Saturday, December 31, 2011

Twitter is down!!

It has become increasingly clear that the failwhale is becoming increasingly less cute. But, as usual, it likely has less to do with people using the system, and more to do with people abusing it.

Twitter is new territory for spammers, like the earlier days of mail, and it is particularly well suited to automation of accounts. With a fairly small amount of money, you can buy follower traffic, and even engage a source of  innocuous content to tweet out to them on an automated basis: like quotes from famous philosophers. Voila! You have a semi-credible bot account.

Then, there are techniques for interconnecting bots, so that "listener" points can be set up (also a paid service, for a small fee) that scan feeds for keywords of one's choosing. When those keywords occur in a feed, then your bot account can say things having to do with that subject: magically butting-in to whatever conversation. Or, you can schedule tweets, be so that in amongst your philosophy quotes. you toss in a scheduled promo for your aluminum siding company, your naked lady site, or your new album.

So, you now have a content feed with scheduled ads that semi appropriately acts like "it couldn't help overhearing..."

Now, imagine someone spending more than a small amount to create armies of these bots, with pictures of pretty girls as the avatars and all manner of automated or aggregated content. The scheduled ads in these are usually for naked lady sites, and the "bio page" usually has a link to such a site., but not necessarily.

Then imagine multiples of these armies, butting in to conversations, or even starting conversations with innocuous questions "Has anyone ever had a cat with hair balls, what did you do?" And there are "manual overrides", where the account operators can pop in with actual responses, tweeting as several accounts at once.

But the difference between twitter and email is that a great many things were made available for this sort of automation. And certainly, this sport of thing can be used for very good purposes, not all autoquote accounts are bad and some naked lady accounts actually have real naked ladies associated with them. However, at the end of the day, if bot army "A" is butting into the conversations of bot army "B", each with a series of automated actions set up to occur when engaged, then it is a little much.


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