Among the media types on Twitter, @Marty2634 is something of a sensation. Over the course of three years on Twitter, he's racked up over 125,000 tweets (or 115 tweets a day), most of which have been directed at celebrities, journalists, or other public figures. Many of his tweets ask reporters and bloggers directly for their views about current events or various aspects of their profession, while others are open-ended solicitations for discussion. (An example of the latter: “Do any Political Journalists/Bloggers or News Junkies care to chat about the Biggest Stories Online?” The seemingly random capitalization is a Marty trademark.) As noted recently in FishbowlDC, this unusually dedicated yet refreshingly earnest interest in chatting about the news has earned Marty a cult following. But nobody really knows anything about Marty, or why he does what he does, or even if he's a real human being. Until now.
Marty Rudolf is a single 41-year-old who lives in Chicago. He has no children and is self-employed in the field of computers. Reached over e-mail after several unsuccessful phone calls, Rudolf told Daily Intelligencer that he tweets to prominent figures out of pure curiosity. “I ask questions that I believe people want to know the answers to,” he told us. “I enjoy talking to people who are in the public eye or hold jobs that are involved with the media (journalists, producers, etc.) in addition to those who just happen to have similar interests to mine. I think that people I write to feel comfortable with me and I often get immediate responses.”
Just as frequently, though, his solicitations are ignored. But it doesn't faze him. “Of course there are those who don't respond to me," he tells us. "Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but I know that I can't always be successful.”
Marty's prolific tweeting and distinct writing style has led some of his devotees to question his authenticity. One senior cable news producer who has interacted with Marty is among the skeptics. “I think he's a bot. A.I. project,” he told us. “Never breaks character unless you slam him with a question he's not expecting.” After we relayed to him several confirmed facts about Marty's personal life, this producer was unconvinced, replying simply, “Bot.”
But while his tweets can come off as formulaic, or the product of an auto-generated algorithm calibrated to reflect the day's news, Marty insists that it's really him behind the keyboard. “Everything I write is typed individually," he says. "I guess I've become accustomed to a certain way of asking questions."
Until recently, Marty never suspected that the reporters he spends so much time interacting with would eventually turn the tables and be just as interested in him. When asked his thoughts about the recent Fishbowl article, he said, “I was surprised and flattered that I received so much attention for just doing something I really love — never expecting to be written about or getting the great feedback that resulted from the article.”
Marty signed off with, “Thanks for your interest — and by the way — I am a real person!”