Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why I Blocked You On Twitter

As PragueBob I have more than 64,000 contacts on Twitter, but I've never used an auto-follower or any other type of automation. None. Ever. Automation cannot decide who to follow or what to say, so on Twitter it's almost totally useless and should be avoided 99,9% of the time. Exceptions do exist, but these are so rare that it will be a very short post in which I discuss them, later.

Since I consider Twitter to be not just a microblogging site but also a social networking site (and a very good one at that) it is my policy that all my contacts on Twitter are mutual. As such, when people follow me on Twitter, I either follow them back or remove them from my followers list to avoid scanning this list repeatedly, because it is simply too time-consuming. Automation wouldn't help, and I wouldn't leave such choices to an algorithm, anyway.

All of my contacts on Twitter are mutual and I prefer it that way, because any of them can send me a Direct Message (DM), and I can reply to them with one. This "back channel" on Twitter is quite different from the public stream. If two people are following each other, then they can send each other a DM, similar to a private e-mail or SMS, and that's very important I think. I'll say more about how DMs can be used most effectively in a later post, but for now it suffices to say that too many people abuse DMs on Twitter by sending unsolicited self-promotion messages, and this is really spam, so it should never be done, not at all, ever. When someone follows you on Twitter it means that they might find what you have to say interesting, and in fact tentatively. It does not mean that they've invited you to bomb their private DM Inbox with spam or other nonsense, especially by way of introduction.

So, all of my contacts being mutual means that if someone follows me on Twitter, then I have to follow them back, right? Wrong. I will only return the follow of someone I deem to be worthy. "Worthy" simply means a normal person or business not falling into one of the offensive categories I've listed below. Otherwise I block, because I don't have the time or patience to deal with offenders repeatedly. I used to block/unblock, which is perhaps a kinder, gentler way of getting people out of my followers list. But too many people just didn't "get it", so now I simply block anyone who I don't follow in return. Likewise, if I follow someone and they don't follow me back after a reasonable amount of time I unfollow (or sometimes even block) them, although I might make several attempts, which sometimes results in getting myself blocked, but that's life.

Does all this make me an elitist? No, it most certainly does not. It simply means that I'm somewhat selective (why should I return the follow of a porn promoter or spammer?) and I strongly recommend that you be selective, too. Anyone who knows me at all, also knows that I actively seek out contacts from all over the world, from all over the political spectrum, from all races, creeds, genders, religions, and sexual orientations. I encourage, even thrive upon, diversity. I'm probably the most "equal opportunity" person on Twitter, and I mean that quite sincerely. But I've also blocked literally thousands of people who showed up on my followers list, and here are some of the reasons why I blocked them after taking a look at their profiles:

1) Pornography. It shouldn't be on Twitter, there are plenty of websites dedicated to this. I'm no prude, and in fact I'm pretty sure that my sex life would make most people envious, but if I ever do feel the need for pornography I'm also sure that I can find plenty of it all over the Internet without it following me on Twitter or spamming my e-mail.

2) Foul language. Twitter is a public place, and as such foul language should be avoided. Again, I'm no prude, and I have a richer x-rated vocabulary than most people, having spent time in some of the world's roughest places, but socially well-adjusted people know how to curb their tongues in public.

3) Suspicious profile. This includes: using the default avatar instead of a real photo or image; nonsensical, missing, or clearly erroneous Name, Location, Bio, or Web fields in the profile. I immediately block anyone in my followers list with the default avatar. You can't walk into a bank with a paper bag over your head, either.

4) Suspicious behavior. This includes: accounts with no tweets; accounts with lots of followers but with few or no tweets (an indication that the account is only being followed by autofollowers); accounts following others to the limit allowed by Twitter (an indication that the account is in fact fishing for autofollowers); accounts with tweets that run completely contrary to other information in the profile (for instance a "venture capitalist" or "banker" spewing a continuous stream of cheap affiliate links.); accounts that use "bait and switch" links, saying one thing but linking to something else entirely (usually an unrelated affiliate-marketing site); accounts that engage in spam, which can be in the public stream or private DMs. I'm usually somewhat tolerant with people trying to do business but selling completely nonsensical crap through affiliate links is a no-no. I do have affiliate links on my blogs but they directly relate to the content on the blog, so it's not just some random, desperate attempt to sell anything to anyone; accounts with repetitive or nonsensical tweets, "Blogging:", "Reading:", etc., over and over again; accounts that have no @replies to anyone (meaning they never engage in a conversation with anyone, this is only OK for news agency sources, weather bots, and such, never for people or companies).

5) Infantile behavior. Do I really have to explain this? Lots of tweets like, "Watching TV", "Sleeping", etc., etc. Unfortunately some of the worst offenders used to be the Twitter founders themselves. Maybe they've grown up a bit recently, but I don't know since I rarely even attempt to follow any of them anymore, mainly because they're such antisocial #twittersnobs (more on "hashtags" in a later post).

Stop and think for a moment, do you really want your legitimate followers (in my case "contacts", since they're mutual) to have to share the same list with those offenders falling into the categories I've listed above? I don't, because I think it's unfair to them, in fact I think it shows great disrespect. However, if ever I blocked you and you feel that I did this in error you can always appeal to my Virtual Assistant TwitRadiator to intercede with me on your behalf.