Decentralized moderation is the chat room savior

Warning: I wrote this post for my friends over on friendfeed. It’s a bit geeky and aimed at those who participate there so they can understand what I mean by decentralized moderation and why friendfeed has been building a really great community for discussing a variety of topics and why it is resistant to spam and trolls.

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Over on friendfeed an interesting argument broke out. Neal Jansons said “couldn’t invisible comments be abused for search?”

My answer: no.

Why gets to what friendfeed has done that’s its most brilliant invention and one that very few people understand. It’s so good I wonder why they haven’t patented it.

I call it decentralized moderation.

First, what happens to traditional chat rooms and forums and why did they always get crappy after a while? I’ve been studying these for 25 years.

Forums and chats always start out interesting. A small group of people who are having fun and who are on the same wavelength. For instance, when Microsoft released NetMeeting (a pre-cursor to Skype) back in the mid-1990s there was a forum opened.

In the early days we were discovering a new technology together. There weren’t enough people there for the spammers or marketers to get interested. And it was a geeky topic, so the newbies and unwashed masses hadn’t yet come in.

It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a forum. Brian Sullivan was there too. The two of us had the best NetMeeting websites out there.

But soon newbies came in. At first that, too, was fun. We got to look smart and answer their questions. But after answering the same question 50 times things started getting old. We tried to help by writing FAQs and helpfully pointing people to the new search engine called Google so that they could find answers without us having to do the answer each time.

Even then it was still fun because we were having a ball with NetMeeting and we were all discovering cool new people all over the world (I remember talking with people, including a Russian General, for the first time on NetMeeting and sharing that with the group).

But eventually it got old. Part of that was Microsoft stopped development in the product, which made it not only boring, but doomed and I didn’t want to continue supporting a doomed product, but the community also saw more and more spammers and/or people pushing a business agenda that I didn’t find as fun to deal with.

I’ve seen this over and over as newbies coming in change a community and make it less fun to the older founders and also as spammers and commercial/marketers move in.

Regarding Chat I helped Leo Laporte run his chat room in the 1990s when he was on KGO Radio every Saturday night. I remember one evening we got so fed up with trolls and spammers that we blocked an entire country to try to deal with the problem. We had a centralized moderation system with several moderators and we were becoming overwhelmed in real time with dealing with this stuff.

Why did chat start falling apart? Two reasons:

1. As we got more successful a centralized moderation scheme fell apart. We couldn’t scale.
2. There was no way to really keep anonymous assholes out. There wasn’t a strong identity system. We could kick or ban people but they would just come in with another name or fake email address. Why did we block an entire country? Because that blocked an entire range of IP addresses which got rid of the problem, but also caused a new one, because now there was an entire country that was banned.

So, how does friendfeed deal with this problem?

1. Every item in friendfeed has only one owner: the person who wrote it.
2. An owner of an original item can delete comments underneath it.
3. Comment owners can edit or delete their own comments.
4. Everyone can block someone else. More on block in a second, because is like blowing someone away with a nuclear weapon. It creates an interesting social contract between the community on friendfeed.
5. Spammers can be deleted system wide, but also can be dealt with by blocking.

Why is blocking so effective on friendfeed?

Well, when you block you do a few things:

1. It keeps YOU from seeing the person you block.
2. It keeps the person you are blocking from seeing you. This takes away attack surface. They can no longer see your items and can no longer post spam to them (or anything else).

So, why is friendfeed resistant to trolling behavior where chat and older forums weren’t?

Well, for one, there’s social pressure on us all to behave. If I become a jerk there lots of people will block me and I’ll soon be left without anyone to talk with. So, there’s pressure on me (and everyone) to behave in a way that doesn’t get you blocked.

And, because my comments can be deleted if I just am a jerk in one person’s comments, there are two ways that my behavior can be modified.

Why wouldn’t I just delete comments from someone I don’t like?

The community at large shares information about people who do that and items from people who too frequently delete comments get fewer comments. Less engagement means less distribution for your ideas. So that’s a third way the system keeps you behaving.

So, has friendfeed seen any spammers? Yes, a few, but they quickly disappear and never appear again. Why? Because everyone blocks them very quickly, taking away their attack surface. That also warns the owners over at friendfeed that someone is doing something unseemly and they can be globally removed. But the whole system on friendfeed is based on following/followers so it’s easy to see if someone actually has any reputation on friendfeed. Does anyone follow that person? Probably not a spammer. Same thing is over on Twitter, by the way. I can pick the spammers out a mile away because they don’t have anyone of any reputation who follows them, except for auto followers (on friendfeed there’s no such thing as autofollowing yet).

