Should I unfollow everyone on twitter?

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Over the last few months, probably in combination with the huge increase in twitters profile and brand, many of the longest established and respected users on twitter have been rethinking their methods and usage of twitter and how they interact with the followers they have for a variety of reasons.

Why Unfollow everyone on Twitter?

The reoccurring theme for Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse here is something akin to spam, although to wholly class it as spam is a bit of a sweeping statement. Its more of a user error I believe, or basically a lack of understanding about how an action will affect the recipient, in this case, how a percentage of people don’t realise the effect they are having on Chris or Darren by using other services that they personally see little or no value in and which take away from their ability to use twitter effectively or communicate in a method that suits them.

By aiming to be fair to people who followed them they proceeded to return that favour to show that they value this act and appreciate it and are willing to open the lines of communication further it basically sounded the all clear for DMs to come racing in about all and nothing.

Rather than respecting the fact that they would have access to these people on a private level their followers have inadvertently abused it or not really realised the privilege they have thus forcing Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse to seriously consider the same actions as Jim Connolly and Seth Simonds.

So what did they do wrong?

Nothing. They did what they thought was best, remember Chris and Darren haven’t made any solid decisions yet but Seth and Jim where basically forced to take the step of reverting to zero, not something they enjoyed at all I assure you, because they simply could not communicate with people or where shifting though so much irrelevant info they where missing the important stuff.

What a terrible waste and if the Chris and Darren decided to take this course they will surely face some consequences and strife if they make the decision but little or indeed no other option is available to them it seems.

Personally I would support them 100% if they deemed this course of action the only viable option and it would not stop me from continuing to follow them but make your own decisions after you read their thoughts, these are their stories.

Should I unfollow everyone on twitter?Jim Connolly

First up was @JimConnolly. Jim explains why he made the decision to unfollow about 20,000 followers and begin again.

*Jim unfollowed everyone AND removed all his followers as well effectively starting from scratch 100%, rather than keeping his follower count, something he has clarified in the comments and which I felt should be mentioned here.

Twitter and Me.

Should I unfollow everyone on twitter?Seth Simonds

2nd came @SethSimonds. Seth wrote this post about making the decision to unfollow nearly 45 thousand followers on Twitter.

Why I Unfollowed Everybody on Twitter

Should I unfollow everyone on twitter?Chris Brogan

Next up is @ChrisBrogan. Chris hasn’t made the decision to unfollow everyone, yet. But is seriously considering the option it seems. These posts came about from Chris over the last few weeks.

Twitter MUST Stop the Spam Use of APIs Now

and

Quid Pro No

Should I unfollow everyone on twitter?Darren Rowse, Problogger

Finally, even Darren Rowse, or as he is more commonly known, @ProBlogger has hinted at his frustration publicly on twitter in these few tweets recently due to a deluge of Direct Messages that are of absolutely no value to him or which cause distraction.

Should I unfollow everyone on twitter?Heres the URL from the Tweet: http://twitpic.com/cb6y4

Should I unfollow everyone on twitter?
Should I unfollow everyone on twitter?

This raises another question, in my mind, of all those other twitter users out there who have 10′s of 1000`s of followers, if not more, who use twitter in a dffernet capacity to the guys mentioned in this post but rather, use it as a promotional platform based around numbers.

Are they “doing it wrong?”.

Probably not, that’s the way they want to do it and those that follow them seem to accept that but on the flip side, none of them seem to mind or worry about actually making personal connections with people or building networks or relationships. Its a list and that’s all it is but if it works for them then that’s fine!

What would you do?

What would you do in this situation?  Would you stick it out and continue or make the decision to unfollow and begin again?  Maybe you would consider doing something else entirely?

*UPDATE*

It seems that things are happening a little quicker than I thought. I just read this post on Jim Connolly’s blog with more of the “big players” on twitter making the same decision to reset their follower counts to zero.

Scoble, Twitter and the wisdom of the crowd!

It looks like the times and attitudes in social media are changing again and dramatically so.

Eat spam Twitter bot!

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As you may, or may not be aware, twitter updated the email notifications a while back to display more information about new followers you have received on your account.

Im hoping that they will expand upon this a little more to make the process of following people back a little simpler and also  to help weed out and spot twitter spam accounts and twitter bots, the true bane of using twitter effectively.

(I cannot and will not go into a rant on this post detailing how much I hate this and how adverse its effects are, that’s for another day, one which might just include a hangover).

The Original Twitter notification email

In the first instance (back in the day..I cant believe I’m saying that) you would have got a plain text email from twitter notifying you that someone is now following you, it looked like this:

Hi, justinparks.

Scott Stratten (unmarketing) is now following your updates on Twitter.

Check out unmarketing’s profile here:

http://twitter.com/unmarketing

You may follow unmarketing as well by clicking on the “follow” button.

