Dear Mr Rudd, it's wonderful that you've joined Twitter. Of course Mr Turnbull was here a month before you, but Twitter has been around more than two years. You're both complete n00bs. May I offer some tips?
This article is by Stilgherrian, a Sydney-based consultant working at the intersection of the internet, media and information technology. It first appeared on his own site and is published on ZDNet.com.au with his permission.
Stilgherrian (Credit: Stilgherrian.com)
The first thing you must understand is that Twitter is about
human communication. We already have more formula-driven
spin-doctor-approved crap than we'll ever need. What we want to see
is you, Kevin, that smart hard-working control-freak
slightly-daggy-but-endearing father of three. The guy who after a
long day's campaigning could still crack a joke with The Chaser
crew when they turned up at your home.
This afternoon you walked into the world's weirdest non-stop
front bar cum water cooler conversation and said "Looking forward
to communicating with you on Twitter". Outstanding. And now 430+
people have turned around to pay attention, and quite a few have
even said hello. More will join them. What happens next is a
conversation. You'll be judged on that conversation, not what you
do elsewhere — though we'll certainly want to talk about your work.
And your pets.
I'm guessing that right now your Hollowmen are analysing every
reaction to your tweet (singular), agonising over how you should
respond. Tell them to piss off. You're a grown man — you're the
Prime Minister for God's sake! — so if you can't talk with a fellow
human when they say hello without someone advising you what to say,
you might as well give up now.
Just. Be. Yourself.
The second thing, though, is that you will find it strange and
challenging. And that's OK. We all did.
Twitter is both ephemeral and on the record all at the same
time. It represents a new mode of communication. Society (and
politics!) will need to adapt to people's actual humanity.
Twitter's ambient intimacy provides you with a window into the
lives of the people you follow, and us with a window into yours.
What will we see?
We understand that you won't want to reveal everything.
Old-fashioned tabloid journalists, hypocrites that they are, make a
big deal about what is actually normal human activity. Those of us
who've made the transition to the hyper-connected world don't care
so much, because we see more of humanity's actual variety. We know
that people express frustration after a tough day, or doubts in
uncertain times, and we don't think any less of them. In fact, we
think more of them for sharing.
We know that you'll draw the curtains from time to time. We
won't see tweets like "Ordering the RAAF to bomb Wellington" or "I
so want to stab Malcolm Turnbull with a pen, the smarmy prick!" or
"ZOMG Julia Gillard is teh hotness!!1!!!1!" — though we'd all
relate to that last one! But it'd be good to loosen that media mask
just a little. Us hyper-connected folks respect honesty.
The other thing to notice is that Twitter is fast. Very
Kevin Rudd (Credit: PM's office)
The inimitable Mark Pesce has already written all about this in
his lecture Hyperpolitics, American Style. You might want to put
your feet up, make a nice strong cup of tea, crack open the Iced
Vo-Vos and watch. He "gets it" more than those Sussex Street
machine men will ever understand. If you've got time, you might
also try Only Connect or even the more challenging This, That, and
the Other. If you can absorb the lessons and work them into your
personal politics, you will be full of WIN!
If you truly engage with Twitter — or rather, engage with the
people who sit right in front of you thanks to Twitter — you'll be
able to bounce around ideas and reach a consensus before one of the
old political dinosaurs has even finished his first canvassing
The real lesson is that you can't just translate what you do in
industrial-age media into this new world. You need to learn new
skills, and the best way is to immerse yourself. Take the plunge.
We won't laugh.
Well, not at first.
Of course if @KevinRuddPM is not actually you but a minion,
things are different ...
There's nothing wrong with a minion-operated Twitter account.
@DowningStreet has even managed to inject real personality into the
role even though it's shared by three humans! Just be honest about
that up front, and let the minion be a human.
It's even kinda OK if the Twitter account is only to tell us
about new posts to kevinpm.com.au — though that's also kinda lame
because the website already has an RSS feed and your first tweet
did use the word "communicating". We have expectations.
Over to you, Prime Minister!
P.S. Can you tell Conroy to pull his head in about the Internet
censorship thing? It's not a good look to have been elected on talk
of "evidence-based policy" and then ignore the evidence.
P.P.S. Do you agree with John Birmingham when he says that
Conroy does a "puckered cat's bum thing with [his] mouth" when
equating freedom of speech with kiddie-porn-watching? Just
wondering. You can message me privately about that one, promise I