Why can’t this system be applied to blogs? It can be, once everyone is on a common identity system, like Facebook Connect. Until then, though, getting rid of someone who is disruptive is too difficult, which is why blog comments generally are sucking more and more lately in comparison with friendfeed’s comments and also why you need a really complex spam filtering system, like those that Akismet makes (such a system is not required on friendfeed, at least not yet because the spammers haven’t figured out how to get past the decentralized moderation system yet).

Back to newbies, because friendfeed doesn’t have a centralized topic the first thing you’ll need to do, if you want to join in an already existing conversation is do a search. For instance, here’s a search on Quilting. That solves the problem of teaching newbies to search. Second, because advanced users can start private rooms, which newbies can’t see, they can have their fun and also help newbies learn the ropes. That takes care of a lot of the problems of Usenet which was really destroyed, in part, by newbies who came from AOL when AOL added a bridge to Usenet.

Anyway, it’s getting late and I’m not making as much sense as I will in the morning so I’ll post this and see where it goes.

UPDATE: of course this caused an interesting discussion to start over on friendfeed. Behave yourself!

Comments

  1. Very interesting post, and important for web developers across different sites too.

    I’m sorry to comment on the style of this page, but it is really hard to read when the lines are so long, and I had to change the window size in order to read this easily.

    Best,

    Z

  2. Very interesting post, and important for web developers across different sites too.

    I’m sorry to comment on the style of this page, but it is really hard to read when the lines are so long, and I had to change the window size in order to read this easily.

    Best,

    Z

  3. I see what you are saying. It just seems like an akismet-style filter to catch known spam and such would be a natural next step, so that even feeds on a given service that were not highly tended by their owners would not become swarmed with spammers.

  4. Interesting post, Robert.

    As someone who’s seen just the type of unwelcome activity you talk about on various networks, I hope you’re thinking proves correct down the road. I’m not suggesting you’re wrong, but those darn idiot types always seem to get in somewhere!

    IRC was a medium I used to enjoy, and the best time I had on there was way back, when I had to log in or dial into the local uni, and then telnet to wherever an IRC client was.

    Conversations were interesting back then, with no spammers, as they’d not really surfaced back then in any case.

    Looking back those 15 years or more, I can’t help but wonder where we’ll all be at 15 years hence. Exciting times ahead, I’m sure.

  5. I see what you are saying. It just seems like an akismet-style filter to catch known spam and such would be a natural next step, so that even feeds on a given service that were not highly tended by their owners would not become swarmed with spammers.

  6. Interesting post, Robert.

    As someone who’s seen just the type of unwelcome activity you talk about on various networks, I hope you’re thinking proves correct down the road. I’m not suggesting you’re wrong, but those darn idiot types always seem to get in somewhere!

    IRC was a medium I used to enjoy, and the best time I had on there was way back, when I had to log in or dial into the local uni, and then telnet to wherever an IRC client was.

    Conversations were interesting back then, with no spammers, as they’d not really surfaced back then in any case.

    Looking back those 15 years or more, I can’t help but wonder where we’ll all be at 15 years hence. Exciting times ahead, I’m sure.

  7. Robert, I do admire your effort to write an interesting topic that as a sideline pushes Friendfeed at every possible opportunity. Have you set the day for when you might go, “Oh, stuff it!” and throw in the towel? ;)

    Neal makes an excellent point above; the problem is that Askimet, good as that software is, has an opportunity to work its magic because comments on blogs are not ‘real time’. More often than not they require some kind of moderation, and Askimet takes care of the stuff that’s blatant. In any kind of real-time environment (i.e., Twitter) filtering everything for spam would add massive amounts of delay to tweets appearing.

    The principles on Friendfeed are sound but mostly it works because less than a million people use it – in all fairness, it’s simply not popular enough to the point where spammers and trolls become an issue. Facebook lets you delete offensive comments on your wall, too, but neither of these are anywhere near as timely as Twitter. Or, for that matter, the forums or chat-rooms of yesteryear.

    Usually I think a combination of self-moderation and official moderators often works best, with the latter only getting involved in the really significant disputes. But on Twitter having the facility to remove replies to you would equate to disaster, I think.

