Blocking Rogue Twitter Accounts

As I have said before running a Twitter account attracts crazy people, running a Masonic themed Twitter account attracts that special kind of crazy person. These people seem to have nothing more important to do with their lives than to set up so called parody accounts.

But why do they do it? There appear to be three primary motivations:

  1. Trolling
  2. Building a massive network of followers that they “influence”
  3. Spewing Pornographic material

Trolls

The first group are best avoided as they typically set out to annoy or worse, antagonise or attack their target. These accounts typically spew misinformation, falsehoods or downright lies. A good example of this is SavileLodgethe @savilelodge account which purports to be associated with Masonic Lodge 616 (it is fake, check the UGLE Directory of Lodges and Chapters), and the disgraced performer Jimmy Savile. Looking at its recent output shows a catalogue of tweets suggesting that a number of recently disgraced performers are/were Freemasons. I have covered handling trolls in a previous post.

“Influencers”

InfluencerThe second group are less aggressive but no less annoying. They are typified by the host of accounts associated with James Grimaldi all of which encourage you to “follow back in 24 hours for a 10x shout out” and “include #NYG”. I have blocked 19 accounts which bear the hallmarks of this approach.

These accounts are a honey trap for the novice tweeter seeking to build their own network out. However, all you really achieve is a long list of fake followers. These accounts are used by their owners to build a network of thousands that they can then publish tweets to, for money. As their worth to anyone foolish enough to employ them for this purpose is based on the number of accounts that follow them, they only care that you follow them.

BlockedaccountsMy advice to you with regard to this second group is that you avoid them or better yet block them. I am gradually building a list of these accounts as a Twitter list associated with the @HungerfordLodge Twitter account. I have imaginatively called it Blocked accounts and it is public so that anyone reading this article can subscribe to it and use it to protect themselves. In return, all I ask is that you Direct Message me with any accounts that you think should be added to that list so that in turn all subscribers benefit from the update. I will of course have to wade through these recommendations to check that they are genuine. This is my way of paying it forward – if you get chance, see this film, it impacted my philosophy for life.

Updated (04/01/16)

Two things have occurred to me since I wrote this post:

  1. My Twitter list idea only works for a very small number of blocked accounts because it is manual and time consuming
  2. People will believe that simply by subscribing to my Twitter list that they will themselves be blocking the accounts – I am sorry to say  that you will not. In order to block these accounts you will need to manually add them to your block list.

To automatically add accounts to your block list you need to use the Block Together service described below. You will need to follow this link and subscribe to my block list. Once you do this, every time I block an account it will automatically be added to your block list.

Pornographers

As to the pornographers, what motivates them? Well, it can only be website traffic. If you see an image that makes you want to visit their website for more then they increase their chances of either:

  1. Getting you to pay to subscribe
  2. Infecting your computer with malicious code so that it is no longer “your” computer.

How you view the subject of pornography is down to your own moral compass. I typically display my Twitter streams (multiple accounts) using TweetDeck on a 24″ monitor in my study where my pre-teen children come to see what Daddy is up to. Having a stream of pornography on screen would lead to awkward discussions both with them and my wife. To illustrate my point my 8 year old son came in whilst I was writing this post.

Dealing with the problem

As I have already suggested, the only real answer is to block these accounts as you become aware of them.

Blocked users cannot:

  • Follow you.
  • Send Direct Messages to you.
  • View your Tweets, following or followers lists, photos, videos, lists or favorites when logged in.
  • Add your Twitter account to their lists.
  • Tag you in a photo.
  • Tweets from blocked users will not appear in your timeline. However, note that Tweets from others that mention blocked users may appear in your timeline (for example, if you follow that user) or your notification timeline (if a Tweet mentions you).

On an individual account basis, you block an account by

  1. in the iOS (iPhone and iPad) app, tap on a tweet from the offending account. If using the web client on a PC, click rather than tap.
  2. Open their profile by tapping on their picture
  3. Tap the gear icon and select Block

Block Together

(Updated 30/12/15)

After this article was originally published, MASK NOIR made me aware of Block Together. Before I included it here, I did some background investigation. Block Together was written by Jacob Hoffman-Andrews of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and allows users to easily share their Twitter block lists. Jacob is not affiliated with Twitter in any way, he is a Senior Staff Technologist at the EFF and is involved in some pretty cool technologies. I, therefore, feel comfortable in using this tool. If you do not, I have provided a more manual approach below but the block list will not be as up to date as using Block Together.

