Hey, check this out. You know #followfriday, where you can make recommendations of cool people to follow on the Friday of each week? Good times. If so, then you’re probably also aware of TopFollowFriday.com, a site that ranks the most highly-recommended folk.

For example, here’s a screenshot from today’s chart:

TopFollowFriday.com - I Win!

I have two problems with this.

  1. It’s not Friday, and
  2. How in blue blazes am I number one?

The reason is disappointing simple: every mention of a username in a tweet that contains a #followfriday tag will count as a recommendation, irrespective of which day of the week it is. But it gets worse: not only can you recommend yourself, but if you re-tweet a #followfriday recommendation that contains your name, that’ll count, too.

I wondered why I saw a lot of people doing this, and there’s your reason: they’re gaming the system. I mean, it’s one thing to see @mashable and even someone like @oprah at the top of the list (she’s been completely owned in fourth place today, btw), but there are always some people in the top 20-50 who, shall we say, don’t compute.

The reason I hit the top spot today is I wrote an article that contained the word #followfriday. It got some re-tweets that included my name, and there you go. That’s great, and always welcome, but it’s hardly a recommendation to follow me.

Now, I’m not sure if you can recommend yourself more than once on any given day. I suggested myself multiple times in the same tweet (and Jack Schofield later did the same) and while they all did register, it only gave me one total vote. What’s also curious is according to the stats on TopFollowFriday.com I have nine individual recommendations today, but I’m only seeing a total of six points. Now, even if we assume my vote didn’t count (but then why is it in the list?), that still adds up to eight.

Bottom line: #followfriday was meant to be a bit of fun, and the internet and social networks are often obsessed with popularity contents as a measure of ‘who is winning’, but if you can game a system so easily I suggest it renders it rather pointless. How difficult would it be to write a slice of code that

  1. Doesn’t allow you to recommend yourself, and
  2. Counts any recommendation from any person just once, even with re-tweets
  3. Ignores any #followfriday tweets that aren’t delivered on a Friday (somewhere around the world)

Sure, we could all set up loads of sockpuppets and easily boost our #followfriday numbers, but that takes effort and is entirely too duplicitous. This is a pretty basic exploit, and most people wouldn’t even notice.

On a side but related note, there’s been some talk this week that Twitter has been removing the #followfriday recommendations from their trends list. If this is true – and I checked last Friday and it was noticeably absent, despite being the clear front-runner on Hashtags.org – then it’s a bit sneaky, but I can understand why. #followfriday isn’t really a trend – it’s a weekly event. Moreover, if Twitter (and others) want to accurately track and record information on the network, each and every Friday #followfriday is going to upset the apple cart. Over the course of a month or even a year, it’ll likely be far and away the #1 contender. Who wants to read an official report that says, “The hottest topic on Twitter this year was #followfriday”?

Still, none of this matters. Now I know the secrets, I’m so gonna win this week. Finally, all that Twitter bling that comes with being the most highly-recommended user is all mine… what? There’s no prize?

Ah man. Now I might as well play fair.