On Twitter baiting

The entire premise of the Twitter system works on an economy of pestering and perturbing — by signing up to follow people, you’re willfully agreeing to let them distract and disturb you all day long with every projectile thought, ephemeral or substantive, that crosses their keyboard. You are signing into a digital community solely based based on the premises of self-promotion and self-congratulation. You are, in short, agreeing to have people throw their work, ideas, thoughts, whatever in your face in a constant barrage, in exchange for being able to throw the same back at them (lest you think I’m hypocritical, I don’t abdicate myself of any responsibility for acting the same way. Like I said, willful annoyances, and 300 some odd people have ostensibly agreed to tolerate these annoyances).

Twitter being an ego-based service that feeds self-worth by a series of retweets, lists, follow fridays, and so forth, one of the natural barometers of success is the size of your follow count, as in the number of people who follow you, more easily referred to as your Direct Audience. This then gives you a higher credibility ranking when people look to consider following you — par example: @villagevoice has 7,511 followers compared to the 721 it follows, meaning the Voice’s followers are seeking it out en masse; whereas @WatchRepairNY has only 124 followers yet follows 834 people, a sign that the self-described “in-house store that carries every type of watch related accessory that you could need for your valuable time piece” is seeking out followers in bulk by adding lots and lots of new people. The amount of retweets you generate or the strength of your direct audience affects your “influence” on sites like Topsy.

Twitter users know that a lot of new follows they get are purely business or ego fishing trips, hoping only that you will follow them back (I have little reason to believe @WatchRepairNY is interested in my thoughts on what Ted Dibiase is up to these days or the contents of my Saving Abel interview). I can abdicate myself of ever doing this protozoan-level scrounging task (though if @TheCharlieDay wanted to follow me back, I would not be offended).

And like any means of electronic communication, Twitter is rife with spam, spambots, porn bots, porn spam, junk mail-level advertisements and so forth. A lot of people use a service such as Twollo to generate automatic follows, so, say if I have a twote about The Pixies, the keywords will pop up in the search of a Pixies account and they will start automatically following me. Which is awesome, because I heart the Pixies. Follow. I twote something about Zicam once. They responded with a “thanks!” and sent me a coupon. RT RT RT.

It’s less awesome when you constantly get followed or @ replied by people who have not filtered out complete misfires in their auto searches.

Par example: Yesterday, I twote the phrase: “Just typed the words ‘dibs REO Speedwagon’ into an e-mail” (nevermind why)

immediately after, I got a new follower: @tampabayREOguy

There are several things wrong with your attempt to get me to follow you, guy, not the least of which is me very much not being in Tampa and you very much not understanding that Only the Strong Survive. Blocked.

But this led to an interesting idea for an experiment: can one inflate one’s Twitter statistics simply by baiting auto followers?

Method: various-random word tweeting in several key categories that would trigger auto followers.

Over several messages yesterday, I sent out the following words:

real estate. terror. zicam. trader. stocks. Britney. singles. CASH. 401k. money management. SEO. internet business. cupcakes. malted hops. time machine. health care. Iraq. Stimpy. golf. beaches. Leviticus. Megan Fox. u2. twister. rich quick. lose fat. diet. anorexia. buried treasure. cheap airfare. coffee blog. income. slimming. recipes. media. exercise. fast profit. london. zombie brain lust. Alaskan weather. buy stock. sell stock. organic fabric. cars.

Results: 28 new followers in the course of a few hours, raising my direct audience from 274 to over 300, and also increasing my Follow Deficit in a positive direction, as in, more people follow me than I follow, which makes my account seem cool and sought after and not desperate for new audience.

All of these people are of no use to me. They range from the aforementioned WatchRepair to South Carolina golf course accounts to various real estate, weight-loss to one of the actresses from Twilight (uh..why…) and other thinly veiled spam accounts. A sampling:

Watch Repair NY | Manhattan

Time is money! Is your watch keeping you on time? http://watchrepairny.com  about 23 hours ago

Parker Smith | Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

New Golf Blog Post Last golf hole of the year for Bostonian – We overestimated this Boston area golfer.  Making the… http://ow.ly/165H1a  about 3 hours ago

