(Updated: You should read this entire site. Immediately. All of it is linked to official sources, and while the writer clearly has an axe to grind, nothing is opinion or not backed up. Court records are court records, and google searches reveal most of what she was talking about. Really, a fascinating study that will give context to this entire, long essay. There is also a postscript at the bottom of this page that you ought to read.)
I don’t want this to turn into another thing like PayPal, where I keep saying I’ll write the story and never do. (I will one day.) So here is the story. Not all of it, but the material bits.
Everything written here will be true and backup-able through other people. There will be none of the ad-hominem attacks or lies I’ve been treated with throughout this, and frankly have been throughout this year. I don’t just say that so you’ll believe me - I say that because truth is the ultimate bastion, and it is the defense against any claim of slander, libel, or defamation. It doesn’t do me any good whatsoever to tell you anything but the truth here; in fact it behooves me to shield some of the worst bits, just not to have to deal with the trouble. I know if I’ve told the truth, and avoided ad hominem and meanness (don’t think that I don’t have the innate human ability to act that way: I do), I’ve simply done the best I can do while giving you guys who have supported everything Leaky for so long, reason to continue doing so. My aim here is to give you the least I can to retain your confidence and the most I can to satisfy your curiosity.
Also, know that this is entirely my fault. At the end of it, when you run something, it is always your fault. No matter what. Even if things are outside of your control, they are your fault. I know that sounds odd, but it is true. It is your job to try and foresee these things and protect your enterprises from them, so that when the unpredictable happens there is no real horrible effect. A failure to foresee something is just as much of a failure when it seems like your fault as when it isn’t. As you’ll see, I was successful in some areas here and terribly unsuccessful in others. It may seem odd to hold yourself accountable for not having ESP, but that is the price you pay when you run something. Each time helps the next.
I believe everyone deserves a fair shot, and that listening to sideways attacks that have no basis in fact is a road to a life spent looking over your shoulder. That means I’m a lot more trusting than I ought to be. I don’t say that as a character positive; being trusting doesn’t mean you are good. One doesn’t have anything to do with the other except that as a general rule people who are trusting tend to try to believe the best about people. I believe I feel that way, too, but I am not trying to convince you of that part of it. The material part is that I am trusting. This has burned me badly several times in my history; some of which is public (the story about the RENT fan and former friend who faked a severe illness was the topic of an NPR “All Things Considered”), and some of which is very much not (but may become so one day) and we wish it were. It’s more than a “fair shot” though: I believe almost everyone should have the benefit of earning an opinion primarily. That is, if I have the opportunity to know you instead of make up my mind about what people say about you, I believe it’s important to try to know you in person before judging. It’s not always successful.
When I met Zachary Jaydon at LeakyCon 2011, I met someone who was super pumped about everything Leaky, very nice to my staff, and free with excitement about the possibility of working together in the future. He ran Ultimate Gleeks and was there to basically cover Darren, but got into the Leaky vibe, a road so, so many of our now-staffers have traveled: they come for something else, and stay for the Leaky. When we were putting LeakyNews.com together, I contacted to him to see if he could do some Glee coverage for us. It was his idea to bring us together under one brand, and though I was trepidatious, I was also excited. We could build from the 63,000+ Glee-based followers he had. That sounded great.
As soon as we announced the merge, something happened for which I was not fully prepared. I started getting warned off it from a lot of people. The posts, the Tumblrs, the emails, the stories - they all added up to enough to make me really worry about what we were getting into. I even heard from a prominent member of Team StarKid, worried as a friend that I was about to really damage my brand. I talked about all of this with Zach, and having been the victim of unfair and slanderous reports before, and seeing no actual proof to the rumors and hearsay, and seeing nothing that could actually be done to endanger us besides re-taking the Twitter (the Web site is owned and paid for by Leaky, all other permissions were leveled accordingly), said I would ignore the warnings until I was given reason not to. The only thing I saw was someone who was very advanced in Twittering and other social media but had (to his own admission) no idea how to run a content-based Web site (to the point where scurrilous editing tactics - sometimes otherwise known by the word “plagiarism” - had to be discussed fervently and abolished; these tactics are in use all over the Web, making an easy but not correct path to popularity, and to be fair it was not done out of malice but misunderstanding. It could not have been easy to adopt a new way, and to my knowledge he never did it again). The hard part of all this is that I stood up for him. Publicly. Risked my reputation and credibility for someone who I thought was being maligned.