I have created my share which will automatically update here If you subscribe to my block list, you will block every account currently on that list. Later, if I as the author of that block list block more accounts, you will automatically block those as well. If I unblock an account, you will automatically unblock it too, but only if you originally blocked it through the shared list. If you blocked the account independently, it will not be unblocked.

However, please note Block Together will never block an account you follow so if you have already chosen to follow one of the accounts I have blocked you will continue to follow them.

Twitter Bulk Import

It is possible to add accounts in bulk using a .csv file. Download my Blocklist (Updated 29/12/15). The most up to date list will always be the the one hosted by Block Together as it is automatically generated.

  1. First save the file to your computer. Due to restrictions on file types I can share via this website you need to rename the file type from xls to csv before you can upload it to Twitter.
  2. Navigate to your blocked account settings on twitter.com.
  3. Click the Advanced options drop-down menu.
  4. Select Import a list.
  5. In the pop-up, click on the paperclip icon and find the .csv file. Click Open to import the list.
  6. The file name will be displayed when the file has been successfully imported.
  7. Click Preview. The list of the accounts will be displayed. You can deselect any accounts you do not wish to block (accounts that you currently follow will be automatically unchecked).
  8. Click Block to confirm.
    The imported accounts will be added to your block list.

Summary

Twitter is a wonderful conduit for communicating with like-minded people across  the globe. However, as with any of the social media platforms and indeed any group of people in the physical world, it has its miscreants. I am not setting out to police the Internet, far from it, I am simply trying to give people the tools to handle other people’s behaviour.

If my work helps you, share it with your friends and follow the Lodge on Twitter and Facebook. You might also consider leaving me a comment – due to the special kind of crazy people we attract, I moderate all comments, so it might not appear immediately.

If you are not a Freemason and found your way here by the magic of Google, please read the rest of the site and consider whether what you thought you knew about Freemasonry is valid.

If you are a Freemason, why not visit us one day or invite me to your Lodge.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Tips for Dealing with Trolls

Running any form of online presence makes you a target for trolls but running accounts with links to Freemasonry does seem to attract a special kind of crazy. This post aims to help you deal with trolls whilst remaining in control.

Turning the key
Turning the key

Running any form of online presence makes you a target for trolls but running accounts with links to Freemasonry does seem to attract a special kind of crazy. I was recently tweeted a single word “Traitor” from an account I had been following for ages and I wondered what on earth I had done to deserve that slur. Then I thought back to a session I had recently attended at work and realised I was being goaded by a troll. (I work in the IT industry and part of my continuous personal development is regular sessions on social media usage.)

A troll is the Internet name for someone who deliberately says something provocative to get you to have a verbal spat with them. Trolls exist anywhere people gather on the Internet to discuss and have existed in every discussion forum since the earliest days of the Internet. They are the playground bully of the Internet. They make everyone’s life worse and serve only to feed their own ego.

So what does a troll look like?

Internet meme for a troll

Well they try to look normal for most of the time and you will find that some will set up accounts specifically for the purpose of trolling. Others are described as parody accounts. One of the nastiest of these is @SavileLodge which purports to be a Lodge of Freemasons built around the disgraced performer Jimmy Saville. It claims to be Lodge number 616, however whilst there was a Lodge registered as number 616 by the United Grand Lodge of England, it was deleted a long time ago. This Twitter account has nothing whatsoever to do with Freemasonry and exists purely to troll.

It suckers people in by retweeting “normal” tweets and then starts spouting its real message. I am not going to repeat it here because it will attract the wrong kind of attention to this site. If you want to see for yourself, simply follow the link above, but be warned you will need a strong stomach.

How do you deal with them?

There are several strategies that you can adopt depending on the platform that you are on. Twitter is one of the most popular platforms for troll activity, so I will concentrate on that here.

  1. Stay calm and ignore them – trolls are looking for a reaction, they feed off your response so starve them. Internet forums have long had signs on them reminding users “Don’t feed the trolls”
  2. Mute the account – Twitter allows you to mute the account which means that you no longer see the tweets and the troll does not know that you have silenced them. This works well if you only use one Twitter application, if however you use a number (and I have lost count of how many I use!) then you need to mute an account in every tool you use to see your tweet stream.
  3. Unfollow – this means that you no longer follow the account and so do not routinely see their tweets, unless they @mention you. An @mention is where an account that you do not follow simply includes your Twitter name in their tweet to get your attention. This means that you can still be trolled even though you do not follow the troll.
  4. Block – this is part of the ultimate sanction. As a user you can block an account to ensure you never see tweets from that account again. Additionally, if you report it to Twitter as an abusive account, you assist the rest of the community. If they get enough reports about an account or the behaviour contravenes their usage policy, they will close the account.

