Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Twitter Bots Have Found Me

Sevda Cordier-Dirikoc, BIOalternatives, France
I've been gaining some additional followers on Twitter recently which is always nice. Some of them are clearly not real people though. I realized this when I got three new followers in a very short period of time. All had odd names and exactly the same tweets sent. Not surprisingly the tweets were advertising stuff. I suppose this a right of passage of a sorts but I'd just as soon not have to go though it.

There has to be an economic incentive for spam or there wouldn't be anywhere near as much of it as we see. I used to wonder who was falling for these obviously shady deals. Then a relative developed Alzheimer's and it became clear to me where at least one source of sales originate. When you're mental faculties start to decline the offers in spam look a lot more appealing. Realizing where at least some of the "customers" are coming from made me dislike spam a whole lot more than I already did. 

In addition to spambots that send tweets I've also encountered @emkey1tweets tweets that are links to spam. None of this is really news if you've been a heavy Twitter user for any length of time though. 

One secondary effect of all this spamming is that it makes social network influence harder to measure since those scores depend in part on @ activity and followers. The scoring includes determining the quality of an individual or companies network so as long as the algorithms in use take this problem into consideration it's hopefully not a significant issue. I can imagine some people "courting" spam bots to up their scores.

The stability on Twitter recently has been poor. Maybe the spam bots are to blame but there seem to be a lot of rumors going on about internal strife and general discontent. Likely a big part of the problem is that Twitter has been much better at generating revenue for others than itself. At some point investors start to want to see some sort of return on their money and employees start to wonder if they are ever going to get to cash in on their hard work. Like it or not a big part of the economic and intellectual engine that drives the valley is based on the assumption that hard work and success will be rewarded with large wads of cash. Twitter's endgame is far from obvious at this point and they may be starting to suffer because of that.

In spite of all the recent hiccups and other issues with Twitter there are an amazing number of very interesting and cool people available to follow if you spend a little time looking around. For instance, enter "Entrepreneur" in the search box and start working your way down the list of names. You might even be able to start a conversation with somebody who is highly knowledgeable in a field of endeavor you care about. 

Image by GE Healthcare via Flickr
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