Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmx DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Twitter metrics tools and automated spam - how to unsubscribe

How to unsubscribe from receiving automated tweets from...
• - tweet @newscrier saying stop mentions. Ctrl+F-search for newscrier here for more info.
• - email asking to have your Twitter account added to their blacklist
• SumAll - I don't know, they're looking into it but claim they can't do it
• TweetJukebox - I don't know, they said they'd consider adding an opt-out function

This is a small grumpy rant. In the global scheme of things if this is all I/we have to worry me/us then we're not doing too badly. But honestly, I ask you - why are we OK with automated services spamming people with irrelevant tweets about interactions etc on Twitter? 

Recently I and a few other people were thanked collectively in a single tweet. While I recognised someone else in the list I'd no idea who the sender was or why it had come to me. After searching for any previous conversations we had I realised I'd replied to a tweet that had been RTed into my timeline, and I was now being thanked for doing so.

However the person hadn't sent this tweet, an automated system had. Echofon, which is a mobile Twitter app, tells you what service the person used to send the tweet (most Twitter apps don't) - I could see that this one said 'via'.

Tweet management and analytic services like, SumAll and TweetJukebox do a bit of behind-scenes number crunching and then send auto-tweets from the accounts of people who've signed up saying things like
"Thanks to @Harry, @Hermione and @Ron for the RTs this week (insight by TweetMarketingTool)"

Perhaps my dislike of these tweets is a bit extreme but here are my objections.
  1. There are thousands of these identical tweets being sent from different accounts, it's pretty spammy
  2. It's poorly formatted. If it's meant to be sent to someone then their @name should be first, not in the middle. Presumably this means it's intending to thank people more publicly, which seems self-serving to me. Public thanking has its place (sparingly done) but pinging these out and telling all your followers about someone else's interaction with you seems odd
  3. It isn't sent in reply-to anything in particular (no threading to cue you into a conversation) so puzzled people might have no idea why they're receiving a tweet
  4. Three otherwise-unrelated people are included in the tweet for no obvious reason
  5. It's automated and the person whose account sent it may be unaware that they've thanked a bunch of people - algorithmically-generated gratitude doesn't come across as very genuine
Blocking people who send these tweets is overkill but also ineffective because the tweet hasn't really come from them, but from the Twitter-metric tool. I'd have thought using automated tools to send spam to a number of people would be against Twitter's terms of service but given the volume of these tweets in existence, and the services not being banned yet, I suppose not.

Here's what Twitter says, to app / tool developers, about the need for letting users opt out (this comes from their Automation rules and best practice page -
"Automated replies and mentions
The reply and mention functions are intended to make communication between users easier, and automating these processes in order to reach many users is considered an abuse of the feature. If your application creates or facilitates automated reply messages or mentions to many users, the recipients must request or otherwise indicate an intent to be contacted in advance. For example, sending automated replies based on keyword searches is not permitted. Users must also have a clear and easy way to opt-out of receiving automated reply messages and mentions from your application."
Twitter services I've been in touch with - email and ask them to 'blacklist' you

I had an email exchange with after I received a couple of 'via' tweets in May 2015, and I absolutely failed to make my point with them. They were steadfast in their belief that their product is not spam and that people like receiving automated thank yous and other identikit communications (I'm sure some of them do). My request, that I never wanted to receive another tweet via their system, was met with puzzlement and instead they tried to offer me a free trial of the VIP service. They offered some suggestions on how the wording of the automated tweet might be improved while failing to realise that it was the automatedness that's the problem. Eventually six months later they agreed to blacklist me and I've not received a spam tweet since September 2015.

TweetJukebox - no info yet on how to opt out

"THANK YOU TWEETS: When a user mentions you, where we come from it is common to "thank" them. Using our Thank You Tweet tool, you automatically thank up to 50 people for their interaction every Friday. Your jukebox system will thank the top Twitter™ users that mentioned you during the week. This feature is automatic, you don't have to do anything. Yes, that's right, more free time. Woohoo!"
It is common, and polite, to thank people but it's a bit impractical to thank everyone that interacts with you on Twitter (and a little bit weird). Weirder still when it's done by a machine.

Tweet Jukebox did at least understand my bleating and may well instigate something that lets me tell its system that I never want to receive these, which is great. Can't see anything in their FAQ announcing it yet though.

SumAll - no info yet on how to opt out
Their helpful support person told me that at the moment they're unable to let people opt out from receiving automated mentions. I think that's quite bad but they've at least agreed to pass my suggestion on to their engineers.
This creates a sort of newspaper derived from information shared by people on Twitter. You can stop the service from telling you your content's been curated by sending a 'stop mentions' tweet to @newscrier. You can also stop the service from using your content by adding your site by contacting @paper_li.

I don't think many people I know receive the spam because as soon as the service began sending their tweets out in 2010 there was wailing and gnashing of teeth and the instructions were shared to stop this promptly.

Tweets I'd be happy never to see in my timeline or mentions again
- anything from Storify telling me one of my tweets has been used in it
- any automated tweet thanking me for doing normal interactive things on Twitter
- tweets telling me how well you did on Twitter, even though I like you and am happy things are going well :)

Ideally all of these kinds of tweets would be easier to switch off for users - presumably you can still get your Twitter insights sent to you, without having to tweet this information to your followers.


  1. I had similar problems with - and (luckily) noticed that they were about to bill me 350$ for a year's membership after my free trial IF I didn't request them not to do so ...... it took a series of emails (no response to the first three) before I was re-assured that they would not take payment. But, as with you, they expressed puzzlement at my chagrin.

    Re: TweetJukeBox - it is easy to select NT o send any thank you tweets. Maybe they introduced this choice after you write this review. Under my photo (top right hand side) is a drop-down menu. THe first item is "Thank you Tweets" - select that and you have three choices - one is "not to send any".

    Best, Julie

    1. Thanks Julie - have got a lot worse since I wrote this and while I've never received any message from them since I obviously see their spam tweets that others send, I've noticed their in-tweet self-promotion is much worse.

      I've never used TweetJukeBox so wouldn't have any option to make it stop sending any thank you tweets as I've never sent any. What I want these services to do is make it possible for me to tell them that I don't want to be included in other people's thank you tweets. So if John Smith uses TweetJukeBox and wants to thank me I don't want him to be able to send any automated tweet via that service. He can send me a tweet himself :)

      Most of these services do seem to be moving towards compliance, particularly as Twitter has made it a requirement that automated replies must let people opt out.

  2. Hi Jo - I'm new to using Twitter - but almost immediately (well, after a couple of weeks ...) felt the emptiness of messages "sharing love" and "thanking " for mentions, re-tweets etc. The auto-generated ones were obvious and the genuine ones equally obvious but so much more delightful to receive. So, I decided that I would not automate such personal stuff.

    But I do want to automate infrequent re-tweets of my own ever green content - and one of a questions whilst researching led me to your post.

    I've been setting up my evergreen content tweets with TweetJukeBox and also a list of tweets of articles, in my niche, from other bloggers. I have turned auto-thanks you's OFF and will use Tweetdeck to reply personally to people who have retweeted me and mentioned me.

    My niche, BTW, is "older motorcycle riders" - I'm nearly 60 and have been a biker for 40 years. Not a huge niche, but there are a lot of motorcycle related niches, and young bikers will (hopefully) be older bikers one day!

    Anyway - all the best from a sunny north-east France.

    1. If only all users of these services were so thoughtful in their use of them :) I share your wish that young bikers get to become older bikers! Thanks for your comment, Jo.


Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).