It’s been a tumultuous year. LeakyNews had to figure itself out: were we an extension of Leaky Cauldron? Are we really like Hypable? What do we really have to offer? How do we best represent this on the front page? What makes us different? Where do we want to grow? Where DON’T we? How do we source the best people and manage them? We are just starting to answer a lot of these questions. Rosi and I joined up to try and get the staff in a groove and they were and are positive, and excited. The one exception was the Glee area, which never seemed to get off the ground despite occasional, erratic bursts of song spoilers, etc. Rosi and I did everything we could possibly do to make this section better and easier to run, without simply running it ourselves. We tried to come up with ways to take the less exciting bits of work away from the head of the section, and give them to others, so that the team would start to function correctly. We had endless meetings and frustrating discussions that revealed quite different personality traits than we had come to know (probably on our part, too, to be fair). For whatever reason, though, the meeting would end with hope that the work would get done and it never did. Despite simple tutorials on how to use the admin, we were told it was too difficult. The effort simply was not being made, and any push was met with massive pushback that made the effort difficult. Like I said: always our fault. I place the blame for not coming up with the magic solution to this aversion to the work on us. We could have and should have come up with a different solution or simply diagnosed a failed effort sooner.
There were other differences that caused friction. Prizes being sent to the appropriate people was a HUGE issue that we moderately fixed. There were other problems of style and theory of news, most of which aren’t really worth mentioning. It just began becoming exhausting to engage, so we pretty much stopped doing it. Also, during all this we made the decisioin to ditch the already 2,000+ follower LeakyNews tumblr and meld it with UltimateGleeks’ tumblr, which had 2,000ish followers, a number which is now over 3,200 thanks to Rosi and the rest of the staff’s judicious usage.
At LeakyCon, a few things happened to cement the idea of a potential split in my mind. I will not relay them here, because honestly, they are troubling, and since there’s nothing you can do about them now, it does not do anyone good to get into the particulars of the he-said-she-said. They were witnessed by many people and thoroughly discussed. My discussions with staff after this event - where I was treated to what I missed while I ran around like a headless chicken - were incredibly distressing. Still, I had to finalize LeakyCon (we’re not even done yet) and work on opening reg for next year, while attempting to relax post-conference, oh, and also, work on this whole second book thing. LN got pushed to the bottom of my radar for awhile, though I knew I had to deal with this situation eventually.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, other things were in motion. I have screenshots in case this disappears, but we found out today that this Twitter has been around since July 28, pre-LC, and way before anyone else was pondering a split. (The “popwrap” thing had been mentioned to me once vaguely a long time ago, as a vague idea. The domain purchase was made on 8/19/12, we also discovered today.)
[EDIT: What did I say? Between this post and now, that twitter has mysteriously gone away. Here are the screenshots.
Late last evening, I finally felt able to tackle the vague feeling I’d had since LeakyCon that it was time to let go of this weighted and unfulfilling partnership. I talked with key LN staff for a few hours. An unrelated message to Z that I’d sent on Skype about a week previous got answered overnight, oddly. I knew today would be the day we finally talked, but then among other staff, the question of our Instagram came up. During LeakyCon, we had realized we didn’t have access to the LeakyNews Instagram. We sent many password reset requests, and everyone on the entire staff (including and most importantly Zach) indicated they had no knowledge of who was squatting on it. Yesterday I tried to reset the password again, and nothing. I looked and it seemed to me that the person who had it was Zach, based on the people he was following. Someone checked and it was true. We didn’t think there was any danger of losing it and didn’t worry about it much. LeakyNews, by sitting there doing nothing for a year just being called LeakyNews, had gained 3500 followers.
