When Algorithms Attack (Twitter Edition)

This morning Piet de Visser put out a Tweet to this short film.

It’s a work of fiction, but it’s all about the level of privacy we’ve given up without even knowing it, due to the real life collaborations between companies (Amazon, Google etc.) and institutions like the police and the NHS. In the film, algorithms take that data to make judgements about people. It’s well worth a watch…

Roger MacNicol replied Piet’s tweet saying it was very good, and I replied to the pair of them saying the following.

When Algorithms Attack

Very soon after tweeting this I was kicked out of Twitter. When I tried to get back in I was directed to a page that forced me to delete the tweet and told me I was going to be blocked from tweeting for 12 hours. I can still read tweets and DM. I just can’t tweet. I also received an email about it.

My first reaction was to burst out laughing for a couple of reasons.

  1. I was commenting about a film where algorithms were making judgements about people and their actions without taking context into account.
  2. I think anyone who follows me on Twitter knows my views on COVID-19 and vaccinations. I am very much in favour of vaccinations, and I’m not at all a believer in conspiracy theories surrounding any vaccination, including the COVID-19 vaccinations. I’ve had both my shots of the Pfizer vaccinations. I guess Twitter should know that because I tweeted about it.

Now clearly in isolation that tweet looks like I’m one of those folks I’m always complaining about, but looking at my history of tweets you would know I often reply to things with shit-posts and don’t always include smilies when I’m doing it. I think I wear my views on my sleeve, so I don’t really worry about people taking a single tweet out of context, but clearly the Twitter algorithm is another matter…

The algorithm isn’t very smart and just appears to flag up specific word combinations. OK. Nice AI Twitter! 🙂

What am I going to do about it?

Nothing, stupid! Twitter can play by whatever rules they want. I’ve just got to wait 12 hours before I can resume shit-posting on Twitter. 🙂

I guess the only thing that is annoying is I can’t post a message to say I’m blocked from tweeting. It would be kind-of nice if I could do that. Having said that, I’m on holiday today and I could easily waste all day talking crap on Twitter, so they’ve probably done me a favour! 🙂

In conclusion, we are all doomed! 🙂



PS. I once received a 12 hour ban when arguing with an anti-vaxer. I think the combinations of words in my tweets flagged me as one of those nutters. About 5 minutes later my account was unblocked, so I think maybe a human was doing some sanity checking at the time, or maybe the AI got smarter. 🙂

PPS. The 12 hours is now up…

Twitter : Is it a valuable community contribution?

During a conversation with Zahid Anwar at OOW15, the question was asked, is Twitter content a valuable contribution to the community?

The following is *my opinion* on the matter. Other opinions are valid.

The sort of tweets I see fall into the following basic categories:

  • Technical Questions and Answers. When these are done well, they are really useful and a quick way to get to the bottom of something. When answers come as links to content, that’s really cool as there is some depth to the answer. An answer in 140 chars is not always so good, and is often missing vital information that usually starts in a flame/caveat war. Though I do think of this as a useful community contribution, I think this sort of thing is better dealt with in a forum. I guess you could maybe Tweet about the question to raise some attention, but that feels a bit like the “URGENT” prefix to a question, which turns many people off. 🙂
  • Notifications. Tweeting about your latest blog post, article or video is part of getting your message out to your followers, but the tweets have little or no value in themselves. It’s just self promotion, which we all do. It’s the things you are promoting that hopefully have value, not the tweets themselves. In this sense, the tweets are not a valuable community contribution.
  • Content Aggregation. Tweeting other people’s content is a good way to introduce your followers to it and “spread a specific message”. I do this when I read something I really like, or if I am trying to help promote someone who I think deserves more attention. I think you have to be careful not to become a “blog aggregator by proxy” and blanket tweet everything you come across, or the value of your tweets drops. It just feels like lazy way to look busy. Just my opinion though. I’m sure there are people out there that love it.
  • Random tweets. These can give you some insight into the individuals that make up the community, which I like, but there is no long term value in these, even if they are fun. 🙂

If you are trying to get on to a community program, like the Oracle ACE Program, *I would* rate twitter contributions quite low. I would focus on stuff where you are providing original content (blogging, whitepapers, books, YouTube etc) or directly helping people, like forums or presenting. Short-form social media is a nice addition, but it’s value is rather limited in my opinion.

Remember, it’s just my opinion, but I’m interested to know your thoughts.



Update: I think it’s worth clarifying my point some more. I don’t have a problem with any of these types of tweets. I do them all to a greater or lesser extent. The point I’m trying to make (badly), is the content that is pointed to is the “high value” in my opinion. The “pointer” (tweet) is of far less value. If someone came to me and said, “I tweet a lot about other people’s content, can I join your community program (if I had one), I would probably say no and encourage them to produce their own content. That was the context of the conversation that initiated this post. 🙂

Twitter Spring Cleaning…

I’ve just been having a bit of a spring (winter) clean of my “following” list on Twitter. Recently I’ve found it a bit of a struggle to keep on top of all the tweets, and when it becomes a struggle you either have to ditch it or clean up.

Next I have to bite the bullet and sort out FriendFeed



Twitter, funny coincidences and updates…

Inspired by Dan Norris, I ventured on to Twitter yesterday and had a really good laugh. I’m not sure how regular a visitor I will be, but it is a neat way to keep in touch, and vent occasionally. It takes a bit of getting used to… 🙂

Jake posted this on twitter, “slammed finger in door ftw!”, and soon after this blog post appeared, Half-Baked Idea: “Tweet” your Pain! Spooky… 🙂

Regarding Twitter clients, Dan suggested Snitter and Eddie suggested Twhirl. Both had problems from behind a firewall, but worked fine from home. I logged on this morning and saw this, The Best Twitter Client for Windows Desktop, shared by Andy C on Google Reader.

Finally, I was in the mood for a cleanup, so I decided to revamp my Blog Aggregator. It’s been chugging along merrily for nearly two years, but it was looking a little sad and neglected, so I spruced it up a bit. It was never meant to include all Oracle blogs, like OraNA.info, just things I follow.