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The Twitter Fight Club 2011 Title Match

April 4, 2011

We now have two finalists in the inaugural #twitterfightclub tournament. Out of an initial field of 64, only @abumuqawama and @jeremyscahill remain standing. Both men are deserving finalists, who exemplify the qualities that make for successful Twitter pugilists.

As you no doubt noticed, the Final Four of this tournament moved from pure audience vote deciding winners to a hybrid system in which popular vote accounts for 50% of the match, and the votes of an “expert” panel account for the other 50%. The ballots below — and particularly that of @mosharrafzaidi — demonstrate why we made that switch. Audience vote can be rather ambiguous: are audience members voting for their friends? For their political compatriots? Are they trying to cast multiple votes and thus subverting the popular vote system? (Yes, you know who you are. And so do we.) The “expert” ballot is a celebration of what is good about the pugilists’ Twitter feed. It is our sincere hope that the below ballots will be appreciated by audience members, in seeing carefully constructed reflections of what others value in Twitter feeds, but also that they will be appreciated by the contestants themselves.

The match between @abumuqawama and @ggreenwald featuerd a razor-thin popular vote, which @ggreenwald won by a vote of 106-99 (51.7%). But @abumuqawama wins the match by decisively winning the skillz portion, with the below ballots outlining the reasoning behind the judges’ decisions. The judges were instructed that they could measure past output in whatever way they wanted: for example, looking at several days’ worth of tweeting, the past x number of tweets (40, 100, 200, etc.), or the entire corpus of their Twitter work. The judges were also instructed to only to take their work on Twitter into consideration. While both @abumuqawama and @ggreenwald are accomplished bloggers and writers, but this outside work (what the #twitterfightclub selection committee refers to as “distractions”) was not to be considered.

For the match between @jeremyscahill and @attackerman, both men had agreed to a showcase fight for an expert panel to vote on. But it didn’t happen. Though we were prepared to explain this through the use of performance-enhancing drug jokes (including a delicious dig about @attackerman using Human Growth Hormone) what really happened is that @jeremyscahill’s schedule blew up. Not only did he write a Nation cover story on Yemen, but also made Ed Schultz look foolish on national TV and convinced thousands of angry lefties that he was joining the staff of the Weekly Standard. Because of this, we could not schedule this showcase match. Since the inability to schedule an actual fight was @jeremyscahill’s fault, the #twitterfightclub committee offered to assess a penalty against him, but @attackerman graciously declined. Unfortunately for @attackerman, he then got up-ended in the popular vote, 160-60. Congratulations to @attackerman on a great run.

The final round between @abumuqawama and @jeremyscahill begins now. Like the final four match, the result will be based 50% on audience vote and 50% on the decision of an expert panel that will largely be assessing their corpus of work. The panel will be announced soon (we are currently reaching out to judges). Below we outline the criteria that judges will be asked to use in casting their votes — criteria that have been adopted slightly for this final round. And we encourage YOU, the voting public, to read the below criteria and take a good, objective look at both pugilists’ Twitter feeds.

  • Knowledge base.
  • Quality of argumentation. How solid is the contestants’ logic, reasoning, and evidence for their claims?
  • Innovativeness of thought. Are their tweets thought-provoking and sometimes unexpected? Do they make you look at familiar issues in new ways?
  • Humor, snark, facility with quips, and charisma.
  • Responsiveness to followers.
  • And finally: also assess any the contestants’ specific smack talk for the #twitterfightclub finals. Both @abumuqawama and @jeremyscahill have displayed some impressive smack talk throughout the tournament. We sincerely hope that the final round is no exception, and ask you to factor in their attempts to win your vote.
Poll is at the bottom of this post. Voting will remain open until midnight EST on Tuesday. The winner of the final round will be announced Wednesday morning, as will the winner of the #twitterfightclub betting pool.

Ballot 1: @caidid

Full disclosure: I am a longtime follower of @abumuqawama, reader of his blog, owner of his book, etc. He was my first introduction to what has become my Twitter community. On the other side, I don’t follow @ggreenwald. I don’t have anything against him, but I certainly don’t have the same connection to him that I do to @abumuqawama. I know this makes it sound like I am maybe not the most objective judge, but I have striven hard for objectivity and if anything, staying mindful of my biases has spurred me to give Greenwald a little more leeway and to be a little tougher on Exum.

