The Andrew Collins Mystery

OK, here’s how it all started. On Thursday, irascible comedian and father Robin Ince pretended to berate me via the medium of social networking site Twitter. I’m going to assume you know how Twitter works. He included my @name in his Tweet, except, distracted fool that he is, he typed in @andrewcollins. My Twittername is @CollingsA, and has been since 2008 when I first signed up.

Inevitably, if you have a common name, as I do, you won’t get your actual name, as it will already have been taken. This proved to be the case with mine, and that’s why I ended up going down the “Collings” route. This means I have to spell it every time I say it, and it also means I am doomed for the rest of my days to be known by a name that is not actually my name. Anyway, people are often mistyping it as @CollinsA, which is the name of Amanda Collins in Halifax, Novia Scotia, who’s probably fed up with getting stupid Tweets to her that she doesn’t understand. This happens. It is @CollingsA.

Anyway, out of curiosity, I looked up @andrewcollins, clearly jealous of him for being such an early adopter of Twitter he was able to have his own name in full. Well, here he is.

Now, ordinarily, this would be a bit of fun: find a namesake, discover that they are an alumnus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and see how different they are from you. But Andrew Collins, who seems to be based in Miami, hasn’t Tweeted since November 2007. Indeed, he has only ever Tweeted seven times in total, between October 21 and November 2 of that year. Did he get bored with it in under a fortnight? Clearly, my first, selfish thought was: surely I can have his name if he’s not bothered about Twitter any more. But then I read his last Tweet again and things went a bit eerie:

Did he perish in the tropical storm – officially, Hurricane Noel – which moved in from Haiti and Cuba to the Florida coast in November 2007 and up the Eastern seaboard as far as Canada? It’s a horrible and sad thought. But you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t wonder. Who was Andrew Collins of Miami? From his other Tweets we discover that he was a Red Sox fan. He only followed three other “people”, all connected with MIT and its Sloan School. (Hey, back in 2007, there were far less people to follow. If he did get bored with Twitter, who can blame him?)

I looked up Hurricane Noel, and it claimed the lives of 222 people, the majority of whom were in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and none of whom were in Florida, or the United States. This seems to confirm that Andrew Collins wasn’t killed in the storm. But where did he go?

I suspect that, as an early adopter of Twitter, he didn’t find much use for it. He only followed three people, after all. Twitter’s “tipping point” is always said to have occurred in 2007. (It went from around 400,000 Tweets per quarter in 2007 to 100 million in the first quarter of 2008, by which time, Andrew Collins had tuned out.)

I sent a message to one of his 22 existing followers called David Vivero, the first one I came to who seems to still use the site. He’s the CEO of RentJuice. But he hasn’t responded. Mind you, my Tweet to him must have sounded weird, or a bit like spam. I hold out little hope of him replying.

If I was a proper journalist, or someone looking to write a book, I’d take it further, but I thought I’d share it here anyway. Who is Andrew Collins? And why did he stop Tweeting in November 2007?

I Googled him and “MIT alumni” and found an Andrew S Collins listed in an MIT Sloan Management annual report from 2007 but he’s just listed, and it might not be our Andrew Collins, and anyway all it would prove is that he was alive in 2007, which we already know.

Perhaps I should ask all 22 of his followers if they know where he went. Maybe I will.

17 thoughts on “The Andrew Collins Mystery

  1. Can’t be helpful having such a common name. If only your parents had gone for ‘Erasmus’. Life would have been so much easier.

    Being an actual Collings involves having to hang on the ‘ng’ every time I tell someone my name.

    My favourite namesake once played Doctor Who.

    Most current adopters of Twitter don’t find a use for it.

    This reply has turned into a series of bullet points.

  2. Twitter do apparently allow you to take over someone’s username if they have been inactive for a good period of time. Details here:

    I’m on the flip-side. As far as I know I’m the only person in the world (certainly on the Internet) with my name, so it’s ridiculously easy to find my info. I actually changed my username to something more obscure so potential job interviewers don’t get any wrong impressions. Not that I’ve anything to hide, but you never know how people take things.

    Thanks for all your sterling work ‘covering’ for Adam & Joe with Richard and Michael.

  3. I think your Andrew S Collins is the one, his LinkedIn page says he works in the Greater Boston Area which would tie in with the Red Sox. Also the MIT stuff and the Sloan Management School all get a mention. I guess he is too busy working for Sentient Jet to be tweeting.

  4. **** <<>>
    There seems to be an email address for him at Sloan from an old Google page – Andrew Collins ( or even his colleague Lindsey Anderson ( who might be able to shed some light.
    **** <<>>

    It looks like he could be the Andrew Collins who was a producer of the avuncular FDR-sounding MITX Fireside Chats.

    I failed to find any images of him other than for the LinkedIn one above.

    Good luck in tracking him down – it’s obviously far easier with a surname like mine, which always elicits some good chuckles from the Mormon registers & incredibly odd 18th & 19th Century first names or even an article like this .

  5. Andrew – my above post should have said don’t post the bit of text with the MIT Andrew Collins’ email in but it’s unfortunately converted it to html & lost that warning (your previous clog allowed personal messages – I guess I should have emailed – sorry!). Jeanette

  6. This is kinda like the new domain squatting, except you know he didn’t do it deliberately. I think it’d be interesting if you can get in touch with him. He can’t be oblivious to Twitter’s importance these days, so if he really doesn’t want to use it, he’d be petty to hang into the name.

    Being a geek, I joined Twitter very early on and get to be @steveharris, the same as the Iron Maiden bassist. As an indie software developer, I have my own fan following (sounds daft, but true!) but I occasionally get wrong mentions and some hate for not being a hairy rocker. Which is nice.

  7. I see the latest news is that Andrew Collins (the American) is now aware of Andrew Collins ( the Brit) and has tweeted that he alive and well. Don’t you just love a happy ending!

  8. I’m in exactly the same situation. Envious of @steveg’s username, but less so of his apparent demise –
    his final tweet was in April 2007: “sitting here on sat am, getting ready to go down to the lake for a 6 mile run, lots of bad storms,hail and tornadoes in the dallas area fri.”

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