Twitter's new Shared block lists are well intentioned…

I myself discussed such tools years ago with friends and associates—often in public.  But, we never imagined such a feature being executed by Twitter without some kind of interactive host service to keep them accurate, current, annotated and cancelable. Yet that is what Twitter has just announced.  And many people are celebrating, but I fear prematurely. 

I strongly feel that any seasoned Twitter user will be able to see the very large — if not fatal — flaw in this idea that will probably make it unpopular, controversial, infrequently used, and thus, not really the significant anti-abuse tool that Twitter and its proponents think it will be. In fact, it will actually offer new ways to abuse users.

I've discussed it with enough people I trust to know I am probably correct in my take on this, but perhaps I am l not. So let me lay out my fears and let's see what you think?

The Shared Block list idea is very basic 

I "export" my list of say 600 blocked people to you (I really have far more), and you being a big fan of mine, "import" my list and voila! You now block everyone that I blocked. Simple, right?  But what if I blocked them:

  • by accident — this happens 3-5 times a month on many devices (I, like many, can block people in the same week and rarely remember who or why until someone asks or tells me.)
  • because of some transient issue, grudge, gaslighting, or gossip. Drama you couldn't care less about.
  • I just don't like them, or hate their position on some topic or issue that you aren't even aware of or feel passionately about
  • my friend @SnippyWitch hates them and would kill me if I didn't block them, too
  • their shoes offend me, and I want thousands of my followers to block them… just because I can
  • a political operative in my stream copied my block list to thousands of other operatives so they know who I don't like — and then tell them.

Do you see the problem? These are just a very few examples. I can think of many others. I'm sure you can, too.

But, you say, people can be selective about which names they import!

Yep, and that sounds good on paper. But in actual practice it will rarely if ever happen on a large scale such as this.

Are you likely to take the time to study and learn about every name you see in my list of 600 accounts (or even 60), most of which you won't recognize, even if you already follow them? I myself follow thousands of people I enjoy seeing in my feeds, but I'd never recall their names on sight. And like me, you're very unlikely to notice that one special account that you like, but I don't. Yet if you imported my list with only a cursory glance, and no investigation as to why I blocked someone that you did not, poof, they're gone from your world forever.

But wait, there's worse!  Twitter's new feature also has an option to export not only your entire block list, but each and every name on each and every block list that YOU imported.

So now, in order to be fair to some people that you know could be innocent, or just to be responsible, you would have to review not just your own blocked names, but also those names on every list that you import.  Considering all the possible false positives already mentioned, can you see the potential for chaos, confusion, and unfairness? 
 
And worse, is the vast Scarlet Letter potential. if you end up on one famous/popular person's block list that many of their close friends and associates use, you will be forever invisible (or tarnished) to those people, and neither they, nor you will even know it. Even if you're on that list totally by accident, you have just been wiped from the face of their Twitter timelines, with very few options for remedy or recourse. It happens virtually every minute on Twitter. Not a day goes by that most of us don't see tweets like:

"Sorry, I blocked you by accident"; or "Hey, @tinkletoes, I just learned you blocked me, How come?; and finally, "Hey @ShortWad, please tell @JakeTapper to unblock me, willya?"

The ugly fact is, that now merely being on ONE popular person's shi…err… block list… will result in perfectly innocent people being blocked by very large numbers of that person's followers, friends, colleagues, contacts, and associates, and then exponentially, to far more people as their block list propagates to their own followers.

People will just be inexplicably disappeared from each other, bi-directionally, cut off from one another, and neither the blocker nor the blockee will even know that it happened, let alone why.

And even worse, resolving the oversights, mistakes, or malice will need a lot of open-channel communications across multiple timelines, streams, and communities. Correcting even a single error will require everyone who imported the list to be informed of it.  And that's if anyone even wants to bring it up.  Who wants to be seen broadcasting:

"Hey,@Caitlyn_Jenner, why did you put me on your block list available to your five million followers? What did I do to deserve that?" 

Few of us want to go through that. Correction, none of us do. Yet if you can't see it happening, and almost immediately, you could be new to Twitter.

