My first Twitter fight


This weekend I had the opportunity to engage in my first Twitter fight. It wasn’t on a noble topic like global warming or social justice, but instead on whether or not teaching a class on Twitter deserved a punch in the balls.

Obviously, as one who teaches classes on Twitter (and social media in general) I took offense to the statement that teaching a class on Twitter deserved a punch in the balls. And so I responded with that sentiment. Here’s a play-by-play of how it went down, followed by my completely unbiased (ha) commentary. Sorry it’s so long, but I want it to be clear what was said and by whom.






That was the quickest “agree to disagree” response I’ve gotten in a while. It’s nice to be able to disagree without actually providing any support for your viewpoint.

(She followed up this tweet recognizing she used “respectively” instead of “respectfully”.)


So this is how she “respectfully” agrees to disagree?





I don’t want to beat up on Shea too much. She’s certainly entitled to her opinion.

But she’s completely, utterly wrong. She’s characterized our classes on Twitter and social media in general as if we’re teaching people how to use the tools. But that’s not at all what we’re doing – we’re teaching people why to use it.

In her blog post from today, she compares the social media classes I teach to daytime commercials teaching elderly people how to use the Internet. This is as mean as I will be, but this shows a complete ignorance of what social media is all about from a corporate perspective. We’re not dealing with Internet novices, we’re dealing with companies who are trying to navigate this new world of transparency, openness and technology. It’s a completely different ball game writing a blog about Jessica Alba than figuring out the legal and bottom-line-influencing complexities of starting a corporate blog or Twitter account.

So again, Shea, is entitled to believe that people like me should be kicked in the balls or be relegated to douchebag status. She just shouldn’t be surprised or play the victim when people react negatively to that viewpoint.

So what do you think? Did I overreact? Am I being unfair? I want some more opinions.

P.S. Mom, I’m sorry that you had to see my type the word “balls” and “douchebag.” I don’t really know what they mean, but I know they’re bad.

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  1. May 11, 2009 at 11:32 am — Reply

    I watched this little polemic unfold. I have no opinion, b/c I think it’s entirely moot.

    Mainly I just fear for the safety and well being of your douchebaggy balls.

  2. May 11, 2009 at 11:33 am — Reply

    My apologies as well, to Todd’s mom. Mrs. Ramsey might just want to stay away from your blog for the next day or so.

  3. Darrin
    May 11, 2009 at 11:36 am — Reply

    Todd, I don’t think you’re overreacting. I think its great that you’re teaching people “why” to use Twitter. I being one of those people that own and manage businesses, I continue daily to see how social networking can help me in my marketing efforts. Unfortunately, Google is not very helpful when I need help brainstorming a marketing idea that I want to coincide with Twitter or I would have gone that route a long time ago.

  4. Cindy Miles
    May 11, 2009 at 11:45 am — Reply

    Hurrah for standing up for yourself and others. How are people suppose to understand how to best use social media, new technology, etc. if someone isn’t willing to step forward and help educate.

  5. May 11, 2009 at 11:49 am — Reply

    LOL all around on this one.

  6. May 11, 2009 at 11:52 am — Reply

    This actually showed up in my twitter search filter this weekend. I closely monitor for any use of the word “douchebag” in any Twitter thread that Todd is participating in. Just there watching your back, brother!

    Actually, there’s a similar “debate” going on right now on another list I’m involved on… with some people arguing that using Twitter in church is right up there with blasphemy. Folks who don’t get social media… getting all twisted up because they don’t get it.

    This is from the other direction. Folks who get social media getting all twisted up because you’re helping folks who don’t yet get it understand (and use) the phenomena.

    Twitter (and other social media) seems to me to be all about conversation, and relationship. The folks who don’t get it are scared by the fact that conversation is going on that they aren’t a part of.

    So, they try to learn how to participate. Then the folks who are involved get all in a twist because you’re letting the school nerd sit at the cool kids table.

    Pretty funny, actually.

  7. Kenton
    May 11, 2009 at 12:12 pm — Reply

    I am staying polish. However, I am leaning more towards to Todd. Social Networking (twitter most of all) is beyond the grasp of people who didn’t fight for the color Apple II in computer lab. Helping those who do not grasp the intangible as quickly is not a sin worthy of testicle injury.

