Trending on Twitter

Yes it’s true, last night I was a trending topic on Twitter.  I was notified of this by Andy McGregor who, in his tweet: “ – Brian Kelly is a trending topic on twitter“, helpfully provided evidence of my 15 minutes of fame.

I then received several other comments from a number of my Twitter followers including @joypalmer and @iand and, this morning from @daveyp and @karenblakeman. What was the reason for my moment of fame? Was it my recent insightful blog posts? Or perhaps discussions about the paper on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web” which I’ll be presenting at the Cultural Heritage Online 2009 Conference next week?

Unfortunately not. As indicated by the tweets shown inthe screen shot, the story is actually about Notre Dame’s new coach, Brian Kelly.  A simple case of a name clash. But also an interesting example of the potential dangers of mistaken identity and the need for new media literacy.

What Can We Learn?

Over the past couple of months I have received a number of misdirected tweets which, from the context, I realised were aimed at an American Football coach who shares the same name.  Further investigation revealed that his Twitter username was @CoachBrianKelly – and his biography on his Twitter acount helpfully gives an indication of what he does: “Thrilled to be the coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Committed to stirring People with PASSION and PURPOSE“.

In order to minimise the amount of Twitter traffic coming to my account (as an early adopter of Twitter I was able to claim the @BrianKelly username) I distanced myself from my namesake in my comment: “No longer interested in coaching. Intend to leave Notre Dame/ Bye all :-)”. And in case this was misinterpretted I followed this up with “My new interests: digital identity and new media literacy 🙂“.

Pat Fitzgerald has also been mistaken on Twitter with another US sporting staff as he pointed out in his tweet“@mattganser @briankelly your tweet mistake reminded this Coach Fitz article done by one of your USA sports writers“.

So how do we go about minimising the chances of such confusions? In this case none of my followers were likely to mistake me for a US American Football coach (my football interests are in the 11-a-side version). I would recommend that you check the brief biographical details provided on a Twitter account’s profile page before following or citing an individual.  And if still uncertain you should follow the link that may be provided, and perhaps look at the followers to see if there are people you know. And if you want to minimise the chances that you aren’t mistaken for someone else you should provide biographical details and a link which can help to identify who you are.

Having said that I have to admit that last year I did make a mistake. For a time I followed Dave Patten (@davepatten) who is Head of New Media at the Science Museum, London. I had mistaken him for Dave Pattern (@daveyp), systems librarian at the University of Huddersfield – partly because the first Dave was following people I knew and I knew the second Dave knew.

But what happens if people change their Twitter name? Or even pass there name on to others?  I wonder if @CoachBrianKelly would be interested in purchasing the @BrianKelly account?  But as he already has almost 7,000 followers he probably doesn’t need the extra followers, although the extra five characters this would allow his fans to use may allow for more in-depth discussions of Notre Dame’s chances of success this season:-)