Last Friday I wrote a piece called ‘How Twitter can dig itself out of hashtag hell’, urging Twitter to allow users to turn off ‘spam’. The trouble is that spam isn’t always defined by a hashtag (such as #Spymasterspam).

Consider the rise of the Spymaster game on Twitter. This is yet another reason why Twitter needs to quickly introduce personalisation features.

It’s hard to put into words how little I care about somebody reaching level 11 on Spymaster, or attempting an assassination attempt on @somebodyelse. And I’m not alone.

I’m sure the game itself is wondrous fun, but I don’t want to see these tweets appear in my feed.

Twitter: please deal with spymasterspamTHE PROBLEM WITH FOCUS

Spymaster is annoying because I don’t play it and I’m not interested in these tweets cluttering my already-brimming feed. Using tools like Tweetdeck is one thing, but it’s not the answer.

One of my suggestions for Twitter virgins is to stay on topic when you start tweeting. It’s about being relevant and contextual, and having a little bit of respect for your followers, who follow you for a reason. 

But isn’t talking about ‘respect’ for the people who read your tweets a little bit weird? Should tweeting be such a thoroughly self-conscious activity? Surely it's the tail wagging the dog? Remember that Zappos Twitter policy: ‘Be real and use your best judgement’. I wonder if there’s a reason why ‘being real’ comes first?

Most of us do not purely dedicate their lives to one topic. We all have multifarious interests, after all, and there’s nothing wrong with using Twitter to share your interests, insight, and ideas.

So I’m changing my mind on the ‘stay on topic’ mantra. We need tools to empower the consumers of tweets to determine what they want to see. The producers of tweets should be free to tweet about what they want.

I'm hoping that the future of Twitter will allow us all to open up a bit, without the threat of losing lots of followers.


The Twitter client Tweetdeck allows me to positively filter tweets, but not to negatively filter them (‘remove all tweets featuring word X’). It strikes me that Twitter can allow me to opt-out of certain tweets by introducing a ‘banned words’ filter (where I can type in ‘Spymaster’ and ‘’, etc). In secret service terms, I’d like to bury some tweets before I bury some people.

On top of that, I think Twitter should unveil categorisation. By making me categorise my tweets (and, perhaps, myself) it will open up a whole new world of personalisation. 

If Twitter does this then it can, by extension, introduce some personal filters. Maybe not either / or filters (like the ‘banned words’), but sliders.

So for my settings, I’d like be able to crank up anything filed under ‘Internet’ to the max, while I’d be a bit more choosy about ‘Sport’ (in sub-category terms, I loathe rugby and know nothing about hockey, so they’d be set to 0%).

I’d turn down the ‘Music’ slider to 80%. I love my music, but I might not love yours! I’m interested in what people are into, but I don’t need to see everybody’s spammy tweets, four hundred times a day. If you want to see what I’m listening to then why not check out my profile, rather than Twitter. That said, some people will want to share their music listening habits via Twitter, and that’s fine. It’s just not fine for me, given what I like to use Twitter for. And that’s the thing… Twitter is a personal platform without personalisation (beyond choosing who to follow and what your background image should be). 

While I think that categorisation has to happen at some level, the easiest way of improving the experience right now is to apply the ‘banned words’ filter. 

So some on Team Twitter! Otherwise I’ll have to join Spymaster and take down @ev, @biz and @jack, before fleeing to South America by submarine.

Chris Lake

Published 1 June, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (4)



Timely post! Hashtag spam as well as exploitation of Twitter's Trending Topics definitely diminishes the user experience. I blogged on this topic recently.

about 9 years ago



Interesting post.  When spymaster first started to appear it remimded me of all the spammy games on Facebook and how annoying it was getting. I really hope it doesn't turn into that on Twitter too. 

I recently made a seperate account to use to follow the technical news feeds that I like for information and maybe it might be the case where folks create an alternative 'gamename' where they can play all the games without interrupting all the normal streams of information. 

I suppose ultimatly it depends on why you use Twitter, and I don't want to sound like a party pooper, but i really don't want it to go the way of Facebook and all its dumb games. (I admit to not joining spymaster purely because it asks for username and password initially.)

about 9 years ago


Richard Barley

Actually TweetDeck DOES do negative filters. Just change the + to - to exclude #tags. Easy! :)

about 9 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Hey Richard,

Thanks for the pointer. I discovered this earlier today... but I want to set up a bunch of rules and I don't think it allows me to do that. For example, while I can filter out 'spymaster' (useful) I cannot filter out 'spymaster' AND ''. At least I don't think I can. That's something Twitter could introduce. 



about 9 years ago

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