Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NashMash Releases Frankentwitter on Unsuspecting Nashville Twitterverse

Late yesterday, local Nashville developer 365 Creative released a new Twitter mash-up that quickly generated strong reactions among Nashville users of the Twitter service. Dubbed NashMash, the service allows a Twitter user to follow all the users located in Nashville in one step. That's 1652 new contacts at last count. And countless updates added to the user's Twitter stream.

A few people who enjoy having lots of followers, or who like to follow a lot of people, have reacted positively. A large number of others have reacted with great disdain at the volume of new followers and the notices that come with them. I haven't talked with anyone who submitted their credentials to the service, but I've heard about some negative reactions to the resulting deluge of updates and text messages and frustration at not being better forewarned about what was going to happen to them. [UPDATE: Twitter user andi37206 used NashMash today and certainly had a strong reaction to the results.]

I've been told by one of the developers behind the service that they have stopped processing new requests for now. Once Twitter catches up with the follow requests in queue, we should see an end to the inundation of new followers and notices. I'm also told that the auto-follow feature was developed as a proof-of-concept for a separate commercial application that they envision for Twitter. (I should also note that this person was my source for suggesting the service be called Frankentwitter. Kudos to them for understanding that they released a monster and for having some self-deprecating humor about it.)

Before the service is restored, if it is restored, I would encourage the developers to add at least the following improvements:

  1. Do NOT include protected accounts in the list of accounts that will be followed. (For the most part, these people are not interested in unknown followers, so why provoke them.)

  2. Provide an easy mechanism for people to opt-out of being on the list of accounts to be followed. (Even better, make the list opt-in, as Dave Delaney has done with his Official Nashville Twitter List.)

  3. Explain more clearly that by using the service you will be adding a very large number of accounts to your Twitter feed. (The current instructions aren't very clear on this point.)

  4. Provide a mechanism to undo all the follow requests. (I don't know how this would even be possible, especially without un-following all of the people you were following before you bulk-added the others, but good luck to the person who wants to manually un-follow 1600 people.)

  5. Do NOT initiate the follows with notifications turned on. (Oh, man, I can't imagine how many text messages are generated by 1652 Twitter users.)
Please add your suggestions and feedback in the comments.



  1. Auto-follow applications were the point at which Myspace began to go down the tubes. Let's not encourage the same with Twitter.

    Nashmash folks also would do well to
    1: Fix their feedback email address
    2: Take into consideration the strong backlash among users with protected accounts, whose feedback they cannot view by a quick twitter search or @reply. It was NOT a 50/50 split reaction.

  2. Morgan,

    Sure it was. 50% of the people hated it and the other 50% were the ones who developed it.

  3. Documentation....documentation....documentation.

    My big issue with it was that they revealed very little of how it works. What is the criteria for allowing someone access to the list? What is the criteria for adding someone to the list? As far as I could tell, it was anyone with a location that put them in or near Nashville. How many spammers could that include? How is easy would it be for a spammer to do a "mass follow"?

    From what little they actually had on the website in the way of explaining it, there's no way to know.

  4. this is brian campbell with 365 creative. we developed the nashmash follow app as a mechanism to test the feasibility of a commercial use mass follow application that uses intelligence compiled from a target market. in this case, it was finding and following nashville twitter users. we never publicized the app and a designer mistakenly left the link on our splash page, allowing people nashmash was following on twitter to use the app.

    it just goes to show the viral power of twitter. if you have any questions or concerns about nashmash, please email me at brian-AT-365creative-DOT-com.

  5. Brian, it "just goes to show" that being careless can create a lot of ill will. Hey, I've been involved in a similar project-gone-wrong in the distant past [never far enough ago], so I can offer that groveling is a good place to start.

  6. @ Brian - Yeah, but here's the thing: Nashmash was tweeting about it this morning and 365creative was talking it up starting yesterday. So, not really buying the accident story at all.