  8. Jen(ny)
    May 11, 2009 at 12:17 pm — Reply

    Why does everyone think it’s Ok to be rude and mean when someone is just trying to defend themselves?

    I still don’t understand why Shea feels she is entitled to make these kinds of statements with no real justification. There’s a difference between making an observation and being a jerk. And no reason for name calling or unnecessary ball punching.

  9. May 11, 2009 at 12:17 pm — Reply

    My rebuttal to your rebuttal 😉

  10. May 11, 2009 at 12:28 pm — Reply

    From Kurt – “So, they try to learn how to participate. Then the folks who are involved get all in a twist because you’re letting the school nerd sit at the cool kids table.”

    This was the dilemma I saw in Shea’s (incredibly easy) stance. It’s the ‘If you have to ask, you’ll never know’ paradox.

  11. May 11, 2009 at 12:48 pm — Reply

    I can honestly see both points here….& trust me, that’s darned big of me to say as I’m naturally biased due to my love of Shea.

    Shea has gained quite the following & residual professional success due to her internet smarts but most importantly, her internet wits. She’s a well written, funny gal who’s had my attention for the past 5 years….well before Twitter existed. When I found out I could get my Shea-giggles from another media, I was on board. Shea may not be selling anything specific in her tweets, but she’s always selling herself. And yes, that does involve using the words “balls” & “douchebag”. Whateves. That’s FUNNY….when not taken out of context, personally & as a call to war. One of the draws of Shea Sylvia is her lighthearted take on life. Everything doesn’t have to include an apology to mom.

    Teaching a class on the advantages of Twitter in a business setting is a perfectly fine idea. Would I really want to follow a business who doesn’t have the creativity & virtual know-how to use Twitter without a static class? Probably not. I would most likely find their tweets boring & ad-like. Perhaps that’s not what you teach, but I’m putting my money on the odds that it is. However, I think if you can find an open wallet to come to your classes & make a business out of teaching a company how to market in 140 characters, all the power in the twitterverse to you. That’s great & hopefully you’re opening the eyes of the Twitterskeptic (we know there’s a ton out there!). I can’t say yeah or nay about the content of your classes-I’m sure they’re informative and well received.

    I just know I wouldn’t trust nor follow a business who couldn’t pick up a concept as simple as Twitter without shelling out hard earned dollars for a class…especially one taught by someone who doesn’t get how to play on the twitter playground. Twitter is fun…it’s light…it’s 140 freaking characters. Sometimes, things are just fun….not everything on the internet is to be taken personally.

    It’s flippin’ TWITTER for gawd’s sake. It really is an adult’s version of the playground.

    Now let’s all take a breath & go play four square….or punch some balls.

  12. Denise
    May 11, 2009 at 12:51 pm — Reply

    Re: The debate — You really have to use Twitter to get Twitter, it seems. I applaud those who want to try to learn it rather than just bash that which they do not understand. I’ve met too many of those.
    Re: The rest of it — Arrogance and name-calling is pretty uncivil and unnecessary, even if you claim to be “just kidding” later. I’m glad you responded, Todd.

  13. May 11, 2009 at 1:14 pm — Reply

    The reason I took such offense to Shea’s tweet was that she says this crap without any evidence or support, and then acts offended that she can’t voice her opinion when someone calls her out on it.

    Using your analogy, it’s like that kid on the playground who picks on everyone, and the second someone says, “Hey, kid on the playground who picks on everyone, why are you saying this, what is your support for it and do you not see how this could be offensive to those of us to whom you’re referring?”, the kid on the playground who picks on everyone freaks out and claims that they’re being oppressed. (I don’t know that analogies are my gift.)

    This could have been resolved in two tweets had she responded with “I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about these other douchebaggy people.” Instead, she “respectfully” agreed to disagree and then, an hour later, called me a douchebag. Perhaps she wasn’t talking about me. But she certainly didn’t make that clear until her rebuttal of my rebuttal. Which, to me, seemed like a retraction of her comments than actual support for her opinion.

  14. Paul Smith
    May 11, 2009 at 1:41 pm — Reply

    I think there’s a confusion amongst all of this which almost, but not quite, addressed.

