74 Twitter Adds: A Breakdown

By Lachlan Hardy
1431h Tuesday, 18 March 2008 Permalink

I was recently incommunicado for roughly a month. I was traveling, and living life mostly offline but for occasional travel arrangements etc. This resulted in the kind of online buildup you hear about from such circumstances: a couple of dozen direct emails (gradually being responded to this week); several hundred mailing list emails (deleted); thousands of RSS items (all marked as read); 14,000 unread in Gmail’s spam folder and a relatively small selection of bacn , including 74 adds from Twitter users. 74 in 4 weeks? WTF, Twitter?

Break it down

I wanted to use this sample to give myself some idea of who these people are so, as I processed the requests, I started listing how many I blocked, how many were bots and how many I thought of as Real People? (possibly not the same thing as actual real people). And being the anal-retentive pedant I am, this lead to creation of more categories for those who didn’t fit the above three. In turn leading to some people meeting multiple categories and this loosely-premised article looking even less scientific - if that’s possible.

Obviously, this is likely to reveal far more about how I use Twitter than any data about Twitter itself. I found it interesting. You’ve been warned.

The numbers

By major grouping

I counted:

  • 41 Real People™,
  • 8 of those odd link-freaks,
  • 16 purely promotional vehicles,
  • 2 fake personalities, and
  • 17 bots.

I added 14 of these and blocked 26 - which included all 17 bots.

Let’s work our way through in reverse order before we get into the Real People™.

Bots (17)

You’ve all been added by them. In permanent use by spammers and unethical promoters, I block them immediately upon identification. I direly wish Twitter had a “Mark as a Spamming Sod” option like Pownce does. It’s about time the application stopped treating every account as if it were a person. That’s blatantly no longer the case.

That’s not to say that Twitter bots aren’t useful. They’re fantastic, actually. But only when they’re opt-in. The ones that come to find you are the type of loathsome evil that I associate with marketers who call your house or cheerfully knock on your door on a Saturday morning while normal people are still hungover.

Fake personalities (2)

Some I like, some I don’t. Most fade away within the kind of period that makes me not bother adding them. Especially since they’re unsolicited.

Purely promotional vehicles (16)

In this sample, they varied from sites and companies to bands or American political propagandists. They’re kind of like bots, I only find them valuable if I’ve sought them out for a purpose.

Link-freaks (8)

There is an obvious visual pattern created on a Twitter profile when somebody adds a link at the end of every single tweet. It’s readily detectable within milliseconds. Somehow it is even more obvious when there is the occasional comment or reply thrown in.

These folks confuse me. They’re not bots. Most of them don’t seem to be using automated submission of links and yet they post more than 90% lame link action.

Nobody knows that much interesting stuff. Nobody has that much original information at their fingertips. These folks are just re-posting stuff they find on aggregation sites. If I cared about the generic links that get posted repeatedly in every link graveyard on the net I’d subscribe to feeds from Digg , SlashDot , Techmeme or any one of 15,000 others. I don’t need it on Twitter.

Quit grumping and talk about the Real People™

I broke down these folks even further based on what I thought were interesting differentiators:

  • 6 total newbies with virtually no posts but following 40-odd people;
  • 13 people following 3,000+ people and seemingly attempting conversation with all of them;
  • 2 people who used to follow me re-adding me (now that I was completely quiet?);
  • 4 colleagues;
  • 4 people who seem to use Twitter prolifically but don’t have a bio or a link off-site;
  • 7 people who had recently replied to Jeremiah Owyang ; and
  • 21 self-identified Social Media Enthusiasts/Evangelists.

What the fuck is a Social Media Enthusiast? I know what a social media enthusiast is. Some people would probably classify me as one. But as something that warrants title case? Is it a job title? Who pays people just to be enthusiastic about stuff?

One answer to the last question would be: no one. Every single one of the SM Enthusiasts appeared to be a self-employed consultant. I would love some of those folks to let us in on how well that’s working out for them.

Evangelists, on the other hand, is a familiar (if conflicted) term. The big consultancies all have Social Media consultants now. I can easily see them called ‘Evangelist’ to ride the wave of familiarity with that particular term in technology circles.

Some folks even provided the slash themselves. They are both ‘Enthusiasts’ and ‘Evangelists’. Either that or they find themselves torn in that reputedly tricky limbo in between?

So what?