GPT Truth | Global

Twitter! You Follow Everyone, Everyone Follows You! OH YEA, And You Get Paid http://vur.me/s/FollowMoney New Way To TWEET 858 about 6 hours ago

Jayne Chambers | Kettering, UK

Today is my birthday and I’m having a great time in Birmingham, with my other half. X  11:09 AM Nov 30th

Brian McMorris | Plymouth, Minnesota

http://wealth-ed.com City National Corporation to Present at the Goldman Sachs US Financial …: It is backed by $1… http://bit.ly/5XPU4s  about 1 hour ago

Real Voice Media | San Diego, CA

About Half in U.S. Would Pay for Online News, Study Finds – By Richard Perez-Pena http://ow.ly/G2fZ #fb about 3 hours ago

Andrew Jarvis | Nottinghamshire, Uk

Residual Income for hairdressers from mlm. 10:55 AM Aug 26th

Land Central | Oregon

Last 6 hours of our black friday mega land sale! http://www.landcentral.com only $75 secures your land!!!  9:44 PM Nov 29th


Amritsar News: Amritsar News: Pak Terror Groups May Have Role http://bit.ly/lgWDW  2 months ago

TSC Travel Network | United States

Need money? Start earning great commission and get monthly paychecks from our company! Check us out: http://bit.ly/15cqu3  about 4 hours ago

David Szetela | Louisville

RT @gordonchoi: PPC Blog: Baidu Retires Old PPC System – http://tinyurl.com/ykcspw6 about 6 hours ago


Tweetup: Sydney Travel/Tech Meetup on Nov 10, 2009 RSVP here: http://twtvite.com/uix3pe #twtvite 6:18 PM Nov 9th

Tweety Money | Right Here, In Front of Your

#wordpress Fastest way to learn how to increase traffic. http://bit.ly/js-tm  19 minutes ago

Tom Sommers | Houston

Are You Too Old For Golf Fitness Workouts http://ow.ly/H9ae  about 3 hours ago

WG Real Estate | Arlington, TX

4/2/2 w/ 1867 SqFt; Built in 2003; 2 Liv & 2 Din – $121,000! 2002 Lennox, Arlington – MLS# 11309287 HUD# 492-735780 http://twitpic.com/rm7yc about 21 hours ago

Ashley Greene

#ashleygreene Twilight’s Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz and Jackson Rathbone in new ….. http://bit.ly/4RXtOj  about 15 hours ago

Free Oppertunity

The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do, well.  34 minutes ago

Karin Jennings | London

The Doctors Were Real, the Patients Undercover http://bit.ly/6Kzw2C  about 19 hours ago


Have you heard of a Reverse Mortgage? http://ow.ly/HwFL  about 2 hours ago

and more are still pouring in. What does all this mean? Nothing, really, other than to demonstrate how easy it is to manipulate people who are already trying to manipulate the system. It’s sort of irrelevant since whoever is behind a twitter account that misspells “freeoppertunity” is probably not going to check their feed all that often, as all they care about is enticing just one more sucker to click on something that promises an easy way to make $500 a day (step 1: create a virus that steals the bank account information of whomever clicks on it).

It’s sort of like the old trick my mom used to do of taking junk mail that came to the house and putting it back into postage-paid envelopes from other junk mail that came to the house, just as a tiny little way to stick it to the ceaseless tide of junkers. “Let’s see how they like it,” she’d say, chocking up a tiny splinter of victory for Frustrated Mail Recipients everywhere.

I look forward to informing all my new followers, bot or otherwise, about my latest efforts to get tickets to a sold-out Ted Leo show, various meditations on #howcribbsbrokehishand (pushing to get to the front of a mega land sale in Oregon, I heard, as well as wealth.money.finance.terror.prescription.Brittney.travel.), and the nature of concocting sustenance recipes out of a canister of fried onion pieces and three different kinds of hummus.

Maybe they’ll eventually prune their follow lists and my stats will drop back down. But until then, having these people agree to let me willfully annoy them is an oppertunity too good to pass up.

2 responses to “On Twitter baiting

  1. I have no problem with you telling people how you got tickets to Ted Leo. Just make sure the words “Barry Schwartz” and “Genius” are in there.

  2. Pedro the Lion

    That is a great oppertunity.

    Plus, some of us hacks are tacitly required to tweet our news stories to drive traffic to our Jesus.

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