I looked at both competitors’ tweets from March 1 to today, and considered both feeds in terms of the criteria we have frequently cited in the Twitter Fight Club posts.

Knowledge Base

Greenwald – Greenwald has deep knowledge of constitutional, legal and political issues, and liberal thinking on those subject areas. His field of focus is pretty narrow – in March, the vast majority of his tweets were on Bradley Manning or Libya – but agree with him or not, he certainly knows what he is talking about in those areas.

Exum – Exum’s knowledge base covers a fairly broad range of topics in warfare (emphasis obviously on irregular warfare and counterinsurgency), national security, natsec and foreign policy, and area knowledge of the Middle East.

Logic and Reasoning

Greenwald – Agree with his views or not, lawyer Greenwald certainly knows how to apply logic and reasoning. He does, however, give the general impression of being a crusader. He is relentless in pursuit of what he sees as right, and his passion is admirable to some degree, but also clouds one’s ability to see him as entirely reasonable.

Exum – Exum is no stranger to logic or reasoning either. He doesn’t have that lawyer’s tenacity of logic, but he does have the cooler head of the two. He always seems open to hearing other perspectives and incorporating what’s good into his own thinking.

Humor, snark and facility with quips

Greenwald – Greenwald definitely engages in snark. His humor is all of the dark sarcasm  variety. The lighter side of humor, quips, silliness, easy banter, these do not appear to be in his repertoire.

Exum – Exum is consistenly funny, and his humor tends more toward the light and the absurd. He is quick with a quip, and his snark does not seem to veer toward the mean.

Responsiveness to followers

Greenwald – Greenwald is great with this. He engages all manner of people on Twitter, even more so those who disagree with him, and makes no distinction based on position. He responds to peers, colleagues, rivals, politicians, etc. and is just as responsive to the average follower as to anyone he knows or follows personally.

Exum – Exum certainly takes advantage of the interactive nature of Twitter. He will engage in debate, However, while he will occasionally dialogue with average followers, most of his interaction on Twitter is with people he knows personally, colleagues, and people he follows.

Charisma and overall awesomeness

This is a truly subjective category, which has given me some pause, as I am really trying to approach this objectively. I considered skipping this category altogether, but I have to say that his humor, broad interests, and lighter tone mean Exum is the winner here.

I mark the first category a tie. I give the third to Exum. I give the fourth to Greenwald. The second was a tougher debate for me, but I have to give Exum the edge there on the basis that Greenwald comes across as something of a zealot, not entirely persuadable by logic and reasoning, where Exum always comes off as someone who is willing to listen to arguments and admit when he might be wrong or lacking knowledge. Even dropping the more subjective fifth judgment category, this match-up goes to @abumuqawama.

Ballot 2: @dianawueger

I’ve based my analysis on tweets tweeted since Ex threw down the gauntlet and Greenwald walked away from it. This totals about 30 tweets for Greenwald, and about 70 for Ex. In Greenwald’s 30 tweets, he talked about Libya.

In Ex’s 70 tweets, he talked about Libya, Chris Albon’s #conflictdishwasher, Legos, rugby, small arms, Army April Fools jokes, hipster soldiers, COIN fetishists, the awesomeness of C. J. Chivers, the unawesomeness of Terry Jones, and warzone coffee.

Honestly, it doesn’t even feel like a fair fight. Ex, hands down.

Ballot 3: @mosharrafzaidi

My pre-conceived biases for and against both Greenwald and Exum are pretty evenly balanced. I am more inclined to Greenwald’s politics, but I have had a more enriching Twitter interaction with Exum. Exum is always going to be the one that actually moves something in the real world. Greenwald will always be someone that moves people, to move something in the real world. They’re both fantastic thinkers, writers and in whatever limited way, activists. I have followed Greenwald and still drop by his timeline, but find his volume too heavy for my own timeline. I follow Exum, and will likely continue to do so. On to the actual benchmarks.

Knowledge-base: On first thought, its Exum. The guy’s military experience, and his hands-on experience of living in the Middle East shine through. But Greenwald is no ignoramus, and has a wealth of important knowledge. He also has a background in civil law. There’s nothing like living through your subject matter—and both do and have. Evens then.

