Defending TweetStalk: A word on the word “stalk”
Ever since we introduced TweetStalk, there has been a modest rumbling of outrage over what people think it stands for, or what it will ultimately do to Twitter.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the geek spectrum, we’ve read a spatter of comments about how the feature set is not very novel, and it doesn’t accomplish anything you couldn’t already do with RSS feeds and an aggregator.
Funny how something so apparently trivial to one group signifies the end of society as we know it to another.
Look, let’s get this straight: you can no more stalk someone using TweetStalk than you can with Twitter itself. As has been pointed out several times by many bloggers and commenters, the “stalking” features of TweetStalk don’t do anything you couldn’t already do by visiting people’s profiles on Twitter (which are public) and adding RSS feeds for any public posts to a feed aggregator. It’s not as if TweetStalk circumvents whatever privacy settings you have in place for your Twitter account.
In fact, the key feature that TweetStalk introduces over Twitter’s own functionality is the ability to create groups — a feature Twitter users have consistently been clamoring for, and which could scarcely be used for nefarious or malicious purposes.
The heart of the outrage, then, seems to concern the word “stalk.”
Does Sitening condone or even encourage actual stalking because we used the word “stalk” in a tongue-in-cheek way in the name of our app? I shouldn’t even feel compelled to answer that question, but people, come on, of course the answer is hell no.
But yes, the word “stalk” is loaded with emotion. Hey, I’m a linguist by education; I understand the importance of using the right word in the right context. But I also understand that using what seems like the wrong word in the wrong context creates tension, and tension is part of humor.
In other words, it’s the overwrought reactions that make it funny. And thus, the circle of irony is complete. Let’s take a deep breath, shrug it off, and get back to work, shall we?