    If you’re educating clients about why Twitter is fundamental to their marketing activity right now – that sort of wording is perceived very differently to “teaching a class about Twitter”.

    It doesn’t matter whether you’d demonstrate similar values to both sets (although obviously the devil will be in the detail) – the former involves teaching a company how to increase their profile and build on their brand values using social media, while the latter is potentially about jumping on a bandwagon to fleece folk for imparting common knowledge.

    “Educating clients” and “teaching a class on Twitter” are two very different disciplines, so using the same terminology to describe both sets of activity doesn’t help anyone. Obviously, you’re doing the former which is an absolute necessity in the world of marketing, while I’d completely agree with Shea that the latter is for douchebags and such folk deserve a thorough ball-punching.

  15. May 11, 2009 at 2:06 pm — Reply

    Personally, I can’t wait to read Douglas and Main tomorrow. This should be entertaining.

  16. May 11, 2009 at 4:11 pm — Reply

    My final few words: I made it pretty clear that I was not talking about you teaching your clients early on (remember that tweet about teaching a class vs. teaching your clients that you so graciously screencapped above?), so the fact that you maintain I was attacking you personally is pretty amusing. And because I refused to engage when we were obviously on two different pages… somehow that makes me the bad guy? I never once said, “Hey – ToddBlog – you’re a douchebag.” So claiming that I did is false and, well, silly. I’m sorry that you took this so personally and while I appreciate your attempts to “call me out,” it certainly hasn’t changed my opinion (which, to me, is part of what makes social media so interesting – following people who have different viewpoints). I had my fair share of personal attacks today (my viewpoint was called “absurd”, someone claims to have dirt on me, unfollowing me “lightened” someone else’s day, etc.), but I also gained a handful of interesting new followers and, let’s face it, this made for an eventful Monday.


  17. May 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm — Reply

    Shea, truce accepted.

    But, I do want to explain why I took it personally. I knew that you hadn’t called me, individually, a douchebag. But, you did say that if people are teaching Twitter classes, that they were social media douchebags. As one who has and will again teach a Twitter class, I assumed that I qualified for that descriptor. It’s like the a=b, b=c, c=a formula. Which has a name. And would be far more impressive in this instance if I were able to remember it.

    I’m not planning on unfollowing you as I agree that there is value in differing viewpoints. And if you want to call people names (including yourself) I’ll try to refrain from response.

  18. Paul Smith
    May 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm — Reply

    Todd, just to clarify: are you talking to your clients about Twitter and it’s potential value to them as a business, or are you holding seminars for regular Joes and charging for it, as so many social media “gurus” seem to be doing? Because you haven’t made the point clear, and that last post muddys the waters further.

    I think the clarification *is* the point of all of this.

  19. May 11, 2009 at 4:38 pm — Reply

    Paul, we’re doing both – but we’re not charging the “regular Joes.” We often get invited to speak to professional organizations or corporate groups to talk about social media. And those crowds are typically diverse in their understanding of the tools – including some who know absolutely nothing about new media.

    I should add that we NEVER talk about how to use the tools, we just talk about why they are valid and what can done with them.

    Hope that clears things up.

  20. Paul Smith
    May 11, 2009 at 4:44 pm — Reply

    Cool. I understand that better now, as will plenty of other people – I think it needed qualifying and I think that was Shea’s point.

  21. May 11, 2009 at 5:10 pm — Reply

    Transitive Property of Equality…. Just Saying.

  22. josh
    May 11, 2009 at 5:46 pm — Reply

    Ok, just to start off, I am writing this response from my office at WSU, where I just got finished teaching (what I hope we will all recognize are necessary and legitimate) classes in English Composition. So.

    I would also like to point out the fact that Shea mentions she is (among other things) a “dating columnist for Naked City Magazine” on her rebuttal to someone’s rebuttal above. I have stopped reading this magazine long ago, and have stated several times publicly that I personally feel the contributors of this rag should be lined up and punched in the balls. Repeatedly. (If you don’t live in Wichita, you can get a feel for the content and style of this magazine here: )

    I really don’t want to comment about the matter at hand (Suffice it to say I don’t have a Twitter account, but I would if I owned a business or wanted to market a product. And I think a lot of people don’t do this that should, so Todd seems justified in spreading the word.)

