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Ah the automated @reply. Very much to twitter, what cash-strapped Nigerian princes are to email. They’re ridiculous, pointless, and infuriating… but I’m just not sure the internet would be the same without them.
Every time you see one of these gems, it’s usually thanks to a little piece of software called “Tweetadder”. Tweetadder allows twitter users to automate their accounts; linking feeds to RSS services and auto-generating tweets. It’s also largely responsible for the demise of direct messaging on twitter, with 99.9% of DM traffic being automated spam promoting penis enlargements. (According to a fictitious study I didn’t read.)
Despite all this, the service wasn’t actually all bad.
Tweetadder allowed users to find and follow each other through keywords and related interests. As one example: a search for the word “miserablist” would allow an individual to follow everyone on twitter whose profile describes them in that way… kind of like if online dating met the Samaritans.
The beauty of this system was that it meant brands could target their fans at a much larger scale than the traditional twitter interface could hope to achieve. Users could then choose to unfollow those accounts which weren’t genuinely active (based on a lack of tweets, lack of interest, or just good old fashioned ‘egghead’ profile pics).
For some, this type of organised twitter use is all a bit ‘black hat’, representing a move away from individual engagement and towards controlled communication. For others, it’s purely an opportunity to find and engage with a more targeted potential audience. Personally though, I just believe it all comes down to how you choose to use it.
Last night I received an unnecessarily upbeat email from Tweetadder HQ, boasting the launch of their new ‘Tweetadder 4.0’. (A title slightly reminiscent of Die Hard 4.0: A film in which, ironically, technology becomes essentially useless overnight.)
Having downloaded “4.0” I opened it up to find… it had been completely castrated.
While still able to search twitter by keyword, the ability to follow en masse had been completely removed. Instead, users are forced to follow each other individually… one, by one.
Forgive me if I’m being a bit thick, but doesn’t that service already exist? I’m pretty sure it’s called ‘Twitter Search’!
What confuses me even more, is that it’s not even like Tweetadder have made these changes to reduce black hat marketing or DM spam. In fact, 4.0 has actually retained the ability to send mass DMs and automated @replies?!
So instead of removing the two elements which are by far the worst offenders, Tweetadder have opted to keep those functionalities in exchange for the software’s only redeeming features. That’s like removing your bleach bottle lids because they could be considered choking hazards. …Here you go kids! Now it’s safe!
Well now we’re left with a service which, essentially, can only be used for the black hat purposes it’s so commonly reviled for.
As a result, many social marketers are already starting to seek out alternatives. The current favourite seems to be “TweetTwain”, a new service offering much of Tweetadders’ functionality. (Although I will say their rather dodgy-looking website doesn’t help the black hat image of such software.)
Despite everyone climbing aboard this latest bandwagon, I can’t help thinking that these tools have run their course.
Last year we witnessed the fall of TweetAttacks, and this year the demise of TweetAdder. Who’s to say the latest alternative won’t come crashing down with a single tweak of twitter’s Ts & Cs.
On a final note I will now (without a hint of irony) use TweetAdder to auto-promote this blog post to everyone who is currently bitching about version 4.0 online. – I knew it still had a purpose.