Logic & Reasoning: Tough call. I have to go with evens again. Both get a plus. Greenwald’s politics is more identifiably liberal. Exum’s decidedly pragmatic. But both call war, war—like what Uncle Sam is engaged in, in Libya. Real-keeping is the real winner here.

Humour, snark and facility with quips. Exum. Despite being a bit of a soldier boy, Exum is funny, and self-effacing. Greenwald is so committed, and so passionate, that he’s often humorless. Still, Greenwald manages to keep ten times as many followers happy, so he’s surely doing something right. He sure has the snark down. It just seems he could win over more folks by being a little less serious. But this is my call. Exum’s funnier and funner.

Responsiveness to followers: It would be even if they were equals. But Greenwald is approaching fifty thousand followers. Ex is approaching five thousand. Greenwald is consistently and constantly engaged with followers, Ex is too – but it’s a lot different doing with ten times as many followers. Advantage Greenwald.

Charisma & overall awesomeness: Greenwald is a columnist I read regularly—but his Twitter feed is a shadow of the columns, in short I can do without the Twitter feed, but still be a major fanboy of the man and his work. Exum has serious charisma chops, and it would not surprise me one bit to one day see him represent the people of TN in a serious legislative or executive capacity. He’s fair and fun. His blog is great – but the Twitter feed alone is worth the price of admission.

So in total, on five categories. Two are evens. One for Greenwald, and two for Exum. Exum wins by a delicate and slim margin.

Ballot 4: @RBStalin

Recently I was contacted by one Daveed Gartenstein-Ross regarding the semi-finals of the historic inaugural Twitter Fight Club. Daveed GR, as many of you know, is an al Shabaab commander who, along with 29 other militants, has been killed numerous times in northern Waziristan by US airstrikes. You’ve all been briefed on the situation: Glenn Greenwald, constitutional lawyer cum blogger, refused twitsticuffs with arguably more severe individual Andrew Exum, Army Ranger cum think-tanker. He even turned down a gentlemanly offer of bat fight.
The problem was how to get a panel of judges inevitably familiar with these two individuals to make a judgment without an actual contest. Guidance was delivered. One salient point was that we were to ignore their extraneous, extra-Twitter production, which is challenging considering the prolific nature and redefining-prolific-prolific nature, respectively, of their bodies of work. I could not however simply read their Twitter feeds without any context. I had to look at each of them with fresh eyes. 

Having dated a journalist and interacted with journalists regularly over Twitter, I am what you might call an expert on investigative journalism. It should not therefore surprise those of you ‘in the biz’ that the first thing I did in this situation was reconstruct my image of these individuals through the volumes of existing opposition research. This is the distillation of my findings:

It is pretty clear that Exum is a positive personality, while Greenwald is a negative one. This sort of dynamic is not without merit but it does complicate the matter of direct comparison.

It also complicates matters for me as a judge. In order to review these individuals’ timelines I was going to have to devise a schedule. On one hand I had the warm glow of Exum’s relentless patriotism, in which I could bask endlessly. On the other hand was Greenwald’s toxic, seething vitriol:

How can anyone live with that much hate in his heart?

Science and I worked out a rotation in which I would expose myself to a safe dose of three Greenwald tweets, followed by three from Exum, followed by an episode of The Wire to pace my detoxification. Analysis plodded but it was necessary for my safety. After several hours I managed to read literally dozens of tweets between the two gentlemen. This gave me a fairly thorough understanding of the quality of their individual tweets, but this was a contest comparing the men as tweeters, therefore some quantitative analysis was also required.

On this front, Mr. Greenwald is the clear winner. With over 8,400 tweets compared to Exum’s paltry 5,100, sheer non-time-adjusted volume is obviously on Greenwald’s side. Properly, you might think I should determine the rate of tweets over time, but as I will show this is clearly unnecessary. You see, Exum tweets from the beating heart of global democracy, being provided a freedom-lubricated aqueduct through which he can spread 140-character bursts of Ranger-beard wisdom. Greenwald, on the other hand, is slogging through what I can only assume are swamp-ooze-filled pipelines from the heart of darkest Brazil, which I’m not even sure has persistent electricity.