I have written a follow on article to help you to block rogue Twitter accounts.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

To Follow or Not to Follow

Turning the key
Turning the key

For a while now, there has been a debate raging on Twitter within the Masonic community as to whether people should always follow back or not. The truth is, it is a matter of choice and perspective. I should point out that my point of view has shifted through my management of the @HungerfordLodge account.

When you start out with a Twitter account, you start by following other accounts that you know of and value and gradually build a following for yourself. In this phase, you will follow almost everybody that follows you to see what they have to say.

However, after a while you will discover that you do not like what some accounts have to say or that they post too much for your liking. I have even encountered people that I followed, retweeting a lot of pornographic images which, for a man with a wife and young family who frequently see my Tweetdeck screen, is wholly inappropriate. I started by muting these accounts but then realised muting has to be done for each way you read your Twitter feed, so I decided to unfollow them completely.

This unfollowing became liberating because I realised that I no longer had to follow everybody that followed me. I then pruned a number of accounts that I had followed that had not tweeted in 12 months as to me that suggested that they were dormant and that there was little value following them.

Furthermore, I read a number of books by leading lights in social media (see Suggested Reading below) as well as looking at a number of successful accounts. I soon realised that the Twitter accounts that are valued by the Twittersphere are those with significantly more followers than following.

Twitter feeds (accounts) are considered influential when they have significantly more followers than following as what they say is shared with a huge number of fans. For example, people like Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) have over nine million followers and follows 50K. Rick Wakeman (@GrumpyOldRick) (Master of Chelsea Lodge 3098 and King Rat) has 30K followers and follows just 18. Ask yourself, if you follow a thousand accounts can you actually read every tweet they produce?

The reverse of this is that those accounts that follow many but are only followed by a few are usually identified as bot accounts. Bot, short for robotic, accounts are often spam spewing and in the worst cases used for trolling.  Trolling is deliberately picking a fight with another user for the sport – much like the playground bully used to do. As in the real world, best avoided and not worth engaging with as you will rarely enjoy the experience.

To attempt to prevent bots following large numbers of accounts, Twitter sets limits on the number of accounts that you follow initially based on your follow back ratio. If you follow 2,000 accounts, you will need to have at least 1,981 followers to go beyond the 2K following mark. This is why bot accounts encourage you to follow back.

Summary

So should you follow every account that follows you? Well, it remains your choice but the weight of evidence suggest that you do not need to and that your Twitter account will be considered more influential if you do not. After all, not all Twitter accounts tweet. Many are set up and their owner will lurk in the shadows reading what others are saying until, like in real life, they get the confidence to speak out on a topic.

My advice is to follow those accounts that influence you or that have something to say that appeals to you and not worry too much about people not following you back. If they do not follow you back, they have simply not understood the value that you can bring to their lives yet. In that case, the loss is theirs, not yours.

Suggested Reading

Links are to Amazon in the UK – other booksellers are available. These links are only provided to assist you. The Lodge derives no financial benefit from them.

  1. The Art of Social Media – Power Tips for Power Users – Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick – recommend the Kindle edition as it includes links to useful sites and tools that you cannot click on paper!
  2. Brilliant Social Media: How to start refine and improve your social media business strategy

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Sharing the Load using TweetDeck Teams

Turning the key
Turning the key

Running a Twitter account for your Lodge is a big commitment and it is best done as a team rather than individual effort. Up until now the only way to share a Twitter account was for all users to have the username (@AccountName) and password. This might not be the best way. Whilst we all trust each other as brethren in a Lodge, we might also want to adopt the best practice that we would see in our working lives. One reason for doing this would be so that you can turn on Login verification on your Twitter account which adds an additional layer of security helping to prevent your account being hijacked. After all we know that there are plenty of people who would like to take over a Lodge account and set it to send inappropriate Tweets.

