Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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Elevator gossip: click access to popularity

Published 11 June 2013 12:06, Updated 12 June 2013 05:59

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Elevator gossip: click access to popularity

What’s heard in the lift no longer stays in the lift, thanks to popular Twitter accounts like @GSElevator.

Valuable gossip used to be the sort of thing that only well-connected people had access to. Being the bearer of secret information can make you popular beyond your wildest dreams.

Now, thanks to Twitter, you don’t even have to be on the spot any more, you just need to monitor Twitter feeds like @GSElevator which broadcasts what it claims are things overheard in the Goldman Sachs elevator.

In this case, it is doubtful that many of the posts have a grain of truth – but nearly half a million followers are curious enough to keep tabs on it.

The tweets are mostly sweary, sexist, racist stuff and the New York Times has interviewed the person behind the account, who claims to be a banker “with some free time now”.

He says of his colleagues: “They are obsessed with working for Goldman Sachs. They seem to define themselves by their jobs/firm, as opposed to who they are as people and what their interests are”.

According to another interview, a derogatory reference to Alex Turnbull (an executive director at Goldman Sachs in Singapore and son of Opposition spokesman for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs in Australia) has resulted in an attempt to sue.

However, the difficulty is that when someone defames you on Twitter or co-opts your brand for their own amusement, it can be very hard to stop.

As the author of @GSElevator says of Turnbull: “Frankly, I don’t understand how he would go about that in terms of the mechanics of suing an anonymous character. As you know, he has sent me several emails asking for a contact so that he can serve me.

“The absurdity of that is almost laughable... And as I don’t think his case would have any merit, I am not worried about it.”

Anonymous Australia-based legal and accountancy gossip site Firm Spy does appear to have shut down, with reports last year of legal threats and cyber attacks.

Two years ago, in an emailed interview with this writer, the administrator of the site said: “Most wise lawyers would say that the risks we take aren’t worth it. They might be right.

“But if we’re part of a movement that sees the welfare of powerless corporates improve – in between giving daily entertainment to people who sorely need it – then if we die tomorrow, we can say we did a good thing.

“How many corporate partners can really and truly look in the mirror and say the same thing?”

@GSElevator has now been joined by the relatively friendless @MLSElevator (Melbourne Law School) and @jpmelevator (JP Morgan) with 2,534 followers.

An early version came from Vogue mag central @CondeElevator (Conde Nast). One of its last posts to its 72,000 followers before shutting down: “Summer Intern: My driver had SUCH a bad attitude. I was like, “don’t complain to me, I didn’t eat lunch either! You think I eat clothes?”.

Many people have been inspired by the US-based website Overheard in New York to start up their own versions to harvest random snatches of other people’s conversations and some of them are genuinely amusing.

However, the United Nations site (“Some humorous, some disappointing remarks from hallways & behind closed doors at the UN. Send your tips. Always anonymous”) appears to have been hacked by a purveyor of Viagra, so don’t bother.

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