    Also, while I’m on the subject, does anyone else not think it strange that direct messages on Twitter are one-way unless both parties are following each other, yet you can @reply anybody, even someone who is not following you? Who thought that was a sensible idea? This has the potential for massive spam/troll abuse. Everybody can easily track any other user’s @replies using Twitter search, and the potential to cause reputation damage with a public message is significantly higher than a private one. Even if you block a user – which would stop you receiving unwanted DMs – they can still publicly @reply you.

    Madness. While as said I think being able to moderate your replies is a step too far, it might be nice if you could opt out of receiving replies (which would then disappear into the ether) from non-followers if you so desired.

  8. Robert, I do admire your effort to write an interesting topic that as a sideline pushes Friendfeed at every possible opportunity. Have you set the day for when you might go, “Oh, stuff it!” and throw in the towel? ;)

    Neal makes an excellent point above; the problem is that Askimet, good as that software is, has an opportunity to work its magic because comments on blogs are not ‘real time’. More often than not they require some kind of moderation, and Askimet takes care of the stuff that’s blatant. In any kind of real-time environment (i.e., Twitter) filtering everything for spam would add massive amounts of delay to tweets appearing.

    The principles on Friendfeed are sound but mostly it works because less than a million people use it – in all fairness, it’s simply not popular enough to the point where spammers and trolls become an issue. Facebook lets you delete offensive comments on your wall, too, but neither of these are anywhere near as timely as Twitter. Or, for that matter, the forums or chat-rooms of yesteryear.

    Usually I think a combination of self-moderation and official moderators often works best, with the latter only getting involved in the really significant disputes. But on Twitter having the facility to remove replies to you would equate to disaster, I think.

    Also, while I’m on the subject, does anyone else not think it strange that direct messages on Twitter are one-way unless both parties are following each other, yet you can @reply anybody, even someone who is not following you? Who thought that was a sensible idea? This has the potential for massive spam/troll abuse. Everybody can easily track any other user’s @replies using Twitter search, and the potential to cause reputation damage with a public message is significantly higher than a private one. Even if you block a user – which would stop you receiving unwanted DMs – they can still publicly @reply you.

    Madness. While as said I think being able to moderate your replies is a step too far, it might be nice if you could opt out of receiving replies (which would then disappear into the ether) from non-followers if you so desired.

  9. Nice analysis. I like the decentralized moderation principle. It makes great sense, and how it works in terms of social capital is also fascinating.

    I am wondering if commenting systems like Disqus will provide something comparable (and/or if a FriendFeed item would work as a comment stream for a blog, have to think about that).

    I know you looked into Disqus recently. I confess I am intrigued, but not that thrilled about having my comments in a cloud silo. (Now I can backup comments on my blog, few as they are, because the blog and comments are posted to a site that I control.)

  10. Nice analysis. I like the decentralized moderation principle. It makes great sense, and how it works in terms of social capital is also fascinating.

    I am wondering if commenting systems like Disqus will provide something comparable (and/or if a FriendFeed item would work as a comment stream for a blog, have to think about that).

    I know you looked into Disqus recently. I confess I am intrigued, but not that thrilled about having my comments in a cloud silo. (Now I can backup comments on my blog, few as they are, because the blog and comments are posted to a site that I control.)

  11. Great post, Robert, but there’s two little things:

    - The “interesting discussion”… without me joining FF, how am I going to join it? I can comment on your blog, but FF means a registration, which is a hurdle. Not a big issue for some, but as an earlier commenter pointed out, FF is nowhere near “everyone’s a member”.

    - I’m aware that you didn’t call it “the only way”, but really, Facebook Connect? I *am* on FB, but I doubt I’ll ever use it for something significant. It’s too easy to get cut off (as you found out yourself), and then what? That carefully crafted Online Reputation™ counts for zilch, as you can’t comment anymore. Not using that system anyway.

    - What are your thoughts on OpenID wrt this? I think it’d be a much better solution, or at least it could be.

  12. Great post, Robert, but there’s two little things:

    - The “interesting discussion”… without me joining FF, how am I going to join it? I can comment on your blog, but FF means a registration, which is a hurdle. Not a big issue for some, but as an earlier commenter pointed out, FF is nowhere near “everyone’s a member”.

    - I’m aware that you didn’t call it “the only way”, but really, Facebook Connect? I *am* on FB, but I doubt I’ll ever use it for something significant. It’s too easy to get cut off (as you found out yourself), and then what? That carefully crafted Online Reputation™ counts for zilch, as you can’t comment anymore. Not using that system anyway.

