Friday, February 20, 2009

Open Letter to Twitter

Twitter will be the most successful NET company EVER. Let me say that again... Most successful ever. They will be the largest digital infrastructure (see an earlier post re Twitter is the Train Tracks of the 21st century) with the exception of the Internet itself.

I am writing this open letter because I believe that Twitter is successful in spite of itself. Management (IMO) has made some assumptions based on THEIR expectations - that are just wrong. When reading this, you might not agree, or you might agree with one point but not another. Regardless - I would LOVE to hear your comments or your Tweets either way.

This started when after following my 2000th person, and trying to follow #2001 I was unable to. There was no explanation...I just clicked on the follow button and nothing happened. This is fail #1...If you block at 2000 follows HEY at least send me to a screen telling me WHY I can not follow. For a week I was emptying my cache, reinstalling browsers, etc wondering why clicking the button did not work.

Fail #2 - Once I realized this was an intentional policy, I just assumed this was in some way to stop spammer accounts. I also assumed that whatever their "algorithm" for this was just flawed, and would improve over time. You should note, that up until last week my follow to follower ratio was around 1000/1500. Not a profile of a spammer. I also note that my perception (whether or not you agree) of accounts where there is a 1/10 follow/follower relationship is that the person has that "rock star" image of themselves and that they Tweet mostly to feed their ego...not for me, but I guess that works for others.

Me? I like to follow who I want. It is a RARE occasion when I would not follow someone back immediately (If after following I did not find benefit, I would simply unfollow). One of the best parts of Twitter (up till now) is that I can control WHO and WHO I DON'T want to follow. <--- This to me is the BEAUTY of Twitter, and surprisingly (I was FLOORED) that Twitter management doesn't get this! This was my email to @EV:

"...I do MANY charitable things on Twitter, as recently as this past week via Twestival – and next week I am bringing a campaign live on twitter (I am doing this free) representing a 12 year old blind boy who will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. You have no bigger fan who RT's and Tweets all the good stuff. Witness my latest blog post "10 Commandments of Twitter" which must have been good because it has been RT'd like crazy...OK so this is what I need from you. I have a 2000/1500 follow to follower ratio …I am OBVIOUSLY not a spammer …please grandfather me in until you offer it as Freemium. Bad to just lock me up..."

@EV 's Reply:

"...We don't remove that for anyone anymore. It sounds like you want to follow more people to get attention for your account. The follow limit is there exactly to restrict that kind of behavior. People do not appreciate being followed for that reason. Sorry. ..."


WTF? FAIL #3 is who cares WHY I want to follow someone? Twitter has thrived on being OPEN - Yet you dare to DICTATE what/who/why people choose to follow someone? Since when does Twitter management speak on the behalf of their Tweeters? The beauty of Twitter is that if I found someone followed me just to "get attention for their account" AND I decided that I did not like that - I have MY OWN choice to simple unfollow that person.

FAIL #4 Twitter is not a governemnt - There is no and SHOULD NOT be a "lower class" "middle class" and "upper class" So please explain to me why MANY on Twitter aka the "Twitteratti" follow 10's of thousands i.e. jowyang , chrisbrogan,etc <---(Disclaimer they have done nothing wrong I only mention them because they are in my network and I am aware of how many they follow ).

For any of you who want to know why I want to follow more than 2000 you should note how I (everyone of us is differant) use Twitter:

1) I originally followed anyone I could find in the Social Media space ... This is an interest of mine, and also my proffession.

2) I also follow my personal friends and family...think of this as yet another group.

3) I recently found myself moving to Phoenix (where I knew nobody) from NYC - So I reached out via Twitter and followed everyone in Phoenix that I could. Had I not been able to do this, I likely would not have the new friends hear, nor proffesional oppertunities I have created via Twitter.

So I ask YOU to leave your comments here if you agree - more importantly if you think I am wrong. Most importantly if you DO agree, please Tweet @EV @Jack @biz and @Twitter:

"Let my Tweeple Go" #donttellmewhotofollow" - and PLEASE RT (if you agree)

I can't follow U back, but you r welcome to follow me @A_F

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lnorvig said...

Wow, that is BS. Scoble is following 67,854 people. So the rock stars get grandfathered in? I do agree, it is none of their business, and it is perfectly plausible, with tools like TweetDeck or Twhirl, that you could be following that many people because you are actually interested in what they have to say.

Paul M said...

Having met Andy I really find it hard to believe that his intent it to reach people that do not want to be connected. I know that he has been active in the Phoenix Twestival support and other non-profit events. I also know that he moved from the largest city in the U.S. to the 5th... so he's gonna meet a lot of new people. He has an affable outgoing personality which draws people to him. One thing in particular the resonates with me is when he said good bye, "I have to get to my family". Andy is a genuine guy and I find it hard to believe that he has any malicious intent by following more than 2k people.

