Unfollowing 400,000 People on Twitter

About nine months ago, I was near the magical 1.1 ratio when I suddenly could no longer follow anyone. I unfollowed to about a 1.0 ratio, but this didn’t help and of course no word back from Twitter. I also noticed that my followers were still growing even though I wasn’t following back. This was a bit of a surprise so I let the experiment run…

  • No new friends – I was bound by a bug in Twitter, nothing I could do here (after three months, this was fixed)
  • Unfollow deadbeats – I kept a bot going that unfollowed people that were not reciprocally following
  • Unfollow abandoned accounts – If the account did not tweet for 4 days, unfollow
  • Unfollow bots – keywords in tweets/descriptions and number of total tweets got flagged and unfollowed
  • Unfollow non-English speakers – even Japanese accounts (which I could read), kanji, cyrillic, greek, hangul, and kana. No offense to anyone, I just can’t parse info that fast.
  • Unfollow spammers – keywords would flag my bot and the user unfollowed

This left me with about 20,000 friends which I attempted to weed out manually over the course of a few weeks. I also tightened the screws on the bot params above and caught more in my net. Then I started catching too many false positives. I was at 8k friends by this point so I decided to be indiscriminate and unfollowed everyone. Everybody but Dave McClure (this was purely just a fluke). Twitter shows me following almost 400 people now, but that actually isn’t true – 350 of those users are invisible to me. Invisible users are fine, but I still see their crap in my feed. I’m sure this will get straightened out as my info propagates.

So I pulled a “Scoble” on everyone? I guess, but this was a carefully controlled process over a nine-month period. It was only when I unfollowed everyone the jig was up. Did I lose a ton of followers doing this? No, I’m actually getting more followers now than I ever did.

Why did I do this? I use lists, a lot, but they just were a pain. I also didn’t like the signal I was sending people – I’m not thrilled by the f4f community and all I got in my @ stream was “follow me!” or my favorite, “follow me or i unfollow u”. I don’t want to be part of that community and really just want to user twitter in a new way – to remain informed, to network, and chat with friends.

The last thing is the amount of auto-tweeting I do – I have a ton of feeds from my other networks set up to tweet, the only external source is the Slashdot rss feed (yes, I parse app store information to tweet about iOS app price drops, a huge effort behind the scenes). So I will most likely cut down on the auto-tweets. My first step towards this is a curation of my own Tumblr feed.

If I unfollowed you, don’t be offended, I will get back to following you soon.

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