Any way you look at it, despite the good that was meant to be achieved by Shared Block Lists, I fear very bad things coming from this idea. Even if it only gains popularity among a handful of sizeable accounts, it could wreak absolute havoc upon potentially thousands — even millions —of social graphs and relationships, or simply crush Twitter's wonderful ability to discover new and interesting people.  And you're not going to care that not everyone is being harmed by this optional tool, if it is you, a friend, or even your employee being harmed.

Just reclaiming one important relationship, personal or professional, could require a lot of time, effort—and even embarrassment.

While righteously trying to address the many issues of abuse that exist online, I fear that Twitter has made a mistake rushing into this particular feature with no public feedback, a very primitive import/export implementation, and virtually no communications capability for editing, updating, annotating, commenting, or appealing any of names contained in these distributed black lists.

If I am correct, it is likely to be a disaster already happening, especially for innocents who get tainted and/or rendered invisible to large numbers of important people and communities merely because one popular account distributed their name in a widely distributed Shared Block List.  

That's my take. What's yours? Your comments welcomed below (they're moderated, so don't expect them to show while I'm sleeping.)

Further Reading

When do Twitter block lists start infringing on free speech?   By @mathewi

An exchange between @mathewi and @anildash concerning "Free Speech" issues

  • FYI: I agree with Dash. There is no free speech issue here.


 

 

  • Today, Breitbart Blogger Lee @Stranahan claimed he got a threatening phone call from the infamous Jason Wade Taylor, aka Randy Hahn
  • Shortly thereafter, @HeatherEChase shows up on his radio show to say that yes, that was ABSOLUTELY JWT on that tape.
  • The problem is that a dysfunction monkey with a hearing disorder could tell that it wasn't him.
  • JWT has threatened me many times. No one loathes him more than I do. But I know what he sounds like, and this "caller" not only wasn't him, but he sounds an awful lot like the so called "Swatter" that Stranahan has made a career out of talking about.
  • Someone will soon put up a side-by-by side comparison of the the caller with JWT and you can judge for yourself. They are similar as Milk and Gatorade.
  • So many of us asked, in effect,"Why did professional liar Stranahan set this up? We know they both want JWT to go away, but why such a badly acted show like this, that is so easily debunked with the naked ear, let alone professional audio forensics?
  • Matt Osborne started blogging about the incident.
  • Well, it turns out, they talk often, Heather and Lee. Huh. The guy who defends James O'Okeefe. Alrighty then… but
  • Why is she FORCING people to believe this "threat" was by JWT, when it so clearly wasn't?
  • Because she's desperate to show that JWT is threatening her, when there has been no other evidence of that any of us have seen. Supposedly, she'd been working with the Houston Police to file charges against someone she has been speaking to regularly. I told Stranahan to press some today. He won't, because the penalties for false police reports are STEEP.
  • Heather told Lee (earlier on this show) that she expected ME to provide MY evidence to the houston police. (I never said I filed a report)
     
  • All of this is an ongoing Web of lies Chase has told to escape one simple reality. She was conned by JWT, as many were.
  • She felt he was a rich dude who would fund her projects with Angryblacklady. They were conned. Simple. No shame in that. We all were.
  • The problem is, they provided recordings and emails to him, then lied and said they never asked him for money. They did.
  • JWT has claimed that he has recordings of her proving that she did. He has already played 1.5 of them and promises more soon. It is essential to Chase's entire career (in her mind), and perhaps AngryBlackLady, that JWT (and me) be discredited. So she keeps pushing these yarns about everyone connected, hoping most people think she's "too nice" or "too woman" to do such a dastardly thing.
  • The smartest thing she could do is just admit it, apologize to Osborne, Me, Karoli, Vdaze, HoneybadgerLA, and Angryblacklady for her horrible bungling of everything she's touched  (except wiki software, which she is good with) since last January.
     
  • JohnGcole (owner of Balloon-juice.com(a fine blog), befriended Chase after Angryblacklady introduced them,
  • Having no information to work with, Cole is simply defending someone he believes in, but has no evidence to exonerate. Admirable, but misguided.
  • Cole has made the unfortunate mistake of attacking me personally, and my cancer, to try and shut me up, He's admitted this in his stream.
  • Cole used to attack me routinely because I criticized his friend Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher. Apparently, John wants everyone to like his friends.
     