    Even on a commercial level, it's annoying. It's a vehicle for Twitter spam, which is one of the weaker areas of Twitter in the first place. There are still dozens of people on my follow page who have no idea why they've suddenly been inundated with new followers. You guys did such an awful job of communicating what people were getting themselves into that I can't imagine that was an accident either. Nashville doesn't need that.

  7. It says a lot about Nashville that people are as responsive to this issue as they have been. It opens up a whole debate about whether or not mass follow apps are actually spam and if they devalue the Twitter experience.

    The NashMash Twitter apps were created to help connect Nashville together. The only users who could get on the auto follow list are users already on the Nashville list which is compiled by NashMash's servers based on a number of different variables that identify the user as being in the Nashville area.

    The theory was that it's not spam because the person who initiated it would most likely be an average user who wanted to truly follow everyone in Nashville. It would also require the person being followed to follow that member back in order to achieve a result that would help a spammer.

    NashMash is a project for fun. We're using it from time to time so we can introduce some new technologies to Nashville before we use them in a different fashion for our other web properties.

    There's a lot more to NashMash than this follow thing, so please stop back by soon and check it out.

  8. Hi, andi37206 here. Mainly my fault in not properly reading what I signed up for - 1693 of Nashville's techy elite all saying there own thoughts...

    It's a cool idea. But for the love of god, can we get some preparation on the borage that's about to hit us.

    Good idea. New idea = unsubscribe feature :)


  9. Yeah, not diggin' it. If there was some sort of opt-out or way to switch it off, I think everyone would feel a lot better, I know I would. Oh well, I guess we can say we were all part of the great microblogsperiment of 10.28.08.

  10. @Anonymous -

    The difficulty with the whole "You get to choose if you follow them back" theory lies in not being able to identify users who find you via nashmash and users who seek you out on their own.

    In my case, I have a large number of Nashville folks who read my blog request to follow me, and I am happy to follow them back. We are connected through a common interest. For the past two days I have been unable to tell which Nashville followers came from nashmash and which Nashville followers came through my blog. I was forced to assume that they all came through nashmash and denied every one of them.

    Additionally, while searching Twitter for "nashmash" to view the broader reaction, I found the above commenter, andi37206. And I thought she was hilarious. And... I couldn't send a follow request to her, lest she think I'm one of the 23 other spam followers she received today. So, andi37206, I think you're pretty hilarious, but sorry I couldn't add you for fear you might think I'm using nashmash.

  11. Well, I'll give my vote for the positive.

    I've got tweetdeck filtering the people I want to talk to on a regular basis, and i enjoy the massive influx of people. I'm meeting more people for coffee in the next few weeks to discuss business, the web, design, and whatever else than I have in the last few months.

    I think it's a great tool for people who want to use it. I agree a "Do-not-tweet" list should be maintained, or that the list should at least be a manual addition (ie, get on only if you want to be a part of it) but i think the concept is fantastic.

    Keep up the good work


  12. After having stuff settle down overnight, except for the fact I've got so many new people and it's hard to find my old folks (which means maybe I should get me some tweetdeck action too) I'm finding out about a lot of cool designers, geek folks, etc I didn't know were in Nashville. I'm startin' to dig it now.

  13. Morgan, I'm totally flattered - and if you wanted to know, I am the most hilarious person I know. I would love to follow and be followed. I couldn't find your twitter name or get to an accessible link of your name from above. Holla at me and I'll Tweet you in.

    PS... commendable reaction time to NashMash.

  14. Fishwreck... connecting Twitter users since 2008.

  15. Your website copy, and your comments here too, are smug and ridiculous. How about ASKING Nashville if it wants to be introduced to "new technology" before you fill our inboxes with a bunch of spammy follow requests?

    If you can't be bothered to develop an opt-out function, don't roll it out. (And having the project LIVE rather than on a test server = rolled out.) If you think nobody would ever want to opt-out ... congratulations, you just became a spam vehicle.