Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there

It’s not pretty, but it’s where we’re at
08/07/2009, 21:32
Filed under: antarctica

Maybe it’s the fact the morphine is now out of my system and I’ve a rotten, skull-crushing headache after my trip to A&E on Monday night, or maybe I’ve been plain unrealistic about all of this since last Thursday.

To take this competition by the horns and give the other competitors a run for their money means three months of effort from everyone. Voting doesn’t end until the last day of September, but it’s week one and already the abuse on Twitter has begun and worse – hate mail. Really. That never happened once in two months of the Twitchhiker project, yet this time I received two on the first day.

What’s dawning on me is that unlike the first Twitchhiker outing, this time our success or failure won’t be measured on our terms. I haven’t set the rules, we don’t collectively determine the outcome. I entered this competition on a whim, thinking that it was a chance to prove Twitchhiker wasn’t just a fluke.

But in the heat of the moment I made an assumption – that it was the majority, not the minority of followers who would support it. The fact is out of 11,400 followers on Twitter, only a small number have shown any interest in making this happen. Ask those 11,400 individuals to pass on a message at various times and collectively less than 100 individuals have done so.  The majority are seemingly waiting until things get interesting, until there’s a charity to support or a journey to follow. Most are content to sit silently in the shadows, which ordinarily would be no bad thing – Twitter lets you follow strangers without the need to give anything in return. It isn’t what Twitchhiker is about though.

Of course I don’t want to harass people into supporting a cause, but that’s how plenty are perceiving my tweets for support. I know that because of the replies, DMs and email I’ve received, and because nearly 300 people have stopped following @twitchhiker in the past six days. It’s not so noticeable because nearly 200 have started following, but taking into account double votes cast, it’s probably as many followers as the number that have voted. That’s absolutely gutting.

Of course if the 10,500 followers I’ve accused of sitting on their hands have all voted for another entrant or have ideological views concerning tourism in Antarctica, that’s fine. I suspect that’s not the case however.

The bottom line is I can’t do this for the next three months of my life if the majority of people don’t want to get involved. The economics are different this time around; essentially a few hundred people made the first Twitchhiker project happen – this time I’ve tied an arm behind our back by ploughing us into a competition that requires thousands and thousands of supporters.

I know it’s only been a week, that we’re sitting pretty in fifth place and that this is a marathon, not a sprint, but I can’t help but feel this was the wrong cause to take up.


13 Comments so far
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well i have no desire to vote for you now, your sounding desperate and flogging a deadhorse.

Comment by neil

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who just lurk (I know I sometimes can be one of them.), and some are just common riffraff. This project was amazing, I have told so many if only by mouth to the non-twitters as a great example of social networking. I really hope people can get it together and give you their support! Good luck!

Comment by Rob

I actually found it quite a pain in the ass to sign up, captcha (arrrgh), prove my humanity, give email (hate that part), verify, sign in & vote.

Even at that it took a few tries to get things right. I’m an idiot though, so it was probably just me.

Most people see that process & say to heck with it. I’ll bet that is a HUGE reason as to why you don’t have many votes.

I have voted for you however, & wish you the best of luck.

Comment by GSM

It is difficult to support you in this endeavor. Twitchhiker is begging for votes on almost every Tweet. ‘Just a few more’, ‘can we make it X by tonight’, ‘I thought you liked me’, ‘I wont bug you if I get a few more tonight’

Your first go around was interesting on the uncertainty of the destination from the charity of others. This time you sound like a whining beggar.

You mention raising money for a charity but give no mention of them. Have you picked one?

How have you earned our votes? How will you pick your twitter partner if you win? All we see is a constant tweeting of begging. Many are seeing ‘me’ not ‘us’. And how is it ‘us’?

If the twitter posts continue as begging, more will stop following, including me. I have yet to vote but you have not proven yourself of being the most deserving. Give us reasons scattered between your tweets.

Comment by Eric

If you have a read of the comments on the first post concerning Antarctica – it pretty much answers your questions about charity and the second place, Eric. I’ve also tweeted this so it has been put out there, and I’ve asked more than once for feedback from tweeps about alternative ideas if they’re uncertain of mine. Again, if people don’t want to make suggestions that’s up to them, but it perhaps proves the point that most people would rather watch than do.

Concerning the “begging” – as I said, I understand how people are perceiving the tweets, so if we do continue it’s something I have to address.

As for who is the “most deserving”, can you explain what you mean by that? For yourself, perhaps, but it’s an entirely subjective concept. Is it the best qualified person to comment on Antarctica from a scientific point of view, or a storytelling point of view? Should it be somebody who has travelled the world extensively or someone who has never seen it snow before? I’m not asking those on Twitter to support Twitchhiker because I’m necessarily the “most deserving” because there is no one definition of that term that suits 11,000 individuals. I’ve been asking Twitter to support Twitchhiker because the whole ethos is the project has been a collection of small contributions having a positive and substantial outcome.

