I would have to say that two distinctly different things in me came together to bring about this particular experiment.
First, I continue to maintain that social media is still brand-new. That means that nobody gets to call themselves an “expert” at it. That means that nobody can actually offer “best practices”, merely “here’s some stuff that’s working”. That also means that no one’s really figured out the limits of social media…
Second, I tend to look at things — systems mostly — from a point-of-view that’s a little different than many other folks’. I can’t see a system without thinking, “Hmm, where could I push this — with the least amount of force possible — to make this fall over?” Sometimes, I think I got this viewpoint from the work I used to do as a security consultant, but, quite frankly, I think it’s more likely that I was good as a security consultant because I have this viewpoint…
Add these two elements together, and it’s only natural that I enjoy playing with the boundaries of social media. That brings us to Social Media Experiment #1: TBaaS…
I’ve spent this week in Las Vegas at the VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) conference. It’s been a great experience meeting folks from VMware and many of EMC’s partners. As should be expected from VMware, there’s some very active social media activity centered around the event.
Particularly interesting, for the purposes of systems that can be made to fall over, were the monitors throughout the facility. VMware had these monitors set up to display Twitter feeds, showing any tweets that had the hashtag they were using for the event, #VMwarePEX. The monitors spread the tweets out over four columns, and also imported any pictures that were tweeted with that same hashtag.
The monitors were a very useful way to keep all the conference participants connected via social media as they encouraged tweeting. It’s kind of fun to see one of your own tweets show up on the giant monitors on all four sides of the big tower in the center of the Solutions Exchange floor.
The tower was right near the EMC booth on the floor, where I was spending most of my time at the conference. Watching the monitors got me thinking and started a lot of “I wonder…” and “What if…” thoughts kicking around in my head. I wondered if it was possible to “take over” the monitors, and if so, what would be the minimum number of tweets that would do that job.
Like any good scientist would, I devised a non-invasive experiment to test whether or not the take-over might even be possible. Given the nature of what I was thinking about doing, the test needed to be covert in nature — something that would pass unnoticed in the normal Twitter stream.
I enlisted one of my fellow EMCers in the booth. We each composed a new tweet of the types we’d already been sending throughout the day, then wandered over to the video tower, where we both hit “Send” simultaneously and watched what happened.
Shortly after that, both our tweets appeared on the monitor, within a couple seconds of each other. They appeared in different columns. We watched to see how long they’d stay on-screen under normal Twitter traffic.
Based on monitor behavior, I predicted that 20 tweets sent simultaneously would be sufficient to displace everything else on the monitors for a brief time.
Well, my philosophy has always been “When the going gets tough, the tough get empirical.” I wanted to try it out.
Thus was born “Social Media Experiment #1: TBaaS (Tweet-Bomb as a Service)”. Enlisting a small number of my closest EMC friends, I organized people to send the same exact tweet at the same exact time, Wenesday 15 February, 15:15 PST.
At the appointed time, I was waiting by the Solutions Exchange video tower, ready to record the event. I’ve posted the results on YouTube. You can see what happened below:
In case you can’t see it in the video, the tweet sent was:
#VMwarePEX All Your Tweets Are Belong to #EMC
In the process of doing this, I learned that not everyone gets the intended joke. If you don’t either, don’t worry, you’re not alone. It referred to the past Internet meme “All Your Base Are Belong to Us”. There is a detailed explanation here.
Yes, I’m familiar with the concept that any jokes that require explanation aren’t as good jokes as the teller might have believed them to be — which explains why I’m a social media mad scientist and not a professional comedian.
My thanks, not only to the EMC folks who participated, but also to the VMware folks who took the stunt in the spirit in was it was intended — for fun (and for great justice)…