following – Stay N Alive

Curing Spam on Twitter With Better Follow Limits

spamI posted this over on the Twitter developer mailing list to try and get a discussion going. I thought I’d post a copy here for my readers to discuss – maybe you have more ideas than I do. I want to make it clear that I do not condone what some users of SocialToo are doing to gain Twitter followers. Will I stop them? I can’t – as long as Twitter allows them to do it, I can’t make a decision one way or another on who is doing this and who is not. No matter what, I have to respect my users, and most (almost all) of them are using Twitter for legitimate reasons. I do think changing the limits to what I suggested in the e-mail (below) will fix the problem Twitter is trying to solve though:

Let’s discuss the follow limits. I feel, as developer of a tool that allows people to auto-follow, I have a bit of insight into this. While there are many, many legitimate users that auto-follow others, and have good reason to do so, some are using it as a way to game the system, build followers quickly, break the Twitter TOS, and reduce the meaning of follower numbers for many other users just using the service legitimately. I see this daily, amongst a few of my own users, and while, due to our privacy policy I can’t share who they are, I do have some suggestions that would make the API follow limits make a little more sense. Maybe you guys can provide more insight.

-Currently the follow per day limit is 1,000 follows per user per day. There is no limit on the number of unfollows a user can do per day (that I know of), and it appears as though there is also a limit of around 10% for the number of users a person can follow more than follow them back. The users taking advantage of Twitter have figured this out. So here’s what they do:

A “gamer”‘s typical activity is that they will follow as many people as they can – most up to the 1,000 limit they’re allowed per day, until they hit the ratio of 10%. The higher the follower base they gain, the longer they’re able to do this. They then hope a good portion of those 1,000 people follow back. Those that don’t use tools like mine (which weren’t intended to be used this way) to unfollow everyone who is not following them back. This is often much greater than 1,000 for the users that are really good at it. The process then starts over. They’ll use tools like Hummingbird (Google it) and Twollo to find people and automatically go out and follow them. This is why I refuse to create auto-follow filters to find new people on my service. It’s way too spammy if you ask me.

Why do they do this? 2 reasons: 1, “supposedly” having more followers means more visits and clicks in whatever you’re trying to promote. (I don’t believe this) and 2, many of these people also have auto-DM set up to send links and messages to each person that follows them back. Back when I offered this service (we disabled it for this exact reason) people told me they were seeing significant clicks on the links they would send to people via DM after they followed them. Therefore, more follows==more clicks==more revenue. I don’t blame them if that’s what they’re really seeing.

So for this reason I think having limits in place is a *good* thing. I don’t think the follow limit is in place due to traffic reasons, since there are many more calls that cause more traffic on the API and there is no limit to unfollows, so I really think Twitter is doing this for the purpose of reducing spam and “gaming” of Twitter. This is a good thing.

However, I think Twitter may be approaching the limits the wrong way. Here’s what I think would be more effective, and beneficial for the legitimate users that want to follow back and at the same time not allow those who want to game the system to use the methods I described. Twitter needs to impose limits based on whether the individual is following the user back or not.

For instance, if I follow @dacort and he is following me back, that shouldn’t count against me as a hit against my follow limit. However, if I try to follow @dacort and he is not following me back, it should count against me as a hit against my limit. With this, users could easily auto-follow back if they choose to, and it would still be difficult for the users trying to game the system and spam Twitter. In fact, you could significantly *reduce* the limit this way and make it virtually impossible for these users to use Twitter in that manner. If you were to look at the relationship between the users when counting against limits, you could probably reduce the follow/day limit all the way to around 200 per day instead of 1,000 per day. I don’t see any reason for the 10% follow/follower ratio with a low limit such as that.

However, as stands, the more followers you get, if you are using Twitter legitimately, you have no way to extend the courtesy back if you choose to do so, since after a certain point you will be following many more than 1,000 users per day. And even if you aren’t, it will take an extremely long time for many individuals to finally catch up to follow those following them if they want to at 1,000 follows per day.

I know there are some that disagree with the auto-follow concept. However, I also know most of you also want Twitter to be an open environment where people can choose to use it as they please. Doug, Alex, etc. I’d love it if you guys could at least consider changing the follow limits as I mentioned. The current limits are doing nothing to prevent the spammers – my suggestions I believe will, and will keep it an open environment for the rest of us.

Sorry for the long discourse – I would really love to hear others thoughts and suggestions.


Feel free to chime in on the developers mailing list, or let’s discuss here – what suggestions do you have? Are there any holes in my proposal?

Announcing Follower Messaging and Follow Statistics for

socialtoo_logo.jpgI’ve been throwing hints on Twitter over the last week or two that I’ve been working on this, and with a little extra time I finally got it together. Today I’d like to announce that, as of this moment, we have some really cool new features for Twitter users on, all in one place!

