So, a friend I met at Nine Worlds has recently joined Twitter, and is totally confused - as most people are when they first join! And I thought I should just try to explain what Twitter is and how to use it. But then I realised that I wouldn’t give the same answer now that I would have given a few years ago.
What I used to say:
I used to say that Twitter was like a bar that’s populated entirely by people you know and like, so you can drop into and out of any conversation as and when you feel like it.
It is sort of like that. Although the chances that you follow and are followed by only people you know and like is more likely to be true when you have 60 followers than when you have 600.
Similarly, when I only followed 60 people I would read the entirety of what everyone tweeted between one visit and the next. Obviously, that just isn’t possible when you follow 600 people.
Also, although you can join in any conversation you want, conversations rarely last more than a few brief back and forths. Twitter, after all, is designed for brevity.
So, what would I say now?
Well, now I would say that Twitter is useful for a bunch of different things.
Twitter’s ability to spread news is unparalleled. News travels as quickly as 140 characters takes for a person to type, and another person to retweet (RT). Obviously, you want to be sure to follow some reliable people, but I find that very often Twitter is more reliable than any one traditional news source alone. In fact, one’s whole understanding of news changes when engaging with Twitter. I dread to think how little I would know about what’s going on in Ferguson, if I relied solely on the reporting of traditional news sources, which skew towards believing and supporting authority figures.
How does one know one’s sources are reliable? Well, first up, I try not to believe anything that’s just a flat assertion, not linking to a solid source, or a photograph. One of the things Twitter does is link to longer sources elsewhere - it’s easy to collate a bunch of different accounts and compare them.
Sometimes you will want to trust a traditional news source more. Especially concerning someone’s death. Twitter always gets news of someone’s death before traditional news sources - you see their name rising morbidly in the trends (in a column on the right, if you’re using the website to read your tweets), or suddenly everyone just seems to be talking about it. If you’re unfamilliar with trends, any word that is used often enough becomes a trend, and you can click on it in the trending column, or search on it, to find all the tweets that are using it. Putting a hashtag next to any word makes it instantly clickable to reveal all tweets using that hashtag. So, when people began tweeting about Robin Williams, I could instantly click on #robinwilliams and see all the tweets that were using the hashtag, and learn that he was thought to have died. When I did this on the day I saw not only reports of his death, but people saying that there had been a lot of hoaxes about his death recently. You can be hoaxed on Twitter, but corrections come in lightning fast. Anyway, I knew to wait until a traditional news source confirmed it.
By contrast, big, especially violent and controversial, events rarely get reported on as well in traditional media. Ferguson is an obvious case in point. In traditional media the protests have been reported as riots, the tear gas as more harmless smoke, violence is described as ‘breaking out’ instead of as starting with police. The sheer wealth of on-the-ground information and photographic evidence and video available on Twitter is staggering. Morover, I was able to quickly find reliable sources on the ground (e.g. @wesleylowery), as well as the people they recommended to follow.
Obviously other social media (especially Tumblr) has been good for this, too, but Twitter has good form for news. When that chap (I am remaining fast in my attempt to not remember his name) shot up all those people in Norway, we not only got news of it as it was happening, the Twitter news-steam had self-corrected to say that it was a single white guy, and not Islamic terrorists within an hour or so of the events. Traditional media going to print the next day was still saying it was thought to be Islamic extremists. Twitter is a rumour mill, but it self-corrects with lightning efficiancy.
Different businesses have their preferred social networking sites, but publishing definitely likes Twitter. It’s easy to follow your connections, and find who they connect to, and drop in on interesting conversations and thus generate follow backs.
Earlier this week Mhairi Simpson (@AMhairiSimpson) proposed a charity anthology themed on Badass Unicorns, and within minutes she had 8 authors and two editors interested - and I was one of them. It’s also how I got involved with Genre for Japan back in 2011, turning Amanda Rutter and Jenni Hill from people I followed on Twitter to people I knew and had worked with. Plus, agents like Juliet Mushenka, partake in regular events like #askanagent, providing valuable insight and connections.
Of course, you don’t just follow people you want to work with and ask for a job, but you can follow them and chat with them when a topic you can contribute to comes up. Sometimes that’s business, sometimes it’s an ISSUE you share a rage about, sometimes it’s squeeing about a character you both fancy. Depending on just how many followers a person has, they might not reply back, but… aim to build natural relationships with people, and it will happen.
Brevity is the sole of wit, and Twitter is a very witty place. Some accounts are set up simply for humour - I recommend Chaucer Doth Tweet (@LeVostreGC), @DRUNKHULK, Dread Singles (@hottestsingles), and @horrorsc0pes. Some people aren’t writing joke accounts, but do write a lot of jokes, especially puns. @arrroberts is one - author, scholar… LOT of puns. @maureenjohnson - author, but also a lot of jokes, many of them biting.