Comment by Paul

Chin up mate !
I’m one of the people who’d have give you a lift or put you up if you’d been passing Aberdeen on your last trip. I’m one of the ones who believe you when you say its not for personal gain or fame but just for the excitment and challenge of it all. You will always find doubters and with 11k followers probably many but don’t let them put you off. Tell the BBC or ITV that your at it again. Tell the celebs and everyone you can think of that maybe you+1 could be going to Antartica. The cold, the tiredness, the effort, the challenge. Don’t loose sight of the dream. Life is too short !

Anyway – I’ve voted for you. Though it did take me several attempts.

Comment by Craig

FWIW, I support you, I follow you and I voted for you.

Personally, I don’t see the point in all the naysayers contacting you. If they don’t support your quest, they shouldn’t vote. It’s not hard.

All the hate mail you’ve talked about doesn’t seem to mention compelling social or environmental reasons why you shouldn’t go to Antarctica; they just don’t want you to go. So it’s them who should be moving on from this project, not you. If you want to do it then you should do it.

Unfortunately, the Internet is built on others anonymously tearing people down for no reason. *Shrug* But anyway, good luck to you. I hope you stick with it; I know you’d make the trip interesting.

Comment by Sharon

Just unfollowed @twitchhiker as I’m clearly not the sort of person you’re looking for as a follower. Started following originally because I was interested in the concept. This is a different concept, you’re obviously not happy with me (and others) hanging around ‘in the shadows’ waiting to develop an interest, so I might as well go.

Twitter, like most other things in life, is transitory. Don’t take it personally. Good luck.

Comment by Hayden

Hey Hayden,

I think the point is that there’ll be nothing to develop an interest in if people don’t take an interest to begin with. Like the first project, we’ll get out of it what we put in. If everyone sits back and waits for everyone else to go first, everyone will be waiting a very long time.

Sorry to lose you, but of course you don’t have to go anywhere. If you’re interested in this leading somewhere interesting, play a part – you’ve already proved you’re not a lurker 🙂

Comment by Paul

I’m sorry but it is a complete and utter arse of a signup and we have no idea what they are going to use our email information for, I do not need more spam in my life and neither it seems do 99% of the people who are following ……

Comment by Will

For what it is worth I agree with GSM for one part – I went in to vote but it just asked for too much info at the time that I thought why should I give you all this info just to vote for someone?, maybe I’ll come back later… I’ll take another look anyhow.

Just ignore those people who are putting you down – what is twitter for if you can’t ask 11,000 people who were interested in your last endeavour to support you in a new one? If they don’t want to then like you say they can unfollow, no-one is asking them to stay. But the fact that 10,700 people aren’t unfollowing must say something that there is no problem with what you are doing so just keep going – sometimes some of us just need constant reminders to do things before we get round to it 🙂

Comment by Marian

People are lazy – period. Most of us want to sit back and then bitch when somebody wants to do something with their life. Look at the comments for proof, followers who turn up for the first time to tell you they’re not interested!!!!!! LOL

I followed the first Twitch-Hiker and read what it took out of you. Yours is one of the most honest blogs I’ve ever read and they don’t appreciate that about your writing. You’d do a brilliant job of telling the story of Antartica through the eyes of an everyday person I’m sure.

The problem is you’re pushing your cause through a marketing scheme and Quark don’t care how hard it is to sign up (IT IS A PAIN, believe me) because that’s all they want out of this, a long detailed mailing list. Its cheaper for them to build a website and give away a $20,000 prize that doesn’t cost that much to them, then spend the same amount on brochure ads.

If you’re asking then drop out of the running, not because you can’t win (you can!!!!) but because its 3 months of work that might end in no adventure, no money for charity and you’ll give another company a mailing list FOR FREE. Twitch-Hiker isn’t about making a difference to big companies but to people xx

Comment by nicki

I guess the point about this second Twitchhiker concept is that, although it’s not down to you, it is just a bit more hard-edged and aggressive than the last Twitchhiker activity (which was essentially a rather zen experiment where you tested how you and your followers measured up against yourselves – ourselves). But this time, for you to succeed, it’s true that others will fail. Therefore lots of people are just reading the headline – it’s a competition – and not seeing the full picture or reading the small print to understand that you are still wanting to involve Twitter users both in choice of charity and choice of the person to accompany you.

I don’t think it’s about ‘Antarctica’ at all. You’ve still got to fill your ample lungs with the air of this planet wherever you are standing on it at any given time. And you might teach us all a lot about Antarctica by blogging about it – well actually you definitely would, that’s a given.

So – the point? The point is that if you want to press ahead with this, you just have to accept that it will be more competitive, more controversial and more of an uphill struggle. Can you handle that? I know that of course you can. Can you be arsed though? Up to you mate.

Comment by Adrian

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