What part of ‘No Automated DMs’ don’t you understand?

I know this is neither a ‘current’ topic of discussion nor an exciting one but it got me thinking again after I received a couple of auto-DMs from both individuals and businesses after I followed them. I was immediately put off by it, but then I thought maybe I’m being too much of a purist, and maybe with a more practical approach they did have some utility. So I decided to put the question out there to collect the wisdom of the crowds.

The answer was a resounding ‘No’. You can see some of the responses as embedded tweets below

probably as annoying as SMS advertising RT @bhavishya: Tweeps, what do you think of Automated DMs?less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

@bhavishya I don’t like them. I unfollowed a few people who were sending me for marketing.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

@bhavishya I totally want to scream my head off at people who auto DM. It’s a terrible way to market yourself/product.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

@bhavishya They will result in a guaranteed reporting of spam and a block.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

The rest of the responses were in the same vein. But it seems many Social Media ‘Experts’ and Agencies continue to do this. So I’m forced to ask,
What part of ‘No Automated DMs’ don’t you understand? Is it the No? Or is it the Automated DMs?

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Google’s hard fall reminds us of how big it really is

Gmail fail

Here I am, blogging live from the great Gmail crash of September 2009. Every single group column in my Tweetdeck window is filled with tweets about Gmail. It took about 10 minutes for ‘Gmail’ to become Trending topic #1 on Twitter. The number of tweets posted in those 10 minutes is just shy of 24000, and this is of course only the first batch of people who happened to be online when Gmail went down. I would think the number of ‘Gmail tweets/minute’ is likely to go up.

With all this going on, I can’t help but wonder Twitter really has a long road ahead of it if it wants to become the pulse of the planet. And with Google Wave on the horizon, things aren’t likely to get any easier.

(Image via @holaphil)

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Observations from Twitter’s @replies fiasco

Twitter Fail WhaleMost of you are probably aware of the Twitter @reply issue that happened a few days ago. For those unaware, Twitter removed the option to receive all @replies from users you weren’t following. This was disabled by default so as to not confuse or possibly intimidate the user with the immense amount of tweets that would appear in the stream. Twitter for its part, passed it on as a deliberate feature removal based on “usage patterns and feedback“. A second blog post then attributed it to the engineering issues, possibly relating to scalability. A third blog post then revealed Twitter decided to halfway backtrack on the change, only hiding messages which explicitly use the reply icon.

The users made their voice heard in a manner which was reminiscent of Digg’s HD-DVD backlash a little over two years ago. Users started tweeting in revolt of the feature change and tagging their replies with #fixreplies. Secondly, a lot of users found a way around the system. By preceding the username by “to:” or “>” users could send out a tweet addressed to a single user but distributed to all.

Key Observations

1. Twitter could have avoided a PR Disaster had they come clean with the issue to begin with. Removing a feature which was disabled by default (due to its possibly overwhelming nature) but still important to the power users and then further on miscommunicating the reason for its removal seemed like an insult to the intelligence of its user base. Leaving very little unchanged after the backtrack showed its feeble attempts at displaying a backbone of sorts.

2. When the users started ‘forcing’ replies to all their followers by their workarounds, that was, in principle, not very different to what Twitter was doing. Twitter’s removal of the option took away the choice from the users to view the replies, whereas the workaround forced by a single user took away the choice from his/her followers to not receive them.

Neither Twitter nor the users stand wrong or right. The company owns the service and has the right to change the product in any manner it pleases. The users will voice their opinions and try their best to get their way. We’ve seen this in the case of Digg, we’ve seen this in the case of Facebook too. The best thing to do is to learn the lesson from the incident, which in this case was the mishandling of communication and make sure at least that is avoided for next time.

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