Some twitter accounts deal directly with addressing issues, such as @everydaysexism (documents by retweet everyday accounts of sexism women experience) and @castingcallwoe (tweets from an actor and the countless overwhelmingly sexist cast calls she finds). Other people are just really great activists to follow (such as @stavvers, @PennyRed, @DrJaneChi, @amiangelwings, and @rozkaveney), and and it can be particularly helpful to follow people whose experience differs from your own, especially if you want to make your own activism more intersectional.
5. Linking to blogs
A lot of what Twitter does it point outward to other places. If you have a blog, you want to tweet about it to get people to go there. If you want to engage with someone’s thought, you want to follow them on Twitter so you can know when they blog. If you find someone who writes a really great piece, you may want to follow them on Twitter, both so that you can see if they write more, and so you can get to know them as a person because they seem cool. I got to know author @sophiamcdougall after her piece on Steven Moffat’s sexism was linked to me from Twitter. I followed her on Twitter, and, because I felt like her essay showed I could trust her as a writer, read her books. I later got to meet her at a convention, and now we follow each other on Tumblr, too :)
As a writer myself, I link my Tumblr posts to Twitter - surprisingly, people seem to like my rants as much as my cat pictures. Which is gratifying, as I originally started ranting on Tumblr as a place that was out of the way where I wouldn’t get lots of hate comments in response. It’s my outlet for stuff I wouldn’t put on my ‘proper blog' (the one on Word Press where I review things and occasionally talk about my writing). I also link to my proper blog posts on Twitter - it's a great way to get people to see what you write.
6. Just chatting and being silly and shit
The stereotype is true. People do tweet about their lunch. Not very often, but they do. They also tweet about the giant spider they just found in their bed. They tweet about how they can’t stop thinking about Lee Pace. They tweet about how they are obsessed with a new programme. They tweet cute cat pictures. They ‘livetweet’ reactions to events or programmes as they occur. #bbcqt has transformed BBC Question Time into a massively popular show as people gather to snark at panelists and audience members, as well as avidly discuss positions (@DIMBLEBOT is the one to follow if you’re interested in #bbcqt). The Olympics Opening Ceremony and Eurovision were transformed by Twitter. The Great British Bake Off (#GBBO) is one I don’t watch, but I surely know when it’s going down from Twitter. Similarly for Strictly. Doctor Who is another one that gets a lot of livebitchery (best to avoid Twitter if you don’t want to be spoiled and aren’t watching when it airs).
The great thing is, you can just tweet stuff out into the void, and people will either respond or they won’t, and there’s no embarrassment to that.
I don’t think I’ve remotely covered all that Twitter can be, but I think (hope) this might function as a reasonable place to start?
(P.S. I would seriously recommend getting a Twitter Client (like Tweet Deck) so that you can view all of your feed, your mentions (when people @ you), and your DMs, in neat columns on one page.)
“Outside the lab, Piff found that the rich donated a smaller percentage of their wealth than poorer people. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans, those with earnings in the top 20%, contributed 1.3% of their income to charity, while those in the bottom 20% donated 3.2% of their income. The trend to meanness was worst in plush suburbs where everyone had a high income, and never laid eyes on a poor person. Insulation from people in need, Piff concluded, dampened charitable impulses. Poorer people were also more likely to give to those charities servicing the genuinely needy. The rich gave to high-status institutions such as already well-endowed art galleries, museums and universities, while Feeding America, which deals with the nation’s poorest, got nothing.”—
This is what I mean when I say most poor people — at least those who know what it is to be hungry — will share their last can of beans with you if you’re starving, but so many middle-class and rich people won’t give you anything from their full cupboards, always finding excuses. Also, I’ve talked to delivery people and they say the people in my low-income housing project tip better than the rich people up the hill from us. This is a thing.
Things that are great about having iron deficiency, heavy periods, PMS, and depression.
2 weeks a month: ill and depressed and unable to get much done.
1 week a month: ill and depressed and super anxious and angry and hopeless, also very painful breasts, praying for period to come so can think normally again.
The following week: back to just depressed, pain has moved from breasts to uterus, unable to move because what little iron I have is literally bleeding out of me.
There’s something special about the switch from last night where I was all ‘Oh GOD let my period come soon - I am going insane and driving people away!’ to today when ‘Oh, period is here. Now I can’t move. Stupid period.’
“Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012 the figure was just one. Even after adjusting for the smaller size of Britain’s population, British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014 the police force of one small American city, Albuquerque in New Mexico, shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.