    - What are your thoughts on OpenID wrt this? I think it’d be a much better solution, or at least it could be.

  13. Robert,

    Thanks for the fabulous post… Hooray! for this uber geeky post! I am super happy to see you continuing to champion FriendFeed.com – my all time favorite social site; clearly yours as well! :)

    While I was reading your post about the FriendFeed “block” feature, Paul Buchheit’s words immediately came to mind … “Do No Evil.” – If that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does! That is the basis of the FriendFeed culture. If one can’t live in that reality, they have no business in FF.

    @SusanBeebe

  14. Robert,

    Thanks for the fabulous post… Hooray! for this uber geeky post! I am super happy to see you continuing to champion FriendFeed.com – my all time favorite social site; clearly yours as well! :)

    While I was reading your post about the FriendFeed “block” feature, Paul Buchheit’s words immediately came to mind … “Do No Evil.” – If that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does! That is the basis of the FriendFeed culture. If one can’t live in that reality, they have no business in FF.

    @SusanBeebe

  15. You can’t patent decentralised moderation, unless you invented it before 2000, because I invented it.

    I published a description of a system with decentralised moderation in June 2000. See http://www.1729.com/miski/miski-white-paper.html (originally published on a now deleted Sourceforge project).

    Quote: “Miski lets anyone moderate any message.” In my paper I discuss exactly the problems with Usenet and forums that you mention here.

    As far as I know no one else had described such a system earlier, and in principle I could have patented it.

  16. You can’t patent decentralised moderation, unless you invented it before 2000, because I invented it.

    I published a description of a system with decentralised moderation in June 2000. See http://www.1729.com/miski/miski-white-paper.html (originally published on a now deleted Sourceforge project).

    Quote: “Miski lets anyone moderate any message.” In my paper I discuss exactly the problems with Usenet and forums that you mention here.

    As far as I know no one else had described such a system earlier, and in principle I could have patented it.

  17. [...] Decentralized moderation is the chat room savior « Scobleizer: Technology, innovation, and geek ent… Some remarkable if obvious remarks on the mechanisms at friendfeed by Robert Scoble. (tags: moderatio n decebtralized decentralization distrubuted ***** robert-scoble) [...]

  18. There’s nothing worse than a collection of arrogant male tekkies getting together and deciding everything for everyone else.

    Your love of block is all wrong, it’s contrary to the Internet, and in the end, it merely defeats you, because people just walk around you in the end with your “block”.

    People put others on “block” for all kinds of arbitrary, stupid, arrogant reasons. Sometimes, block is warranted. Sometimes it is not. But block goes too far. It’s one thing merely not to see someone you don’t want to see — you mute them. But to then prevent them from seeing your content creates a closed society, an insular group of self-satisfied prigs who eventually even get bored with themselves without fresh content, and without being challenged.

    The ideas of “behaving” you have, while, say, more expansive than Shel Israel’s, are still restrictive. You, as a public figure, can’t behave like you’re in a Silicon Valley country club. You have to have some accountability to the public. That means not blocking people from seeing what you say, so that you have accountability for what you say, even from critics. If you want a private chat group with friends, stay in your country club, go on AIM, don’t go on Twitter or FF.

    Have you notice what just happened on Twitter? I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but suddenly, a few weeks ago, the devs did something that made it impossible to see people’s tweets in search if they had put you on follow-block. That is, not only did they not show up in your feed, but you couldn’t even see them on Twitter search. If you tried to search them, you would see “so-and-so’s tweets are locked and you must IM to get permission” — even though in fact their tweets *weren’t* locked to the public, and others could confirm to you that they could still see them in the public search and without any locks.

    I protested this on Get Satisfaction, I blogged about this, and I screamed bloody murder on Twitter itself because this idea of depriving the public from content, on a public service like this, just because of some thin-skinned geeks on the A-list who couldn’t bare criticism (or assorted other neuralgic net nannies), runs counter to the whole way the Internet is conceived and operated. And of course, you could get around this sillyness by simply putting the search of that account name whose tweets you were blocked from seeing in an RSS feed, then going over to your Google Reader to read their tweets there. Of course, that mean all the RTs and the mentions of them, but that was ok, you could see their tweets.

