I needed information on PHP debugging in IntelliJ. After nearly tearing my hair out trying to get it to work using online references, I pleaded to the twitter community for help. It went something like this
Absolutely nothing. It was just another drop of water in a sea of questions that never get answered on Twitter. But I’ve found a way to get around this. Be an asshole. That’s right, vent your frustration, call out the project or software you are working on, swear it off for life. This method becomes even more effective as your number of followers grows. Again, I paraphrase:
Within minutes I had half a dozen responses back, including one who spent 20 minutes helping me troubleshoot the process (thanks @SeyelentEco). This is not the first time this has happened. I asked basic questions about the PhoneGap mobile development framework on Twitter to get only one generic response. I “rephrased” in a less complimentary manner and within minutes had 2 of their project members messaging me.
Why does it work like this? The power of negative press in social media is too powerful to ignore. These projects know that positive word of mouth and community support is their life blood. Jeopardize that and watch people flock to your aid.
Here’s the checklist for being an effective asshole in social media to get information you need.
- The bigger your audience (AKA, followers and friends), the more likely your negative comments will be worth extinguishing.
- # and @ on Twitter go a long way. Target the people you have a beef with and give them a chance to retort.
- Be specific with your negativity. “IntelliJ sucks” would have gotten me nowhere. Direct complaints about functionality are the way to go.
- Don’t be stupid. A sure fire way to get ignored is screaming “BUG” when you should RTFM.
- Be nice once someone does help. If they have the patience to deal with your sarcasm, they deserve your respect.
- Be grateful. If you do have some social media clout, be sure to praise the project after and thank the person that helped.
- Don’t be afraid to have more than one conversation about your frustration with a product, but don’t flood your stream with whining.
- Use sparingly. Don’t be the boy who cried wolf.
And that’s pretty much all it takes. Now remember, the idea is to bring intelligent people into a problematic situation you are having, not to be a cantankerous prick. Play the game, but be sure to shake hands afterwards, regardless of who “wins”.