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Epic fail: Why is twitter walling the reply-garden?

Today's Twitter update was not a minor bug fixing issue: the reply-policy has been completely revamped, and most twitter users are not too about the fact that from now on users no longer see public replies sent by friends to people thy themselves are not following. This is how ReadWriteWeb puts it – and after reading 4 Pages of heated discussion on this post, I'm still not sure what the new policy *really* means.

And that is the fault of the official explanation on Twitter's corporate blog which is quite short and leaves some questions open. The first paragraph seems like a good explanation:

We've updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we've learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they followit's a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don't follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today's update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

But later today Biz Stone updated the text with a second paragraph which kind of nullifies the message of the first:

Spotting new folks in tweets is an interesting way to check out new profiles and find new people to follow. Despite this update, you'll still see mentions or references linking to people you don't follow. For example, you'll continue to see, “Ev meeting with @biz about work stuff” even if you don't follow @biz. We'll be introducing better ways to discover and follow interesting accounts as we release more features in this space.

This is the whole blog-posting by the way – and it seems to imply that the “reply”-status of a tweet solely depends on the position of the @username either in the beginning or somewhere else in the message. This doesn't make a lot of sense. Before today's update users had to chose the reply-behavior via a drop-down box in their settings/notices section. This dropdown has vanished without a trace. And frankly I do have no idea about Twitter's motivation for cutting us off from third party replies, which are one of the best ways to discover new users. Naturally, you're much more inclined to be interested in new people your friends talk to, but Twitter takes all this away. So please stop walling the garden – we want our old reply-policy back. Or, as tet3 puts in on Twitter's public support page:

Removing configuration options which substantial numbers of users used, rather than educating users is lazy, stupid, and insulting. Twitter is a great service, and it's where the people are, but boy, does the management know how to screw good stuff up.

The Twitter Auto-Follow accounts list…

The Twitter Auto-Follow List …is deprecated. When I started this project a couple of months ago, Twitter was in its early stages and far from being as spam-flooded as now. While the system worked perfectly for a couple of month, at some points more and more users began turning off the auto-follow feature as an increasing number of spam accounts became more and more annoying. Keeping in mind the current state of Twitter, such an auto-follow list doesn't make sense any more, so I decided to remove the list.

But the increasing success of Twitter did not only show us the downsides of tweet-spam but also produced a couple of very interesting mash-ups. In the Last weeks I found out that TweetLater Pro's brand-new “FriendFinder” feature and Pretty Link Pro's Pretty-Bar are the two most efficient strategies if you want to increase your followers with targetted micro-bloggers and leave spammers and feed-accounts out in the cold. Take a look, TweetLater, an online-mash-up service as well as Pretty Link, a WordPress plugin for using your own domain as a URL-shortener, are available in free trial versions:

tweetlater-250x250prettylink-250x250

For historical reasons…

…I've left the old text online. Thanks for visiting – I'll keep a sharp eye on our favorite micro-blogging service and I will keep you updated about my experiences (by now I run one of the largest European accounts with more than 30k followers. Feel free to follow me; I don't auto-follow any more, but I take a short look at the timelist of all new contacts and follow back everybody who has something interesting to say:

twitter.com/datadirt

Like all web 2.0 services, twitter works best on a give-take (reciprocal) basis. That's why I am starting this list which will help you to build a lot more twitter followers much faster than you usually could, and it's a great way to promote your own account, too! There are a couple of services out there that offer an auto-follow option meaning that you automatically follow every new user who follows you. This is a list of such accounts – which basically means that all you have to do is follow those guys and you are sure to increase your twitter-followership very fast, which is extremely useful if you start new accounts. Update: I have a done a major update today (2009-04-26) and split the list into three sublists: English, German and other accounts. This will make the list a lot more usable as it keeps growing and growing. Also, I've added a mini-FAQ: please read and save you and me some time.

To make targeted following a little easier, I added a couple of additional info. Every entry consists of a link to the twitter account, three tags that specify the general topical field of the account and finally and optional language entry which only applies to twitterers who are not tweeting in English. Being part of this list of course means that you will gain many followers yourself – the longer this list, the greater the gain for all tweet-geeks involved.

TweetLater: New autofollow approval feature

tllogoAuto-follow is a great feature for twitter, because it helps you save a lot of time. On the other hand though, plenty users are afraid of automatically following the likes of spam-bots and such. TweetLater, one of my favorite one-stop-shop twitter mash-up, updated their auto-follow feature today: users may now chose to moderate who to follow and who to keep a respectful distance from. It's called “vet new users” and you have to turn it on once if you're already using a TweetLater account.

And if you use twitter to market your page, you probably already do – besides from the auto-follow, TweetLater offers a couple of other nice features like scheduled tweets and multi-account administration. The new moderation features puts potential auto-follows in a queue first and lets you take a peek before making a decision:

In keeping with TweetLater's mission to provide Twitter productivity tools, I have added a feature where you can still configure your Twitter account for auto-follow and/or auto-welcome, but that allows you to manually vet new followers before your desired actions are executed.
TweetLater keeps a new follower on hold for 72 hours so that you can log in to TweetLater and tell us what you want to do. If you don't log in and record your decision within 72 hours, TweetLater will go ahead and apply your selected automation options. This is done so that new followers don't pile up and you having to wade through hundreds of approval pages if there's a period of time that you cannot do the manual vetting.
You have three options with each follower, namely: a) approve, b) ignore, or c) block.

To me, twitter definitely is a two-way street: I just love the auto-follow feature, and I don't use the new approval system, as Socialtoo.com's Auto-Unfollow feature basically achieves the same results without me having to invest any time. But for those who like to carefully chose who they follow, it's a great add-on, especially since TweetLater puts all new followers from all accounts into one big list. And this is how to turn on the new feature:

  1. Log in to TweetLater;
  2. Click the Accounts button in the sidebar;
  3. Click the Automate button for your Twitter account;
  4. Scroll down and click the “Manually Vet New Followers” option box; and
  5. Click the Save button.

From now on you can click on the “main” button in the sidebar, and then on the “Vet New Followers” link in the menu to see if there are already new followers waiting for you to vet.

tlvetnew

Good luck building your twitter-followership! Micro blogging is a great conversion tool, but requires a lot of manual work. So any mash-ups that take the hassle out of boring “farming quests” are highly welcome.

Welcome, dear new follower!

I recorded this 1-minute introduction video for all my fellow tweet-geeks: micro blogging is great, and it's even more fun if you can put a face to the name. So this is how datadirt (that would be me) rolls:

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