Best,
Twitter


Turn off these emails at: http://twitter.com/account/notifications

Now obviously, there’s no information in this email at all except the name and username, so to check that user out I have to click the links go to the profiles, read their bio, location and info, decide if they are a bot, spammer or even just plain interesting  in order that I can decide to follow them back or not.

The example above is NOT a twitter bot or twitter spammer in any way, its Scott Stratten and he’s someone I would highly recommend, he’s just unlucky enough to be used as an example and I just wanted to clarify that.

The Current Twitter notification email

So that email notification above is now obsolete.  Twitter created a new email notification format and I got the first one through on Friday the 8th May 2009 and here’s an example below and one that you are all no doubt familiar with.

ProBlogger (Darren Rowse) is now following your updates on Twitter.

A little information about ProBlogger:

Eat spam Twitter bot!69,854 followers
12,930 updates
following 40,501 people

The Twitter Team

Turn off these emails at: http://twitter.com/account/notifications

Great! Everyone rejoiced at the new information included in the email.

At a glance now we can all see who this new follower is, what they look like (bald with specs in this case, sorry Darren, your an Ozzie though so I’m sure you can handle a bit of “making the mick” :)), the number of followers, how many they are following and the number of updates they have made.

But the same problems still exists as the in the original twitter notification email.  This information doesn’t help us decide if we want to follow this person back, and indeed we shouldn’t base that decision on this information alone, in fact its almost misleading!

Again, Problogger isn’t a spammer or bot, he’s cool.  Would also recommend you follow him if you’re into becoming a blogger.

What we really need in Twitter notification emails

In my opinion we need a little more help from twitter in the notification email department. First things first, I would love to see the other normal information included that’s already available on the users twitter page, this means, show me the location and their bio.

The only reason that I can think of that twitter would not want to include this is to encourage us to visit the profile pages physically, and that’s fair enough, I understand the reasoning behind that.

Show us how many times you have been blocked on twitter

One thing I would love to see to make those twitter bots eat spam though is how many times a user has been blocked by other twitter users.  This is not available anywhere (as far as I know, but please do correct me if I’m wrong).  This one small piece of information will immediately help me access the new follower at a single glance.

It would also help us to help each other, I believe, as we can begin to actively manage the twitter spammers and twitter bots as a community, helping each other to spot and remove these damn things asap.

I cant see any way to automate the process, its impossible, and there’s no way Twitter can manage it by themselves, that would just be insane and the reporting feature of tweeting @spam followed by the username seems to be totally ineffective. Basically lets effectively crowd source the ability to fight the twitter spammers and twitter bots.

Twitter Block numbers and the downside

The downside of this of course is that not everyone who’s getting blocked will be a twitter bot or twitter spammer.  I’m raining on my own parade here but I like to be realistic about these things. If you have a large following or are a celebrity or such, then it is inevitable that your account will be blocked more than the average user but this could balance against the amount of followers they already have and should be quite obvious.

Indeed, if you are being yourself, that doesn’t always mean you will be popular, and this could cause your account to be blocked more than normal, or if indeed you manage to offend some group or other then you may find your blocked a lot more than you’re being followed, for no other reason than you have an opinion, or disagreement over something and its made tempers flare or caused offence.

This could of course balance out I guess and it still acts as a representation of the user to a certain extent, but it is something to be wary of. Of course this is mentioning nothing of potential “Twitter Blocking Campaigns “ that could be initiated targeting other users but I think the case for is stronger than the case against, at least from my point of view. Maybe adding in a tweet to explain why you decided to block an account would, for the record, help us all in advance as well so we would end up with notification emails that look like this:

Twitter Spammer (Twitter Spam Bot) is now following your updates on Twitter.

A little information about Twitter Spammer:

Eat spam Twitter bot!6,825 followers
5 updates
following 8,501 people
Blocked: 1,240 Find out why…

The Twitter Team

Turn off these emails at: http://twitter.com/account/notifications

Now wouldn’t that be helpful?

Other thoughts on twitter spam and twitter bots

If you want to read more info on how this spam and the bots are adversely affecting twitter, there are plenty out there but heres a few that came through while I was putting the finishing touches to this post.

From my friend @bungeespin Social twitter or just spam? and @problogger tweeted this today from Twitip.com
3 Ways to Recognize Bots and Spammers on Twitter . Of course if your interested in what the tweeple think there’s always the latest views on the #twitter-spam hashtag.

So what’s your point of view?

Do you think this would work, or have you another suggestion on how to deal with this problem created by twitter spammers and bots?  Its growing and for me I want to see it curtailed before it becomes detrimental to Twitter and before it becomes so out of hand that we all decide that its simply not worth being involved in Twitter any more.