    Perhaps the realization that RSS and Google Reader defeated this sillyness eventually, a few weeks later, made the devs turn off this block in search. So now, even if someone follow-blocks you, you can still read the page of their tweets. Of course, there are some who want track-block and want to have you completely unable to read or respond to them. Too bad. Don’t be a public figure if you don’t want critics.

    Your moderation isn’t “decentralized” — that’s silly. If you own all the items under your initial post, that isn’t decentralization, that’s Politburo-like centralization! How on earth you could call that “decentralized” is beyond me. If you mean the ability of people to follow leaders and flash-mob follow-block as “decentralized,” that is also not really ‘decentralized’ so much as it is “outsourced hate”. You hate someone on a whim, you block them and get others to block them. Outsourcing from influential tribal leaders isn’t decentralization.

    Decentralization is when people just move on from your blocks and your manipulations and go to some other account/comments/room. Which they will do if you keep blocking critics.

    What you’re describing about groups of likeminded people having fun, then not having fun when others come in, then retreating to form more private country clubs where they can have fun again — this was all described some years ago by Clay Shirky in his famous essay “The Group is Its Own Worst Enemy” which you can read about. But while at first I thought he was correct in his analysis, over time, I came to realize he was wrong, and wrote a counter essay something like, “The Group is Our Own Worst Enemy”.

    Groups have curators that arise to protect the soul of the group and repel those against its spirit. But then that becomes annoying at times and people split or they suffer from newbies. But if a group is really part of an open society, and civil society, it should have a means of dealing with newbies and also dissenters. If you don’t want to take on that civic burden, then don’t be a public group.

    Any system that lets anyone moderate a message leads to tyranny of a few caretakers who become monsters. I’ve seen this time and again on forums and on the JIRA bug trackers. That’s why I lobbied hard — and finally won — to have the JIRA turn back on the function that let only the author of a bug report or feature proposal be allowed to close his own proposal. Because what happens is that overzealous “caretakers” who believe only they understand “the soul of the group” (even mistakenly called “good citizens” by the devs, just like you’re speaking piously of “the behaved”) can start to then reject any kind of dissent, or even common sense that works against their irrationality, which only proliferates as they become more arrogant and isolated.

  19. There’s nothing worse than a collection of arrogant male tekkies getting together and deciding everything for everyone else.

    Your love of block is all wrong, it’s contrary to the Internet, and in the end, it merely defeats you, because people just walk around you in the end with your “block”.

    People put others on “block” for all kinds of arbitrary, stupid, arrogant reasons. Sometimes, block is warranted. Sometimes it is not. But block goes too far. It’s one thing merely not to see someone you don’t want to see — you mute them. But to then prevent them from seeing your content creates a closed society, an insular group of self-satisfied prigs who eventually even get bored with themselves without fresh content, and without being challenged.

    The ideas of “behaving” you have, while, say, more expansive than Shel Israel’s, are still restrictive. You, as a public figure, can’t behave like you’re in a Silicon Valley country club. You have to have some accountability to the public. That means not blocking people from seeing what you say, so that you have accountability for what you say, even from critics. If you want a private chat group with friends, stay in your country club, go on AIM, don’t go on Twitter or FF.

    Have you notice what just happened on Twitter? I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but suddenly, a few weeks ago, the devs did something that made it impossible to see people’s tweets in search if they had put you on follow-block. That is, not only did they not show up in your feed, but you couldn’t even see them on Twitter search. If you tried to search them, you would see “so-and-so’s tweets are locked and you must IM to get permission” — even though in fact their tweets *weren’t* locked to the public, and others could confirm to you that they could still see them in the public search and without any locks.

    I protested this on Get Satisfaction, I blogged about this, and I screamed bloody murder on Twitter itself because this idea of depriving the public from content, on a public service like this, just because of some thin-skinned geeks on the A-list who couldn’t bare criticism (or assorted other neuralgic net nannies), runs counter to the whole way the Internet is conceived and operated. And of course, you could get around this sillyness by simply putting the search of that account name whose tweets you were blocked from seeing in an RSS feed, then going over to your Google Reader to read their tweets there. Of course, that mean all the RTs and the mentions of them, but that was ok, you could see their tweets.

    Perhaps the realization that RSS and Google Reader defeated this sillyness eventually, a few weeks later, made the devs turn off this block in search. So now, even if someone follow-blocks you, you can still read the page of their tweets. Of course, there are some who want track-block and want to have you completely unable to read or respond to them. Too bad. Don’t be a public figure if you don’t want critics.

