Angry Birds: A Terrible Tab Tussle Temper Tantrum

Angry Birds is a running feature in which we take a look at the ruffled feathers in the latest Twitter flaps. Today's: newsletter proprietor Rusty Foster and Guardian editor Heidi Moore, fighting over the ownership of ideas, the giving of credit, and the provenance of the tab-based feature.

Dramatis Personae

Heidi N. Moore, finance editor at the Guardian, idea-haver, dibs-caller

Rusty Foster, purveyor and editor of Today in Tabs, a newsletter of obnoxious websites (as in, "Close that tab!"), recently acquired by Newsweek

Robinson Meyer, associate editor, TheAtlantic.com

Anil Dash, blogger and proprietor of Dashes.com

Katie Notopoulos, senior editor at Buzzfeed

Heidi Moore vs. Rusty Foster

Prologue

Way back in September, Heidi Moore wrote a tweet about how great it would be to reveal her end-of-day collection of websites open in tabs on her browser to everyone she knows.

"Today in Tabs"

Fast forward to today. For several months Rusty Foster has been sending out a daily newsletter, recently acquired by Newsweek, of all the tabs you probably shouldn't open each day—a collection of current internet outrage points that's kind of counterpoint to the today-I-learned tab.

A Deftly Parried Attack

Moore remained blissfully unaware of this newsletter until it received positive mention today on the Nieman Journalism Lab website.

("Jim" is Newsweek editor Jim Impoco. Moore later tweeted directly at him.)

(A reminder, at the risk of ruining the joke, that Foster's newsletter collects the day's worst, stupidest, and most frustrating articles, posts and tweets on the web.)

Collateral Damage

It could—should—have ended peacefully, passive-aggressively, and perfectly right there.

But the drama was too juicy, the subject matter too inane, the initial argument too stupid to resist. No one could stay away—not even those who sought to clarify that Foster's newsletter, which focuses on troll articles and the outrage economy, doesn't actually bear any resemblance to Moore's Twitter idea:

A Brief History of the Tab

Others tried to helpfully point out that "blogging all your open tabs" as a concept—which is, again, not even what Foster's newsletter is—dates back to at least 2004, and has been used by widely read establishment writers like Ezra Klein and Felix Salmon.

Spreading Subtweets

All of this, of course, sets aside the fact that you cannot call "dibs" on an idea.

But by now, it was too late. Too many followers, and their followers, and their followers' followers had seen the excitement. Armed with snark, Moore's opponents soon blackened the skies of the Twitterverse with subtweets.

The Block Falls; the Dust Settles

Many users were felled by Twitter's block function this fateful day.

The Final Word

The rancor cooled, the fighters embarrassed, Katie Notopoulos, as she often does, stepped in with the last and best word.

Update Jan. 16

The birth of the Today in Tabs idea may, in fact, have happened on Twitter. But it also happened weeks before Heidi Moore tweeted her thoughts on the matter.

[H/T to Hilary Sargent (@lilsarg).]