Twitter kills bulk and automated unfollows…and we’re disappointed why?

yesterday, SocialToo announced they were discontinuing the auto-unfollow feature associated with the services they offered.  this more or less confirms my own suspicions when i went to clean out the people @ArcanePalette was following a few days ago and get rid of the spammers, marketers, and others that, from a reading and using Twitter standpoint, weren’t really adding value to our day.  Twitter Karma seemed to be having some issues and the only other mass unfollow service I could think of was Tweepular, and they were, by all accounts AWOL.

while the bulk and auto-unfollowing services provided me with a headache in having to manually go through and unfollow people, i take full responsibility for having been dumb enough to follow people i wasn’t really planning on listening, engaging, or interacting with in the first place.  in general, an automated service to unfollow someone solely because they stopped following you is the online equivalent of what my kids do in the back seat of our car when they’re arguing for the sake of arguing with no real point.  “YES!” “NO!” “YES!’ “NO!!” “YEEEESSSSS!!!” “NOOOOOOO!!! etc.  it’s like saying “well, i never liked you anyway” to someone’s back as they walk away.

the fact is that just because someone isn’t following you anymore, doesn’t mean they might not still provide value or interesting links that you’d like.  i follow @slashdot, but i don’t expect them to care about what i have to tweet about.  similarly, i don’t really expect @wilw@feliciaday, or @neilhimself to care what i’m doing at any given moment either.  there are certain people for whom it’s been accepted that we won’t receive a reciprocal follow, like say, @britneyspears and yet we somehow hold the rest of the twitterverse to a higher standard?

as i read SocialToo’s announcement, i was struck by the stubbornness of it — they obviously were removing the feature reluctantly at the direct request of twitter.  in particular:

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause – we are as disappointed as you are. We are still firmly set on our original goals of automating your streams while enabling you to clean them up at the same time and focus on real relationships.

why are we disappointed?  people who auto-unfollow, or use any other kind of automation, most frequently aren’t using twitter.  if you’re an automaton, and not actually tweeting for yourself, then what use is twitter to you aside from pushing your message into the face of as many people as possible?

i say this as a bit of a hypocrite; it’s true that my secondary twitter account, @teh_s3quence — which i’ve left active even when i shut all my other former genesis rocket-powered accounts down — is totally automated.  in my defense, i keep that around because i actually find some interesting links being tweeted by the robot version of myself, so i’ve just stopped pretending that it is anything other than what it is: a robot pumping links from a bunch of different places that i like.  if twitter decides someday to kill the account, i’ll be sad for like 5 minutes and then go back to my rss feeds.  so yes, there are some uses for automation, but the only reason why  you’d need to auto- or bulk unfollow anyone is because you’ve hit your following max for the number of followers you have and you need to dump people so you can get more followers.  and the only reason you would do this is because you’re trying to spam your message across twitter.

the truth is that it’s not possible to both “automate your streams” and “focus on real relationships.”  if part of automating your streams involves unfollowing people just because they unfollowed you, you obviously don’t care about relationships anyway.  you’re just writing that person off without context.  when you turn off the radio, is it because you never want to listen to the radio again?

it seems to me like twitter is going through its ranks again and pruning some of the stray branches that don’t really fit with the what the service is ideally intended to promote: microblogging, communication, interaction, and sharing.  for my part, i say: bravo.