#wxtwitter, in theory, is a thriving online community for meteorology enthusiasts to interact and share their scientific ideas. #wxtwitter, in practice however, is far from perfect and often criticized for its irresponsible weather hype and unnecessary hostility between members of the community. Reality shows such as The Real World enjoy bringing members of imperfect communities together under a single roof as a highly entertaining social experiment. AtmoLife decided to employ this concept within the online weather community, but instead of actually bringing people together in real life, which would require significant funding and effort, we created a single weather-themed twitter account for everyone to use.
— AtmoLife (@atmolife) April 24, 2017
Our idea stems from a similar experiment conducted by Bois et al. (2014), who created a public twitter account for sports enthusiasts. This experiment yielded a classic “too many cooks” scenario where a likely high amount of users rapidly devolved the account from its initial mission leading to its quick demise. Would @publicwx experience a similar fate despite the #wxtwitter community being much smaller than the sports twitter community? The short answer: Yes. Here is how the usage of our account unfolded.
T = 2 min
Shortly after our account’s initialization, @publicwx had already tweeted twice. AtmoLife personally tweeted the latter of these and would never tweet again from this account. The avi and profile information, in which we provided the password, had yet to change. The peculiar item right off the bat is the aptly tweeted “First!” which was actually tweeted moments before AtmoLife’s tweet drawing the initial attention to the account. Although we can’t rule out a bot being responsible for the inaugural tweet, our theory is that someone saw on their timeline that AtmoLife had followed this account (right at t=0 min), and was able to look up the account, see the password, log in, and ultimately send a tweet before we could get ours in. This is an impressively rapid response, arguably one of the strengths of the #wxtwitter community.
T = 8 min
After a relatively slow start, @publicwx began to pick up steam. The account now had its requested avi, and new tweets consisting of hot tornado takes as well as a cute puppy flying above the cloud tops, both tweets aligning with AtmoLife’s mission of being weather related.
T = 11 min
The tweets were starting to come in faster now, and @publicwx had a nice cover photo as well! On the surface, “ayy bros” may not seem like a weather related tweet, but some people in the weather community consider others to be their bros, therefore we give the user who tweeted this the benefit of the doubt of remaining with the mission.
T = 15 min
The @publicwx avi had changed again. This time to the portrait of Mike Morgan, Chief Meteorologist of KFOR Oklahoma City. It is uncertain whether or not Mike Morgan himself is responsible for this avi change along with the ensuing tweets, but regardless, the public twitter account was still following the #StickToWeather mission 15 minutes in, albiet with some potential intra-account arguing as seen from the “NO UR” tweet. If this is indeed an internal disagreement within the account, it should not come as a surprise due to the ubiquity of inter-account arguing on #wxtwitter.
T = 17 min
While still sticking to weather, the @publicwx handle had become self-conscious of its limitations. This is evident in its “Please ignore our bad tweets. #interns” tweet, which implies that at least one user disapproves of at least 2 of the account’s tweets. In addition, @publicwx had retweeted external skepticism of itself, which according to the rules of twitter, is an explicit endorsement.
T = 23 min
Somewhere between the 17th and 23rd minutes of @publicwx’s lifespan is when the account began to diverge from its initially intended purpose. Tweets were coming in at rates too fast for us to screen capture them all, and many of these tweets, as well as the avi, were no longer weather related. We also found the avi to be quite dark and insensitive. AtmoLife made the mistake never of not specifying ground rules about publishing sensitive material on @publicwx, therefore we take responsibility for any items you found offensive. What we do not apologize for however, are the tweets that were not weather related. We clearly stated that tweets needed to #StickToWeather, and attempted to discourage non-weather related tweets such as “Yucky Sauce.” Specific users violated these rules despite our efforts, therefore it is the fault of those users, which we will unfortunately never be able to identify.
T = 25 min
And just like that, our experiment had concluded (or so we thought at the time). It appeared that @publicwx had been suspended by twitter perhaps due to exceeding a tweet frequency threshold or possibly even from reported abuse from other twitter accounts. AtmoLife tweeted our acceptance of the public account’s demise.
4/24/2017 11:29 AM – 4/24/2017 11:54 AM
— AtmoLife (@atmolife) April 24, 2017
T = 29 min
It appeared the inexistance of @publicwx was not due to the suspension of the account, but rather to a handle change, specifically to @weathersex6969, which by then had tweeted a total of 69 times. I found this new handle name to be inappropriate (which again is our fault for not establishing those ground rules) even though @weathersex6969 is technically still weather related. The avi had also returned to being weather related, by displaying the portrait of AccuWeather’s Reed Timmer, who like Mike Morgan earlier, cannot be confirmed nor denied as the user responsible for these changes. The tweets themselves continued to veer from the initial #StickToWeather mission by posting media that may contain sensitive material as well as declaring to formerly be kingz, a claim which even if true, is not weather related.
T = 32 min
After an avi change to a NSFW image, AtmoLife unfortunately had to block our own creation. We believe most folks in the in the meteorology community, including ourselves, do not want phallic images popping up on their twitter feed while they are at work. We assumed the account would be suspended quickly thereafter, but after discovering it in our “Blocked accounts” settings tab (along with the cursing police accounts) we decided to take matters into our own hands. Although the handle name was no longer @publicwx, nobody bothered to change the password, so we were able to login and deactivate the rogue account.
In conclusion, our social experiment produced mixed results as seen from the range of reviews in AtmoLife’s twitter mentions.
@atmolife thanks for that bit of entertainment.
— Dakota Smith (@weatherdak) April 24, 2017
@atmolife You’re an idiot for even trying that stunt.
— Tim Cermak (@toweringCU) April 24, 2017
— Tony Lyza (@tlyzawx) April 24, 2017
— Alex Edwards (@AlexJEdw) April 24, 2017
— Evan Hatter (@ehatt493) April 24, 2017
@publicwx managed to tweet valuable weather information for a solid 17 minutes, but as the cliche goes, all good things must come to an end. The open account will always be remembered for its meteoric rise and fall.