I have seen a few tweets come through complaining about spammers entering the twittersphere. At first this seemed odd to me since by its nature users have to decide what tweets they want to see, so what would the point of spam be? If you notice spam coming from one particular user its only a few clicks and you won’t see it anymore. Unlike email where once a spammer has your address they can send you whatever they want, twitter puts the reader in charge of what they receive.
However, I think the spammers may be one step ahead yet again. The emergence of features like track and various twitter search engines mean that twitter user can and do see tweets from people they don’t follow. If a spammer picks the right keywords to include in their update, they can spam all of the users following or searching for that term. And while most viewers of the spam will realize what it is and discount it, some won’t and will click through…which is exactly the same calculus the spammers rely on for email spam.
This same thought pattern probably drives the other way the spammers are trying to get through. In recent weeks I have noticed someone new will follow me. I always look at the last few updates someone posted before following back, but perhaps not everyone does this and just automatically follows everyone who follow them. Of course there is always the chance to unfollow later, but I am not sure how widespread this twitter-pruning actually is.
So while twitter is a more perfect communication vehicle than email, it turns out to not be as perfect as we’d like. Human nature and the economics of electronic communication may mean that we will always have to live with spam. But then again that also means that there will always be a wave just ahead trying to get closer to perfection.