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Twitter, intrusive

:: Thursday, March 20th, 2008 @ 6:18:20 pm

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I am a big fan of Twitter because it’s basic infrastructure that people can choose to use in whatever way suits them. I use it as a conduit to update those twits that follow me, to update my journal sidebar, and to update my Facebook status. I can update easily from anywhere in the world where I have access to SMS.

I have phone notification via SMS turned on for only a very select group of people — a small subset even of those that I “follow.” However, it seems that anyone out there can direct message me in Twitter — even folks that I do not even follow… and these tweets use the “phone notification” master privacy setting, which has to be “on” if you want SMS delivery at all. This is a completely flawed approach. There should be an additional setting that says something like: “Only notify direct messages from people I follow” or “Never notify from people I do not follow.”

At the moment, I get lots of direct messages from Twitter users I have never heard of. These go direct to my phone as SMS messages. I don’t really want to get advice SMS’ed to my phone from strangers.

Here’s a typical exchange:

Eric: [complains about something. makes veiled cry for help.] Stranger: @echeng omg lol you need to take it easy!

I see that reply as being totally intrusive, even if the stranger didn’t mean for it to be taken that way. The problem isn’t the stranger; it’s Twitter’s lack of sophisticated privacy settings.

I’ve submitted feedback to Twitter about this. They said, “good idea!”

I hope it gets implemented soon.

If you don’t “get” Twitter, don’t worry — I won’t try to convince you to use it. But the stats speak for themselves: most people I’ve convinced to give it a try are still using it.

| Oakland, CA | link | trackback | Mar 20, 2008 18:18:20
  • Chester

    Yeah…so I’ve griped here about how inexplicable I find Twitter to be.

    I just can’t imagine what it would be like to be constantly getting messages. I don’t want my phone chirping or shaking out alerts whenever some doofus near-stranger wants to tell me that they just saw a cool rainbow or some dumb bullshit like that. I don’t even want to hear idiocy like that from my friends — at least not so badly that I need to get it delivered to my phone. That’s what blogs are for!

    But, anyway…I actually enjoy your Twitter posts. And I can see why, given your travel itineraries, it’s a cool thing for you. I pretty much exist 24/7 within wireless internet range, so, till that changes, I’ll remain an anti-Twitter curmudgeon.

  • http://www.ThomasHan.com @ThomasHan

    Eric,

    This is Thomas, I met you at Macworld this year :-)

    Just curious, base on your description above, could this be the tracking feature you have turned on? It looks to me that maybe you might have sent ‘track echeng’ at one point, which would then in turn send you SMS or IM whenever echeng appears in anyone’s tweet. You can check what words you’re tracking by sending Twitter either ‘stats’ or ‘tracks’.

    However, I find it surprising that you are getting direct messages from people who you don’t follow. For example, you don’t follow me and Twitter does not allow me to DM you ‘d echeng hi there’ (Twitter would tell me that I’m not allow to do this, b/c you don’t follow me). So I’m surprised to see that you’re getting DM from strangers, unless it is a bug with Twitter.

    Anyways, would like to hear if this is really a bug with Twitter and if it is, they should definitely fix it.

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    Hey, Thomas. Thanks for re-introducing yourself. It’s amazing what an introduction can do to barriers. :)

    I think you may be right. I think I experimented with that in the past, and maybe it was turned on. Since there is no UI for it, it may very well be something I forgot about.

    I’ll turn it off and see what happens! If you fix my problem, I’ll be very grateful. :)

  • @ThomasHan

    Hi Eric (again),

    Yeah, twitter’s ‘track’ feature is one of those hidden features. And I’ve heard so many (including yourself) brought up the desire to have an UI to see all what we’re tracking.

    Hope that is indeed why you’re seeing stranger sending you @ messages. I’d be interested to see if that is indeed the problem or if it’s a bug on Twitter.

    Cheers, Thomas

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    Wow. Ultimate twitter geekdom.

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