Most of my developer friends who have achieved any amount of public recognition or notoriety have reported experiencing some measure of impostor syndrome. They feel that they have garnered a reputation that surpasses their actual level of competence and contribution. It always brings me great comfort to hear this, because I feel the same way. Or am I just pretending so that I’ll feel more like one of them? 😉
Well, I recently went beyond the syndrome and proved myself an actual impostor, a fraud, a phony. A plagiarist, to be specific. One evening last month I was sitting at home doing something useless on my laptop when my eldest spawn told me a geeky math joke. I thought it was very clever. I thought my geeky friends would appreciate it as well. So I tweeted it.
This Fibonacci joke is as bad as the last two you heard combined.— Calvin Bottoms (@calvinb) September 13, 2017
The next morning I awoke to a deluge of notifications of responses, likes, and retweets beyond anything I’ve ever experienced on Twitter. This tweet had taken flight for some reason. I got replies from some of my geek heroes who neither know me nor follow me.
I have a feeling the next one will be at least as bad again.— Dan North (@tastapod) September 13, 2017
I was at work when I saw the notification that I had been retweeted by Australian comedian Tim Minchin.
Oh yes. https://t.co/pS1YPyKcBj— Tim Minchin (@timminchin) September 13, 2017
What was happening? I guess it was my twenty minutes of Twitter fame. I started looking through the responses. One that caught my eye (and my stomach) was addressed to @sigfpe and said simply,
Congrats on getting your tweet stolen https://t.co/3D2WriOhAK— Kevin Lin (@quasicoherence) September 14, 2017
Oh, no. I had stolen this man’s tweet. In retrospect I suppose I could have googled the joke so I could attribute it properly, but I wasn’t writing a research paper, and I had no idea anyone other than my geeky friends would even see it. I composed a quick explanation/apology tweet to @sigfpe, confessing that I owed him a large number of retweets. It was one those times that 140 characters did not feel like enough, but he could not have been more gracious about it, and I am very grateful.
If your kid told you it that makes my day 😁— Dan Piponi (@sigfpe) September 14, 2017
Such social media points mean nothing to some people but an awful lot to others, and I had just collected someone else’s jackpot. So @sigfpe, thank you for being so cool about this whole thing and seeing it for the inadvertent act that it was. I really liked your joke, and I clearly am not alone.
Man, Twitter is kind of frightening. It’s fortunate that important people don’t use it to talk about real things.