This is how you build a community

Last night, something really incredible happened. I would say it happened to me, but it really happened to hundreds of women — nearly 1,000 and counting, as the list is now organically growing at a crazy rate, and who knows what it will be by the time you’re reading this.

Anyway, last night: I was at a work event and my Twitter alerts suddenly started blowing up. Incoming every few minutes or so. Now, I’m normally somewhere in the modest “alerts once or twice a day” range, so this was a whole other ballpark. Had I been hacked? Accidentally done something terrible enough to catch the eye of the Ubiquitous Judgy Interweb Trolls? Gotten tagged in a wholly unrelated advertising campaign? Nope, none of those.

But y’all. The answer took my breath away.

The fabulous and innovative TaShan Parks Twyman had tagged me in the following exchange:

I’m going to let you just look at that top tweet again. Seriously, how cool is that? I love that Annie asked about expanding her list, wanting more badass women in tech, accessibility, inclusion. And I was honored that TaShan included me in her list! So I thanked her (of course, because I’m a lady ... clearly.) and then I turned around and threw out a couple of names of my own.

Who, in turn, threw out names of their own. Who then… yes, you get it. And it wasn't just my thread, it was everyone's! It was an incredible, exponential explosion of badass women. Look at those stats -- at least at that moment in time, in that screenshot there, that is 462 comments, 301 retweets and 1.4K likes. And those are just the ones linked directly back to Annie’s initial post!

All organically. No hashtag (yet). No social media bandwagon. No Buzzfeed listicle prompt. Just women applauding other women. (Now, yes, I have thoughts about the concept of “gender balance” and transgender/cis-gender inclusion and focusing on women, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.)

So okay, that in itself was heartwarming and inspiring. But then, this happened:

Annie Parker, the Global Head of Startups at Microsoft, just followed us all back and then tweeted at us! (I will admit, I felt really cool there for a moment, in the way I think we all wish we were in high school.)

But wait, there’s more! I wrote back to her because I was blown away by the fact that she was interacting directly with us (and, in fact, hundreds of other comments on the same twitter thread by other women). That’s a ton of time, and what a level of sincerity!

And this entire little conversation followed:

The next part of the conversation in the thread was, of course, “How gender-balanced is your Twitter?” and the discussion of how to best #diversifyyourfeed. Turns out that’s a thing, https://www.diversifyyourfeed.org/, powered by Deloitte Digital (who knew, right?). I hopped over and turns out I’m behind:

  Talk  about embarrassing...

Talk about embarrassing...

Wtf, right? Well, I knew how to fix that, now!

*busily hovered and clicked “follow” for about an hour*

And then I got blocked by Twitter for trying to follow too many people, because I went over the initial 5,000-following limit because they think I am spamming somehow and my ratio wasn’t right because I do not have all that many followers…? Anyway, I’m at 46% female/male now and will follow more awesome women once I’m not listed as a robot anymore. Promise!

Okay, let’s pause a second here. I said “women,” and that was the original start of this whole thing. Like I said at the start, I have some thoughts about that. But I didn’t even have to go there -- somewhere in the middle of the thread (around the time I was tagged), the bindings of using just  gender (or at least, the phrasing of “men”/“women”) came up:

A really fascinating discussion ensued, and the phrases “underrepresented genders” and “gender diversity” started showing up, and some of the lists became more all-encompassing as everyone pitched in for inclusion. Which, y’all ... I can’t even explain how happy that made me, watching this already supportive thread become even more so!

Side note: Is there a #diversifyyourfeed that also divvies things up by other demographics or information? I’d love to see it, I’d use it for sure.

You probably want to follow some (excuse me, ALL) of these people. I’m creating a full list with links, mainly because I can’t keep up with Annie’s thread minute-by-minute, and also because I want to know more about everyone, but it's a work in progress due to its rapid pace. In the meantime, follow the thread itself and participate (update: The thread is now #teambadassery thanks to Annie, so yes, we have found our hashtag!):

I don’t know where it’s going from here (the discussion is alive and well in the thread, keep an eye out), but Annie’s followed back hundreds of women, maybe thousands by now, and the nods to other awesome peeps keep pouring in.

The ideas for leveraging this incredible community are breaking out into hundreds more offshoots, and even if I’m not directly involved in coming up with what to do with it, the fact that this kind of genuine, selfless and empowering advocacy can just happen like this, overnight, internationally … that is awe-inspiring.

Props to everyone who took the time to send a shout-out to others doing their thing, and doing it well!

And major props to Annie for using her social reach and network to help many underrepresented, badass people be recognized, and expand all of our world views just a little bit more.

You rock, Annie, and thank you!


The In-depth list of mentions, AN INCOMPLETE AND In-PROGRESS WORK.