The next morning the account on the instagram had changed to be called “popwrapped.” This puzzled everyone. It was the same followers, the same photos, the same people BEING followed. Only now it was called popwrapped and the leakynews Instagram was at a grand total of zero followers. I told Z on Skype that he needed to revert the change, that this was outright stealing of our Instagram. I got no response. We on staff started to fear the worst - at the very least we all realized the password reset requests we’d been sending were actually being received and then denied fervently to us - and knew that our time with the LeakyNews twitter was very limited. So, we had a very short amount of time to tell people on that Twitter to follow a new @LeakyNews that we controlled.
To make you fully clear, this is where we massively failed: We should have never gone into any of this without a clear contract in place. This is the very reason contracts were invented. Kids and future business leaders, take note. After events at LeakyCon, Zach changed the email address on the Twitter without letting us know. Now, we still had access - we still had the password. But on twitter, the person with the email is king. And there was no way to change it back. So all we had at this point was a very real notion that we were not being given a fair chance to break away, a limited amount of time to act, and the chance to tell people for a small period of time that they could switch over. So, I talked with Josh and Rosi, and we made the new LeakyNews account and had people go over.
I had gotten a Skype message back from Z the night before about something that happened a full week previous. Messages about fixing the Instagram and parting on good terms (sent this morning) were not yet answered. (A claim was made later that he was asleep.) With the Instagram essentially stolen (it remains this way now) we could either do nothing and let ourselves be fully locked out any moment, or take whatever chance we could to tell people to follow an account run by the people who do the actual work on the LeakyNews. We also noticed, thanks to the “popwrapped” Instagram, that these other popwrap accounts existed, and that in the descriptions they were sounding VERY much like LeakyNews. Nerdy and fandoms? That wasn’t part of this idea about popwrap that was floated to me way back when. Any Twitter or Tumblr or ANY users we gained during the time as partners were one of two things: a) a spike of blind followers (to this day unexplainable through legitimate efforts and comparisons to other huge spikes legitimately earned) or b) honestly earned and engaged through reading and content.
(The Twitter went from 63,000 to 138,000. Thousands of hardcore Glee fans were lost, and regained by our work. A HUGE spike happened at some point, ostensibly because of a popular artist’s retweeting us, though it is a spike that seems to defy true explanation. I’ve talked about it with Twitter, ad nauseam. I would put the follow spike somehwere around 50,000-60,000, and we probably gained the rest through a year of work. The huge spike, though, has never had a suitable explanation.)
Suddenly we saw that the users we DID honestly earn throughout this year - thousands and thousands sent over from the other Leaky enterprises as well as our personal accounts - were about to be foisted onto this new and similarly themed enterprise without our permission. It felt distinctly wrong.
As soon as we began telling people to follow the new Twitter (to do this we changed the username and PW, which we knew was only temporary, as the person who has the email can change it back, but it gave us a half hour or so), the ignorance to our presence ended. Our tweets began to be deleted. The password was suddenly changed. And we were locked out. All before we heard a word back. Then the conversations began, and they have not done a single thing except confirm an already confirmed split.
Honestly, I already feel that all of this is simply the best thing that has ever happened to us on LeakyNews, because we are free of any questions about the sterling quality of our existing staff.
I truly mean it when I say this is our failing. We did protect ourselves in the big and important ways: the site is fine, and we have full confidence that by working for it our Twitter will rebound, because the quality and engaged users will follow quality and engaging work. The Instagram remains in question, but we can build that back up as well. We just failed to protect all our social avenues, and failed to protect our users from a bizarre situation.
It is a true object lesson in what happens when you override business sense with trust - or at least suspend business sense for awhile and let trust take the wheel while you tend to other things. These are the things that make us better and harder workers in the future. Nothing’s really changed at LeakyNews - that Twitter had/has a big following but frankly the conversion rate from tweet to site was always peculiarly low. We would much rather an audience that knows us and wants to hear from us, and wants to read our articles, than one where the numbers are just high. We don’t want that Twitter back; it’s nigh on useless.