Anonymous said...

Andy - I totally agree with your entire post ... except for the 1st paragraph.

So let me comment on the majority of your post 1st.

I didn't realize twitter has capped their follow limit. What's even more surprising is Evan clearly stated that they're not going to change this for anyone.

So now there's a caste system on twitter. So that tells me a couple of things:

Twitter's value has just dropped.

They now are preparing for a couple of revenue streams. I'm guessing but here goes - follow above 2000 and you can pay a subscription. Also I think they confirmed that ad revenue is going to be a major stream for them. The advertisers are also going to be able to buy data as well.

So that still leaves us with the twitterati- They are still being allowed to amass followers and following people. What will they be charged?

Finally to ur first paragraph. Twitter will not be the net company to end all net companies. Twitter is a tool and I don't think people realize that yet.

I'm really surprised in mgmt at Twitter.

Lena said...

Interestingly, it seems like they may be disguising an infrastructural constraint with a TOS Policy.

Twitter has always had a problem defining what in the world people would use it for, and the truth of the matter is that the main reason for its success is that people constantly invent and discover new ways to leverage it as a tool. The longer they stall with freemium the more people are likely to hit the limit and get pissed off.

snarky sidenote...i bet they'd grandfather THE_REAL_SHAQ in if he hit 2000.

Anonymous said...


I have a lot of respect for your speaking up and writing this post. I too am a little surprised of the attitude of twitter management. Even if they won't grandfather you in, seems like the would have some sort of an explanation/apology and appreciation for your faithful twitter use.

Good work @a_f tweet on, I'm sure your follows will sore regardless of your ability to follow back. :)


Anonymous said...

Lena, THE_REAL_SHAQ wouldn't be following more people than follow him, so that comment doesn't apply.

To everyone: All Andy needs (or anyone for that matter) is to have 1800 followers to break the so-called following 2000 limit.

Laura: Yes, Scoble is following 67,000 people. But he's also following 62,000 people. After someone breaks through the 2000 limit, they can follow 10% more people than they have followers. I have 5319 followers so I can follow 513 more or 5832.

Anonymous said...

I'm torn on the issue. We've all seen the follows from spammers who follow a 1000 people with 2 updates. So I think that there should be a limit of how many you should follow vs. how many are following. But for someone like myself who uses Twitter to communicate and for Educational Purposes I am always interested in seeing what a wide variety of people have to say. It's a tough call for Twitter but in the end I don't see the harm in following it costs no one anything and I don't have to read your messages if you follow and I don't return the favor.
Andrian Marketing, a florida marketing company

Chuck Lasker said...

This is EXACTLY what happened to me across the last 2 days. I was Tweeting about how Chrome broke because my Follow button didn't work. Then it didn't work in FireFox or IE. So I blamed Twitter. Then TweetDeck gave an error that explained it. It makes no sense. So now I have to try to get 500 more followers to follow me without me following them back in order to break the Twitter arbitrary socialist barrier. I have when great technology gets stuck in the hands of idiots.

Anonymous said...

Hey Andy,

I see that Jason has already told you that the limit will change after your followers gt close to 2000 and then twitter will allow you 1.1 times the number of follows as your followers.

Followers * 1.1 = allowed follows

If you interact with the people you follow, you will find that most of them follow back and you will find that your network will grow naturally, especially as people meet you at various events around the Valley of the Sun.

It really is about the quality of the relationships, rather than the quantity of numbers you can accrue. I have only invited 35,000 of the 2,000,000 e-mail addresses from my mailing lists to connect to me on various social media.

They know where I am and connect to me if they feel compelled to.

Bill Austin


Chuck Lasker said...

So how does @1000000 follow 24,694 people, but only has 3,515 followers? Double standards only make things worse.

Twitter management is another example of how intelligence is not required for success.

Anonymous said...

Suck it up. Rules are rules. If you can't get another 500 people to follow you, you suck at twitter and should give it up immediately. Do you hear everyone else complaining??

Chris Loft said...

Yes, I'm complaining too. I've just reached two milestones -1000 followers and 2000 that I follow. Now I cannot follow my new followers back, cannot follow anyone I find interesting, in fact cannot follow anyone. It has taken me 8 months to gain 1000 followers. In that time I have never heard of this follower limit. It is quite obvious that many people are following tens of thousands of people - why is there one rule for some and a different one for us z-listers? Why isn't this information readily available? Is it? Where can I find out about this policy? Is it recent or has it always been there?

Margaret Staples said...

Consider my recent following of your twitter account to be my vote that they reject this silly policy. I agree that the simple freedom of the setup is the biggest draw to using it and putting arbitrary limitations in after the fact is just going to create consumer hate. Maybe someday they will rethink their foolishness and you will be able to follow me back, I would welcome it. =)