SocialToo, which is trying to be “Your Companion to the Social Web”, is seeking to build the tools and utilities that compliment your experience on the social networks you belong to. Up until now, anyone could sign up and automatically get the ability to have it follow all those on Twitter that follow you. The script ran once a day, and would do all the work for you, while also enabling you to blacklist users you don’t want it to follow. This enables you to automate, while making exceptions, making management of your friends on Twitter much easier. In addition, by providing Facebook credentials it would redirect “” to your Facebook profile.

Today, I’d like to announce some new features:

  • First of all, for those with less than 2,000 followers (this is due to a Twitter limit), we’re now updating your followers up to the hour – as Twitter improves their API I’ll update this to work even more realtime. We’re working with Twitter on getting their API improved to handle this. If you have 2,000 followers or more instead of just once a day, we’re now updating every 6 hours, so even your followers will update faster than before.
  • Today, we’re adding the ability to add a message that we’ll send to all your new followers via direct message. This can be a great opportunity to thank your followers, or, as a business account, tell them about a unique promotion you are running. However, if you’re just signing up and aren’t already following those who follow you, we recommend waiting until your account syncs up before turning this on, or all those we follow will get dm’d, even if they’re not new followers. This should only be applicable to new accounts – if you have an existing account, check your preferences and be sure to turn this feature on!
  • In addition, if you have a bunch of people who followed you, you followed back, and then they stopped following you (this is the case for many Twitter spammers), we’ve added the ability to turn on a feature that unfollows those that are not following you back. I think it’s who you follow that matters, so my recommendation is to use this feature sparingly, and turn it off when your account is back in sync. You can use it however you want though.
  • We’ve got a fresh new design! – okay, I admit, we’re not perfect yet, and were this the golden days I’d say we’re still technically in “beta” (I hate that excuse though), but we got a superstar designer to offer some help on the design for this – thanks so much to our designer!! You know who you are. The new design will come into play much more in the next round of features.
  • My favorite feature: follower statistics. Not only are we now tracking those that follow you, but we’re also tracking those that stopped following you. You’ll now get an e-mail every night telling you the followers that stopped following you, and who your new followers are (and consequently who you followed). This is turned off for all existing users – go into your preferences to turn this on and find out details about those you’re following and those who may have unfollowed you (and we’ll soon provide other statistics to help you find out why).

As planned, I think we’re changing the game in making your social experience better all in one place with these tools. You may be familiar with other sites that do similar things out there, but you will quickly find that is easier to set up, more automated, more accurate, and much less hassle than some of the other services out there.

Oh, and there’s one more really big thing. You’ll have to wait a few weeks to hear our next announcement though. Much more on the way!

You can sign up at (that’s T-O-O, like “tool”, or “also”). Follow us on Twitter at @socialtoo for more updates!

Louis Gray Tops Robert Scoble in Web Presence

pictures-909f19f1ff5645b2b95c94e0d9fc74d6-large.jpgpictures-251dca2ee33f11dc8d47003048343a40-large.jpgAs many are aware, it’s hard to avoid personalities like Louis Gray and Robert Scoble on the internet these days. Chances are that if you belong to a social network, and have friended them, they have interacted with your updates on the particular networks you belong to in one way or another. Louis and Robert seem to have a particular “omnipresence” to them, and both have an amazing knack for tracking the latest news and updates, and most importantly staying up with the actual people they follow. If you mention one of their names anywhere on the internet, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll know and respond in some fashion or another.

Louis Gray is relatively new to this however. Scoble has touted him as being “the next Scoble“, but in reality he has only become popular in just the last year or so. Scoble has been pretty popular for several years now, and a lot of his ability to be in so many networks at a time comes from experience. I’ve witnessed both of their abilities to multi-task and share and follow activities of others they follow first-hand, and it’s quite amazing to watch! Both are just as good at actually listening to most of the people they follow on each network they belong to.

A great example of this is in a panel at BlogWorld Expo last week, Stowe Boyd (aka StoBo) said something which Drew Olanoff re-tweeted. Scoble just so happened to be driving back home, but next thing we know, Robert was joining the conversation through FriendFeed and Twitter, all from the wheel of his car! We hope that Maryame was the one driving. Both of their abilities to know what is being said that is important at any given time is amazing.

In doing some research today though, it appears that Louis Gray may have surpassed Robert Scoble in the number of networks he belongs to. Doing some research on the recently announced, the username, “scobleizer” is on 26 of the listed networks. I am unaware of any other username that Robert Scoble uses around the internet, so we have to assume this is all for him. “louisgray”, the main username for Louis Gray, is on 18 networks. However, if we take the username, “louismg”, another username he uses (taken from his FriendFeed shares), we get 15 more networks he belongs to. Add to that the username, “asypta”, which Louis uses on stumbleupon and delicious, we get 5 more. That would, assuming these are all his usernames, make Louis Gray involved in a total of 38 networks. This is why Louis Gray has been so successful over the last year. I believe Louis Gray has just become “omnipresent”.

Any other names you can think of that rival Louis Gray or Robert Scoble in network involvement? I believe these two are tops in my book.

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