  • All of this is connected to an 11 month long drama that began on the woeful day that a woman named Heather E Chase conned her way into my life, and then proceeded to do her level best to destroy it, while freezing the StopRush effort in its tracks and disrupting the lives of dozens of people and some really good twitter communities.  
  • I suspect when her real story is known, we will know that this is not new for her. She's a former video gamer, They can sometimes create real-life villains to battle, just like they used to do in virtual fantasyland.
  • So now do you get it?
 

Related 

 

The Problem

As you may have heard from my whining over the past few days, there is some kind of major fail with Twitter's API that is causing massive freezing and hangs in Tweetdeck Desktop for SOME users. 

The problem is NOT just affecting Tweetdeck. Hootsuite has different symptoms (slow posts, etc), but it's all related. Many clients are probably affected, but again, it's probably random symptoms on random accounts so it's hard to pin down what is happening to whom. Software is just like that sometimes. It sucks,I know. We just have to deal with it. At least until the next Rapture solves this crap for all of us :)

Why some are punished and others are not is something only Twitter engineers, or your god of choice can explain to you. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for that answer, but it really doesn't matter.

What does matter is that you can help them fix this problem sooner by sending them "debugging logs" which are stored on your computer.  The more of you who do this, the faster the problem may be fixed:

Here's how to help

It's really much easier than it looks. Just read slowly… and breathe.. for the love of dog… breathe :)

 

Where do I find the log file & How do I enable debug logging in TweetDeck?

From time to time you may be asked to provide a log file when troubleshooting a problem with us here at TweetDeck.

Your log file is named "tweetdeck-app.log" and can be found in the following folder:

  • Mac OS X:  Places/(your username)/Library/Preferences/TweetDeckFast.FFF[random letter and numbers]/Local Store
  • Windows XP:  C:\Documents and Settings\[user]\Application Data\TweetDeckFast.FFF[random letter and numbers]\Local Store
  • Windows Vista:  C:\users\[user]\AppData\Roaming\TweetDeckFast.FFF[random letter and numbers]\Local Store
  • Linux:  /home/(your username)/.appdata/TweetDeckFast.FFF[random letter and numbers]/Local Store

Please note that some of the folders may be hidden.

Email it to the address you will have been given and we will be able to have a clearer picture of what is going on.

Debug Logging

If you are asked by TweetDeck Support to enable debug logging, here's what you need to do:

1. Find the file debug.xml in the following location:

Mac OS X:  Places > Home Directory (ie your username) > Library/Preferences/TweetDeckFast.FFF[random letter and numbers]/Local Store

Windows XP:  C:\Documents and Settings\[user]\Application Data\TweetDeckFast.FFF[random letter and numbers]\Local Store

Windows Vista & Windows 7:  C:\Users\[user]\AppData\Roaming\TweetDeckFast.FFF[random letter and numbers]\Local Store

Linux:   ~/.appdata/TweetDeckFast.FFF[random letter and numbers]\Local Store

Please note that some of the folders may be hidden.

2. Edit the file using a basic text editor (eg Notepad, NOT Microsoft Word or suchlike)

3. The file should look like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

<debug>  

    <enabled>false</enabled>

</debug>

4. Change the word "false" to "true" so that it looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

<debug>  

    <enabled>true</enabled>

</debug>

5. Save the file, overwriting the original.

6. Restart your TweetDeck (and run it until the problem has occurred a few times).  Now when you send your debug information to TweetDeck Support, we will have much more detail than normal. 

Power users: If you want to be really nice, delete or empty the actual log file first before running Tweetdeck. This will give them a nice clean log, but it's not vital to do this.

7. Attach the log file ( tweetdeck-app.log ) to an email and send it to:   community@tweetdeck.com.

Please note, once you have been informed by TweetDeck Support that we no longer need any more logging, you should perform this operation again, but change the "true" back to "false". Detailed debug logging will slow down the operation of your TweetDeck so should not be left in place when not required.

8. Finally, use the Retweet button below to pass this on as far as it can travel. (This is very important.)

That's all there is to it. You're done! And thanks. This will be a huge help to the developers at Tweetdeck and Twitter.