Fresh off my eleventh hour victory in buying Tynan.com, I turned my sights at my next vanity obsession, the @tynan Twitter username.
I was late on the Twitter train, and by the time I climbed aboard, @tynan was taken. I settled for @tynanbtyb, which made sense back when my site was called Better Than Your Boyfriend. Switching to Tynan.net made the old twitter name look sloppy.
The guy who registered it posted two tweets, the second of the two pondering how tTitter works. Apparently he never figured it out, because he didn’t log in for two and a half years afterwards.
He had one follower who was active. I contacted him and offered him a bounty to get the name for me. Cryptically, he replied that it would be difficult, but that he would try. I never heard from him again.
Finally, I contacted Twitter support. I got an automatic reply saying that they don’t do name changes.
Months later I went to the Game Developers Conference to see my friend @bhsharp speak. Afterwards a crowd of people waited by the stage to chat with him. One by one they asked questions, made comments, and left. I hung in the back to catch up with Brian when he was finished.
Suddenly, I encountered my first ray of hope in my quest for @tynan. The second to last person waiting had a badge that said that he worked at Twitter. Without thinking, excited to have finally run into someone from Twitter, I interjected.
“Whoa, you work at Twitter? Hey, is there any possible way that…”
“I could get you your handle?”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess it didn’t occur to me that you get that all the time.”
“Yeah. I’m not getting that name now, am I?”
I felt like Larry David. When I got home I sent a tweet apologizing and didn’t ask about the username.
That brings us to last week, where I decided to go big. Remembering how rude I felt asking for the name without offering anything in return, I decided that I needed to bring an unconditional gift, and hope that it amused them enough to give me my name.
So a plan was hatched.
I showed up at the Twitter headquarters in downtown San Francisco at two thirty on Friday. My friend Christophe, who offered to video everything, was there, as was Jerry from The Cake Gallery, a local business that specializes in penis cakes.
Leaving three boxes in the trunk of his van, Jerry and I each picked up two boxes and headed into the Twitter building. I was expecting resistance in the lobby, but the guard let me up with no questions, assuming I was a delivery man.
I brought the cake to the front desk, and the receptionist handled it as if she was expecting to be barraged with cake. And, in fact, she was. The night before I ran into some friends at a restaurant. I told them about my plan and one of them, Loren, asked if I knew anyone at Twitter. No, I didn’t. He did, and offered to relay a message that cake might be coming. I was lucky to run into him— without doing so I might have been turned away at the door.
I helped bring the cakes into the large Twitter cafeteria, and the confusion began. I think the receptionist thought I was a professional cake deliverer, so I explained why I brought cake.
She brought us back to the Twitter lobby, where we waited and told our story to anyone willing to listen. Everyone really liked the idea and was really friendly. Soon enough one guy gave me instructions on how to file a ticket and told me to email him once I’d done it.
I left Twitter happy and went to nearby Whole Foods for a celebratory coconut. As I sat ,I whipped out my laptop and followed his instructions. True to his word, I had @tynan five minutes later.
Soon after, Twitter employees started tweeting about the cake, including a retweet by cofounder Ev. Unfortunately, I overlooked the obvious idea of including a note or putting my twitter name on the cake, so I missed a nice little five minutes of fame. But I got my username and got to do something outlandish and nice, so I’m completely satisfied.
This seems like as good a time as any to say thank you to everyone at Twitter who helped me, and the company in general for making a cool product that I really enjoy using. Also a big thank you to Christophe for videoing the whole thing, and to Jerry for making some great cakes on really short notice!
By the way, I’m wary of posting this because the last thing I’d want to do is unleash a horde of people upon the Twitter offices trying to get their names. Doing it once is novel and interesting, but being bombarded is disruptive and tiring. I talked on the phone with one of the people I met at Twitter on Friday, and she said that people at Twitter are very concerned that this will lead to people doing similar things and disrupting business. So, to be really clear: DON’T GO TO TWITTER AND BRIBE THEM FOR YOUR NAME. IT WON’T WORK.
If you do take something from this, I hope that it’s not to go show up at Twitter like I did, but rather to think about obstacles from different points of view and tackle things unconventionally. The combination of breaking the mold and providing value is always powerful.
EDIT: Apparently some of the people in the video didn’t realize they were being recorded, so I deleted the video. I feel really bad about that— huge apologies if you were one of those people. After talking to someone at Twitter, I also updated the post to make it really clear that this sort of thing should not be encouraged.
Photo was posted by @lg to his Twitter account. It’s better than the picture I took, so I’m using it.
I really want to thank people individually, but I don’t want them to become targets for unsolicited requests.
In other news, I just read a biography of Arnold Schwarzenegger called “Fantastic”. It was really great.