    Your moderation isn’t “decentralized” — that’s silly. If you own all the items under your initial post, that isn’t decentralization, that’s Politburo-like centralization! How on earth you could call that “decentralized” is beyond me. If you mean the ability of people to follow leaders and flash-mob follow-block as “decentralized,” that is also not really ‘decentralized’ so much as it is “outsourced hate”. You hate someone on a whim, you block them and get others to block them. Outsourcing from influential tribal leaders isn’t decentralization.

    Decentralization is when people just move on from your blocks and your manipulations and go to some other account/comments/room. Which they will do if you keep blocking critics.

    What you’re describing about groups of likeminded people having fun, then not having fun when others come in, then retreating to form more private country clubs where they can have fun again — this was all described some years ago by Clay Shirky in his famous essay “The Group is Its Own Worst Enemy” which you can read about. But while at first I thought he was correct in his analysis, over time, I came to realize he was wrong, and wrote a counter essay something like, “The Group is Our Own Worst Enemy”.

    Groups have curators that arise to protect the soul of the group and repel those against its spirit. But then that becomes annoying at times and people split or they suffer from newbies. But if a group is really part of an open society, and civil society, it should have a means of dealing with newbies and also dissenters. If you don’t want to take on that civic burden, then don’t be a public group.

    Any system that lets anyone moderate a message leads to tyranny of a few caretakers who become monsters. I’ve seen this time and again on forums and on the JIRA bug trackers. That’s why I lobbied hard — and finally won — to have the JIRA turn back on the function that let only the author of a bug report or feature proposal be allowed to close his own proposal. Because what happens is that overzealous “caretakers” who believe only they understand “the soul of the group” (even mistakenly called “good citizens” by the devs, just like you’re speaking piously of “the behaved”) can start to then reject any kind of dissent, or even common sense that works against their irrationality, which only proliferates as they become more arrogant and isolated.

  20. Again, if you do not wish to speak in public on the Internet, and have people read you, even if they don’t follow you regularly, but find you in search or through someone else’s tweet, *don’t go on Twitter*. Stay on AIM, stay in your country club.

    The @reply is among the features that made Twitter grow exponentially precisely so that people could say something, be found in search or other’s tweets, and thus acquire new followers.

    The pressure to turn that off from the “oldbies” is counter to the open spirit and public nature of this platform, and is merely a desire to shut off critics. If you don’t want spam, don’t follow, block follow. Most spammers are not going to persist with @reply. The actual “trolls”, i.e. not critics, but people who harass you cynically and deliberately, who are that persistent as to be stalking are likely going to be abuse-reported, and not only by you and dealt with. So all you’ve done by shutting of @ replies is to stop the interesting flow of new and interesting people who will find you by key words or through others. You kill a vital living part of Twitter by wishing to control and block that @ function.

    It is not madness at all. It is what makes Twitter effective at what it does. Again, if you don’t want to be chatting with strangers, then don’t go on Twitter and say inside AIM.

  21. Prokofy: I totally disagree. There’s constructive criticism, but then there’s being a jerk. I choose not to listen to jerks or hang around them. So, the block is needed.

  22. Prokofy: I totally disagree. There’s constructive criticism, but then there’s being a jerk. I choose not to listen to jerks or hang around them. So, the block is needed.

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  24. Again, if you do not wish to speak in public on the Internet, and have people read you, even if they don’t follow you regularly, but find you in search or through someone else’s tweet, *don’t go on Twitter*. Stay on AIM, stay in your country club.

    The @reply is among the features that made Twitter grow exponentially precisely so that people could say something, be found in search or other’s tweets, and thus acquire new followers.

    The pressure to turn that off from the “oldbies” is counter to the open spirit and public nature of this platform, and is merely a desire to shut off critics. If you don’t want spam, don’t follow, block follow. Most spammers are not going to persist with @reply. The actual “trolls”, i.e. not critics, but people who harass you cynically and deliberately, who are that persistent as to be stalking are likely going to be abuse-reported, and not only by you and dealt with. So all you’ve done by shutting of @ replies is to stop the interesting flow of new and interesting people who will find you by key words or through others. You kill a vital living part of Twitter by wishing to control and block that @ function.

    It is not madness at all. It is what makes Twitter effective at what it does. Again, if you don’t want to be chatting with strangers, then don’t go on Twitter and say inside AIM.