday (21st) evening's podcast which introduces the challenge, and the result after the first day:
Annabel decided she would get a piece of paper, decorate it like a Twitter page should be (without the knowledge of what a Twitter page looks like) and left it in a public place as Twitter pages should be. She left it in a "spy dead-drop" on Carnaby Street, a pedestrianised zone in central London which is full of shoppers on a daily basis, and no more than a two minute walk from the offices of Absolute Radio where she works.
If anything, it was an ingenious challenge set by Geoff to see if someone can maintain a Twitter account but in the offline world.
To promote her offline Twitter page, she attempted to stick a notice in the local newsagents which back before the turn of the century was common practice. This wasn't allowed, so she devised a sneaky way of handing out leaflets to people as they walked by.
Twitter has become rife with celebrity tweet's and this was also on Annabel's agenda - to get a celebrity to follow her. Through a number of hilarious phone calls to the BBC and MTV to coax them into giving out details of two well known Twitter'ers, this unfortunately failed and the Internet won that round.
Throughout the week, mini-challenges were set and Annabel rose to them as best she could. Not only were there a number of tweets from the public, but "direct messages" were left in form of letters attached to the page. One was mysteriously written by a dog, which during the week re-tweeted again. One of the others was her boyfriend, who decided to leave a tweet asking what they would be having for dinner that night, instead of sending her a text message.
With all this, even though the underlying state of this experiment was nothing short of taking the mick out of online Twitter users, it is not only hilarious to listen to but shows that people can survive without updating their status at every minute of every day. During the week she noticed that the paper she used as her offline Twitter page was "scrunched and worn", coming to the conclusion that many people have read but not many people necessarily leave a message.
I think this is brilliant. There isn't a point to the story as such, but after listening to the show for many years, not only does it have its moments with important and relevant advice, but it's a damn good laugh especially when it does things like this.
I spoke to Geoff Lloyd, the main broadcaster on the show, to comment over Twitter and describes the challenge as "brilliant". If he has the time to respond with answers to a couple of questions I asked, I'll update this article.
I won't spoil the surprise of what the end result is, but it is most certainly worth the bandwidth to listen. At around 30 minutes in to each of the five podcasts of the week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) holds the section on Annabel's offline Twitter experiment.