How To: Ruin An Internet Community

Back on January 8, the world of dog Twitter was rocked. (OK, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic.) The Twitter account Thoughts of Dog blocked another dog account, Theo-sophy. Why? Because Theo frequently commented on the Thoughts’ posts in the voice of Theo the dog. I don’t really understand the reasoning behind The Block but I’m going to try to figure it out and explain why I think Matt (the guy behind both Thoughts of Dog and We Rate Dogs) made a terrible mistake when he did it.

First, I’d like to link to a blog post from Theo’s owner, Nancy, with her perspective on the whole kerfuffle. It’s over here: Now onto my thoughts:

My husband and I have been big supporters of Matt and all of his dog-related business ventures. We have shirts and calendars and my husband literally has the back of his car COVERED in stickers, Yes, we followed all of Matt’s accounts across social media and shared them frequently. One of the things I got a kick out of was the responses on Thoughts of Dog’s posts from “your fren Theo.” They were adorable. I’m sorry but anyone who thinks that a couple of dogs having a conversation about their inner thoughts isn’t cute doesn’t have a heart. So I was stunned when I saw Matt complain on his personal Twitter about people commenting on his dog posts as dogs. The stun was doubled when I saw Theo say that Matt blocked him (her? Theo is a boy dog so I’m going with him….I’m saying that’s Theo’s Twitter account!) on the Thoughts of Dog account with no notice. WTF, indeed.

Before people start coming at me: Yes, Matt can do whatever he wants with his accounts. I’m not saying he can’t. I’m saying this was a terrible decision, especially considering this is his main source of income.

Twitter, as a social media platform, is built for conversations. It’s not a place where you drop some knowledge and hope nothing happens. It’s a place to build a community of people. When you have an account where you are role playing as someone else (yes, Thoughts of Dog is basically an RP account), the last thing you should do is cut out other people role playing in a similar world. That is the opposite of community. The people in your community are the people that are going to support you the most. These are the people buying your merch and going to meetups.

I’m not going to pretend I know what is going on in Matt’s head. I know that his personal Twitter post said he was annoyed with people responding to Tweets in dog voices. I know that he not only blocked Theo, he also blocked people who spoke out in support of Theo - complete with an “I’m glad these people are gone” response. In my mind, what Matt was basically saying to everyone is “This is my playground. I want you to give me your money but I don’t want you to play with my account.”

How should this have been handled? Matt should have just played along and let everyone interact with each other. There is enough internet for everyone. As example of how this works well is all of the various Twitter accounts based on the The Dresden Files novels by Jim Butcher. Not only does Harry Dresden, himself, have a Twitter account but a ton of the other characters have accounts as well. And those are actual characters in actual books with actual copyrights. Another example is the Green brothers (otherwise known as Hank and John Green - authors and YouTubers extraordinaire). They decided early in their careers that they wanted their fans to be able to make art based on their famous saying “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome” that they actively decided not to trademark the phrase. They chose their community over the mighty dollar.

Another option would have been to just have a private conversation with Nancy about how the Twitter responses made him uncomfortable (for some reason) and he would like them to stop. Of course, this would mean that he would either have to make a public statement asking people to not use dog accounts/voices to interact with his accounts, which might not go over well considering almost all of his posts on We Rate Dogs are pictures of other people’s dogs (Those same pictures that he puts in calendars and sells to people for money.), or he would have to message every single user he has a problem with asking them to stop, which could take up a lot of time.

But he didn’t do either of those. He went straight for the Block User option. Multiple times.

While I’m sure this has all blown over by now and everyone has forgotten about the doggie drama, it has put a bad taste in some people’s mouths, including my own. Personally, I have unfollowed Matt’s personal Twitter as well as Thoughts of Dog because now all I can see is Matt’s selfishness. Even We Rate Dogs has been tainted a bit for me but I haven’t given into unfollowing that account because I like looking at the pictures of the good boys and girls. And I can definitely say that I don’t plan on spending any more money on his merchandise. I’d rather give my money to someone who appreciates the people who support them.

What are your thoughts on the situation?