During the 24 hours after Michelle Rhee offered to answer questions on Twitter, a total of 1,431 tweets included the hashtag #AskMichelle.1 The Washington Post and Salon commented on the reaction, noting the hostility directed at Michelle.
My original idea was to sort tweets into those that were attacking Michelle, those that appeared to be serious questions, and unrelated tweets. I revised the categories after sorting through the 1,431 eligible tweets, which includes both original tweets and re-tweets. I ended up using the categories below:
Attacks: Most of the original tweets were hostile towards Michelle. I also included tweets that addressed something other than education or schools, as these questions (here and here, for example) seemed intended to attack Michelle or StudentsFirst. There were 186 of these tweets.
Questions and Michelle’s Answers: A total of 63 original tweets asked the kind of education-related questions Michelle wanted to answer (and she did answer some). I did not include tweets that were questions unrelated to education, or that seemed to be more about attacking Michelle than answering a question. An additional seven of Michelle’s answers to questions used the hashtag.
Commentary on #AskMichelle: A total of 98 original tweets commented on the use of the hashtag, mostly to point out it did not go well for Michelle. The Washington Post and Salon articles were shared quite a bit, and some drew comparisons to last year’s #AskJP debacle.
Unsure/Other: Not all tweets fit neatly into either of the categories above. One person asked, “how do I get a cranberry stain out of my white dress?” Another asked, “To be or not to be?” There were 12 tweets that I couldn’t put into one of the previous three categories.
Re-tweets: A total of 1,065 tweets were re-tweets. Tweets attacking Michelle made up the majority (775) of the re-tweets. The second most common re-tweets were those commenting on the use of the hashtag (226). Questions relating to education were re-tweeted a total of 30 times. Michelle was re-tweeted 28 times, and six re-tweets were from the Unsure/Other category.
In table form:
A few hours after answer questions, Michelle tweeted, “Boy, the Twitter community can be so cheery & bubbly can’t they? Looking forward to more, substantive chats in the future #edreform”
- Using Tweet Archivist, I downloaded a list of tweets that included #AskMichelle. You can get a look at some pretty basic data on my Tweet Archivist profile. I’m not going to post the actual material I downloaded through Tweet Archivist as I’m unsure if that’s permissible. The service creates a spreadsheet that lists a variety of information about each tweet, including the original tweeters, the contents of tweet, timestamps, and geographic details. While I could have tried to collect relevant tweets by looking for those that included Michelle’s twitter handle, the inclusion of the hashtag makes it easier for other users to find. For that reason, I stuck to just the inclusion of the hashtag, although it looks like virtually all the responses to Michelle included both the hashtag and @MichelleRhee. ↩