My friends keep asking why I don’t use facebook? And I always respond with some quite crushing comments about the walled garden of facebook and the mentality of facebook users. Anyway once we get past that they usually ask me whats so great about Twitter? I usually respond by saying its open and public which means there isn’t this closed walled garden to hide behind. Some of my friends who have been paying attention usually say, “well I don’t want everyone reading what I write.” Then I throw in an example where having the public discourse is actually a good thing.
That example is now famously called “the Japanese babe” example. Unfortunately with twitter making changes to the way things are archived it may get lost, so I thought I’d highlight it on my blog so others can also use it as a example of the open web vs the closed web and or even why twitter is very powerful compare to facebook.
So I was on a train heading back from London going to Manchester. The train was busy but not crammed. I think I was sitting next to a old lady most of the journey till we got to stoke on trent. At stoke on trent things cleared up and the lady left, leaving me a whole table with plug for my laptop to myself. Anyway, the next stop a woman came aboard and I couldn’t help but notice her, she was Japanese and very attractive.
She sat down at the seat opposite me and smiled briefly, asking if the seat was free then put her laptop down and put on some headphones. She shifted around a bit and her legs touched mine under the table. She said sorry then shifted her’s while in the meantime I shifted mine too. We collided again and again saying sorry each time. In the end she settled on a position between my feet, not quite touching but close enough.
We both laughed about the footsie situation we had landed ourselves in and she put her headphones back on. She was listening to something in Japanese. How did I know? She had plugged the headphones into the wrong port on her laptop or she had dual audio ports like mine. Anyway I ended up taking off my headphones and telling her that her audio was playing out loud so everyone could hear it.
Once again she smiled and shifted her feet, so we went through the footsie thing again.
Some of you are thinking what the hell has this got to do with twitter, well hold on I’m getting there.
So we traveling to Manchester, cute lady sitting opposite me and we’ve played footsie a little bit but not much else has happened. So I decide to twitter the situation I’m in.
Unfortunately Twitter.com no longer gives you access to old tweets you may have written so I can not link to any of them. Bad form twitter!
Anyway that tweet when out and lots of people saw it, much more that I expected. Because I received lots of replies with helpful information on how I should get the ladies attention without sounding like a cock.
End of the day a guy (wish I could remember his twitter name) suggested I write on the back of a business card…
hajimemashite watashinwa. Ian desu. dozo yoroshiku
which translates to,
How do you do? My name is Ian Nice to meet you (or please be good to me).
…and slide it across the table to her.
Obviously I had no idea what it translated to and was very skeptical of doing it in case it said hi i’m ian and I’m a cock or I want to shag the pants off you or something like that. Anyway after much going back and forth with people on twitter, there was a consensuses that the mystery reply was ok enough to do. Although some people were saying don’t do it, it reads something unsightly.
So I took out a business card and wrote on the back of it the phase. With one more twitter message and lots of people saying do it! I slid the card across the table and she took off her headphones and read it. We had already hit stockport which is just outside of Manchester so we getting ready to depart the train. But she giggled nervously when she read the card, and turned to me and said…
“This is very sweet of you but I got a boyfriend already and he’s coming to pick me up from Manchester station, sorry…”
By this point the train had pretty much arrived in Manchester Piccadilly, so I had to close down my laptop and cut off twitter which meant everyone who had been wait to hear what had happened, had to wait even longer (twitter on the mobile phone in the uk was rare, plus my data plan was weekend and evenings only). She smiled sweetly at my attempt but got up and left just before I did. Later on the platform, I saw her with a guy and another girl. I just did a little slow nod to say “take care” and she smiled back. That was the last I ever saw of her.
When I finally got back online, twitter was reaching fever pitch with people wanting to know what had happened. I explained what had happened over multiple tweets and there was a lot of people saying good on for me doing it.
I have to say that a lot of them came from people who either heard about it on the public timeline (a few), checked out the strange trending topics (a few more) or saw the re-tweets from others (many). For the rest of the day I was saying thanks to people for there comments and encouragement.
The open web almost helped with my love life. Now thats something a lot of people can’t say. Imagine if it was Facebook, I would have got all my friends advice but none of them can speak or at least write Japanese. So the opportunity would have gone up in smoke, plus having loads of strangers willing you to do it really gets you going. This is something which can only really happen on the open web.
So why now am I telling this tale? Well I’m moving flat and I found the business card with the writing on the back. It is a shame I can’t link to all the tweets made during that period of time on the train, but you can imagine what it was like. It certainly made me think a lot more about social media. In actual fact it was one of the drivers for my twitter dating service – tweet foxxy or tweethookup (as it was first called), which I later sold the concept of after my talk at ignite Leeds in 2009. I’m actually surprised this is the first time I wrote this down?