    What I do want to comment on is the reluctance of Shea to engage in any kind of meaningful dialogue with Todd regarding Twitter pedagogy. It seems to me that the reason both for Todd’s frustration and Shea’s reticence is the fact that, in this instance, these two people are using the same medium for quite different purposes (or are “on two different pages,” as Shea notes later on). Just look at their respective “tweets”:
    Shea’s language is permeated with cliche: “respect[fully] disagree,” “see eye to eye,” “panties in a wad,” “the end,” and even “douchebag.” This seems appropriate when you consider the fact that she never actually says anything. So what is her purpose? I don’t actually know. Even in her post to this blog she is equivocal: “I’m sorry that you took this so personally and while I appreciate your attempts to “call me out,” it certainly hasn’t changed my opinion (which, to me, is part of what makes social media so interesting – following people who have different viewpoints).”

    Her opinion is unchanged, certainly. But do we ever know what it is? Or (as Todd was trying to understand) do we know why she holds this opinion?

    Todd’s language reflects the fact that he is attempting to dialogue, rather than Tweet from a proverbial soapbox. The key point in the conversation is Todd’s question, “What’s the difference? I’d tell my clients the same thing I’d tell my students…”

    Suffice it to say, if I were looking to establish a dialogue with a customer, I would want to learn Twitter (or whatever else) from Todd. If I was interested in selling myself (“Shea may not be selling anything specific in her tweets, but she’s always selling herself”) or “gain[ing] a handful of interesting new followers,” then I would be glib and cute and edgy.

    “[P]eople are haunted by the idea from the intellectual heights that life is, in reality, absurd. Thus the only acceptable relief is to be cute or clever….The only sincerity bearable is clever insincerity.”
    – Dallas Willard

    To me, this whole debate is really about marketing approaches and what is at back of them.

  23. May 11, 2009 at 6:52 pm — Reply

    Toddblog v. SheaSylvia = Josh wins.

  24. May 11, 2009 at 8:12 pm — Reply

    As someone who has written for Naked City Magazine many times in the past, but who has recently chosen not to write for them any more due to the frustration of many readers/writers who feel that the magazine is going down the drain – I can appreciate your comment. HOWEVER, as a friend of Shea’s (who doesn’t agree with everything that she has said today, but does agree with parts of it), I have no idea what her writing for Naked City has to do with the validity of her opinion on “social media douchebags”.

    After reading all of the back-and-forth today, and much thought on the issue (if it’s really an issue), I’ve changed/refined my opinion on “social media experts”. I have to admit that I have used the phrase “social media douchebag” many, many times before. I think that the reason for this is simple: I’m jealous.
    Personally, I believe that I am just as absorbed into social media as any of the “experts” out there. I try out new software, services, and web sites before they become public. I stay up to date on the latest trends. I know the internet inside and out, and I feel that makes me an “expert”. Yet, I can’t call myself one, simply because I don’t work for in marketing.

    I also know that many jobs and responsibilities of social media experts these days are very new jobs, and many companies don’t know how to handle them. Many businesses are turning to marketing companies to manage their social media, and I don’t think that this is what they should be doing. I have my own thoughts and plans on how businesses should instead handle their social media, but I honestly don’t want to discuss that. Mostly because at times I’m not a very good debater, and you have much more experience and qualifications on these issues than I do. I would probably lose any argument there, and I’m fine with that. I still feel that my opinions are right.

    Long story short: it’s frustrating to see social media “experts” getting all the credit for “pioneering” the way that businesses and individuals use services like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. And frankly, I find it annoying at times to see “experts” teaching people (and charging to do so) how they should be using the services. Especially Twitter.

    The world of social media has never been easier to get into (see: grandmas on Facebook, parents on Twitter, etc). I don’t think that anyone needs help getting up and running on Twitter or Facebook.

    Brainstorming for marketing ideas and publicity stunts to perform on Twitter is one thing. Teaching a class on how, exactly, to respond to the question “What are you doing?” is entirely another.

    Hopefully I presented my point of view in a way that makes sense and is even valid.