The explanation for this gap is simple. In Britain, guns are rare. Only specialist firearms officers carry them; and criminals rarely have access to them. The last time a British police officer was killed by a firearm on duty was in 2012, in a brutal case in Manchester. The annual number of murders by shooting is typically less than 50. Police shootings are enormously controversial. The shooting of Mark Duggan, a known gangster, which in 2011 started riots across London, led to a fiercely debated inquest. Last month, a police officer was charged with murder over a shooting in 2005. The reputation of the Metropolitan Police’s armed officers is still barely recovering from the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian, in the wake of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London.
In America, by contrast, it is hardly surprising that cops resort to their weapons more frequently. In 2013, 30 cops were shot and killed—just a fraction of the 9,000 or so murders using guns that happen each year. Add to that a hyper-militarised police culture and a deep history of racial strife and you have the reason why so many civilians are shot by police officers. Unless America can either reduce its colossal gun ownership rates or fix its deep social problems, shootings of civilians by police—justified or not—seem sure to continue.”—
I want to stress that British policing is not ‘all that’, especially with regard o race, but I feel like Americans need to understand the extra layer of context with which many countries are viewing events in Ferguson.
Like, my first thought when I saw the very first images was: How did they even find that many police officers authorised to carry guns?
And then I remembered: this is America.
And I understand that it’s a consequence of America’s general gun culture. But I think even when it was legal to carry guns in the UK, only certain police officers were authorised to have them.
You have a gun as a part of your every day work, the chances that you’re going to use it at some point in the course of that work increases dramatically. Especially when the culture is that everyone around you has guns. Everyone around you just walks around with the power to end human life oh so easily, right there.
It’s a really bizarre, and, frankly, scary culture to look at from the outside.
None of the men I’ve spoken to believe me when I point out that women don’t talk more than them and that we don’t interrupt them with our “banter.”
Seriously we don’t.
According to a study conducted by psychologist Don Zimmerman and sociologist Candace West in their “Sex Roles, Interruptions…
This makes me so angry:
In those moment when we DO initiate a conversation on a particular topic, they fail 64% of the time. In comparison to the men on the tapes whose topics successfully carried 96% of the time. This means that, “women had to keep bringing up new subjects all the time and mostly they fell flat.” (pg. 209)
The most notable way that men killed conversations was something as trivial, as minimal, as saying, “Um,” when the woman had finished speaking. The woman’s response? They “pursued whatever subject the men seemed willing to talk about.” (pg. 210)
It chimes so bad with my experience - that people just aren’t interested in hearing what I want to talk about, that if I talk about it too long I’ve made everyone uncomfortable and should apologise.
Also, this article talks a lot about how women in the work place are not assertive enough. It doesn’t talk about the kind of reactions we get when we try to be: i.e. extremely negative. Nor about how the assertiveness training I have encountered (and there were massively more women who had been sent on the course than men) centres around not so much giving your opinion, as being manipulative in a way I really can’t get behind. It’s about our working around men.
Men need to do the unpicking here. It’s not just about our speaking up and speaking declaratively. We get villified for doing that. You guys have to work on creating an environment where it’s OK for us to hold forth. You need to work on learning to silence yourself a bit so that others can speak. You need to work on helping other people maintain their conversation. Being interested in what women have to say, visibly and in the kind of responses you make. In not using a pause in our words to change the conversation. Make comments that involve yourself without changing the topic. Ask questions. Just… bloody well learn to talk like someone who respects the person they are talking to.
the US is unreal like girls cant wear shorts to school, you can literally lose your job for being gay, and unarmed black children are brutally murdered on the regular but old white ppl r still like “what a beautiful country. i can freely carry a gun for no reason and some of our mountains look like presidents. god bless”
A grand jury is unlike a regular jury. Here’s how it works and what we might expect when this one convenes on Wednesday.
Tomorrow, a grand jury will begin hearing evidence in the investigation of Michael Brown’s shooting. The proceeding will ultimately determine whether Officer Darren Wilson — who, according to one autopsy report, shot Brown six times, including two shots to the head — will face criminal charges.
A grand jury is unlike a regular jury. Here’s how it works and what we might expect when this one convenes on Wednesday.
What does a grand jury do?
THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO THE STORY. BUT THE GRAND JURY ONLY HAS TO SIDE IF THERES ONE SIDE TO THE STORY.’
A regular jury must decide innocence or guilt, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. A grand jury has a different and less definitive role. “The main difference is that it is a lower standard. In a jury, you have to find that the person did the crime beyond a reasonable doubt,” lawyer Collin Schwartz told The Wire. ”In a grand jury, the defendant has no right to confront witnesses and it is only by preponderance of evidence, which is a lower threshold than reasonable doubt. It means more likely than not; much much lower than beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Attorney Randy Kessler elaborated, “They don’t decide guilt or innocence, they decide the probable cause to move forward. The defense doesn’t have the right to cross examine the other side. There are two sides to the story. But the grand jury only has to side if there’s one side to the story.”
