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Posts Tagged ‘block on Twitter’

Where They Burn Tweets, They Will Ultimately Burn People

In January 2011, Twitter wrote a fairly inspiring blog post entitled The Tweets Must Flow.

In the entry, crafted by Twitter co-founder (and then creative director) Biz Stone and general counsel Alex Macgillivray, wrote about the importance of preserving “the open exchange of information”, and that “almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right”.

Now, in a new update to this policy, Twitter appears to have done a one-eighty on its stance towards freedom of expression, as the platform now has the facility to withhold tweets from users in an entire, specified country – while keeping that content available to the rest of the world.

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How Twitter Could Fix Their Useless Block Function With One Simple Change

Almost two years ago I wrote a post about Twitter’s decidedly useless block functionality, that stated the reasons why this ‘block’ isn’t actually a block at all. Why? Because it doesn’t actually block anything.

Block somebody on Twitter and they can still read your timeline, send you replies and retweet your messages, giving the impression to others that you are still friends. So unless you take the rather drastic step of making your timeline completely private, which is overkill and a bad idea for most users, certainly if they want to use Twitter for business, a block is almost a complete waste of time.

The article resonated with readers, and is actually the most popular piece I’ve ever written, traffic-wise, ranking highly on Google for a number of related keyword searches. And with the news this week that a change in Californian law may force social networking sites to review their privacy policy, this is a great time for Twitter to step up, do the right thing and implement a block system that actually works.

And there’s a really simple way they could do it. In fact, all it needs is one extra checkbox in your settings.

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When Does An Unfollow Need To Become A Block?

Spammers aside, I block relatively few people on Twitter.

In optimising my stream, I’ve found that the comfort network size for me is to follow somewhere between three to five hundred people. Above that number and I feel that there’s too much going on, and everything moves a little too fast, which means I end up filtering out people and following lists or groups, which means I probably shouldn’t be following the excluded people at all. That may seem harsh, but Twitter simply doesn’t work if you follow everybody.

Likewise, if you follow nobody, or very few people, it also doesn’t function properly. I’m looking for information, not solitude. (I can get that at Google Wave.)

Five Reasons Why I Might Unfollow You

My Twitter network fluctuates fairly regularly, although it takes a lot for me to unfollow somebody. I have a few main reasons:

  1. Inactivity – I don’t and never will see the point of following somebody who hasn’t updated in months. (I use Untweeps to monitor this. I should add that I don’t blindly unfollow everybody who is inactive.)
  2. Inconsistency – If I’ve followed somebody for reason X and all of a sudden all they’re tweeting about is subject Y, this often leads to an unfollow. I’m not looking for everybody to ‘stay on target’ all the time, but complete personality changes or the total abandonment of one theme over another means it’s probably time for us to part ways.
  3. Rudeness – I can’t stand it when people are unnecessarily rude. Please, feel free to disagree with me, stick to your guns and voice your opinion. In fact, I encourage it. Just don’t be an ass about it.
  4. Crazies – I’ll give you every chance, but if you’re quite clearly a good, old-fashioned weirdo, I’ll move on. (Important note: if you bombard me with tweets, I file this under ‘crazy’, too.)
  5. Arrogance – I don’t like it when somebody never replies to my tweets. If this happens, I’ll check out their timeline and see if it’s just me, or whether they’re ignoring most of their other messages, too. Either way, if there’s no relationship there, despite my best efforts, eventually I’ll likely think it’s time we started seeing other people. I’m selective here, because I know some very important people are very busy doing very important things, but there has to be a point where there is no point.

Naturally, I’d expect everybody to apply these same guidelines to me, too.

Two Reasons Why I Will Block You

It’s items three and four that are the most serious. Because an unfollow on Twitter doesn’t stop somebody contacting you via an @ reply, rudeness and craziness can still get through, even after an unfollow. Or, more damagingly, if you never even followed at all. If either of these things becomes persistent, that’s when I will block somebody.

It doesn’t help that the block function on the network doesn’t actually work properly. But while blockees can still read my timeline and rant and rave about me to their heart’s content, at least I don’t have to be privy to it.

Just to reiterate – I’m not a fly-by-night follow/unfollower and I always give others a chance to excel. I love it when people surprise me, and bump against my (often flawed) expectations and first impressions. It takes a lot for me to actually block somebody.

If you want to get my attention, please, go crazy – I would absolutely love to hear from you. I really want to know what you think.

Just don’t be crazy. Or rude. Otherwise, I’m sorry to say that we’re done.

When YOU Block Somebody, I Would Like To Know

Throughout the Twitter week I get lots of rogue messages from spambots and other ne’er-do-wells who I then immediately block. You know, this kind of thing:

When YOU Block Somebody, I Would Like To Know

This charming individual illustrates exactly why replies are far more of a threat to your Twitter experience than direct messages. (At least it wasn’t to the level of what happened to me previously.)

What I thought would be a neat implementation from Twitter would be a facility that alerted all the members of my network each time I – or anybody else in that network – blocked somebody, and more importantly why.

This would have to be opt-in, as not everybody cares. But perhaps when you block somebody Twitter should ask you for a reason. It could be a drop down list of choices (spammer, retweet bot, etc) and an ‘other’ option where you could wax a little more lyrically.

When this was completed, everybody who ticked the box within that network would be sent a direct message saying

@username just blocked @troublemaker because reason

For example:

@sheamus just blocked @BeverleyBestg because "it's a spambot."

You could then click on the person I’ve blocked, check them out yourself, and block where necessary.

I could do this manually, but sometimes publically stating why you’ve blocked somebody is not always appropriate, and not everybody will care, as said. And publishing a big list of blocked users is of no interest to anybody but the person who created it.

Moreover, by actually asking us for a reason when we block, Twitter could get a rough indication of problem areas within the network. We know spam is already a big issue, but there’s no real indication how much of a problem trolls are on Twitter. Or stalkers. Or good, old-fashioned weirdos. Many of us have had bad experiences with individuals on other networks – that knowledge could be passed over to everybody else.

Of course, it’s all relative. One man’s guru is another man’s con artist. And likely there will be cases where somebody would use the block system to defame another’s good reputation. And that’s why it’s always important that you check these things out yourself before deciding to make what should be a fairly considered decision to block somebody.