Twitter has created a new official account called @TwitterSuggests and is using it to send public replies to other Twitter users. What does Twitter want to say to its users? How to use the service, of course, and more specifically whom they should follow. Unfortunately the recommendations are unsolicited and some of them are kind of dirty.
Other people are going to complain about this a lot – but I say hacking is cool, let’s get more of it going on in-house at Twitter with official support! It’s also pretty funny, in a disturbing way. Twitter has offered links to recommended users for months in its sidebar but this new method accomplishes a number of things: it sends new users what might be their first @reply so they can see how the system works and it is another attempt to get people to act on follow suggestions. Retention of new users is Twitter’s #1 problem and this little experiment could help solve the biggest challenges new people face: boredom and pointlessness. In theory, at least. It’s sure to be interesting, though!
The new account appears to have been first spotted and blogged about by eagle eyed super-blogger Louis Gray. It was created in January, is verified, has an official support page on the Twitter site and was created by Pankaj Gupta, Tech Lead in Twitter doing user relevance – personalized recommendations and ranking. (Keep hacking Pankaj!)
Twitter user Ed Borasky, who describes himself as a Media Inactivist, Thought Follower, Sit-Down Comic, Former Boy Genius, Real-Time Data Journalism Researcher, Open Source Appliance Maker And Mathematician, has pointed out that a number of the automated recommendations the account is making to people could be classified as Not Safe for Work. That’s probably not something Twitter wants an official account mathematically recommending people click through to.
Social network analyst danah boyd once said she interviewed young Christians who believed MySpace was a site for organizing after-school prayer sessions – because that’s what everyone else they interacted with on the site was doing there.
There are some people who are about to learn that Twitter is not a site for organizing after-school prayer sessions.
Borasky Tweets “Twitter has created its *own* reply spambot, complete with NSFW tweeters!” Sure enough, the account is posting approximately once every 5 seconds.
At least now we know that Twitter isn’t 100% opposed to bulk, unsolicited public @replies from automated accounts.
Below, Twitter believes that @Lis4Love, a user named Alanna Walker who has a private protected account and poses in her profile picture upside down with a man in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, needs to be messaged with the suggestion she follow Comedy Central’s @Jokesdotcom, another account that hasn’t posted anything in 18 months (@spanman75) and yet another account that posted 10 hours ago the message “nigga eat a dick we da shit no flushing.”
Enjoy your exciting new friends, Alanna! Introductions are on the house!