Who is on a grand jury?
The members of a grand jury have been selected by a judge, rather than by attorneys. This is part of why the process has moves more quickly, as a traditional jury selection process takes a great deal of time because lawyers can ask many questions of jurors, and strike some from the pool for any reason.
This means that all members of this grand jury have likely heard of the case and its details. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Kessler explains,” The jury process is impossible. But a little known secret is that you don’t want jurors who haven’t heard about it, you want jurors who are sympathetic. So you want someone who has heard about it. But you don’t want anyone who has heard a negative conclusion. It’s okay to have people that have heard about it, but not been prejudiced by it.”
How did this get planned so quickly?
Because the judge selected the jury, it is a much faster process. However, faster doesn’t always mean better in a case of this sort. The prosecution has not had much time to build a complete investigation. For example, only two out of three autopsy results have come back.
Jens David Ohlin, a professor of law at Cornell Law School, told The Wire that ”Ideally, you have the police conduct a very exhaustive and deliberate investigation. Then after the files have been completely assembled, it is presented to the prosecutors who bring it before a grand jury, who decides if someone should be indicted. That is the usual and recommended course of events. You get the complete picture of the investigation and events before you get the grand jury case.” Kessler agreed that the process was moving shockingly quickly. “If I were the prosecutor, I would want to wait till I have all the information,” he said.
Why are we going to a grand jury at all?
The prosecutor does not have to go to a grand jury at all. In some cases, they can charge a suspect directly rather than wait for the input of a grand jury. However, going to a grand jury offers a major advantage to the investigation process: the prosecutor can subpoena witnesses.
"You want a political cover for a decision not to prosecute someone, it is a lot easier to say a grand jury looked at the case."
Ohlin also noted another motive for grand juries: it takes the pressure off the prosecution. ”The fact that the prosecutor is empaneling a grand jury doesn’t mean that he wants to charge the individual. It just may mean he wants the grand jury to decide if the person should be prosecuted. Say you don’t want the person to be prosecuted, and you think it is a borderline case, and you want a political cover for a decision not to prosecute someone, it is a lot easier to say a grand jury looked at the case. Rather than say ‘I decided on my own to say there is no criminal case here.’ In a borderline case, a prosecutor might empanel a case when they think the jury won’t issue an indictment. I think that could be the situation here.”
Who is going to be in the court room?
"In general, for a grand jury, the prosecutor is in the grand jury room with the jurors. They are taking the jurors through the presentation," explained Ohlin, "Neither the defendant nor the defense attorney are in the grand jury room at all. They don’t have a right to be there." The prosecution could also bring in witnesses who were subpoenaed. The proceedings and details of the case are secret and sealed to the defense and the public. The defense attorney will likely be present, however, he will not be in the room while the investigation is presented.
Is Darren Wilson going to be there?
There is a possibility Darren Wilson will be in attendance at tomorrow’s indictment. Wilson has the opportunity to testify and he cannot be cross examined. However, lawyers are not present during questioning (though the witness can ask to leave the room to confer with them) and anything he says can be presented at a trial.
"I would think he would testify in a case like this," speculated Ohlin, "The only downside of testifying is if you think the grand jury is going to indict anyway. Testifying before the grand jury opens up the possibility that the prosecution could express any discrepancies between the grand jury and the trial. I would think his lawyer is urging him to get before the grand jury to tell a compelling story and hope the grand jury will refuse to return an indictment.”
Kessler also believes a “compelling story” could sway grand jurors. He points out, “You also get some sympathy by being there. It is hard to indict someone you like.”
While Wilson is not legally obligated to be in court or testify, Schwartz believes he will still attend as a presence without taking the stand. “If I’m this guy, I’m not going in. I don’t know who is going to be on the jury. The defendant will be in court but he doesn’t have to take the stand.”
What is Darren Wilson going to be charged with?
If he is charged, he could be charged with either murder, manslaughter, or second degree murder. Murder implies intentional killing and Ohlin notes that in that case, the “self defense argument doesn’t work.” Manslaughter and second degree murder are lesser charges, “based on the theory the defendant was reckless.”
What happens next?
If he is indicted, the case will move to a trial. Even if the trial goes in Wilson’s favor, Ohlin tells us “there is always the possibility of a federal criminal prosecution.” If Wilson is not indicted, the case “could still move forward… But it gives you more grounds for appeal,” said Kessler