Andrew Hyde posted "A Message to Twitter Spammers" suggesting that something needed to be done, but does it really? In my comments to his post I asked if it was really necessary for Twitter to go that far, and weather it was really a problem at all.
I'm not sure they need to go so far as to ban users that do it. As twitter grows communities are going to form around the speakers that have the most to offer. If the people mass following then unfollowing have nothing to say eventually their followers are going to move on.The problem I have with wanting Twitter to do something about this is that it seems to me to be an argument by people who feel like they've earned their following against people they feel haven't. An argument you could interpret at elitst and at it's most base level it's just users upset that they're now having to deal with their Now I'm not suggesting for a second that Andrew Hyde or anyone else is churlish, childish or elitist. I wouldn't follow him either on Twitter or his blog if I though so. I think it's far more likely that most users are just seeing an increase in people following them as Twitter becomes more and more mainstream. They're also seeing a lot of followers who are plainly gaming the system to inflate their perceived influence; dealing with that on a daily basis is frustrating , I'm sure. In my comment I tried to make the point that all these users were gaining a thin perception that at a glance they matter. But that I don't think it makes any real difference and I don't think it's worth wasting time lobbying for change because these users really aren't building a following at all. Despite what the numbers may indicate.
I don't see an audience on twitter as being any different from an audience anywhere. Any idiot can get one, just walk into a crowded room and start shouting. Keeping them is what matters. An audience that isn't engaged or doesn't care, doesn't matter.I could show up in the houses of parliament and shout my message out at MPs, get on the news in the process and have it heard by hundreds, even thousands of people of influence - but they'd label my message the ravings of a lunatic and even if they were amused would quickly move on with their lives.
Nothing twitter can do will stop the type of people that only care about the number of people listening to them from caring about that. What might be better is if tools like http://twitter.grader.com gave weight to the longevity of your engagement with a follower and took churn rates into account. These are in my mind more important numbers for the people that want to measure things to pay attention to. In my mind someone who is steadily gaining and keeping followers at the rate of one a day has a far more compelling message than someone getting a thousand and losing half within a week.The solution is to focus on numbers that matter, if you're going to focus on them at all, and the key to any social network or service is to care about how engaged your are with that network. High proportionate churn rates are a pretty clear indication that users are not engaged and if they're not engaged, they're not listening. I'm not part of the twitter elite, my opinion doesn't really matter. If someone follows me I tend to follow them back, but since I'm not a person of any great influence I probably don't get quite the level of requests some do. I'm doing my best to follow people interesting and working in similar fields, to me some level of engagement with a hundred followers would be better than shouting at ten thousand.