However Mr. Greenwald manages his pace of tweets — be it a furious network of semaphore operators, actual courier birds, or a modified weed catapult — it is an act of sheer will which must decisively swing this metric in his favor.

So here we are, volumes of research consumed, in-depth qualitative and quantitative analysis, and we’re no closer to knowing the ultimate truth. My professional ethos demands that I never take short cuts, unless I feel like it. Lives are in the balance. It is time to introduce new metrics.

Purest objectivity rates this another bust, exhausting literally all bases of comparison between the two men.

Rather than abdicating my solemn role, I’m left with only one responsible thing to do.

Dice. Not to be denied the ability to cheat, of course, I obtained a copy of this master’s guide to rolling. These techniques have been harnessed by serious table top gamers for a generation in true life-or-death struggles between intergalactic species, not unlike cricket. Rolls were done facing-off related tweets from combatants in a long series of tweet-on-tweet death matches. This process went on for hours, and was carefully tabulated, cataloging the results by category, place in the timeline, and tweet economy (most efficient use of 140 characters). These records were kept for the sake of future studies, that we may learn if larger tweets are more likely to defeat smaller ones, effects of tweet angle on the outcome, and any other correlations future twitsticuffologists may wish to study. In the end, though, this is all for posterity. Victory goes to the strong and the lucky, and the pugilist with the tweets accumulating the highest body count, like a Pokemon master, claims victory. What were the results?

In the end, there could be only one: Exum.

Ballot 5: @timmathews

As a preliminary matter of deciding this twitterfight as a matter of summary judgment for failing to engage in a twitterfight, which violates a rule of a club that is not to be spoken of and a rule, therefore, that also is not to be spoken of, this does not lie. Notice of said violation of said unspoken rule cannot be served, and thus I find no grounds for a finding of such violation of said rule, nor will I speak of said rule.

In lieu of a twitterfight to provide a forum for resolution of the issue at hand, it is emphatically the province and duty of the panel of judges to say who the winner of the twitterfight is. Those who apply the criteria of judging said fight must, of necessity, expound and interpret those criteria.

The knowledge base of the parties can be said to vary in shape, but not in weight. The no. 2 seed, @ggreenwald, has a knowledge base that is narrowly focused upon a small number of issues, but the knowledge runs very deep within that narrow range. The no. 1 seed, @abumuqawama, has a knowledge base that is much broader, but also by necessity much shallower. If these were represented graphically, it would resemble a tall, narrow rectangle next to a wide, short rectangle. The areas enclosed would be similar.

The question of which contender displays better logic and reasoning is also a difficult one. While the 2 seed makes frequent appeals to logic, often reducing issues beyond absurdity, the 1 seed is often content to cite to others and let the weight of cited sources speak for themselves. This appeal to power cannot be decisive, but neither may logic used in pursuit of fallacy be decisive.

The humor, snark, and facility with quips is an area in which the two contenders are equally matched. While the 2 seed is particularly adept at snark, the 1 seed has a large repertoire of humor from which he draws. Each contender leverages these skills to great effect with their quips.

Responsiveness to followers is particularly impressive between each. Each demonstrates particularly well developed understanding of the medium to engage followers and followees alike. Thus, the decision falls to charisma and awesomeness.

There is no established standard for awesomeness and no standard is attempted to be articulated at this time. But on the matter of charisma, the clear advantage falls to the 1 seed. This may stem in part from consistent resort to humor rather than snark, or perhaps the general tone that suggests he is generally content with himself as opposed to the 2 seed who puts forth an appearance of railing against darkness. Thus, I must rule in favor of the 1 seed, @abumuqwama.


Now ready, set, vote!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Aaron Ellis permalink
    April 4, 2011 1:40 pm

    I voted for Exum because, like @caidid, I’ve read his blog for a long time, was my introduction to Twitter, have read his book and generally agree with his worldview. I didn’t vote for Greenwald because he seems like such a massive dick.

  2. April 4, 2011 1:41 pm

    current flow and electron flow awesome.

  3. Kelli permalink
    April 5, 2011 8:36 am

    I voted for the person I thought was well rounded in all areas. I like humor but I like facts as well. Humor with facts is better. Enjoyed the banter a little. Being me, I just like to get some info.


  1. Introducing your Twitter Fight Club Championship judging panel! « Twitter Fight Club
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