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Tower Bridge has fallen down

It’s so sad to see that one of the iconic London Twitter accounts, @towerbridge, has been grabbed claimed by a marketing outfit promoting the Tower Bridge Exhibition. It’s not so much the fact of the grabbing claiming–in a world where you don’t pay for membership, your rights are always going to be rather flimsy–but the manner of the switchover, facilitated by Twitter.

No notice (see update below), no courtesy, no archiving. Just taken, changed, and the new “owners” no doubt hoping it will all just slip by unnoticed. Bad luck.

Because people loved that account. Quite a lot of early adopting, influential, internet-savvy people, I suspect. The hashtag #givetowerbridgeback has already sprung up, and as I write, it’s gathering pace.

The old account, put together as an automated bit of fun by @infovore was not only whimsically, Britishly, entertaining, it also had its own rhythmic beauty–a heartbeat for the river, in some ways. It would tweet when it opened, and for which vessel, and when it closed. Open, shut. Open, shut.

Tom Armitage tells the story here about its creation, and sudden demise.

It provoked the ire of its neighbour @imlondonbridge and the resulting tussle made the columns of the Telegraph–spinning out into a whole meme about London landmarks setting up Twitter accounts to bitch about each other. (Confession: I briefly ran a foul-mouthed skyscraper which got soundly told off by an ancient stone.)

It attracted comment in the last meeting of the Mayor of London’s Digital Advisory Board, with delight voiced from the Mayor’s top-level team that such things were going on in London.

And they aren’t now. Just like that.

There’s form here: a couple of years ago I was approached by a candidate for one of London’s oldest ceremonial roles to contribute some ideas on how social media might have a part to play were he to come into office. Very progressive for an 800 year old institution, really.

I set up a Twitter account, ready for use at the right time. Sure enough, a few months back, I noticed that it had been taken into new ownership, and now sits as a blank account with zero activity and no profile picture. I’m sure it’s “official”, but that’s not really the point. It would have been nice if someone had let me know.

I let it go, but seeing what happened today, I thought I’d mention it. I won’t name it as this post is about Tower Bridge. It’s not something that came to be anyway, but it’s fairly easy to work out what it was.

Make a fuss, a small, polite, British fuss, about this one, if you will.

It’s not the way things should be done.

And information revolution or no information revolution, etiquette still matters.

UPDATE: 13 June

Tom has posted some more information: he had been contacted by Twitter, but hadn’t seen the email. There still seem to be some technical questions about the detail of the “trademark” claims, but the communication picture from Twitter doesn’t look as bad as originally painted.

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6 Responses

  1. Surely the lack of archiving is the fault of Twitter for not changing the old account to a different name… or perhaps that have actually done this? As for notice, that again would be Twitter’s responsibility, not people from Tower Bridge. Courtesy… would be nice, but is exactly that, a courtesy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You make a good point Dave. I think it just illustrates how many Twitterstorms could have been averted by a bit of thought and human communication on top of what are, essentially, the dry legalities that lie beneath.

    I’m happy to note that the problems here are caused by Twitter’s methods for managing such transitions, not by the underlying issues of entitlement to a particular branding. “Grab” is over emotive: I’ve tweaked the tone to reflect a very fair point.

  3. Jo Brodie says:

    I liked the old account and was one of the earlier followers so am sorry to see it go and in this way. It was nice to know what was going on at that bit of the Thames and it was a rare treat to be on a ferry home and watch things live and on Twitter simultaneously. Or when someone pointed out the live ‘bridge cam’. The account made me wonder what MV meant and the different types of boats.

    Although I’ve grown up in London I had previously always thought the opening of Tower Bridge was a rare event, for especially large ships coming in from far away – rather than the more common thing that it is. 

    It’s a shame that Twitter didn’t let Tom know about this – perhaps he didn’t really have any ‘claim’ to the name but it’s a shame to go about it this way. It’s not like Twitter folk tend to go “oh well, that’s OK then” every time something a bit annoying happens ;)

    What hope for that Big Ben account?

  4. Thanks.

    Also, do we actually know that the account is now being run by ‘a marketing outfit promoting the Tower Bridge Exhibition’? And if they are not Tower Bridge people themselves (but instead a third party that are working with them), does that make any difference (I would say not, if TB have allowed them to take responsibility).

  5. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know who actually operates the account, whether in- or out-of-house. That’s an assumption, based on the content of the new tweets (on the quality of which I have diplomatically not commented).

    You’re right, it makes no difference.

  6. Can’t Tom just hook up his bot to another account? It’s strange that everyone seems to think the bot is dead, when in fact all that’s been changed is the account.

    And yes, Twitter aren’t really very good at communicating, ironically, though Tom himself admitted that he rarely checked the e-mail account that he had registered the Twitter account to.

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