The kid showed up on my doorstep with a stack of accounts a mile high. He had read about The Case of the Minion Accounts and had devised his own system for finding minions. It involved cartoon AVIs, puns for handles, list memberships, tweet counts, and follower counts. It was like a fingerprint. But smudgy. He rattled them off, I checked the metadata. That one is. Not that one. No. No. Yes. No. By the end of the exercise we had added a handful of new minions to my list.
Every gumshoe needs a sidekick, I guess. If I was Spenser, he could be Hawk. I had to hand it to him, he certainly wore a lot of hats. He went by the name Chhristoppher, which suggested perhaps he stutters, or maybe has a tremor in his right hand. Anyway, he was all right.
He also turned me on to a particular pair of accounts that had a whole lot in common with the Minions. Retweeted the same stuff. I checked the metadata and it didn’t match. I concluded that these accounts might be the place the Minions go for their material. I made a new list: Minion-Adjacent.
Over the next few days I decided to kick the Minion accounts to the curb. Unfollowed them all, just to see what happened. Like normal accounts, they drifted off, eventually unfollowing me back.
But now and then they would pop back up. Even a couple new Minion accounts I hadn’t identified before. I would add them to the Minion List and not follow back.
That was it for a while. Didn’t really think about it. Didn’t hear from the kid. And then one of the Minions starred his own tweet, which referenced me and my Why We Tweet piece. I got the notification, and this dormant case came back to the top of my mind. Plus I got followed by yet another new (to me) Minion.
I’d been meaning to try to close this case. I figured I could probably solve it with a crawler. I could write a program to read a timeline, and look through all the RTs for ones matching the Arizona/TweetBot metadata pattern I’d discovered earlier. Then crawl into the timelines of those retweeted there and look deeper. But I write code every day. Twitter time should be spent twittering. So before I fired up emacs, I decided to see if I could uncover anything with a simple search.
I used the Twitter developer tools to search for mentions of the dame, @CosmicCat, and to look at the metadata of those mentions. Then I searched through those results for Arizona, and I found several known Minions. But I also found a new account: @LightCarnival. The metadata was a perfect match, but the TL wasn’t quite. He did RT @CosmicCat and some of the other accounts as the Minions. And most of his tweets were as incomprehensible as theirs. But this looked like the account of a real person. He had conversations with people. His follower/following/tweet counts were in the same neighborhood, not lopsided like a minion account (they have way more follows than tweets).
So I started actually reading through the TL, and there, right near the top I found this:
He says he’s going to RT the authors of “well-researched” lists. Then he RTs me and he RTs the kid. The “mentioned earlier” do not exist, so I guess he deleted those tweets. But this looked like pretty conclusive evidence that I had my man.
So I followed him, and when he followed back, I DM’d him to tell him he’d been found, and ask for his side of the story.
He got back to me right away. He fessed up, and told me his story. And what a story it was!
Basically, this guy is Batman.
The Minion King has a long history on twitter, scars from twitter wars of years past, villains, grudges, dark and light forces. He lurks in the shadows, doing his thing, trying to counteract the dark by spreading light. As far as he is concerned, and as far as I can tell, he is one of the good guys.
His story goes back to when FavStar was new and had a slightly different name. Elite accounts were emerging, using FavStar as their vehicle to stardom. As is often the case on twitter, there was a lot of drama and feuding, and frankly I can’t quite follow it all. A lot of the accounts he told me about have disappeared, and he’s nervous about some of the players exacting revenge, so he’s a little sketchy on the details.
But he’s basically your run-of-the-mill comic book superhero. Deep back story only a true fan would even try to understand. Fighting for good and light over evil and darkness. Misunderstood. Suspected of being a bad guy by the good people of Twitropolis, because they just don’t know the struggle.
What he has done is used 32 minion accounts, in addition to his 2 minion-adjacent accounts, and his one real person account (and probably even more accounts I never found) to reach a follower base much larger than any ordinary user could achieve.
Then he demonstrated his power.
Overnight, he retweeted a dozen of my older tweets, and the effect was exactly like having your TL blown up by an Elite. Lots of stars and RTs from the far corners of Twitropolis. A dozen or more new followers. But, in a way, it was better than an elite blow-up because he doesn’t just hit your FavStar best-of or recent list. He digs deep into your TL looking for gold. And he does a good job of it. He found a lot of older tweets that never got much attention, and which I really liked.
So that’s the answer. The minions are a force-multiplier for a regular guy with way too much time on his hands, trying to spread light in what he perceives as a dark world. A benevolent stranger. The Minion King is Batman. Case closed.
I mixed a dirty martini and raised a toast to him. “May you win the battle of Light vs Dark, even if it is only in your head.”