There is nothing nastier than a family fight. This family quarrel is taking place in the twitter sphere over whether #UniteBlue is defender and connector of progressive tweeters or a conservative Trojan horse being pushed into the twitter family room.
How blue are you?
The double D Unite Blue twibbon has been sweeping through the progressive twitter community faster than a flu bug in a pre-school class. Unite Blue is the product of father and son team Adam and Zach Green. Adam is owner of 140Dev and is listed as a Twitter API consultant. His son, Zach, manages the website Unite Blue and is a principal at 140elect which is billed as a full service Twitter consulting firm.
Do they bleed blue or red?
As the @UniteBlue twitter handle quickly ballooned to 10,000 followers and Trayvon Martin and Obama twibbons got pushed aside for the double D of Unite Blue, several folks started inquiring into just who the founders were. Many people were surprised that the Green’s had political connections and had done work that supported the Tea Party, Herman Cain and Buddy Roemer. Other questions quickly followed about how they acquired their twitter handle, popular hash tags and the ultimate intent for the Unite Blue following.
As soon as people started throwing hard ball questions at the Green’s and Unite Blue, the progressive twitter family members started taking sides to defend their honor and membership.
Question authority and authenticity
The questions that will never be satisfied for some are:
1. What are the motives of Unite Blue?
2. If they are progressive and liberal, why did they work for conservative causes and candidates?
3. Do they have plans to sell their member’s tweets to support conservative causes from member accounts?
Protection against Twitter jail
One of the early hooks for Unite Blue was that you would gain 50 to 100 followers a day to your twitter handle. This was affected by Unite Blue members being encouraged to follow one another. Part of this rational was that if you supposedly had over 3,000 Twitter followers it would be hard for a group of people to conspire and get your account suspended or put into the twitter jail.
Donate a tweet to your favorite conservative
Another issue was that in order to get a twibbon, the double D icon that identifies you are as an out of the closet liberal, you had to become a member of Unite Blue which means you had to authorize the application to have access to your Twitter account. The fear is that Unite Blue can then tweet from the member’s account as if it was the actual member posting the tweet. Adam Green blogged about how he set up a “Donate A Tweet” for the Buddy Roemer campaign.
An explanation of the authorization from the FAQ of Unite Blue
“Why do you need to be able to Tweet from my account?”
So you can write and send tweets from our website! We will never send messages out of your account unless you explicitly request it.
Red Flag on the Green’s #uniteblue flag pole
To those people who understand the incredible amount of information you can gain by having access to someone’s account and its demographic marketing value, red flags were raised on the Unite Blue flag pole. Zach Green even discusses how they use the members Twitter history to assign a Blue Rank.
Here are the major elements of the BlueRank and their individual measurements:
Democratic activity: how many Democratic incumbents the user follows and how often they retweet Democratic incumbents; the number of progressive words and hashtags included in the user’s account bio; the relative number ofprogressive hashtags used in tweets versus conservative hashtags.
Engagement level: how often the user retweets, follows, and @mentions others.
General influence: how often the user is retweeted, followed, and listed.
General activity: the total number of tweets sent by this account since it was created, and the average number of tweets per day.
The color of money is blue?
It is a marketers dream to have access to a bundle of information that may illustrate your propensity to purchase a particular product or support a candidate. If you allow Twitter to “know” your location when tweeting, there is another level of geographic information that can be parsed as well. Can you say gold mine?
I tweeted what?
So, Unite Blue has a massive database of progressive members, has access to their accounts and decides to…create a twitter campaign in support of Michelle Bachman from the member accounts? Not bloody likely, but not outside the realm of possibility depending on who controls the information. Is @UniteBlue, #UniteBlue, up for sale to the highest conservative bidder?
Cheating to win
Political consultants and campaign managers are hired guns. They embrace the sports adage, “If you’re not trying to cheat, you’re not trying to win.” It is a Boy Scout Badge of honor among political consultants when they are caught cheating. People who make their money from politics pimp their services to the highest bidder. Those with the best records or campaigns make the most money.
Enthusiastic and a pinch naive
Zach Green, only three years out of college, is still young and learning. I have seen the slideshare.net photos from his youthful adventures at George Washington University. (I should have had as much fun in college). The profile picture of himself in a t-shirt on his simple 140elect website suggests someone less concerned about appearance and more focused on building his business. When Zach says he supports progressive politics, I am generally inclined to believe him. He has yet to be thoroughly corrupted by the greed for money, but it might happen one day.
Look at what I built
The quick maturation and growth of the internet world now precludes anyone from developing a website and making easy money. The days of blogging for bucks are gone. Zach and his father Adam have a good business concept for actually making a living from a website, membership and twitter. The money is not in Unite Blue, but the reference it creates. They can now point out Unite Blue to their prospective clients as a development success. “Mr. Rubio, have you seen my latest success on twitter? You could be next.”
From 140elect.com website
“Can you provide a custom version of these tools for my political campaign or non-profit?”
We sure can.
Spinach and money are green
The accepted business model for starting a new business is to align it, if possible, with another business perceived as successful. This is what Zach did with highlighting the possible symbiotic relationship between 140elect and 140Dev. Unfortunately for Unite Blue, perception is reality. The guilt-by-association perception that Unite Blue might be a shell for conservative causes will be a hard image to shake. But hey, I just started eating spinach after the e. coli contamination of 2006, so there is hope for Unite Blue.
Both sides of the family have points
Just like the diarrhea of e. coli, the acrimony left by slinging mud at the family gathering over Unite Blue is sure to last long after the controversy dies down. I respect the loyalty of those defending Unite Blue and applaud the efforts to ask tough questions of Zach and Adam Green.
Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?
Zach has certainly learned a valuable business lesson from his Unite Blue experience. He can’t expect to gain unquestioned leadership until he has earned his battle stripes and scars of fighting for progressive causes. It is one thing to tweet or post a picture in support of marriage equality, it is an entirely different level of respect if you have been on the protest line or slept in the Occupy Wall Street camp. Many of those questioning the motives of Unite Blue have been on the front lines fighting against the repressive legislation of the religious right and profiteering of corporate interests.
Can the promise be fulfilled?
The double D twibbons and #UniteBlue hash tag has little value for impacting public opinion one way or another. For the most part, those of us in the progressive choir just preach among ourselves on twitter. The value of a left-leaning twitter following is the quick communication of information about the deceit of the right. If Unite Blue can evolve into an information hub spinning out seeds of action items for the progressive twitter community to act on it will attain a greater purpose. Otherwise, Unite Blue is just nice window dressing on a progressive promise as yet unfulfilled.