The wonderful and terrible thing about the Internet is that there's never any mystery anymore. Nearly as soon as we posted a story about how an unknown person was running The Atlantic's Ello account (and doing a great job with it), the Ello account holder unmasked himself. We caught up with 22-year-old Kunal Basu-Dutta shortly after he turned the keys to the account back over to us.
Jake Swearingen: So let's start it off. What made you want to start an Ello account for The Atlantic?
Kunal Basu-Dutta: When Ello started I got an invite pretty early on and I thought, "Wow, this is great. I'm here in this new space on a new social media venue." I didn't think Ello would take off the way it did, so that was a surprise. But before that, I made a few accounts in places that I really wanted to work and respected in terms of what they do on social media and editorially.
Swearingen: Yeah, after we posted we got a few notes from other editors, like, "Hey, we've got some mystery person running ours, too." How many accounts are you running right now?
Basu-Dutta: The Atlantic is the one I was actively posting because I enjoy it the most, but I got sidetracked with, you know, my life. The other one I have is AJ+, because I really like what they're doing and I know that they'll probably not be as interested in Ello, so I'm hoping to post for them and then leverage that into an interview. That was also the plan to do with The Atlantic.
Swearingen: You did get an interview.
Basu-Dutta: Yeah. So... in a way: success!
Swearingen: So you're still in school? Or you're a recent grad?
Basu-Dutta: I graduated from the University of Chicago in 2013, and then I did a fellowship this past year which ended last month. After that I took a little break, came back home since I hadn't been back home for a while. While I'm here, I'm sending out applications and trying to get the process started.
I'm a social media guy—hopefully that came across—and a lot of people have these inventive resumes. People have used Google Ad Words to push their name to the top, or when you search their name it has their resume. That's really creative, but I don't want to do any of that since it's already been done, and everyone has probably seen it. So when Ello came around I'm like, "Hey, I can set up accounts and run them to show that I have an editorial voice that matches and I get it." I get the importance of pictures, or that with The Atlantic it's a mixture of politics and culture.
Swearingen: I wasn't lying in my piece. It's gonna be tough for us to take over the account and keep it up to that standard.
Basu-Dutta: You're too kind. That means a lot of me. It kinda sounds like I'm fanboying a little bit—which I am. I grew up reading The Atlantic.
Swearingen: So did most of us who work here.
Basu-Dutta: So that is where I came from. I actually got an interview with Defense One, so I've been really interested in that and I started exploring the other Atlantic Media holdings. I'm kind of a fanboying on all of it right now.
Swearingen: So would you recommend squatting on social media accounts as an effective way of getting your name out there?
Basu-Dutta: Well, I didn't think it would be, honestly. I thought the strategy would be, like, y'all would set up a more official-looking account, post more frequently since you have more manpower, and post every hour like you do on Twitter or Facebook and drown me out. That's what I was kind of expecting. Then I figured y'all would send me a strongly-worded email, like, "Hey, stop fucking around." I never believed this would actually work. I thought, "There's a snowball's chance in hell," but I'll take it.
But, I would have to change my tune now. Hopefully, I can put this on my resume. This may actually work.