Changes to Twitter’s block behavior – and a workaround

TL;DR I hate the changes to Twitter’s blocking, and you can get around them by marking your account private, blocking the person, then going back to public. This will cause them to unfollow you. I hope the powers that Tweet reconsider this change.

Update: so this happened…


Twitter posted an update today to their blocking functionality. In my opinion, it’s a real step backwards for the usability of Twitter for anyone with a large number of followers, or facing any kind of harassment.

It used to be that when you blocked someone, it would force them to “unfollow” you, in addition to hiding them from your mentions. This is no longer the case:

Note: If your account is public, blocking a user does not prevent that user from following you, interacting with your Tweets, or receiving your updates in their timeline. If your Tweets are protected, blocking the user will cause them to unfollow you.

The obvious objection to my objection is “well your stuff is public anyway, they could just make a new account” – the thing is, this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of 1) how people use blocking and 2) how harassers operate.

People use blocking to force unfollows.

I have nearly 9000 followers (which I find fairly hilarious as I mostly post fart jokes, but whatevs)(clarifying for new visitors: I actually tweet about computer security, privacy, feminism, open source, and how weird being a Canadian living in the US is – and more Bitcoin jokes than fart jokes). Something that happens pretty often is that someone will follow me and start replying to things I post or retweet in an aggressive or annoying way. I am particularly conscious of when people do this to folks I retweet – I feel like I have a responsibility to not expose people I retweet to douchebaggery on my watch, so I block people who demonstrate a pattern of being jerks. My friend Ellie made this in response to one of the times I retweeted her:


I realize that I’m directing a lot of traffic at folks when I retweet them, and I don’t want to expose them to jerks. This change prevents me from curating my followers in the same way as I curate my feed.

Harassers are easily distracted, and many just go away

Blocking, even on a public account, is surprisingly effective at dealing with low-grade harassment. Most harassers just aren’t that invested in the person they are bothering, and putting up the tiniest roadblock will make them move on to their next target. I had this conversation with a Googler shortly after G+ shipped, as its blocking behavior was at the time the same as the new Twitter behavior. I have no idea what it is now because I hate G+ and don’t use it, and I realized that this may be unintuitive to someone who hasn’t experienced harassment before – but trust me, as someone who has, it works a lot of the time. Which is great!

Update: Some who read the above argument think that it’s a “false sense of security” – there’s nothing false about effectively driving away a large percentage of drive-by harassment. I think people pretty broadly get that if you have a public feed, and block someone, that that person can just log out to read your feed – there really are a large number of users, and I say this from personal experience, who won’t bother making a new account, they will just move on. I want to keep being able to handle those users easily.

Telling users facing harassment to just make their account private punishes them, not harassers

This is just shitty and not ok, and I hope it needs no further explanation.

A Workaround

If you make your account private, then block the person, then make it public again, it emulates the old behavior and makes them unfollow you. It’s a pain, but it works. It will not prevent them from re-following you, however – so it’ll only work on the least motivated harassers.

Another Workaround

My friend shadowspar pointed out that you can still force an unfollow by marking someone as spam:

Looks like I’m going to be misusingrepurposing the spam report button more frequently 😦

Update: or not:

Asking Daily – happy little negotiation moments

Two of the most important books I’ve read in my entire life are Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever’s “Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation – and Positive Strategies for Change” and the follow-up “Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want“.

They’ve inspired me to make significant changes in my life – negotiating the salary for my first “real job”, challenging contracts and business practices that I didn’t think were fair, and generally making my life way more awesome by asking for – and nearly always getting – what I want.

Yesterday, for example, I sent a note about the MOO cards I ordered to their support desk asking for a replacement set of cards because they had misprinted mine.  It was a small issue, and they offered me a half-off coupon, but I insisted that they send me a whole deck – and guess what, they did.  Kudos to them for solving the issue, and to me for asking, and then asking again.

I’ve created a Twitter account called @askdaily, inspired by these books and this particular incident, to share this kind of “happy negotiation moments” – mine was little, but I’d love to retweet people’s (particularly womens’) successes with job negotiations and promitions, contracts, car repairs, sales negotiations, housework splitting, whatever the happy moments that people get from asking for what they want out of life.


Tweets? In /my/ Facebook?

It’s more likely than you think!

While some people are very frustrated by the occasional spamminess of Twitter -> Facebook posting, and others posit that Facebook will eventually kill Twitter because the “conversation moves there”, I just like being able to update both places at once and don’t really care to make predictions either way.

Instead I want to post a quick field guide to Twitter for Facebook users.  Not because they should particularly go ahead and sign up, but to make clearer what all the @this and #that’s crapping up their news feeds are.  Because they do tend to open dialogs and conversations, but can be confusing sometimes too – I definitely think about how something will work on my FB feed before posting to Twitter.

Continue reading “Tweets? In /my/ Facebook?”

My ideal Twitter client

Since the demise of Twitter’s Jabber server, I’ve been frustrated with pretty much every client I’ve tried.  And I’ve used a few:

  • twhirl – doesn’t stop scrolling up when it’s out of focus
  • twibble – random crappiness, memory leaks, poor recovery from posting failures
  • tweetdeck – doesn’t remember the groups you set up so if you accidentally close them you’re screwed, and also doesn’t work on 64-bit linux (same applies to twhirl – it’s an Adobe Air issue)
  • a couple of console clients, all just sort of generally crap.  Mainly frustrated by their inability to scroll backwards – I like being able to not look at twitter for a few hours without missing out on stuff 🙂

So here’s my ideal client.  I’m going to start writing it on Wednesday, once school’s done.

  • works with an irc client.  I ❤ irc, and I can keep it running on my shell server, accessible from anywhere.
  • search functionality: I want to be able to join a channel and have that act as the search term on summize / twitter search such that /join #search-25C3 shows me the results for this search in real(ish) time.
  • groups functionality (like tweetdeck) – I’d like to be able to set up groups of followees to see only their tweets.  There are a couple of reasons for this: wanting to have a “quiet” group containing just the people I care most about, avoiding what on LiveJournal is termed “unfriending drama”, grouping friends geographically, or whatever.  But it’s been sorely lacking in my Twitter experience so far.
  • keyword exclusion – if I don’t want to hear any more about #AnnoyingVendorCon, I want to be able to exclude it from the tweets I’m getting.
  • proper IRC direct message functionality: dm’s should show up as /msg windows.
  • following and unfollowing from within the client – this hasn’t worked properly in twibble for a while.

I’m going to start working off Mike Verdone’s existing Python Twitter Tools – should be a good start.