So, just to be clear: @popwrapped's audience is @leakynews’s old one. I will continue to bang on the drum that the two are not related, often. I don't want anyone confused in thinking that Leakynews in ANY way condones or is associated with popwrapped. It is not. It never will be.
If you like LeakyNews, you should REfollow @leakynews. Follow or unfollow the other one, that’s entirely up to you.
Sorry for the very, very long ramble. There is, as always, more to the story. But this is the best I can do while being able to say that I resisted temptation to my baser instincts. We are disappointed and hardened by this experience but very excited about what the future holds for LN.
I’ll finish by reminding everyone that it is always better to have trusted, at least cautiously, and had a bad experience, than to be the type of person who can trust no one. These situations will always happen when you trade in as much trust as we do, with the sheer number of volunteers who work with us.
Thanks for your time, and I hope you know how much we value your continued patronage of all things Leaky over the years.
(Very, very late update: This article gets reblogged frequently still, and I am grateful, because as hard as Zachary Jaydon - real name Jaydon D. Paull - has tried, as viciously as he has acted, as terrible as he has been over the past 10 months or so, he has not been able to drag Leaky at all, and that is because of people like you who share this story. I’ve been loath to say this in the past but I will not hold it back any longer: I believe with all of my soul that most of the followers of @popwrapped are PURCHASED bulk accounts. I KNOW Tanner Schroeder’s are; I have screenshots of his Twitter following the accounts that offer such bulk accounts. Zach Jaydon’s is simple sense: if you think there are 25K people who know who he is and would willingly follow him so far as down the street…yeah. Also, it used to be over 50K. Mysteriously dropped.)
(Fake followers / bots happen to us all - no Twitter account is free of some errata, and the only tool to check these things, which is not at all reliable or accurate, goes back and forth from rating popwrapped as 80% fake to 30% fake/50% inactive, etc. The proportions, however, are what tell the story. That, and the fact that it was always very weird that every post we posted on LeakyNews had the *exact* same number of reblogs on it. Exact. Every time. Unless humans picked it up, when it increased.)
(But if you are curious, ever, scroll through a person’s followers to see how many of them have some of the following attributes: 1. no profile info, 2. a username that makes little to no logistical sense, 3. the “egg” twitter original picture, 4. a username that’s Name3927 - in other words, a name and four digits after it. Even better, look at a person’s tweets: when you open a person’s tweet on a browser you can see who has retweeted them. Then apply the qualities mentioned thereof to those tweets. Or see if the same people retweet every single tweet. It becomes really obvious if you look closely.)
(As soon as we were made aware of this we talked to Twitter about it, back when we still had that account. I told the guy, we want nothing to do with a fake account. They are updated frequently about the situation, but until Twitter has a better method for rooting these people and these practices out, they can’t do much. I am confident they will figure it out one day. It is against terms of service and proof gets you banned. When it happens, it will be justice served.)
(I do believe there are SOME real followers on there. I’d wager 10-20K. Probably a lot of them are inactive. And definitely a lot of them were sourced from Leaky’s generous retweeting. Just ask yourself why a Twitter with 120K followers can’t get more than 2-3 reblogs on any tumblr post it links to. Big huge “exclusives” might get 8 or 9. Also ask why they’ve lost 16,000 followers since parting from Leaky. That’s quite a lot even by Twitter standards. It’s because Twitter is slowly finding the fake accounts and rooting them out, as well as clearing out the bots. Still, if they were legitimately as big as they claim that number would trend upward *regardless*. The 130K range is well over the tipping point for that sort of thing.)
(I found out much later, by the way, that Zach was talking up trying to sell the Twitter, behind my back. It explains how often he asked me to retweet from @leaky. He also wanted to put up a Twitter ad selling gold. Yep. Selling gold. I said no.)
(I flat-out asked Zachary if he had ever bought a Twitter account. He said no. In case it is not obvious, I do not believe him. He is a gifted liar.)
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