Anonymous asked: hi - just one question for you guys. Why do you follow and unfollow people on twitter almost immediately? It leads me to assume that you are merely looking for a fanclub. I would have followed back, particularly as your effort seems worthwhile, but I find this tactic highly irritating. With all due respect

Hi there,

Thanks for asking.

I don’t like to believe that’s our behavior or our intent.

What I can tell you is that we have been experimenting with an automated tool to follow people in order expand what sources we’re getting information from.

Our process is to pick some individuals or organizations that we admire and then follow who they follow. The idea behind it is these entities are most likely following people who post thoughts and ideas we should be aware of.

We do this with an automation software called TweetAdder. Those that are followed then appear in our Paper.li account which is a content curation service that creates a daily “paper” out of the Twitter links those you follow are posting. We find this an easier and more manageable way to scan the news than the traditional Twitter stream.

That said, about once a week I try to clean things up by removing (unfollowing) accounts that aren’t really posting ideas about the news media. This process is the downside (for us) of using automation.

I do this with a Web service called ManageFlitter and those that I remove generally fall into a few categories:

  • They have no profile picture: This is a personal bias but I feel (rightly or wrongly) that if someone hasn’t taken the time to add some sort of image to their profile (could be a headshot, logo or some other picture), they aren’t going to provide the information we’re looking for. Again, it’s strictly personal bias and I know I’ve most likely unfollowed valuable resources because of it.
  • News organizations’ primary accounts: Weird, right? Not so much because here’s what I mean. We don’t follow say, @Reuters, because it’s more or less a breaking news feed that we get from other sources. We do however follow @ReutersPictures because we want to be alerted when they post new image galleries. The same holds true for journalists, editors and publishers. If their posts are thoughts about the news we’ll continue following. If it’s just posts to the news we make a judgement call.
  • Non-English accounts: This is our limitation and we lose out on much that is valuable especially as we try to keep track of what’s happening in the Middle East, China, Russia and other important locations in the world. Unfortunately, we’re deficient in those languages.
  • The account is generally off topic: The person could be an incredible media thinker but they use Twitter to pursue and/or promote other interests. For example, someone who posts a ton about food or their favorite sports team. We like food and sports teams but it’s not what we’re looking for with our Twitter account.
  • That said, we have our individual accounts: I often follow somonee from my personal account (@bMunch) that I’ve unfollowed from @the_FJP. This often happens with science, academics, “non-newsy” developers, marketing and brand strategists, and just people I find interesting. I move these people over to my personal account because @the_FJP is a group account and I try to keep it as relatively “clean” and targeted as possible.

I hope this gives you some insight into how we use Twitter and what our practices are. As a very small team with limited resources (read: we have full-time jobs) we’re trying automation to help us along.

We are following about 3,500 people though. Unfortunately, some very valuable people fall through the cracks which is the obvious downside of this system.

I hope this answers your question. We’re doing the best we can do, and trying not be douchey about it. — Michael

  1. futurejournalismproject posted this