There is now a better approach. As you will know from my previous posts, TweetDeck is my preferred tool for “listening” to Twitter feeds ( I currently run four feeds) for the following reasons:

  1. It is FREE
  2. It is owned and developed by Twitter, therefore it will not get broken when they change something
  3. It does everything that the listening part of other tools does without hiding some bits behind a premium account
  4. Integration with Better TweetDeck gives you access to emoji (emoticons) which other tools make more difficult
  5. Did I mention it is FREE!

TweetDeck is now new and improved with a new feature called TweetDeck Teams.

TweetDeck Teams

This feature enables you to delegate access to other Twitter account holders without having to give them ownership of the account. The following example uses two of my accounts:

  • As the owner of @HungerfordLodge, log in to TweetDeck using the Twitter account credentials and from the navigation bar, select Accounts.
  • Select Team @HungerfordLodge.
  • Type the name of the account(s) you want to have access to@HungerfordLodge
  • Select Authorize and an email will be sent to the account. (For this example, let’s say the user being authorized is @MoonrakerX3).
  • MoonrakerX3 will need to Accept the invitation in TweetDeck to contribute.
  • The email address associated with@HungerfordLodge will receive an email that @MooonrakerX3 has been added to the team.

Twitter have produced a short video to show you how this all works.

Assigning roles to team members

TweetDeck provides for two roles:

Permission Admin Contributor
Tweet from account  Y Y
Build/maintain Lists  Y  Y
Follow/unfollow accounts  Y  Y
Send tweets  Y  Y
Schedule Tweets  Y  Y
View/add/remove team members  Y

In most cases, Contributor will be the appropriate role for your team members.

Only the Twitter account owner can

  • access the account using a tool other than TweetDeck
  • change the credentials or password for the account

Once you have established the team, you should change the password for the account to one that only the account owner knows and establish the login verification.

I hope you find this useful and look forward to your feedback.

© Hungerford Lodge no 4748

Why Twitter is like Commercial Radio

When people first attempt to explain Twitter to the uninitiated, they use the analogy of text messaging but that leads to misunderstandings. The analogy is based on the fact that both SMS text messaging and tweets are limited to roughly the same number of characters and that Twitter was originally designed to allow tweets to be submitted by SMS. Using this analogy leads new users to assume that you can tweet people in the same way as they might text their family members.

Twitter is actually a lot closer to running a commercial radio station than text messaging. Bear with me and I will explain.

Tweeting is a broadcast medium

imageYou put your tweets out there and hope somebody will listen to/read them. You can use Direct Messages (DM) but most people only use this to exchange email addresses before moving the private conversation to email.

To target a particular country, region or demographic using Twitter requires funded advertising – a promoted Tweet. Twitter will allow you to pay to have your tweet/advert placed into the user’s timeline – the Twitter name for the stream of tweets. You can then target on:

  • Country
  • County
  • Post Code
  • Gender
  • Language
  • Device, Platform, Carrier
  • Keywords
  • Followers
  • Interests
  • Tailored Audiences

This targeting is made possible due to the amount of information we all give to Twitter in order to run our accounts. This means that Twitter knows a lot more about its users than a typical radio station does.

Your audience is based on your content

People tend to tweet on a given topic which brings them followers and in time they begin to exert “influence” over those users. This is much like a radio station playing classical or rock music which defines their target audience. You can go off topic occasionally but you need to carefully take your audience with you.

You need to be “on air”

imageIf a radio station goes quiet, people assume that it has gone off air. Likewise you need to tweet frequently and regularly so that people know that if they want to listen to/engage with you they know you will be there. The rule of thumb is to tweet at least three times a week and ideally at least once a day.

Nobody wants all adverts

Imagine tuning to a new radio station and finding that all they play, twenty four hours a day, is an advert for themselves. Their audience retention figures would be near zero. Typically radio stations draw people in with the music (or chat) that they like and then refer to the adverts as “messages from our sponsors” i.e. a necessary evil.

If you constantly tweet “Buy my thing” or “Join my club” you will turn people off. You need to find a way to engage your audience before you attempt to sell them anything. This is especially true when you are trying to attract and retain new followers.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Tweet when your audience is listening – When is that?

Turning the key
Turning the key

Tweets fall into two categories:

  1. Tweets that are part of a conversation with your followers – they happen in the moment and then are gone.
  2. Tweets where you are trying to start a conversation or promote content on your website.

Tweets in the first category are time sensitive because they are in the “now”, they are part of a real time conversation and so both reader and writer are online at the same time.

