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A Twitter Experiment: @devops_jerk

01.31.2012
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I am @devops_jerk. I’m not a jerk – but I have played one on Twitter. On the 15th of October I setup the account on Twitter. Today, not quite 2 months later, I am officially ending the experiment. I learned some interesting things and had a lot of fun in the process – this blog post talks about the experience.

First, some background. I’ve been blogging & tweeting for the better part of 3 years now consistently. Not every day, at times not even every week, but pretty consistently. I blog because I like to write, and I write because it helps me think through things. I think we all secretly hope someone out there finds some meaning in what we write, but I never thought I required it. I did get curious though, what would it take?

In October I was feeling pretty down about things – I had started a new job that I hadn’t settled into very well yet and needed a place to vent. This was the seed. @PrimadonnaDev was my inspiration – we needed a devops version. I found a graphic right where I would expect to find a dev/ops heart – the Etsy blog – and I edited it. I setup my Twitter account, posted a few tweets & then set off to get followers the same way any respectable spammer does. I followed people.

Shortly thereafter, I got some love

And I was off to the races.

The first week
My goal was 2 tweets per day. I had a TON of ideas about what I could put out there under this fake name and mostly they just rolled out. I fired up a document just to track my ideas and at one point I was ahead by probably a week.

By the end of the first week I was stunned:

- ~130 followers
- 34 retweets
- 10 mentions
- 1 job opportunity

I was fueled now and the ideas kept coming and coming so I kept putting them out there. The reception was amazing, I was blown away by how many people seemed to enjoy what I was tweeting, it was a great feeling.

Trying to be responsible – and failing
One of the things I set out to do very early was educate – go ahead, laugh, I’ll wait… I hoped that through sarcasm and parody I could raise issues that had been bugging me without ranting (after all, I only had 140 characters). Lesson #1 – I’m pretty sure that doesn’t work.

But I did have fun with some of the tweets.

I was also surprised by which tweets were most popular

And which ones weren’t

So, what did I learn?

I learned that people like to be entertained and that often the most entertaining things are not fictional – just reality presented in a skewed light. Comedians know this well. I have always believed that if you are going to put something out there and ask for someone’s attention you should try to make it entertaining, but there is a delicate balance between too comical & too serious. I am pretty sure @devops_jerk didn’t find that balance, but perhaps it helped pull my other writing more in the less serious direction.

I learned that we Sysadmins have a great sense of humor. I also learned that you can curse too much, as well as too little, when you are trying to make a point.

I learned that despite having content that is NSFW, a lot of people are ok with that. Do people really not twitter at work? Or is the threshold for NSFW changing? Who knows.

I learned that attention is earned by working for it, but I also learned that it is eagerly given to those who put something out there worthy of attention. If you have people’s attention, don’t squander it. If you don’t have their attention, work on understanding why – it’s probably not because you aren’t tweeting enough.

I also learned that when I write about things they start to fade away and as I think through them, they become more a part of me than something I think about all the time. This became evident over the last few weeks, and I’ll talk about it more below.

I learned that I actually do not want to make a difference by being a comedian who pokes fun at our jobs – I want to continue working on how to make things better in Ops.

Lastly, I learned that when you are having fun and when you truly believe in what you do, it shows in what you produce. This is why being @devops_jerk was so easy, and why now I have to stop.

Why stop?
To put it bluntly, I’m running out of ideas & thinking up new ones is dragging me down. I used to find inspiration easily and now, not so much. I no longer want to think about what sarcastic comment I can make next and I’m starting to feel non-constructive when I do think of one. I am not feeling the same way I was in October and I actually don’t mind. As much as tweeting about this stuff has helped me, it has also required that I put myself back in a place of thinking about the things that I grumble about and I want to move on – I want to work on some positive stuff.

So, with a tear in my eye, I’m done – but I have a challenge.

I’m pretty sure there is somebody else out there who could use some @devops_jerk therapy themselves, to continue sharing the joy & the fun. So, convince me and I’ll pass the baton… maybe. Unless I get upset again and need to vent more.

Thank you so much for your attention.

Source: http://www.opsbs.com/index.php/2011/12/the-experiment-devops_jerk/

Published at DZone with permission of Aaron Nichols, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

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Comments

Timo Lihtinen replied on Wed, 2012/03/14 - 11:44am

Thanks for the amusement that your feed has brought. I’ve been in the Enterprise for most of my career, and only for the past year been in a company that is (thinks they are) devops. (I’m the the “Ops”…)

The ‘bug vs incident’ tweet is especially close to my heart. I’m thinking of having a sticker made for my laptop…

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