Tag Archives: twitter


In the last couple of weeks I’ve been at #commscamp13 and #ukgc13 – at each there where plenty of people at the event and away from it who were tweeting using the hashtags – this sort of backchannel has become an important part of the event experience since the early days when people started appearing in conference halls with internet devices, a way to say “hello, I’m here” and “I just spoke to X – she’s amazing!” or “what Y just said reminded me of http://…” etc.  it also lets people “outside the room” join in to an extent.

On both of these recent occasions the channel has been disrupted by an invasion of spambots, to the point that the stream became unusable temporarily for those actually interested in the topic.

These bots latch onto the trending hashtag, saying something inane like “I can’t believe this!” plus a spammy link and flood the stream.

I know nothing about the creation of twitterbots, but I assume the accounts are programmatically created and they sit listening for trending hashtags and then throw themselves into the stream with the hope that from the large number of people taking part, there’ll be one or two who end up clicking on the link or even (yikes!) following the bot themselves.  Today I’ve seen them swarming around the #uksnow hashtag, the other day, when the trumpeter Kenny Ball died, his name was mentioned in spambot tweets.  It’s ridiculous.

At both the events recently, I’ve witnessed the bot tweets have died out over time, during the day, but it’s not clear whether this is simply because the tag became unusable and so stopped trending from non-bot-traffic or because Twitter noticed and did something (but see point 1. below) or because people following the stream reported the bots quickly.  I’m guessing it’s a combination.

So we’re all asking, “What can we do?”

0) Use another platform for the backchannel.  hmm…  any suggestions that have the ease of use and userbase of Twitter?

1) Get Twitter to sort it out.  Good luck with that one.  I’m sceptical of the idea that Twitter are actually able to do anything – the bots are all over the #sxsw stream right now for example.  Surely, if Twitter could kill this sort of thing easily, they would be doing it routinely on the tag associated with the biggest social media event of the year. Twitter also have shown themselves to be repeatedly clueless about what’s really happening on their network.

2) Build better filters – as Twitter increase the amount of metadata associated with tweets, perhaps there’ll be ways of identifying the little monsters quickly and removing them from searches.

3) Start a bot war – fight bots with bots. The most tempting, it’s kind of like point 1, but we do it rather than leave it to Twitter, but who’s the we that’s going to do this?  And like any war, it might remove the present symptoms, but does it just lead to retaliation and escalation?

Sorry, that’s all I’ve got right now.


#leweb makes the whale fail

I can only imagine that everyone is trying to say “have got out of the shower, am having breakfast before #leweb”

that’s what I really really needed to say anyway but the whale of fail is the only response I can get out of twitter this morning.

Obviously now Loic has invested so much in making the wifi work, some other bit of the infrastructure has to fall over. First up on stage this morning? Jack Dorsey 🙂

Ah well. Allons-y!

Why I won’t make a Twitter List for Tuttlers

16/10/2009I just got access to Twitter Lists – the feature where you can create and publish lists of people to follow. The obvious thing for me to do is to make a Tuttle list, innit? But I’m not, and I can’t and here’s why:

You’re a member of Tuttle if and when you decide you are, it’s nothing to do with me. Now if you really misbehave and hurt people in the group or something (it’s never happened yet) I might ask you to leave and not come back (it’s never happened yet) but that remains a hypothetical case.

So I don’t know who should be on the list, and I can’t and I shouldn’t – that’s what decentralized power means, it’s none of it up to me, it’s up to you. If I made a list, I can guarantee you two things: 1) I would miss someone out and 2) I’d put someone on there that someone else doesn’t think belongs (say they came only came once and you didn’t see them) and every week I’d have a god-awful job of asking new people if they wanted to go on the list or something. Blaaah. No. Not going to happen.

So now I’m pondering what it means about Twitter (the company) and their attitude to centralisation, personal choice, list-making and popularity contests. But it’s time for bed.

Better plumbing at No. 10

26072008959The backlash against the new site from the Prime Minister’s Office has begun. Neil McIntosh just popped up in my feed reader tearing it apart for limiting conversation and some poor planning/research around the branding of the video channel. And then Tosh minor chimes in on twitter: “@DowningStreet – turn on your comments”

In my view, what’s happening here is that we’ve got some better plumbing installed, and while that in itself does a little to raise the quality of the drinking water, there’s so much more to be done and part of that is recognising that plumbing isn’t just about delivering water, it’s about providing a circulatory system to support and enhance something that’s going on already.

I’m not certain that just turning the comments on is the way to go, immediately. Of course it would be great to open up the conversation online but I do think the whole thing is still too fragile to withstand the shenanigans of people like this.

The work now should be to build some more solid two-way relationships between No. 10, online journalists and bloggers. My first question would be why press people like Neil haven’t been more intimately involved in the project already. Many people are still impressed when the guys on the @downingstreet twitter feed reply directly to questions and comments. When Obama was here and I was hanging around outside, I had a significantly different experience simply because we had a feed coming from inside and questions were answered in real time. Yes, our government departments are too opaque, but from where I’m sitting, I see much greater will to move towards real transparency than we’ve had in the past. This is a small enabling step towards it – let’s support it rather than knock it down straight away.

Clearing some headspace

One of those brain dump things where I want to write more than 140 characters but not enough for a “proper” post, whatever *that* is.

The not-so-obvious sign that twitter’s about to go mainstream is that the really smart people are so bored with it they are messing with the concept. This week has seen Hugh making the ultimate sacrifice and fairly swift resurrection. It’s also seen Andrew Baron trying to sell his account & followers on e-Bay (although he’s now deleted the auction) These are the kinds of one-offs that can’t be replicated, but hopefully will inspire some more interesting activity – Mark, how do you describe this sort of copying behaviour?

At the same time, it is becoming more and more like the playground with bullies and victims finding each other very easily. It’s a good job there are some grown-ups keeping things sensible. pfffft!

We’re trying to get the next couple of months of the Tuttle prototype settled with sponsorship – £300-£500 gets you fame and geek gratitude for a week, but on the basis that it’s often easier to raise a lot of money than just a little – you could book say the first (or second, or third…) Friday of the next three months for £1500. Helen’s done some work on polishing the value proposition for sponsors – go take a look and if you or your clients would like to play, you know where I am.

The Tuttle Breakfast next Wednesday sold out in a matter of days and now has a waiting list of 13 people. We’ll do more. Post your ideas for sessions on the wiki – we’ve already loads – I particularly like Mike & Mecca’s suggestions that we need to break out of the echo chamber – I’m hoping that Wednesday will fulfill some of that.

I went to MeasurementCamp last week – I’m still feeling uneasy about it. I just know that with hindsight if I was back where I was 12 years ago, with hindsight I wouldn’t have put so much effort into measuring public services. Or maybe I would, but would try to find ways of balancing the hard and the soft better. Social Media metrics enable and encourage gaming in place of authenticity but when you say it like that it sounds awful pompous and spoilsporty.

I still need more work and somewhere to live from 18th May. Shortest paragraph – greatest headspace. HALP pls kthxbye.