  25. CarlyJo
    May 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm — Reply

    A few words to Josh: Shea did not mention in her rebuttal that she writes for Naked City. It’s called a blog header. Here’s the thing a. you don’t know her (if you did, you would know that she does not take herself seriously and therefore her comments should be taken in the lighthearted manner in which they were written and b. You aren’t even on Twitter. So there’s that.

    A few words to everyone else: Shea never personally attacked anyone yet people have been making personal attacks on her all day. It’s unfortunate. At the end of the day though, your opinions of her do not matter. They are irrelevant to the facts. Shea is a intelligent, successful, creative woman who has way more followers than those who teach these classes anyway.

    For the future might I suggest a cup for protection. Or maybe a sense of humor.

  26. Paul Smith
    May 12, 2009 at 12:35 am — Reply

    The point has been made with regards to Josh, where he “just got finished teaching classes in English Composition”. Um. Good composition there, Josh.

    Josh, you’re a wind-up merchant. If you cared for the English vernacular, you’d at least understand what it was you were posting such poisoned comments on. Since you don’t, your point of view is worthless, and as others have pointed out, your comments smack more of personal vendetta than anything worthwhile. If you genuinely don’t have a Twitter account, then your view means as much as a thatched hen. Tremendous work on looking like a prize cockend – that’s not good English, by the way – all cocks have an end. But… well, you know.

    Here’s the thing – so many people jump on any sort of bandwagon to sell their snake oil; Shea believed that’s what Todd was suggesting, and because nobody bothered to clarify the point, so on it went. Neither side did very well in putting the matter to bed, and there was some awfully petty behaviour, however it’s all resolved now.

    Dustin – you’re right, and that’s sort of the point. If folk appear to capitalise on social media and present themselves as some sort of guru, they deserve nothing short of a kick in the testicles / vagina (see, right on there with the equal rights, sisters). Todd isn’t doing anything of the sort, but I don’t think he actually pointed that out, leaving the whole ambiguous sorry mess to play out to the point we’ve now reached.

    It’s all done now, so let’s have less of the idiots like Josh and move on.

  27. May 12, 2009 at 6:19 am — Reply

    Paul Smith-
    We’re just going to have to agree to disagree, douche bag!

    And, BTW, I will be on twitter, just as soon as I graduate from Todd’s School of Modern Social Media. SO WATCH OUT FOR A VIRTUAL MAMMARY/TESTICLE PUNCH

    Fake Josh, OUT!
    [drops mic]

  28. josh
    May 12, 2009 at 9:38 am — Reply

    Thank you, Dustin. Your post was articulate, interesting, and refreshingly honest.

    Other than that, I will let people connect or disconnect my dots for me. Don’t really feel like getting into it. And my sense is that most people won’t mind my silence.

  29. Hayley
    May 12, 2009 at 1:11 pm — Reply

    I have two strikes against my credibility as I’m not on Twitter and I’m Todd’s wife, but I have one comment I’d like to make regarding this fight (or, “extended conversation wherein both participants talked past each other over an entire weekend, up to an including a full work day”). I don’t know how many followers Todd and Shea lost, but I would suggest that any lost followers may not be due to disagreements with each person’s stance but rather a disappointment with the tone of the conversation. Shea’s tweets were kind of mean-spirited and Todd’s post was a little spiteful. Maybe I don’t know since I’m not on Twitter, but Twitter is supposed to be fun, right? It doesn’t seem fun to me to watch two people trade angry and vulgar barbs over a rather insignificant issue. Maybe if the conversation had been kept lighter and hadn’t verged into the spiteful no followers would’ve been lost and all the commenters on the summary, rebuttal, and rebuttal-to-the-rebuttal blog posts could’ve been working yesterday afternoon rather than dissecting this “fight.”

    P.S. I know Todd and Shea may not have written anything with malicious intent, but all we have to go on is how they came across, and they came across as rather mean.

    P.P.S. I also know Todd and Shea aren’t belly-aching over having lost any followers.

  30. May 14, 2009 at 8:13 am — Reply

    […] Then Toddblog responded (and he shows the Twitter posts to get you non-tweeters up to speed) […]

  31. May 15, 2009 at 8:34 pm — Reply

    I feel like I’m reading a print version of The True Housewives of Wichita.

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My first Twitter fight