Tweets from the second category, however, are often scheduled and as such you need to predict the best time to find your audience online. This post discusses how you discover the best time to tweet and then how you optimise your tweeting schedule. After all, we cannot spend our lives on Social Media, there is a day job, right?

This is the second post in a series, the first describes how to schedule your tweets.

Tweriod

Tweriod is a web-based analysis tool that will allow you to analyse up to 1,000 followers for free. At the time of writing the @HungerfordLodge account had just over a thousand followers, this therefore is ideal. Should you have more than one thousand  followers, you can either assume that analysing one thousand will give you a good guide, or you will need to purchase a premium plan based on the number of accounts you need to sample.

How does it work?

Tweriod accesses your account’s followers from Twitter and analyses their last 200 tweets. This data is then used to generate a report on when they tweet during the day.

How do you use it?

You authorise Tweriod to gain access to your Twitter account and select the analysis (free or paid) that you wish to receive. This analysis will take a period of time, after which Tweriod will notify you that your results are in. You then sign back into Tweriod and review the results.

So what next?

For me, the beauty of the Tweriod application is that it is integrated with Buffer and as regular readers of this blog will know, I am a big fan of Buffer. There is a button on the analysis page that lets you sync your BufferApp schedule with your Tweriod results.

AddtoBuffer
Sync to Buffer

The free plan allows you to analyse your followers once a month, which is probably enough for most of us. If you are in a big corporate with thousands of followers you will probably have the funds to pay for the premium analysis options anyway. Premium plans start from $3.99 per month for up to 4,999 followers. There does not appear to be an annual pricing strategy.

Followerwonk

Followerwonk is a web-based social media analytics tool that will enable you to  better understand your followers or indeed those of any Twitter account you nominate. It offers much more than activity analysis:

  • Mapped follower locations – like Tweepsmap
  • Active hours of the nominated account’s Followers
  • Active hours of the nominated account
  • Word clouds based on the biographies of the account’s followers
  • Inferred gender
  • and many more.
Map showing followed Twitter accounts
Map showing followed Twitter accounts

It also has an integration with Buffer to enable you to inject your new schedule in the same way as Tweriod.

Followerwonk is a tool within the Moz stable and is primarily targeted at the enterprise market with annual fees for the cheapest plan at $237.

Why do I do any of this?

The combination of Tweriod and Buffer allow me to:

  • Compose and schedule content – Tweets, Facebook and Google+ posts
  • Publish content when my audience is listening
  • Put the content together when I have the time rather than during my work day
  • Spread my content through the day rather than flooding it out in the fifteen minutes that I have to do it

Hopefully, by using the tools and writing blog posts about what I am doing, I can keep my audience engaged and broaden the reach of this site beyond the world’s oldest social network (Freemasonry) and into the mainstream.

If this helps one more person understand what Freemasonry is really all about and persuades them to join then I have surpassed my goal.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Managing the Waterfall of Tweets – Using Twitter Lists

Turning the key
Turning the key

If you have a large following on Twitter, you already know that trying to read every tweet is a full time job. Inevitably there will be some people that you interact with more than others and you probably want to pull their tweets out of the flow more easily. The way to achieve this is to create a Twitter List.

Creating a List in Tweetdeck

As previously described, (Better) Tweetdeck is my preferred Twitter monitoring tool on a PC.

To create a new List

Click on the images below to expand them.

  1. Click on the + icon on the left hand barPlus
  2. Click Lists

    Select Lists
  3. Select Create List

    Create List step 3
    Create a new list
  4. If you have multiple Twitter accounts,select the account you wish to associate the List with
  5. Give the List a name and Description
  6. Choose whether you want the list to be
    • Public – people know that you have added them to the List and they can see who else is included

      Name list
      Set the list properties
    • Private – for your eyes only!
  7. Add accounts to your list

    Populate List
    Populate the list
  8. Once created you can set this as a column in Tweetdeck so that only Tweets from accounts in that list are shown in that column

    List as a column
    List as a column in Tweetdeck
  9. As you can see, we maintain a list of Berkshire Masonic Twitter accounts. If you wish to subscribe to this list:
    • Click on Lists when viewing our Twitter profile.
    • Select the BerksMasonic list.
    • From the list page, click Subscribe to follow the list. You can follow lists without following the individual users in that list.

Using the List in Twitter App on your phone

  1. At the bottom of the app tap the Me icon
  2. At the top of the screen tap the Gear Icon
  3. Select Lists from the menu that pops up
  4. You can now use your new list on your phone.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748