It’s a valid point. I don’t know that any of this means anything (except that @jowyang is an exceptionally popular Twitterer amongst a certain subset of users). I do find the numbers interesting in an abstract kind of way. They’re indicative of a broad range of Twitter uses that hopefully illustrates out the pointlessness of all those Twitter Etiquette posts that spring up every time some blogger cracks it with those he is following on Twitter. Pruning according to need vs satisfacton is the answer to that issue, not complaining that nobody does it the way you want them too.

I’m curious to see if others break their requests down in similar fashion (even on a one-by-one basis) or if I’m a little too obsessive. What do you do?


There are 9 comments on this post.

Gary Barber
1701h Tuesday, 18 March 2008 Permalink

obsessive - Nah. But I do process new adds via filtering in a similar one on one basis.

Ben Askins
1738h Tuesday, 18 March 2008 Permalink

I veto every follower request based on whether or not I know the person. If I’ve met them, or have interacted with them on-line they’re in. If I haven’t then they’re out.

I find that most of the “people” that I reject are following thousands of others but are followed only by a handful. Bots I guess.

Funnily enough when I signed up for twitter I wrote simply “Enthusiast” as my bio with my toungue held firmly in my cheek.

Wade M
1116h Wednesday, 26 March 2008 Permalink

Not sure if you’ve seen/used Quotably. A pretty interesting tool to see what’s going on beyond the simple username. Do they engage, do they converse etc…..Fun to ‘see’



Craig Sharkie
1116h Wednesday, 26 March 2008 Permalink

Thinking about using Greasemonkey to apply some of the filters you’ve mentioned. Some Real People™ don’t warrant continuous following but are too much fun to ditch completely.

Ben Buchanan
1228h Friday, 28 March 2008 Permalink

I’ve taken what I’m starting to call “The Facebook Approach”. I generally ignore the notifications and just treat it as a sort of game to see how high the number gets.

I’m pretty sure I’ve got pending invites from people I do actually know (or more likely I met at some web thing one time). But with the disconnect between Twitter names/bios and real identities, I have NFI which ones they are.

I really think Twitter needs groups/filters. I follow some people who are tremendously high traffic Twitters and I can’t/won’t/don’t read everything they post. But, they periodically address me directly so I don’t really want to ditch them.

That’s it! Everyone onto Pownce ;)

Lachlan Hardy
1612h Friday, 28 March 2008 Permalink

It’s interesting to see the various ways you guys react to the need to filter (including Ben who just ignores it). I feel the need to keep control of them, so I can’t take his route. And I don’t want to miss out on potentially interesting people just because I don’t know them.

I’ve met some great folks via Twitter - many of whom I’ve not met in person yet, but have interacted with on various increasing levels. It’s definitely a great way to find cool folks who are interested in similar stuff!

1306h Friday, 13 June 2008 Permalink

I’ve taken to using a script to save a list of followers so I can see who’s added me, and then doing a “following:updates” ratio. Anyone who just listens (total lurker) with little or nothing to say gets blocked. Also, anyone with no bio, or other anonymity gets blocked.

On the other hand, I started following 1000monkeys which is like a fun-house mirror bot.


Lachlan Hardy
1739h Saturday, 14 June 2008 Permalink

That’s an interesting method, Jim. I still just do all mine manually. It doesn’t take a long time to check folks out. And I don’t get enough adds that I really need to automate it.

I do love 1000monkeys too. I think Andrew Tetlaw built that. He’s a devilishly clever fellow!

Stephanie Sullivan
1417h Saturday, 21 March 2009 Permalink

To be honest, I used to look at every single person as they added me to see who they were and if I wanted to follow them back (I never block unless they’re inappropriate). Then a couple months ago, twitter decided that every email I own (6 different domains) didn’t work (yes, of course they do). And I no longer get any notification. I filed a ticket on it, but nothing’s happened.

This means that I have to remember to go in and see who has followed recently (which with Mr. Tweet can be a whole lot). So I’ve gotten rather slack because I’ve been busy lately. I glance and if I recognize them I follow. But until the weekends when I have time to click every single one, I don’t really see who’s there.

As a rule, I follow people I know, people I want to know (have heard of), people that are interesting regarding my industry and people that are funny as crap. :) I don’t see a point in blocking the others since I don’t even know they’re there if I don’t follow them. Maybe I’m silly.

It was great to spend time with you last week Lachlan! :)


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