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Twitter Twits?

Dear Friend,

Hello from sunny New Orleans!

I was preparing to write today’s post when I received a note from a fellow Twitter user regarding his account’s suspension from the Twitter social network. I found myself writing a rather long reply (as you know I often do), and I thought that it might be worth posting here.

Some of the material is very specific to my issue with Twitter, but I thought that there was enough there that went deeper to make it worth sharing with you. What do you think?

So here goes…

Dear quincy –

I agree completely.

My twitter.grader.com grade for @hughdeburgh was between 99.95 and 99.99 when my acount was suspended. I was growing like gangbusters without really trying. I had about 20,000 friends on the Twitter network. And I sell nothing. I simply liked to retweet things that I thought my followers would enjoy, and I also included thoughts of my own. Sometimes, of course, I would chat with friends.

I talked about the death of a close friend. I talked about the beauty of a rainy evening. And the humor of insects attacking my windows. I was inspired by the people I followed. And I tried to pass that inspiration on to as many people as I thought would enjoy it. And clearly they did enjoy it.

But I was suspended.

Why?

As you said, users with large followers cannot be expected to do everything manually like a user with 200 followers. And we have no clear guidance as to what exactly we have done that might trigger their automatic suspensions. For all I know I may get up to 20000 followers once more only to be kicked in the groin again (for that is exactly what it feels like).

I wonder if Oprah or the other big name “stars” are held to this standard? Can you imagine the press reaction when the Twitter computers automatically suspend Oprah’s account because her staff might use some automated tool, and then Twitter takes over 30 days to get around to reviewing the computer’s decision? I wouldn’t wish that on Oprah, of course, but it’s not going to happen, is it? But how can it not happen?

Do you think that their computer algorithm that monitors tweets has a programmed exception for any tweets from Oprah or from any other well known figure? How else could they avoid such an occurrance?

The obvious double standard that clearly exists here smells to me like discrimination in its most blatant form. How does this look to you? Is a TV star with 20000 followers more worthy than a non-TV star with the same followers? Have we really returned to the old class system?

Or maybe they just don’t want too many more people with big accounts? Too much work for their computers to deal with (at least if those people don’t have powerful friends)?

I am speculating, of course. Since a human has not bothered to contact me, that is all that I can do.

To me Twitter was my contact with other minds that I could reach in no other way. The idea that some inanimate object or anonymous techie could interject itself or herself into that intimate if public conversation and rule it “unacceptable” is analogous to some self-described authority figure jumping into my mind and telling me to stop thinking this or that because it fails to meet somebody else’s rules for acceptability. Or perhaps to cut off my telephone service after a conversation with a friend for the same reason.

How do you think the public would react if AT&T or Verizon were to cut off your phone service due to unspecified “suspicious activity” and then take their good old bureaucratic time getting around to telling you what that suspicious activity was supposed to have been, effectively cutting you off from an important segment of your human connections in the same manner that the Iranian government is right now cutting off protesters cell phones in an effort to control the content or manner of their speech?

You are absolutely correct about the idiocy of Twitter pi**ing off customers. Twitter is hot right now, but it could be replaced in a few weeks by a better network that takes care of its people.

Clearly, Twitter is overwhelmed by the impact of this social networking technology, and our situation is a consequence of that. But they have no choice but to deal with their suspension system or they will make enemies of some of their community’s most popular members – it’s leaders in fact.

Perhaps Twitter’s principals hope to sell Twitter before the cost of their poor service becomes apparent? I sure hope that is not their strategy.

The reality is that the community of users are the true “owners” of Twitter. We are the ones who are creating Twitter’s value by spending so much time and thought energy to make Twitter a place worth being. And like the owners of a popular bar or night spot, Twitter’s execs need to understand that their customers can easily move down the street and continue whatever they were talking about there.

But we don’t want to go anywhere else. And we don’t want annoying salesmen bugging the he** out of us while we hang out either. The question is, do Twitter’s people know the difference between community leaders and annoying peddlers?

If Twitter execs don’t understand their business, they will soon discover their error, perhaps too late. For all of our sakes, I hope they are able to fix this issue quickly.

Best of luck to all!

@hughdeburgh

I hope you have an absolutely wonderful weekend!

Your friend,

Hugh

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