My road to being a huge Twitter celebrity (almost 2,000 followers!) started on a typical fall day in 2013. My wife was watching some rainy crime drama, while I was trying to fix a tricky bug that was due to some terrible code I had written while drunk. The same creative juices that conceived my indecipherable code flow gave birth to what are, without a doubt, the most important 87 characters in modern history:
Debugging is like being the detective in a crime movie where you are also the murderer.— Filipe Fortes (@fortes) November 10, 2013
Within a few hours, my timeline (previously solely populated by Nigerian royalty and local singles) started to blow up. Hollywood messaged me non-stop, hoping to purchase the movie rights to my incredibly-popular tweets. I started dreaming of leaving the code mines and entering the star-studded world of mediocre comedy.
Unfortunately, lightning only struck once, and none of those lucrative contracts panned out. But, even years later, my timeline is still completely dominated by a tweet that is over four years old.
Given the unprecedented popularity, it’s worth sharing the statistics Twitter reports for my absolutely brilliant tweet:
Despite over 700 thousand impressions, and almost 20 thousand “engagements” (whatever that means), my super-popular tweet generated a measly 57 new followers. Twitter’s offer to “Reach a bigger audience” isn’t very compelling given a 0.00008% conversion rate.
Despite the lack of life-changing fame, it’s been interesting to see how my (astoundingly insightful) creative work has taken a life of its own:
Some folks like the tweet so much, they post it every few months.
Tweets without attribution are very common, but joke stealing on Twitter is old news and shouldn’t come as a shock. What I found interesting is how commonly a joke is stolen with half-hearted attribution:
"Debugging is like being the detective in a crime movie where you are also the murderer." - Filipe Fortes— Programming Wisdom (@CodeWisdom) August 16, 2017
An account with 100 thousand followers made sure to strip out the username and quotes me by name instead (alongside Dijkstra and Engelbart, who lack my universal name recognition). Here’s another example, this time with over 200 thousand followers.
Someone decided that 87 characters read better as an image, and managed to get over two thousand likes as well.
The brain trust over at 9gag mashed it into an unrelated joke, where I guess it went over well? I can’t bear to keep the tab open long enough to find out.
A couple of days after I wrote this post, someone posted a screenshot of the tweet to /r/ProgrammerHumor where it got to the number one spot and wasted a few cumulative years of programmer productivity.
Hopefully my example serves as a cautionary tale. Think twice before composing that super-popular tweet!